Mind Control & the Internet by Sue Halpern (Week 3)

In her article “Mind Control & the Internet,” (2011) Sue Halpern discusses opposing arguments on the integration of web-based technology into the human brain. Studies have shown that integrated technologies (neutral implants) can increase the quality of life and “restore” human functions and are seen as “good necessary and worthy” (Helpbern 2011, p.1). However, implants that aim only to enhance the human experience are considered a threat to human integrity and a vain and selfish representation of humanity today. I disagree with this statement and believe that if a person wishes to incorporate this sort of technology into their life in order to experience the world better, then they should be allowed to without prejudice or harsh judgement.

However, in the article Chorost suggests an “ideal” world where the internet is as seamless and natural as possible (Halpern 2011, p.1). This idea proposes that the internet is like a robot existing in the brain. It becomes a uniquely personal experience that helps the human race to traverse the “random, messy, ever-expanding volume” that is the web (Halpern 2011, p.2). Larry Page also supports this idea by envisioning a future where one’s brain is “augmented” by Google’s services, meaning that when you think of a question “your cell phone whispers the answer in your ear.” In my opinion, with the ever-advancing speed and skill of technologies, humanity is become increasingly impatient, illiterate and against old practices. The majority of youth, as they are brought up through the technological revolution, rely less “hard copy” sources (books, newspaper, etc.) and methods for finding the answers to questions, and more on an instant internet response. It’s now common knowledge that if you want your answer all you need to do is Google it. For example, take the creation of Spell check, typing and texting. Humans no longer need to exercise a knowledge in proper spelling, grammar and punctuation as the laws are ingrained into the software of the computer. On the other hand, texting has created new words and abbreviations, “text language,” that lead us further and further away from traditional educated practices. But is this just a new evolution to learning and the human race? Will typing be the new writing, just as writing was the new painting?

Furthermore, with the personalisation of internet searches the information that is available to us is being limited and different for each person. It creates the possibility of anything with an agenda being able to “modify” the search results and tailor it to the person that is searching. Thus, a simple search could be used to control and disseminate news and information, cutting off conflicting opinions (Halpern 2011, p.2). I also have strong feelings against the notion of a “personalised” search. I turn to the interne to search for a broad and interesting array of information relating to the topic. Thus, allowing me to construct and equal and informed argument.

In the final straw, millions of dollars are being used to produce prototypes for “thought helmets” that allow soldiers to communicate wirelessly and the development of video games which are beamed directly onto the brain. All of which propose serious problems should there be glitches in the system. What if the soldiers messages are misinterpreted or are changed in the process, essentially like the effect of the game Chines Whispers? Could it be possible for a soldier to accidentally get a command to kill an innocent civilian if a mistake in the communication thread is made? And with this idea of video games directly beamed onto the brain, would this create a serious video game addiction in which the player becomes trapped in their own mind? Where then are the boundaries between the game and reality? These are all compelling questions that are brought to the forefront with the technological advances that are allowing humans to become part man, part machine.

I’m an advocate for the old school and until significant developments are made with these technologies and their usefulness, I will still remain sceptical as to their functionality and worth to society.

Catch you later cats and kittens,

Anneleise xx

Reference:

Halpern, S 2011, Mind Control & the internet, viewed 15 August 2012, <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2011/jun/23/mind-control-and-internet/&gt;

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