The Internet, Technology, Politics & The Future

There is a lot to learn from the events that have been unfolding in England and it will be particularly interesting to see what roles the internet, technology, politics and community will play in this historic event.

Throughout the last few days we have seen a chaotic flood of real-time citizen journalism, reports extending from the hyper-local to the world community at large, all tuned in and sharing information. Social media and mobile technologies have played a big role and we’ve seen examples of these platforms being heavily used to coordinate the flow of information. Whether its been recording and uploading mobile photo, video and audio footage, groups dedicated to organizing clean up efforts, open-data community mapping of incidents, crowd sourced justice groups pointing out self-professed looters and individuals caught on surveillance cameras [CCTV] or identifying people via images using the same facial recognition technology that up until recently was mostly only looked as a social tagging tool.

England’s event is becoming a lesson in the civil and governmental uses of technology and how crisis information is processed and used in a big western metropolitan city. The London police has been promoting their crowd sourcing effort to use Flickr to identify suspects. Alternatively, we see the major concerns of making private information available to the authorities such as in the case of Blackberry maker RIM, agreeing to turn over user data to the British police. Their site wound up being hacked in protest. eBay is also being pressured to monitor listings for stolen goods and possibly turn over their user data as well.

We’re at the dawn of a new technological age in which we are meeting new circumstances we’ve never faced before. The issues of privacy, censorship and the sharing of information [both accurate and inaccurate] are playing major roles in our ability to effectively communicate, organize, generate business, foster innovation and improve upon our personal liberties. Socially, we are being trained to live super public ‘open lives’ and be hyper vigilant and suspicious of our fellow man/woman while our governments are being less ‘open’ with us.

So what more is on the horizon for future technology and how will our society continue to be impacted? There is a lot of information out there that points to some signs. In April 2007, the Guardian published a piece regarding looming social unrest. Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future highlighted a 90-page report which was put together by the UK’s Ministry of Defence team – Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre. This report made an assessment of the future and how factors such as the economy, ‘internet-enabled, citizen-journalists’, flashmobs, weapons, technology, social unrest, pressures and terrorism would affect the world in the next 30 years.

In August 2008, they also eerily published Brain will be battlefield of future, warns US intelligence report an article examining the future of behavior altering technologies that could be used in conflict:

In a report commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, leading scientists were asked to examine how a greater understanding of the brain over the next 20 years is likely to drive the development of new medicines and technologies.

They found several areas in which progress could have a profound impact, including behaviour-altering drugs, scanners that can interpret a person’s state of mind and devices capable of boosting senses such as hearing and vision.

On the battlefield, bullets may be replaced with “pharmacological land mines” that release drugs to incapacitate soldiers on contact, while scanners and other electronic devices could be developed to identify suspects from their brain activity and even disrupt their ability to tell lies when questioned, the report says.

Times are quickly changing, and because technology is bringing us a whole new set of pros and cons to deal with, we have to spend less time debating ideologies and more time understanding the landscape we face, less time placing blame and more time examining truth and less time being passive and more time being active contributors and creators in our society. Things are about to get a lot more political for all of us.

photo: truthout

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