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Digital Manifesto

Digital Manifesto

The Revolution won’t be televised. The Revolution will be unplugged.

Our world has changed in a profound way and continues to right before our very eyes. The home computer and the Internet have done that. They’ve changed the way we receive information. They’ve changed the way we access music and entertainment. They’ve changed the way we socialize, and relate socially. They’ve changed the way we purchase goods. They’ve even changed the way we meet potential mates.

The strictures of the past are disappearing. It used to be that musicians recorded albums for labels who would in turn invest a great deal of money in packaging, marketing and distributing those albums. They would come out on Tuesdays and the record stores would create new displays for them on Monday nights. Tuesday mornings you could hit your favorite record store and peruse the latest from your favorite artists.

But people don’t buy records anymore. They don’t even buy their successors, compact discs. Everyone has digital playlists now; their music stored on hard drives or on clouds with the latter becoming increasingly more prevalent. Albums are becoming increasingly unnecessary and irrelevant. An artist can write a song in the morning, record it in the afternoon and release it digitally that night theoretically. Everything is immediate. Songs can be released as they’re recorded. However, artists can choose to release songs in a larger whole – a digital album but they are no longer fettered by the medium and how much information can be stored on it. Theoretically, an artist can record an album that contains 24 hours of music that is all related if they have the patience to record it and the public has the patience to listen to something like that. However, I wouldn’t advise it. Patience won’t have much place in the digital age.

Television will become a thing of the past. No longer will people be forced to watch programming at a time of the network’s choosing. In fact networks will become more like subscription services, in all likelihood made available in packages by clearinghouses like Netflix or Comcast. When you subscribe, all their programming is available to you to view at your leisure. Advertising will become intrusive in different ways, like scrolling messages at the bottom of screens or viewers will be forced to watch a certain number of minutes of advertising before they can watch the programming they purchased.

The newspapers  have already nearly suspended their printed editions and in the near future you will see some of them get rid of their printed editions entirely. The home delivery of news and paper boys will become quaint anachronisms of the past. Information will become available digitally through websites and Internet broadcasts. In addition to local online newspapers – the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe – there will be niche news providers with political slants – the Drudge Report and the Huffington Post for examples. Journalistic standards of accuracy and objectivity will fall by the wayside until some politician with enough balls to do it will get a law passed holding Internet journalists to the same standards as print journalists are. How they’ll enforce it is anybody’s guess.

The social networks will continue to grow as we see different mediums like Facebook, Twitter, Redit and eHarmony grow, change and eventually die as a notoriously fickle Internet public find new ways to Interact. I believe that there will be many more niche social networking geared towards Gamers, Tech-heads, Politics, Sexuality and Romance, Art and virtually any activity that people have a passion for. Meeting people will be done nearly entirely online.

Education will no longer happen in classrooms. Schools will become outdated. Students will attend class at home with homework assignments  e-mailed to them. Classrooms will become more like Help chats with teachers assisting with specific questions about specific assignments. Exams will be timed and students prevented from opening additional windows by the exam program. Students will progress at their own rate which means we’ll see students graduating college when they’re twelve if they are able to while others graduate high school well into their 20s. Most of the jobs they’ll be getting will be either working from home which will pay better, or working menial service jobs which won’t. The University experience will change drastically. Many students will never actually set foot on campus; they’ll take all their classes at home. Some universities may even shut down their physical campuses and convert them into art, anthropological and historical museums.

The Internet will soon begin to experience bandwidth issues. Too many people accessing too much information with not enough servers to handle the traffic but even if they build skyscrapers full of high-powered servers that can fit the current size of the Internet on a single server in a building that holds thousands of them, there will be a more insidious problem. The young people growing up will no longer have the patience for anything other than instant access. They won’t tolerate delays and in fact, the global economy will become dependent upon immediate, secure access to Internet commerce, information and socialization.

Then some clever little primate will figure out how to get the ultimate Internet access – wired directly into our cortexes. Subcutaneous chips on the back of the neck will allow us to see the net without the aid of a device. Chips in the back of the hand will allow us to manipulate that information. When you see people walking around at all, they’ll all look like they’re conducting an invisible orchestra. We’ll all be connected 24/7 – those of us who can afford it, that is. Eventually, we all will be. Even the very poor because even the poor will be part of the engine. Their labors will be monitored digitally. Everything will be. Big Brother has been here for years, watching your every move not just through security cameras but through the electronic trail you leave – where you shop, what you buy, what you eat, what you read, what websites you access – everything stored neatly and available to whichever authority wishes to use it. Think it’s farfetched? We’re already putting chips into our babies so that if they’re ever kidnapped we can find them right away. That means that the movement of those kids is being monitored 24/7.

But that’s not the worst of it. Some unscrupulous little monkey will figure out that if information is going directly into the most powerful computers of them all – our brains – perhaps it will be possible to do some programming of the hardware on a massive scale. Program blind, unquestioning obedience. Discourage individual thought. Promote contentment with our station in life as consumers and wage slaves. Creating a utopia in which the masses don’t care that they have no control and no choices. Rights will be eroded and discarded. We will become little more than chattel who exist to provide profit for the very wealthy.

So the revolution from this future will come by those who choose not to participate. The outsiders will turn their back on this digital Orwellian society and unplug. They won’t be subject to the same controls and strictures that those who are plugged in are. They’ll be able to think for themselves. They’ll be able to stand up for themselves. They will change everything.

The Revolution won’t come from within. The Revolution will come from without.


One Response

  1. Will the Luddites prevail in the end, or will they be wiped out by those in power? At what point do the machines take over humanity? The cortex interfacing was predicted 20 years ago in several of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi short stories…it was called “wetware”. The stories were centered around the same concerns you discuss of the Borg-like tweaking of our brains. I think Big Brother would feel quite welcome and at home in today’s world.

    Quite a few ideas in those Asimov short stories have become realities now just in the 20 years since they were written. (Personally, I would like to see a functioning Star Trek tricorder and medical body scanner).

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