It’s a tough one, this. I love technology and I have a lasting belief that it has brought us a lot of good… but a nasty feeling that we are touching some of its ‘dark edges’; brought on, not because of the technology, itself, but because of the motive for profit and dominance inherent in the power that a few mega-companies wield.
Such companies are ‘enablers’. The real threat is the big money that has seen the potential for manipulation – global manipulation.
It was a 19th century historian and Cambridge professor, John Dalberg-Acton, 8th Baronet, who said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
It’s a quote many of us know, but what he went on to say in the same speech is less well known; “Great men are almost always bad men…”
We all like to believe in ‘great men’ (and women). Many of the The tech giants have risen, like David against Goliath, to overturn traditional market leaders and introduce vast innovation that benefits us all. When I compare what I can do, what I can reach, what I can understand, courtesy of the Internet and its access to largely-free resources, I stand in awe of what the past few decades have brought. My writing, and my supplemental efforts as an illustrator, have all been the result of what would now be termed Tech tools.
So why the opening sentiments?
They were prompted by a quote from one of the product directors of a major Tech company. He was quoted as saying that a new breakthrough in that company’s products would help ‘use up the mind cycles’ of the young people who formed the largest proportion of its customer base. Young people are increasingly targeted by Tech companies, such as social media sites. The young see it as a natural extension to their ‘talkative’ world – a sign of belonging, a ‘cool’ skill.
It’s a very powerful ‘pull’. It also makes Tech billions…
The young and the naive fill in mock ‘surveys’: What type of doggie walker are you? With the results, Tech can sell deeply effective profiles of each person, so accurate that exact product targeting can be placed in front of them, in their favourite colours, linked to their favourite games or cartoons or literature heroes…. or other products, of course – ‘your best friends are showing how grown-up they are by eating frizzzle-joys in luscious purple….’
And then there are drugs… Drugs are what you can’t live without; habits of ‘feel good’ that, especially in the impulsive and immature young, take hold very quickly. Like gambling, or children’s computer games that require them to pay for the key to a ‘level’ that ‘all their mates’ have already achieved… “Daddy!”
Drugs don’t need to be chemicals. The body and mind can make its own.
Online gambling has grown totally out of control. Some very big names are buying up the stragglers because the profits are so vast. As are the wrecked families and the huge debts that lead to crime to ‘repay’. Social networks I can understand; gambling has always been designed to exploit those who can’t comprehend the inevitability of their suffering. And children are being targeted: ‘just click here to say you’re over 18.’
The word ‘evil’ isn’t used much any more. It should be…
From a spiritual point of view, Tech can be seen as angel or devil. It has turned the ‘globe’ into a village. But the downside is that every atom of that village is now a target for money – big money. But that’s judging it from my perspective – someone who can see the massive abuse that is taking place.
Why aren’t we doing something about the downside? Because the problem is global and we’re not. Big money in Tech doesn’t want its opposition to be global, because that would enable effective control of its excesses. Britain votes Brexit and is leaving the only institution that is really trying to clean up this mess. America lurches to the right and its president wants massively less regulation and a weaker UN. In both cases the Tech social media machines were a dominant part of the Tech used to manipulate the elections – in fact, the same Tech companies were involved on both sides of the Atlantic.
On a very simple level, I don’t want my children (grandchildren, really – my children are in their thirties) to have their ‘cycles’ stolen. I want them to have some time to think, to dream, to read and enjoy fantasy. I want them to walk through the woods and climb the hills… and create in their growing minds. I want all that to lead to an eventual awareness of the living magic in the now, to a series of questions about themselves that will begin their real search for meaning in their lives.
So, next time I read of a rich, Tech product director who wants to interfere with the core of my grandchildren’s life, I’m going to get angry…
… Oh, yes, I just did.
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.
His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com