Losing our souls in cyberspace

bush1111
A PUBLISHED study of the IQ ratings of US presidents received wide coverage on the Internet.

 According to the study by a US “think tank”, the smartest president in recent times was Bill Clinton, followed by John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. At the bottom of the list were George W. Bush and his father.

All very interesting, but is it true? Well no, it is not. The whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by a group of US college students who wanted to see how far they could push a rumour.

That they succeeded so well is worrying. But amid the roar of information technology, no one bothered to check the authenticity of the supposed study until it had received wide currency.

The information revolution offers wonders in a world of unbounded curiosity. We can connect to oceans of data on the World Wide Web, explore virtual realities and theoretically connect with millions of people. It also has led to an increase in our freedom to choose information sources and has become an engine of the postmodern economy.

But we could be in danger of losing our souls in cyberspace.

The world has greatly changed since 1943 when Thomas J. Watson, then chairman of IBM, said: “I think there is a world market for about five computers.”

Years ago, the book Virtual Gods quoted social critic Jacques Ellul as saying technological progress “has its price,” because it raises more and greater problems than it solves. Ellul said technology’s benefits were inseparable from its destructive effects, and that every major technological innovation led to many unforeseen consequences.

Philosopher Albert Borgmann has cautioned against demonising new technology, but noted that information could illuminate, transform or displace reality.

We wake to news on radio, read the news on the phone  and fire up our computers at work. Back home, the television and internet waves of information wash over us.

We live in a world devoid of quiet, where every surface shouts and every silence is filled. You can get lost in the digital cosmos.

Borgmann points to the void we feel when a power strike deprives us of information. The world closes in; it becomes dark and oppressive.

Borgmann wonders if we are in danger of drowning in the information flood we have loosed. He questions whether information technology is creating a new division between the haves and the have-nots.

And are those of us fortunate enough to use a PC sometimes losing sight of reality?

E-mail  and texting makes distant friends seem closer, but the communication is disembodied. It is easy to feel connected to people around the globe via the Internet, while neglecting neighbours.

By removing the “real life” element from spiritual experiences, we may be losing something that is vital to mysticism.

Borgmann and others say there is a connection between technology’s progress and a decline in faith. We are embracing virtual realities that have little to do with genuine reality.

The assault of self-promotional verbiage, porno, gossip and untruths drift untethered through cyberspace. It is a jumbled culture.

Some leading postmodernists aspire to a future in which the Internet would function as a godlike force: omnipresent and omnipotent.

Butt there is more to learning than information acquisition.
People learn best in supportive communities, not sitting alone before a computer screen.

As Kahlil Gibran said: Progress is not merely improving the past; it is moving forward towards the future.


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15 thoughts on “Losing our souls in cyberspace

  1. Butt has only one t.
    I’m not tired of saying the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Because the report is a hoax doesn’t mean it is untrue. It just means it wasn’t demonstrated/ proven.

    It is usually impossible to prove a negative. Have you really scoured every inch of the North Pole? Are you absolutely certain no-one with a red suit and flying reindeer lives there?

    Eg. If someone hoaxed a report linking vaccines to autism wouldn’t that just make it harder to establish a real one? This is one way disinformation works. Guilt by association is not guilt.

    Ps. perhaps the smartest US president did try to dismantle the CIA before it was too late? Would it have been smart to try, or dumb to fail. God knows – literally. I don’t feel I have to judge them on that criterion.

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  2. Fascinating topic Bryan.
    “We are embracing virtual realities that have little to do with genuine reality.”

    I would say that cyberspace can be addictive and no different to alcohol abuse, drugs, ice or having an addiction to gambling. It is altering our reality most likely to escape another reality we do not like.

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  3. “But there is more to learning than information acquisition.
    People learn best in supportive communities, not sitting alone before a computer screen.”

    As an educational expert I agree that within a community one does learn best. In education we call it constructivist learning. But even with computing you can collaborate in cyber space through various mediums but it is still better when physically, culturally and with common goals we work towards learning together.

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  4. Although I’m in agreement with this, I think we should be aware of some advantage. It’s true you can present a false face on the internet, but it’s also true you can be unafraid to present your real self. It’s easier to be open and honest when you feel anonymous.

    It’s easier to maintain contact with the people you do know, updating as many as you wish by just one typed message, where otherwise they would just drift away.

    Strangers are not judged by appearance, whether looking attractive or not. Someone with personality problems who is shunned by acquaintances, can at least get a hearing, feel heard, respond if given a hard time, may be grow. One grandchild had a difficult time forming friendships. He was forever trying to prove how smart he was, ended up retreating from physical relationships and got into multi-player games, where you interact with other players anywhere in the world. Here he learned socialising skills without the hurt of real-life rejection. In real life the ‘give a dog a bad name’ syndrome accounts for much entrenchment of poor behaviour, but here a fresh start is always possible..

    The cyber world is just as real as communication by letter was in the past, or even telephone conversations today. But we do need to maintain personal relationships physically. “It is easy to feel connected to people around the globe via the Internet, while neglecting neighbours.” That attitude existed before internet popularity. One lady I knew desperately wanted to go and help the poor people in Africa, while being unable to relate in any way to the people around her, before internet days.

    Living as I do in a communal village, my neighbours figure prominently in my life. It’s easy to be tolerant of those you like, but not so easy regarding others! Always lessons to be learned.

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    • Yes, I agree, there is much wisdom in what Strewth says.

      Participation in this blog not only saved my life (I was in the pits of depression), but it helped me to come out of my shell, trust people and grow…..and I like to think that I made a few friends along the way. Thank God for cyberspace! He most certainly makes a way…….

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      • Isaiah 43:18-21

        “Do not remember the former things,
        Nor consider the things of old.
        19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
        Now it shall spring forth;
        Shall you not know it?
        I will even make a road in the wilderness
        And rivers in the desert.
        20 The beast of the field will honor Me,
        The jackals and the ostriches,
        Because I give waters in the wilderness
        And rivers in the desert,
        To give drink to My people, My chosen.
        21 This people I have formed for Myself;
        They shall declare My praise.”

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  5. “He questions whether information technology is creating a new division between the haves and the have-nots.”

    On the surface maybe yes. But in developing countries technology brings a fast equaliser.
    They do not require billions placing wires, poles and the wages for infrastructure. When mobile phones and towers at a much reduced cost all of a sudden brings greater potential for small business opportunities. New technology allows greater access to online education and much cheaper too. It has brought in cheaper fabrication in developing companies and allows greater competition. So many benefits but like anything there are pitfalls.

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  6. I Liked what Strewth said. I can see both sides. If you use the Internet to the point when it replaces human contact, then it’s not good. Yet, social media does connect family and friends when it’s impossible to see them on a regular basis.

    Another thing, the Internet is a place that a person can (finally) realise who they are and feel comfortable with who they are. The asexual community is a classic example. The Internet has given a place where asexual people have been able to piece together who they are in terms of orientation, etc and connect with others who have similar experiences. I personally found with blogging, it’s given me a chance to educate people about the asexual community, to express the way I experience things and also see what other people think. The more time that goes by, it’s made me more comfortable with who I am, including that part.

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  7. Many people gravitate toward supportive communities online as well. It’s not just “sitting in front of a computer screen” if you are engaged in online communities. People have a desire for connection, whether it is happening online or offline, it is still happening. It’s just happening in different ways.

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  8. very interesting, but is it true? Well no, it is not. The whole thing was a hoax
    Sorry Bryan !
    Just because it is a hoax that does not prove what they put forward was not the actual case.
    The reason it was convincing is that G W BUSH is the real life CHANCY GARGINER.
    Fancy a book being penned before the actual person.

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