Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Psychopathic Future

While I was not particularly impressed by the pilot episode for Extant, I have to give the writers credit for daring to imagine a future in which the progress of scientific research resides (possibly) entirely in the hands of the private sector. On the other hand Chris Duckett has an article on ZDNet this morning, which makes it clear that such a future is much closer than the entertainment sector might imagine. One need read no further than the Summary to get this message:
The organisations that are looking to invent, and dominate the next era of computing are, at their heart, based on advertising revenue, and in the process of owning the future, these companies and their device-based competitors will treat the personal information of consumers as a prized commodity.
Duckett invokes Joel Bakan's metaphor that corporations are "institutional psychopaths" to underscore that fact that the future of technology has now narrowed its vision to nothing more than more people buying more stuff.  Of course we must always remember that we would not have an Internet had it not been for the major commitment of government resources, most of which came from the Department of Defense. This suggests that any individual seriously committed to truly basic research has to decided to whom (s)he will sell her/his soul. Will it be to some large institution concerned only with "selling it" (to borrow a phrase from Consumer Reports) or to an equally large institution always looking for better ways to "blow shit up" (drawing this time from Generation Kill)? Either choice seems destined to lead to psychopathology.

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