In my last post I talked a bit about Evgeny Morozov’s book To Save Everything Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism. His concern is with the interaction of what he calls solutionism and what he calls internet-centrism. He is worried that our present love affair with the internet will cause our solutionist tendencies (solve all problems) to decrease the quality of our life through our attempts to increase efficiency through the use of the internet . The last sentence of the postscript of his book finishes with “it would be deeply ironic if humanity were to die in the crossfire as its problem solvers attempted to transport that very humanity to a trouble-free world”. His book is a macro-look at the internet
One can also take more of a micro-look, and question whether the internet is a high quality product or not. It is, of course, a work in progress, but in my opinion it faces a number of problems. There is little if any quality control of much of the material being placed on the internet, and no apparent mechanism to exert any (internet freedom?). Nor is there any mechanism to delete material over time. The result is an ever-expanding quantity of material that is outrunning the ability of browsers, and perhaps the human mind. Some locations (Wikipedia) depend on high information quality, although as time passes, one questions the value of some of the information included. And how about the increasing number of blogs, web pages, and other material on the internet that are the property of people not keeping the material up to date, or even perhaps dead, to say nothing of poorly done videos that will never go away.
Of course businesses operating over the internet must be careful with the usual financial, ethical, and regulatory constraints that limit them. But how about promotion? The book business is a good example. It is now estimated that there are over one half million self published books appearing in the U.S. each year. Many (most?) of these are promoted by the author, and sold over the internet. Most sell very few copies (see article). The amount and quality of the promotion is a function of the author, and not especially the book’s contents. I am not about to sort through this amount of material without guidance from established publishers and critics. I believe in expertise. And I know enough about books not to epecially trust the comments on Amazon's pages, especially if they are concerned with self-published books.
And my experience with social networking shows me more quantity than quality. Maybe if I were truly dedicated I would somehow figure out how to communicate in more depth with more people I would really like to, but I just do not want to spend the time combing through huge numbers of tweets and posts to figure out who they are and how to do so. I am also not supremely motivated, because many people I like to communicate with either no longer or never have played the game.
Finally there is the apparent attempt to support this ever-growing internet activity through advertising and selling “big-data”. Looking at past experience with everything from road signs through college sports to present advertising on the internet, I conclude that advertising must make money, but taken to extremes, decreases the aesthetic quality of life. I reached the point many years ago of going out of my way not to buy products whose advertisements pollute the visual or aural environment or annoy me in other ways. Certainly some ads on the internet have already reached that point and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in resisting removal so that one can see the desired page. Anybody worrying about that?
And as we know, there is increasing questioning of “big data”.