Stephen Fry's manages to express the anxieties I feel about the digital world in a concise yet eloquent manner:
Let me suggest a few of the anxieties we feel about the digital world today:
- Aside from the ugliness and ferocity of trolling on social media, we fret over the so-called post-truth age, with its arguments over what is ‘fake news’ and what are ‘alternative facts’ and the concomitant diminution of trust in any authoritative source of information, or consensus as to the validity and credibility of news and current events at all.
- The refusal of social media platforms to take responsibility for those dangerous, fake, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects would have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media but which they can escape.
- The rise of big data and one’s personal footprint of analytics, spending and preferences, becoming, willy nilly, corporate property. The ever present threat to our privacy that this involves concerns us. Everyone we know, everything we read, watch, listen to, eat, everything we desire and perhaps every electronic message we send – all readable by a corporation or a government.
- The unfair non-contractual working practices afoot in the so-called Gig Economy – Uber Drivers, delivery couriers and so on. Not to mention the effect of those services on the pre-existing workforce of cab-drivers and others whose hard won qualifications might be set at nought.
- The ghettoisation of opinion and identity, known as the filter bubble, apportioning us narrow sources of information that accord with our pre-existing views, giving a whole new power to cognitive bias, entrenching us in our political and social beliefs, ever widening the canyon between us and those who disagree with us. And the more the canyon widens, the farther away the other side and the less likely we are to hear or see what goes on there, intensifying the problem and always at the super new speeds this digital new world confers.
- The threats to personal, national and transnational security – threats emanating from ‘bad actors’ that might be cyber-extortionists, unscrupulous corporations, unfriendly foreign powers, intrusive domestic governments and their agencies.
- The threat to the young of grooming that leads to abuse, or of recruitment that leads to extremist and violent ideologies and actions.
- Algorithms continue every microsecond to harvest data of my movements, by GPS for example, analyse my actions, read my gmail, build up information on my mood, sexuality, political, religious and cultural affiliations, habits and propensities – such data is for sale …
- Bullying – especially of the young. Body shaming. Blackmail. Extortion. Revenge porn. On-air suicides, encouragements to self-harm and live-streamed violence.
- The corporate assault on net neutrality.
- The fragile security of our entire digital world and the ever-present looming possibility of a Big One, that cataclysm brought about either by malice, act of war, systemic technical failure, or some other unforeseen cause, an extinction level event which will obliterate our title deeds, eliminate our personal records, annul our bank accounts and life savings, delete all the archives and accumulated data of our existences and create a kind of digital winter for humankind.
The entire article – The Way Ahead – is worth a read in its entirety.