Over the course of the past few weeks, this blog has sought to discuss the various points at which communication and innovation collide. It is because that collision point is exactly where I believe most Americans find themselves. We find ourselves daily trying to keep up with the latest technological devices, the newest social networks, and whatever trending topics our friends, family and neighbors are talking about. We crave information, and each of us, regardless of age, goes through various channels to obtain it. This information morphs into conversations that happen around dinner tables and Web platforms worldwide.
When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid-15th century, the world and technology as it was known changed forever. Suddenly, information could be printed and distributed to the masses. No longer would learned knowledge be controlled by the few; now, it belonged to the people. Enlightenment thinking would soon follow along with so many other movements and paradigm shifts throughout history enabled by the easy distribution of information. Today, the printing press has been rendered obsolete by technologies that can distribute entire catalogues of data to the masses in mere seconds. What paradigm shift is next? Where do we go from here?
It’s hard to imagine that, at some point in time, whether any of us are here to witness it or not, people are going to look back on the technologies of 2016 as ancient. People will find iPhones not in electronics stores, but in museums. Facebook will be like the phone book: a symbol of a time gone by.
“Those were simpler times,” they’ll say. And I think the reason that statement will be uttered is because the future will be less about the technologies themselves and more about control of those technologies. As we enter a point in time when artificial intelligence is no longer science fiction, and we even begin exploring self-healing materials and devices that can understand human tendencies down to an individual level, there is also going to be the desire to create technology that has the capacity to control us. We already see this on a microscopic level with “phantom phone vibrations” stemming from a desire to remain connected to one’s devices (source: http://fusion.net/story/271794/phantom-vibration-syndrome-social-anxiety/). Imagine a time when we will have completely-wired homes, cars, and businesses. The ability to use the technologies we interact with as a means of controlling or even manipulating other people will be too appealing for some to pass up. We have to have good people working to use these emerging technologies and communication systems for good purposes. We have to work on the side of good.
One of the reasons why I began pursuing a master’s degree in strategic communication is because I see too many people in control of these avenues of communication who do not have the best interests of the public in mind. They work as freelancers, independent contractors, or companies that care only about revenue coming by way of viewership and readership. It has caused the quality of journalism, media, and social networking to do tremendous harm to many while simultaneously doing just enough good to keep people addicted. I believe this is wrong. I believe there is a better way. And, I believe that with the commitment of good people who think strategically about the ways in which we communicate and interact with one another, we can do great things with technology that ultimately serve the greater good.