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Monday, September 2, 2013

How will the "information age" change our society?

A picture taken on December 3, 2010 in Paris shows a page of WikiLeaks featuring its founder Julian Assange. The noose tightened around WikiLeaks as cyber attacks temporarily forced the whistle-blowing website off the Internet. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

(First printed 12/3/2010)

The information age is not new.

We started with stories around campfires, then meeting halls and churches, breakfast tables, water coolers, pubs, anywhere two or more people met to discuss news, views and their lives.

When the printing press became common, the citizens of the world feared an information overload, the loss of privacy and the loss of needed state security.

When the telegraph made rapid communication over large distances possible, the same fears were voiced.

That was followed by the telephone, newspapers for the masses, radio, television, cell phones and now the Internet.

Each time there were cries of the "sky is falling", and to some degree it did. Society underwent increasingly rapid transitions and adapted, with mores, rules, mores and views on issues shifting to adapt to the new flow of information.

Click read more below to continue and for links to expert discussion.

Radio was said to end the after dinner conversations of a civil society. Then television became the "boob-tube" draining the minds of a generation (or more). Cell phones now have kids texting each other across a classroom or living room, less likely to actually listen or learn from what is going on in the room.

The Internet opens a free flow of truth, and a tsunami or avalanche of false or manipulated concepts conceived by a few powerful people to "sell" the masses on what they "should" believe.

The word "fact" no longer exist, as everyone knows what they think are "facts" and passes them on until larger numbers believe their "facts" to be "true."

It may be ripping apart geographic communities, encouraging polarity and even hatred where once there was dialogue. On the other side of the coin it allows for exploring contrasting viewpoint, accessing massive amounts of information that in the past may have been buried in the dusty stacks of libraries or left to return to the earth in landfills.

The Wikileaks scandal has brought forward questions on of how open society should be, what is the public's right to know, what should be held confidential or treated with the respect of personal privilege?

As we enter a world of classrooms where students google or text instead of pay attention in class, where they can quickly find dissenting views or information from what an instructor is teaching, and where the basics are instantly challenged with minute details, side tangents or questions of fact and value.

New? Again, the same feelings and complaints were voiced as the printed word became available to business then working class citizens, when news and views traveled with the speed of the telephone, when radio brought war and peace to our living rooms and when television bound a nation in grief at the death of President John F. Kennedy or the joy of a royal wedding.

How will our society change?

How will we change?

What needs to be done?

In one of the linked audio and print stories below, the issue of a decrease in civics education, in mass understanding of communication and marketing, and in basic moral decorum may change our world forever.....for better or worse. All three are needed to deal with and make the most of this new "information age."

For a few insights into different aspects of the issues raised above see the following links:

WikiLeaks: Is the Internet Creating a New World Disorder? (12:00PM)

Massive cyber attacks on WikiLeaks forced its domain-name provider to cut off service yesterday, but WikiLeaks is already back on the Internet. Can it ever be shut down?  We put that question to the computer scientist who sent the first Internet message. Is the WikiLeaks document-dump an act of journalism or something else? Are news consumers now on their own? Will WikiLeaks produce greater efforts at secrecy or greater transparency, both public and private? 

WikiLeaks: The World's Secrets Now Available Online

WikiLeaks is said to be starting an age of "involuntary transparency." But as governments and businesses struggle to beef up cyber-security, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says they?re not dealing with hackers, but leakers. Also, the White House?s debt commission on ?The Moment of Truth.? On Reporter's Notebook, bipartisanship -- in Washington.?

The Internet and the Human Brain

When it comes to communications, the biggest thing since the printing press is the Internet, but it turns out that some of the electronic gadgets being given as holiday presents are altering the way the human brain functions. Neuroscientists are trying to figure out how that's happening. In this discussion, which originally aired in June, we debate whether the outcome is good or bad. Also, a still-reeling Haiti prepares for elections, and the changing concept of marriage.

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