Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year...I think.

We are about to close the year and some of the more entertaining preoccupations that people engage in is the recollection of the changes that happened during the 365 days now about to elapse. It seems that in the age of the internet a lot of notable changes have been brought to our awareness.

The Facebook phenomenon has made us closer to people around us, closer in the sense of knowing more than what we would normally have gathered before social networking took hold of our daily routine. Our knowledge trove has, also, increased exponentially, too much for appreciation and more than what we can digest in ease. Making resolutions for the coming year become more involved as there are just so much experience and information, mostly cyber derived, coming into play. Conventional mindsets are shaken and new outlooks are conveniently taken on making resolutions difficult to sort out.

Moving away from changes that are personal there are a lot of changes happening in our midst which are of bigger importance because their consequences affect the world and mankind as a whole.The disconcerting thing about these changes is the fact that they seem to be moving towards dire outcomes. Modern day Cassandras are having a field day announcing the demise of current beliefs, practices, conveniences, etc because of the invasiveness of the Internet. Some of the prognostications are the death of the mailing system as we know it, the doing away of money checks, the newspapers, the demise of the music industry, books, etc. which are now being rudely nudged out by their user friendly cyber equivalents. Most of our well loved institutions are moribund and we seem helpless to reverse the course. High in the list of the things that people rue is our seeming inability to preserve the cherished privacy which we have vigilantly guarded. The internet has the ability to impinge on our private lives as technology develops new ways of stealth to get into the most personal level of our existence.

Change is inevitable, at times necessary and will always be greeted with mixed reactions. A Hutu tribesman, the man in the streets of Manila, our labandera wouldn’t even be aware should these gloomsday prognostications happen. For the more sophisticated and better educated lot they would probably do a momentary double take and ponder the situations portended but quickly dismiss them with a shrug of the shoulder.

Science and progress as villains have often been the subject of novels and essays. The scenarios depicted have always been at the extreme. Machines taking over mankind, Big Brother’s omniscience, Soylent Green, Mad Max are just some examples of creative but excessive portents that are created in a writer’s mind. These come from early development of notions that transform into wild imaginings. They make for good fiction and titillating essays but have zero probability of ever happening.

Man has proven his resiliency through history and would make the necessary counter measures to prevent things and events from evolving into sordidness. We are quick to react to things that threaten us. We come up with technological solutions, alter lifestyles, enact laws, organize protest groups, etc all of which have proven effective in halting the march towards doomsday.

Man copes and prevails with any adversity it is faced with. After 2010 we will continue to enjoy another millennium all the while lovingly nurturing a fear that we will be annihilated by the technology that we ourselves have created. This paranoid streak in us made the Millennium Bug the biggest and most expensive hoax ever to be inflicted by man on himself.

What’s in store for the coming year? With or without the help of Wikileaks and other sources of direful prognostications that we access from the internet we will continue to concoct in our minds; grand conspiracy schemes, the planet’s inundation, the bombardment of harmful rays penetrating the earth’s protective mantle, the demise of all life in the Amazon, China at war with the USA, an errant and gigantic meteor earthbound and other events of cinematic and apocalyptic proportions.

And so it goes...

Happy New Year...I think.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cyberspace, An Alternative Existence

Except for a few hurried light scribblings I have not written much close to two months now. Despite having so much time in my hands none of it was spent on anything worthwhile putting into print. I blame my having enjoyed inordinately the internet slot machine games which were available for free in several game websites. After a while the mesmerizing effect of the tumbling icons and the circus like music together with the ingenious bells and whistles begin to be a come-on that was difficult to ignore and reject. I would go on for hours just watching my money gains go up and down. As in real life gambling invariably I end with nothing but then I can draw money again and again provided by the bank cashier in the game’s system. It is so much like having a bank account of infinite resource or having rich parents that allow you to indulge in an unrestrained gambling spree. I keep telling myself to get rid of this addiction before I turn into a babbling idiot with an atrophied ball of gray matter. Add to this the compelling allure of Facebook which occupies too much of one’s time because one posting would elicit quite a number of responses that you cannot ignore lest you become a rude cyber gangstah and be a pariah to this new societal collocation composed of family and friends. Other mind retarding preoccupations such as compendia of trivia, games and invitations to interest groups exist encouraged by social networking sites which allow for interacting of all kinds, worthwhile or otherwise. It may not be a lost cause at all since it allows many minds, otherwise idle, to be engaged in lively interaction even if they never amount to anything productive or morally uplifting. There is virtue to doing something because it is there...I think.
It’s remarkable how cyber sphere imitates real life. It seems that out there is another dimension of existence that is easily accessible to most of us. It is a limitless vast land populated by millions of transients who reside in it by the hour, some as little as by the minute...a new adoptive country, as it were. The remarkable thing about it is that anyone from the millions of its citizens has the ability to interact with each other with little restrictions and rules governing the interplay. No sovereignty exists here and no racial, geographical, beliefs and social stature casting are imposed. There is open exchange of information and opinion with some seemingly ineffectual attempts at censorship. The earlier concept of it being an information highway is still very much an apt analogy with us, the in and out citizens, at liberty to pick up what suits us, what entertains us, what affirms our beliefs, what satisfies our quest for information. In the same token we also practice selectiveness and reject information that is offensive to us, inane to us, incredible to us, harmful to us and of no use to us. It no longer is a highway but a new found land where we enjoy equal rights with the rest of the non-indigenous natives.
As in any new found land, the pristine beauty and the idealism of the place start to shed its shine and innocence as time and people overrun the landscape. No sooner than exploitative new comers take advantage of the potential of the land for commerce and other productive endeavours, exploitation of the insidious kind follow closely at its heels.
It is still a wonder how existence in it could still be bearable with the seeming lack of restraints, the absence laws, the lack of personal, institutional and national accountability for postings. Is the natural goodness of man in general allowing it to run with its citizens behaving well on their own volition? There are negative elements existing in this modern day Utopia but they seemed to have been contained to the minimum. Yet we cannot ignore the scams, the pornography, the untruths, the bad taste, the bad mouthing which grow each day.
What of those who wish to use it for acts of terrorism? I guess we do not have to worry much about that. The promoters of terrorism have yet to learn doing violence of the unphysical kind. Bombs and bullets in cyberspace remain as abstractions and do not have any physical components that can inflict mayhem on people. Terrorists remain as troglodytes when it comes to the written word and graphics and may never have the capability to create postings and other ingenious manipulations of the system with the effect of incendiaries and explosives that would wreak havoc in cyber space. Not yet, anyway.  
It would be a pity if the new culture emerging from cyber space would be aborted by these fanatical hooligans. If some of us have already given up on the current state society and the larger world is, the emergence of a new culture, ersatz as it may seem, can provide comfort for now and some straw-like hopes to grasp no matter how nebulous.