The 2010 question for the Edge World Question Centre is "How is the Internet changing the way YOU think?"
With over 167 responses, it is clearly designed for a long day curled up by a cosy wood fire in the snow bound Northern Hemisphere!
I haven't had a chance to read them all yet but am inspired to respond and hope you will add your personal response too...
I'm not sure that the way I 'think' is as significant as the way I live, respond, learn, engage and create. Kai Krause aptly describes this as a redefining of ' how we perceive the world and ourselves in it, new models of how we work and research, entertain ourselves, communicate with our family and friends, how we learn about the past and preserve our memories, what we expect of the future and how we plan for it, what we watch, read, listen to: all greatly influenced by technology in general and the Net in particular.'
I mustn't be 'normal' for one my age in this regard. Quite frankly I am sick and tired of people using their age as an excuse for non-engagement. It's not about age. Being at the tail end of the 'boomers' I spent the first half of my life with pen in hand and nose in a book; all my undergraduate degrees were hand written, so I have as much excuse for non-engagement as anyone (excluding those who are truly disadvantaged through poverty or lack of connectivity).
Of course there's good and bad, but I couldn't imagine a life unconnected. The internet overlays my life; work and relaxation.
I engage with the lives, ideas and creativity of people who live in places I'll never see in real life.
I can independently create content and share it with the world
I can collaborate with wide-spread teams and communities.
I feel closer to people on the other side of the world than I do to the couple in the apartment next door.
I can converse with people with interests as obscure as mine
I can send a few words of kindness across the globe right when they are most needed
I see the images of great photographers the day they are taken, and share my own with like-minded people globally.
I share ideas and work with a global audience.
I am equipped and empowered.
I have knowledge and skills at my finger tips - to grout a mosaic, play the guitar, heal a wound
I can trade and operate a business without jumping on a plane
I can ask for and receive help and access my support network [almost] anywhere anytime
What frightens me is that after all these years the education system still fails to engage. Still fails to support the development of skills to enable critical, effective, creative users. Of course young people learn from their peers, they are comfortable connecting within walled gardens and private chat. But in my experience very few are equipped to use the internet as a learner and eventually, professional.
In his contribution Howard Rheingold - says
"Those people who do not gain fundamental literacies of attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network awareness are in danger of all the pitfalls critics point out — shallowness, credulity, distraction, alienation, addiction. I worry about the billions of people who are gaining access to the Net without the slightest clue about how to find knowledge and verify it for accuracy, how to advocate and participate rather than passively consume, how to discipline and deploy attention in an always-on milieu, how and why to use those privacy protections that remain available in an increasingly intrusive environment."
and Evgeny Morozov adds...
"Today we are facing the emergence of the "cyber-lumpenprolitariat", of people who are being sucked into the digital whirlwind of gossip sites, trashy video games, populist and xenophobic blogs, and endless poking on social networking sites. The intellectual elites, on the other hand, continue thriving in the new digital environment, exploiting superb online tools for scientific research and collaboration, streaming art house films via Netflix, swapping their favorite books via e-readers, reconnecting with musical treasures of the bygone eras via iTunes, and, above all, perusing materials in the giant online libraries like the one that Google could soon unveil. "
The cause and solution sit squarely on the shoulders of an schooling system that not only ignores the issues, but actively blocks access to the spaces that require explicit engagement and critical discussion. As I have mooted many time, it is a breach of their duty of care.
[CC FlickR image: Lee Carson]