Sunday, 10 August 2014

Three things that stood out; the consequences of technology, post "wow!" syndrome

As i was munching through brunch ( try saying that after a drink or three) earlier today and perusing the interwebs, looking at what is the news of the day on different portals and seeing what the feeds are bringing up, the following articles hit me straight away.

* How hackable is your car?

*New digital currency system

* Visit the wrong website and you're in trouble with the FBI

On the face of it , none of the above are essentially traditional news items, but it was enough to make me chew a little slower.

In my mind, the "wow!" syndrome, which is the feeling of near euphoria, amazement and a general uplift over what we can achieve and do using technology, has started to taper off considerably in the last few years. Some of this is a natural state of events, because of the accelerated growth of what I call "personal tech" such as tablets and intelligent PDA/phone devices, not just in sales, but in useage.

Increased useage results in habit forming patterns with a  resultant 'comfortable cosiness' feeling, and the "wow!" factor starts to wear a little thin as we take all the extra facilities offered by each successive generation of product, more for granted. This, together with the de rigeur exponential increases in available memory, displays and functionality, means that  the vendors/manufacturers are putting out newer designs of product, at an increased rate, compared to say several years ago.

The point is that now we're over the rainbow, so to speak, the reality of increased tech use has also given rise to the "darker side" of interactivity; namely, abusing the technology to gain unfair advantages in any situation, which are questionable morally, ethically and in certain situations, financially.

The fairly recent exposes of governmental snooping , has naturally led on to a mixture of paranoia, fear, confusion and other negative human emotional reactions commesurate to the feeling of supposedly being constantly watched and monitored.  But I'm confident that we'll ride this part of the journey out too, and im also quite certain that there will be some form of governance introduced more openly, in order to protect and preserve people's data integrity and ultimately their privacy. And there are other issues that need to be addressed relative to this, and the main one, is the issue of security.

We effectively take a level of security on the internet for granted  because it's provided in software form as a "bolt on" with the requisite visible "padlock symbol" in the URL line to remind you ( it's securer browsing), and the banks and all other vendors  also provide you with some level of  cover too.

Ultimately some form of protection is essential when using electronic means to transfer data of any sort, otherwise you'd be open to unheard levels of fraud without any means of recompense or compensation. How much or how little that matters to you, depends on your internet useage patterns per se, but ultimately, being hacked into and having your data taken, examined and used against you for no other reason than it can be, isn't what the internet was originally designed for.

Maybe that's part of the problem that needs to be adressed in itself. The internet was and still is, a huge archive of documents and pictures, with "expansion packs" that have allowed it to be used as a greater transactional tool. These expansion packs have allowed video, sound and all other sorts of newer technological advances ( touch screen interactivity, for example) to be part of the web browsing experience.

But any sort of system that has "bolt ons" that have to then be allowed to be readjusted over different operating systems, browsers et al in real time for the ubiquitous "updates and bug fixes" required, is naturally going to be subjected to hiccups, due to technology and real world based time inconsistencies and constraints. That's another scenario that we may well have the opportunity to resolve better before the internet becomes too vast to be more consistently smooth and safe as a user experience.

It's fair to say that Tim Berners-Lee probably never envisaged the internet becoming what it has now become, which in my metaphorical view is a huge shopping mall with anything and everything going for sale, with a series of recreational rooms solely to just sit back and read and share data of any format and style. Ultimately,  since we're all interacting and transacting , then we all have some responsibility towards making the internet a place that is still fun with less of a fear factor attached to it. Just like it was back in the 1990's.

So how do we recreate an emotional feelgood factor using a very rapidly evolved, 25 year old technology, which may well be at a maturity phase?

Now that's a question which I'd love to see answered.

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