Isn't technology great? In the past hour I have chatted via MSN with my son who is at home with a cold, and via ICQ with a relative in Russia. It wasn't all that many years ago that it would take weeks to send a letter abroad. Now it takes seconds via email. Chat is instantaneous.
Several decades go, I would scribble out something in my horrible handwriting and chances were pretty good that no-one would ever read what I wrote. Maybe that was a good thing. Now I can post to this blog and anyone can read what I write. And I can read what others write in posts to their own blogs. These tremendous changes, in such a short period of time, make me wonder what else will be invented and developed in the years to come.
Will all the things that appear in the years ahead be good for us? I suspect not. The one major fault I find with all of the technological advances is that they make it easy to penetrate any last veneer of privacy. The placing of cookies on our computers by websites wishing to track our preferences and habits is fairly benign, but even that information could be potentially embarrassing to some people. What I fear more is that governments will increasingly use the internet and our emails, chats and general web use as ways to spy on us. After all, the die has been cast, hasn't it? When everything is filtered through the rubric of the 'greater good,' then anything is permissible. Want to catch a drug pusher or a terrorist? Monitor his email, watch the web sites he visits. In order to do so, though, it pretty much requires official licence to spy on everyone else at the same time. That's not good, folks.
I am, believe it or not, a pretty shy person. I am also somewhat reclusive. I am perfectly comfortable among people usually, but given a choice of whether to be on my own or mixing with a bunch of people with whom I have little or nothing in common, I'd rather be by myself. I don't have any big secrets. I'm not ashamed of myself. I just don't think that as a matter of principle everyone needs to know everything about me. I share what I feel like sharing about myself, and expect others to be similarly circumspect. That is not to say that I am not interested in the lives and struggles of others, it just means that I don't want to pry into anything that isn't any of my business.
When I see someone I haven't spoken to for a while, my wife often asks something about them that I don't know. Why don't I know? Because I didn't ask. Why didn't I ask? Because then they would have felt compelled to tell me. I try to respect their privacy.
My attitudes about these things are increasingly considered 'quaint' and 'behind the times.' That may be so. The problem is that once the systems and attitudes about these things make spying commonplace and expected, it will be impossible to wind things back.
So, while I may appreciate the technology and enjoy its benefits, it also scares me just a bit. Big Brother is watching.