Totalitarian Information Technology and the Age of Information
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ISSN der Zeitschrift
Umweltinformatik ’98 - Vernetzte Strukturen in Informatik, Umwelt und Wirtschaft - Computer Science for Environmental Protection ’98 - Networked Structures in Information Technology, the Environment and Business
Eingeladene Hauptvorträge; Invited Lectures
This paper presents the view that, as presently deployed, information technology (IT) can not be considered a legitimate, let alone an essential, component of sustainable development in the 21st century. In spite of its early promise, IT implementations have become corrupted by a general ignorance of, and disinterest in, their societal implications, a naive (often euphoric) belief in IT propaganda, a lack of historical knowledge, and a failure to take future generations into considerations. After presenting an unconventional assessment of the widely-applauded Age of Information, this paper defines totalitarian information technology as IT which is invasive, pervasive, and invisible, and which is likely, because of these characteristics, to invite, inspire and sustain future totalitarian regimes. The thesis is further advanced that IT has a destructive impact on time, which leads directly to an erosion of family and community values. The main problem is, however, not the technological development per se, but rather the fact that the above-mentioned ethical problems created by IT and the Age of Information are still not adequately acknowledged, let alone seriously debated, in academic departments 2 of informatics or computer science. An examination of this situation is made and four steps are outlined: 1) the long-term societal issues surrounding the Age of Information must be challenged from within academia, 2) the official and commercial abuse of personal information must become topics for debate, 3) the public must be made aware of the erosive effect that IT has on time and the corrosive impact on family and community values, and 4) the concept of informational health must be promoted as a fundamental component of education and public health. It is finally suggested that the proliferation of menacing and irreversible technologies like IT must be met with an attitude of extreme caution and skepticism.