Questions of human value

Is this new world really about society weighing the benefits of cost-efficiency (online shopping for instance), and the reduction in personal suffering through software agent assisted decision-making (less effort in choosing) against the potential for abuse, and the removal of privacy?
As we move into Web 3, and driverless cars and Google-assisted decision-making, are we losing the ability to think as individuals? Will we wake up one day and find our powers of reasoning have become vestigial? Is it already happening? Which reminds me of that philosopher’s quip: To do is to be: Kant, to be is to do: Sartre, Do-be-do-be-do: Sinatra. But seriously. I wonder whether we are less able to reason since so much is now guided about (a) the selection of material on which we base our decisions, and (b) the fact that we no longer interact as much face to face, or on the phone, so we lose the ability to recognise clues in each other. Against that, Mr Darcy had perhaps only one or two complex decisions to make, and certainly didn’t make them based on the breadth of information now available. Your search results and mine, for the same search requirements, differ. I’ve heard outraged Googlers on this subject, but then your perceptions and mine differ, and your bigotry and mine differ, so what’s the difference? Society maybe has become an outdated concept.
As we move from being a flock of sheep to an infinite series of marketing targets, we are all disaggregated online voters whose democratic choices are established in some absolutely fair online state, where Twitter reports what is trending, not based on target marketing to clusters, but on absolute statistics.
But can distributed processing models which don’t have centralised economic drivers compete with the overwhelmingly attractive technologies brought to us through global businesses – Google Glass, driverless cars or whatever? I know people who believe fervently in co-operative business models where no centralised controller exists. But in the meantime, all this new technology has to be paid for with the ‘human value’ I’m talking about. It’s hard to see these being rejected in favour of ‘driverless’ societies? If they can be, what will be the force which pushes us to these co-operatives – could it be a belief in their good? Is this the source of sects and religious fundamentalism?
I think it’s simpler than all that. I think it’s about hyper-local communities ( We’ve got to start (and finish) with what we can conceptualise and what we can care about. We don’t mind being treated as individuals if the entity doing the treating has a face, has a personality and a ‘value’. We can cope with our chosen community demanding our attention, and wealth, and in return, delivering us with a sense of belonging.


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