Ted Brasfield - Manifesto

• We should accept that an increase in reliance on technology will result in less privacy and understand that we are responsible for protecting our own internet identities.

“There's a good chance that privacy regulators—spurred by a public that doesn't really know what it wants when it comes to online privacy—may go too far, blocking Google from collecting and analyzing information about its users. That will be a terrible outcome, because while we all reflexively hate the thought of a company analyzing our digital lives, we also benefit from this practice in many ways that we don't appreciate.”
-Article on Google Privacy http://www.slate.com/id/2290719/

This principle may be at odds with our American logic of self-protection but the fact remains that the benefits of allowing companies like Google to collect information regarding how we use the internet far outweigh the negatives. Yes, if you search for something embarrassing, it can be linked back to you. But by recording every single search, Google makes the entire process much more efficient and user-friendly. Another example is online banking. While it is possible for thieves to steal your identity, the positives associated with online banking such as instant balance checks or money transfers between accounts make our lives in general much easier. It is undeniable that releasing companies to mine our personal information is a scary thought, but these companies have every incentive to do the right thing with this information because privacy concerns could easily be their downfall. By understanding basic computer and internet safety (logging out of sensitive sites when finished, etc) we can do a lot to protect ourselves. This principle is important to me because I see all of the associated advantages of placing the maximum amount of information upon the internet. As Professor Collier is so fond of pointing out, we have the sum total of human knowledge at our disposal. While some may argue that our own private information has little to do with this, the fact remains that the majority of all our errands and tasks can now be completed online, and this is solely because companies are able to predict and satisfy our demands. This principle should be considered for inclusion in the manifesto because of its far-reaching implications and also the fact that we, as the users, are somewhat powerless to stop it. Google and Facebook, among many others, have the power to mine this information and will continue to do so. The best thing we can do is to be proactive about our own safety while understanding all the advantages that this presents.

• Every student at every grade level should have access to computer learning because it promotes the sort of dynamic relationships found in the real world.

“Done well, online learning could supplement classroom instruction, offer experiences otherwise impossible, support 24/7 learning and break down barriers of geography, wealth or culture.”
-Article on Online Learning http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2011/04/05/can-young-students-learn-from-online-classes/the-possibilities-of-online-learning

This principle may seem conflicting because how can working on computers be more like the real world than sitting in a classroom and having only human interactions? The fact is that the vast majority of jobs have at least some technical aspects, and plenty are centered on computer use. I am not advocating a complete replacement of the traditional teaching methods but rather support an approach which utilizes the best of both systems. As a student fortunate enough to have computer access both at home and school as a child, I grew up without being intimidated by technology. As technology continues to advance and evolve, it is important for our young students to have a firm grasp on the realities of the world which they will enter in their adult years, a world which relies on technology to run. We now live in a world in which privileged students have access to technology from a very young age; in order to ensure that all students remain on as equal footing as possible, it is imperative that ALL schools have computers and allow their students of every age some time to work on them and experience what technology has to offer. In addition to quelling any fears which students introduced to computers later in school may have, it also simulates the real world environment, both personally and professionally. I believe that online learning may eventually overtake traditional methods for reasons such as cost and efficiency and therefore it is important now for all students to begin having experience with technology.

• Environmentally-friendly technologies should continue to be explored and developed because of the positive benefits on the natural world.

This principle seems self-evident as our generation is more and more concerned with our own environmental impact. However, the main excuses for denying these “green” technologies are that they are either prohibitively expensive or too difficult to use. Basically, some people prefer the comfort of paper and pen as opposed to trying to figure out how to run a PC. But technology continues to develop, it will become easier to completely replace print media with digital media and I believe this revolution has already started. As seen in the article listing the top e-paper technologies which we can expect in the next 20 years (http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/top-10-e-paper-technologies-in-the-next-20-years/2477?tag=mantle_skin;content) e-paper and color technologies are rapidly advancing and they are finding many uses for these advances. The implications of this principle are far-reaching, as humans have relied on paper for centuries. But the fact is that by eliminating the vast majority of paper from our schools and businesses, and finding cheaper ways to efficiently run low-cost high-impact technology, we could cut down on some of the negative impacts often cited by those who wish to slow the progress of technology. When we are no longer required to cut down trees and burn vast amounts of coal in our daily lives, the environment will be degraded at a vastly slower pace. I believe that the main reason people are reluctant to rely on digital technology is that it is not yet equal to its paper equivalent (at this point, a magazine is inherently more eye-popping than an e-reader) but with time, it is almost undeniable that this will change. When digital and print technologies are on equal footing, we can continue with the luxuries and progress to which we’ve grown accustomed without forsaking the natural world. Add in the notion that digital technology is more accessible world-wide, with vast search engines and instant translators, and this principle is crucial to advancing our responsible use of technology.

• Humans, as individuals, should be free to embrace technology as they see fit (e.g. the Amish).

This principle embraces the sort of free-will which we have feared losing in the advent of this technological onslaught. It may seem inevitable that we are all caught up in the tidal wave of technology but it is never immediately known which technologies will truly be to our benefit and therefore we should reserve the right to embrace or ignore technologies as we see fit. Individuals make their own decisions about how much impact technology has on their lives and even as the world moves into a digital realm, it should not be a requirement. While it may become increasingly difficult to ignore certain technologies (the internet, cell phones) they should not become a required part of human existence. I will admit that the areas unaffected by technology are almost impossibly rare in this country; it does not mean that all technology must be embraced. In this way, the Amish present an ideal example as they do not live in the Stone Age as some people believe but rather are selective about the technologies they choose to incorporate into their lives, basing their decisions on the community values which are most important to them. It is hard for me to imagine someone outside of that community consciously choosing to stay away from cell phones or the internet, but the Amish show that a life like that is certainly possible and may even be more rewarding than the technology infused existence which most of us live. This principle is about rejecting technological determinism and relying on our own human instincts to decide which technology we wish to be a part of our lives. While technology will continue to develop with or without individuals choosing the accept it, the idea of free-will is still central to our humanity and therefore must remain of monumental importance even as our inundated with new technology. There is nothing in the nature of technology which suggests we must accept it on an individual level in order for it to flourish and so we need not worry about whether our personal decisions will come to affect the entire scope of technology.

• The government should continue to support full 1st Amendment rights for the Internet and websites therein.

While this principle may seem like a foregone conclusion, it is not only vital to the continued progress of the internet but also to ensure our own personal freedoms. The internet is now a part of almost every process in our lives and if the government were to limit or regulate what can be said or done on the internet, it could have far reaching implications down the line. Although there a vast number of agencies which purport to have some regulatory control over the internet, the fact remains that most of the innovations (such as YouTube) which have the greatest impact on us are not strictly speaking in line with old forms of regulation (in the case of YouTube, I mean copyright laws). However, by generating innovation first and worrying about regulation after the fact, we can ensure that progress continues unmitigated by the burden of the often lengthy legal process. The implications of the government failing to support this principle are certainly as far reaching as them continuing with the sort of laissez-faire approach which has met the internet thus far. Failure to support the 1st Amendment rights of the internet could permanently damage the freedom of entrepreneurship which the internet has fostered in this global economy. Also, as evidenced by the recent political turmoil in Egypt and other places, the internet is an extremely powerful tool, particularly when underestimated by the government. And the ultimate truth of the matter is that there is practically no way to completely control the internet; smart people will always be able to find a way around filters or blocks but it would limit the usefulness for everyday people. In order for technology to progress to its full potential, and thereby give us the maximum number choices which Kevin Kelly insists is our right, the government needs to avoid premature or well-intentioned but not thought-out legislation.

• We should control the future of technology, and not the other way around.

I disagree with Kevin Kelly who thinks that technology has basically taken on a life of its own and no longer requires human development in order to progress. I think it is imperative for our future that we try as best we can to understand the implications of new technology before implanting them on a wide scale. There may always be unintended or unforeseen consequences of technology but we as consumers need to hold the researchers and developers accountable for their actions. It is also important to realize that technology may be initially designed with a specific purpose but then quickly outgrows that purpose and contributes to progress on a much wider scale. But we cannot simply fall prey to the notion that any advance in technology is a good one (as Kelly suggests) simply because it offers us more choices. The idea of technology making us collectively “better” is a good idea but not necessarily an accurate vision of reality. If technology makes someone a better Nazi, we must strive to understand both the good and bad of said technology. I think it comes down to the idea that we must do our very best to control technology and not merely be lead around by it. We may not be able to understand the full implications of each new technology but we should strive to anticipate just how it may shape the future. By starting a conversation and understanding both the upside and drawbacks, we can better make informed decisions regarding technology. That is not to say that everyone will agree on the path that technology should take but, rather than limiting any research or development which would probably prove impossible anyway, we should try as best we can to understand the implications of new technology.