Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Thoughts Before Ringing in the Next Decade

Here we are just minutes from closing the first decade of the 21st century!  I am a big fan of the Terminator movies.  Have been since the last century!  Since the kids came along, getting to the theater has been near impossible.  So I missed the most recent installment "Terminator: Salvation", until tonight.
Every year for Christmas I buy the house some exciting new entertainment for the family.  A few years ago it was a DVD Burner with a VCR deck, then came the Wii, last year was a bit tough economically; but, I was still able to squeeze in a Flip camera.  Two days before Christmas this year, I saw an add for an Insignia Blu-Ray player that had Wi-Fi at an incredible price and snatched the last one off the shelf.  OK, that's a long way to go to get to the fact that I just watched "Terminator Salvation" on Blu-Ray, but there it is.
Now what on earth does the Terminator series have to do with education and technology (the driving force of this blog)?  Glad you asked.  I was actually highly disappointed in the movie.  Oh sure, there were plenty of explosions and cool looking futuristic weapons.  But the plot was very dark, almost non-existent and depressing.  But here's it's saving grace.  When we look at movies like this (Minority Report is another good example), we begin to realize that Michael Wesch, the self-proclaimed Digital Ethnography, was astutely correct in his now famous YouTube video "The Machine is Us/ing Us" (which incidentally could not have occurred until the 21st century since YouTube did not exist until 2005!)
Every time I see this video I have a different idea of what it's really about.  However in this final version I think I finally get that what Michael is getting at (and correct me if I'm wrong Professor Wesch - I would love to hear from you):  We as human beings, have become humans doing and as such have developed and continued to improve upon ways to ways to communicate and share information.  And over the course of the past 20 years or so, the internet has become a tool for the masses.  It is no longer for the geek in his basement with an analog modem connecting to the "internet" to play their favorite MUD (that's geek speek for multi-user dungeon role-playing game).  And in fact, what we have developed is a user friendly environment that encourages social collaboration without having to have the technical skills to develop the sites needed for the sharing of information.  In fact what we have been doing for the past decade is adding more and more information to the cloud and developing vast databases of valuable information.  This will eventually lead us to what Sir Tim Berners-Lee (the realfather of the internet as we know it today) refers too as the Semantic Web - that's web 3.0 to you and me.  The linking of data that will make it even easier to analyze and collaborate on a global scale.
OK, so that's a lot of rambling and a ton of information to digest in getting to a very small yet indelible point: the machine is indeed using us, but I don't think Skynet and it's Terminators are going to be coming for us anytime soon, because we still have free will.  We are able to create amazing new technologies that enable the betterment of our lives.  And when you consider the fact that even though countries around the world have the ability to wipe each other completely off the map, the simple fact remains that deep down beneath it all we have an inherint need to survive, to live and to thrive as a global community.
I'm sure in the next few days I will post a decade in review and a look to the future, but until then may the new year bring you peace, harmony and good fortune!  Happy 2010 everyone!
get your own embeddable forum with Talki