Originally appeared in Beta Online, betaonline.com (1998-1999 – defunct), an e-magazine about computers and technology published by David Tomere.
Invested members of the cyber faith are forever suggesting I am information deficient, not digitized enough, web page short. They seem to know there’s no URL nor hyperlink on the Internet that’s my own, that family, friends and strangers can click on to find some wonderful text and images by or about me. In fact, I sometimes feel guilty knowing there are spaces in my day, entire blocks of minutes, twenty, thirty at a time, when I’m not accessing data that may be vital to my financial, social, sexual, physical, and spiritual health. I’ve never made a stock trade or bought a book online, or inquired into the home and/or email addresses of ex girlfriends. My vacations remain undocumented and unscanned. Instead of residing on the Web, they’re impressions in my memory, which is to say in a murky, muddled, non-chip environment. To recall details about them requires a great effort of concentration instead of a simple click of a mouse button. I’ve accomplished things I’ve not announced to the world in a mass emailing, never subscribed to a newsgroup, nor read through a single piece of the junk mail that fills my In Box. If I’m to believe the cyber lords all of this means my life’s incomplete and future uncertain. I’m being left behind as others zoom past me on the Information Highway. But this needn’t be. The latest digital technologies will set me on the right track and solve this problem. And if not solve it, I’ll at least be able to get more information about how I might. More access to information is (apparently) what I need and want. That’s the key point here. And to most all of life from now on: information access.
Bill Gates was on television a while ago demonstrating how the Internet will be available in cars of the future. A panel on the dashboard will display stock symbols and their real-time prices, the latest political news, Hollywood gossip, email. All of his vehicle’s are equipped with it, of course, and this is why we’ll all need it. To keep up with Bill, as well as our next door and global neighbors. As if it’s inevitable. Our need and choice. A requirement for better living. But why would we want such a thing? I asked him. But he didn’t hear me through the screen. He implied to the interviewer that more information will set us free. The more we have access to, the freer we’ll be. Freer from what, I wasn’t sure. But when the shackles are off, why bother digging for an answer? And when you’re worth 50 billion (this figure may be low) no one is going to call you on anything. Bill Gates said this is the way it is from here on. Smart devices and applications everywhere in our lives, including our cars, assisting and controlling everything we do (he neglected to mention anything about monitoring, a minor oversight). The reporter’s silence implied, yes it will be without question, Mr. Gates.
I will say Bill seemed earnest during this chat about having information at your fingertips even while you’re driving. Information. More of it. Easier access to it. I admit being impressed for a while. Until I stepped back into my own life. When I did, what was most evident to me is that Bill doesn’t, as I do, drive on the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway. No way. If he did, he wouldn’t want streaming banners of information distracting him from what’s really important. Living. Continued existence in one whole and healthy piece. The BQE’s congested, filled with dangerous potholes and asphalt undulations, bumper-to-bumper with unsafe speeding cars and trucks driven by irritated people who’d like nothing more than for you to go away so they can move faster. There’s not enough information on this planet, and every other planet beyond the cloud cover, that can save your life on it should you make a steering error and veer into the path of a thundering cement truck while reading the latest act of sexual misconduct by a high government official. If my non-server-based data banks are insistent about anything, it’s to never, ever attempt a stock trade while driving on this elevated, crumbling chunk of concrete. One mistake I could be dead, and no amount of information will bring me back. No, I don’t suggest a stock buy on the BQE at rush hour. Not even an Internet IPO at issue price. I’d hate to be killed or maimed squinting at an email. I don’t know about yours, but the majority of mine aren’t worth risking my life for.
As Marx wrote about the Industrial Age, those who control the means of production (the Capitalists) control the masses around the world (the Proletariat). Which suggests those in the Information Age who shape and control access to it (the Informationists) control those of us who need and want it (the Informationariat).
But that’s a joke.