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I recently wrote about how Big Nanny State has facilitated a tendency amongst some in society to forego growing up and taking responsibility. ‘Leave everything up to me, little ones. Simply submit, follow the rules, however arbitrary many may seem, and off with you to enjoy your highly regulated lives.’
Cosily tucked up with Big Nanny State in her warm global bed is Big Tech, monitoring everything from our sleeping patterns and what we eat for breakfast to our favourite pastimes and guilty pleasures. While this might appear a rather clandestine undertaking, the reality is, it isn’t.
The virtual world that practically all in higher-income countries plus the middle classes elsewhere have signed up to with countless usernames and passwords means we have voluntarily — or at least it was voluntarily initially — invited Big Tech and its associates into our lives. And while some folk seem fairly blasé about this, there does appear to be pushback fomenting in other quarters.
The question is, shy of a system overthrow or a complete retreat from society, how does one go about living in the 21st Century whilst endorsing minimalist technological use?
Unless you’re already a “made” man, woman or whatever you wish to call yourself these days, not having the likes of WhatsApp and/or an email account together with being connected to the internet 24/7, leaves you at a distinct disadvantage. And even if you are comfortably settled on Easy Street, this doesn’t mean you can effortlessly free yourself from Big Tech’s dominance.
Many services, from the world of finance to dining and everything else in between, now expect the user to be equipped with a smartphone — a device that tends to sap any modicum of intelligence from said user.
‘In the pandemic pandemonium where each fellow human being is seen as a Grim Reaper, QR-code menus take away one potential area of contagion.’
All of this is supposedly being done in the name of convenience. Fair enough, if you can do everything from the comfort of your own home or wherever, there’s something to be said for that. However, when it’s done to the detriment of being able to actually sit down and talk to somebody face to face should the need arise, while I’m all against it.
A mine of information
Just one manifestation of this — something that, thankfully, rarely affects me in my modest existence in Colombia — is the switch to QR-code menus and such like in restaurants. Some people think this is a wonderful development.
For one, in the pandemic pandemonium where each fellow human being is seen as a Grim Reaper, it takes away one potential area of contagion: the handling of reused menus. It also cuts down on paper by reducing the need for said menus, therefore, so it goes, it’s good for the environment.
Both of those “plus points” are true, but one’s smartphone doesn’t exactly run on fresh air, does it? Plus, outside of its component parts — including those lithium batteries, mined in ethically questionable ways, to say the least — it has to be recharged regularly.
Speaking of mining, in places where you actually order electronically, how much personal information is hammered out of us in the process? Another aspect to Big Tech’s perpetual profiling.
In the realm of finance, so far my bank in Colombia, Banco Caja Social, hasn’t forced me to go fully mobile. Indeed, in some regards, this particular institution is too archaic and overly bureaucratic. Nonetheless, when it comes to money, you can’t be too careful all the same.
In contrast, the only bank I currently do business with in Ireland, Bank of Ireland UK in Belfast, more or less forced me recently to download its app in order to continue having access to my account. Come on guys, there are only so many apps a bog-standard smartphone can hold!
The net result of this ‘move to mobile’ is that it leaves us at the mercy of a faceless Big Tech. Technology is the master. To borrow, in a way, from Winston Churchill, ‘Never has so much power been in the hands of so few, controlling so many.’
Call me, if you will, a contrarian conservative fearful of what amounts to nothing more than innocent and innovative change.
However, in a world where we are ceding more and more of whatever independence we had to faceless forces, I will do what I can to resist, at least for a little while longer. It will, most likely, be a futile exercise.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.