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THE MOORE THING CHANGE: Take nothing for granted;  Facebook too

Carl Moore

THE MOORE THING CHANGE: Take nothing  for granted;  Facebook too

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THE FEW WHO HUMOUR me by bothering to read these fortnightly scribblings must’ve noticed – after five years and over 130 mini essays – that I am a sceptic. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but I don’t hide it either.
I shocked a friend the other day when he assumed he knew my religious inclination. He promised to “get back to me” with the view, no doubt, to “bring me back into the fold”.
I suppose it’s my journalism training – not at university – but around The Barbados Advocate’s horseshoe-shaped sub-editors’ desk, with Alistair “Massey” Greene, Ulric Rice, Robert Best, Peter Simmons, Keith Seale, Fred Gollop and Harold Hoyte.
In the past decade I’ve had to apply that scepticism almost daily to the tsunami of the technology powered by the Internet.
I will not be swept away by it. I’ve had to caution two eager young people recently to be careful, not only of whom or what they embrace, but who or what embraces them.
I had to fight off the clichéd accusation that I’m a Luddite. I pleaded: How could a man who owns eight iPods be a Luddite? The iPod is one of the most useful technological gadgets invented. On mine are hours and hours of jazz music, classical music, calypso (before it became so wishy-washy), thousands of pictures, book reviews and podcasts from BBC, Oxford University, NPR, PRI, Radio Canada, Al Jazeera and others.
You become “backward” as soon as you don’t – I’m beginning to resent this word – embrace all the dreams and recipes of technology’s Nirvana. I pick and choose very carefully from the expanding smorgasbord of technological goodies spread out before me.
Many Trojan horses ride in pregnant with these new technologies.
Recently we were told that the answer to the ill-treatment and destruction of textbooks – by some students; I treasured mine – is the introduction of e-readers. The call came from a secondary school principal.
There was no mad rush to support that idea – at least, not so far; but there were a few influential voices who said: “Go for it!”
One gushed: “Finally! We are moving forward into the 21st century. To those narrow-minded idiots who do not understand just how far behind our education system is when compared to those of the developed countries, our children will never be able to compete in the worldwide workplace and international marketplaces of the future.
“My only concern, is the limited ability of e-readers to fully utilize the opportunities of the Internet. Education on the Web has long since passed just reading text, and a more complex device, like an iPad, is vital to take advantage of the full benefits of the Internet experience.”
Soon, the discussion widened to let in a few more sceptics who, like me, suggested that we not rush things. A useful to-and-fro went on for a while.
The blind love affair with whatever Silicon Valley invents explains what Russian author Evegny Morozov calls “solutionism” – the idea that whatever complex situation we face, we can solve it simply by finding the right algorithm or app, and, thanks to Internet technology, the solution.
Not every problem lends itself to a technological quick-fix – and education usually requires some drudgery and tedium if deep concepts are to be thoroughly understood.
Wikipedia has upstaged the once trusted Encyclopaedia Brittanica – no more wading through some dusty old volume on a bookshelf. Never mind that you’re warned that anyone can contribute answers.
The late Gladstone Holder would be laughed out of court today if he repeated something he once said: “No Barbadian child need to sit in front of a computer before age ten.”
Just last week, Anthony Alleyne, an information technology (IT) specialist, was advising schoolchildren: “Treat every conversation, statement and comment as something potentially dangerous. You may be speaking to an adult posing as a ten-year-old.
On Facebook, Twitter and other sites, be careful with putting your personal information on those accounts because people can easily research and find out about you without having to meet and talk to you.”
He was telling them to be alert; to think for themselves; to be sceptical. To take nothing on their computer screens at face value – including Facebook.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator.