Beware the digital tree of knowledge

Along with Genesis – "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die" – there was Greek mythology and Pandora's box.  In both cases, female characters were seen to defy the warnings and subsequently let loose all sorts of dire consequences for humanity in general.

A few thousand years later, our current obsessively narcissistic society is mesmerized by the charms of the internet and electronic social media.  Like a school of fish attracted by shinny things with hidden hooks, people swarm toward the latest digital offering in hopes of satisfying a gnawing desire for some sort of social fulfillment and knowledge, albeit with minimal mental effort.  The bait looks tasty...a digitized apple hanging on network tree-equivalent promises of instant knowledge...just a few key clicks to establish your identity, and then enter and control your digital domain.  Unlike the warning given in Genesis, this twentieth-century version of temptation came without a warning label, although one computer manufacturer did give a hint via its iconic trademark.  The domain is out to control you.

Recent revelations of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Silicon Valley masters of the digital world have revealed their hidden digital hooks.  What is right or wrong, true or false, important or not is surreptitiously defined by the digital masters.  What answer you get from the internet has been ranked in a viewing order determined by algorithms obedient to the valley masters.  Generations of progressive indoctrination via government-funded public schools may not have provided their students with the tools to identify such distinctions on their own.  A smartphone is now their instant mental equivalent to the abilities of much earlier generations taught the three Rs and independent thought.  Those generations garner the disdain of our ruling-class elitists, who deem them "deplorables."

The phenomenon discussed in Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds has been given an electronic efficiency via crowdsourcing.  Manias need be no longer limited to overpriced tulips.  Instant crowds are deliverable via the internet.  The terrors of Greek democracy are now only a few key clicks away...mobs à la carte...wisdom to be determined.  Massing mobs on malls is the current vogue.

Social media websites have taken the identities of the innocent and naïve sign-ups and sold them to the highest bidder.  Such digital soul-baring cannot be taken back.  It is a one-sided deal with the digital devil.  The moving finger clicks on the internet, and not a word of piety or sorrow can erase a digital bit or byte of it (apologies to Omar Khayyam).  In a digital form of poetic justice, masses of the offended are now threatening to bite the hand or finger of the social media platform they had embraced and terminate their online affairs.

The Pandora's box of the digital world has been opened, and the digitized Devil behind the "tree of knowledge" temptation revealed.  What further dire consequences await us?  Whatever they might be, they will be delivered via the internet...now connected to everything.

Charles G. Battig, M.S., M.D. is a Heartland Institute policy expert on environment and contributor to American Thinker.  His website is www.climateis.com.

Along with Genesis – "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die" – there was Greek mythology and Pandora's box.  In both cases, female characters were seen to defy the warnings and subsequently let loose all sorts of dire consequences for humanity in general.

A few thousand years later, our current obsessively narcissistic society is mesmerized by the charms of the internet and electronic social media.  Like a school of fish attracted by shinny things with hidden hooks, people swarm toward the latest digital offering in hopes of satisfying a gnawing desire for some sort of social fulfillment and knowledge, albeit with minimal mental effort.  The bait looks tasty...a digitized apple hanging on network tree-equivalent promises of instant knowledge...just a few key clicks to establish your identity, and then enter and control your digital domain.  Unlike the warning given in Genesis, this twentieth-century version of temptation came without a warning label, although one computer manufacturer did give a hint via its iconic trademark.  The domain is out to control you.

Recent revelations of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Silicon Valley masters of the digital world have revealed their hidden digital hooks.  What is right or wrong, true or false, important or not is surreptitiously defined by the digital masters.  What answer you get from the internet has been ranked in a viewing order determined by algorithms obedient to the valley masters.  Generations of progressive indoctrination via government-funded public schools may not have provided their students with the tools to identify such distinctions on their own.  A smartphone is now their instant mental equivalent to the abilities of much earlier generations taught the three Rs and independent thought.  Those generations garner the disdain of our ruling-class elitists, who deem them "deplorables."

The phenomenon discussed in Charles Mackay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds has been given an electronic efficiency via crowdsourcing.  Manias need be no longer limited to overpriced tulips.  Instant crowds are deliverable via the internet.  The terrors of Greek democracy are now only a few key clicks away...mobs à la carte...wisdom to be determined.  Massing mobs on malls is the current vogue.

Social media websites have taken the identities of the innocent and naïve sign-ups and sold them to the highest bidder.  Such digital soul-baring cannot be taken back.  It is a one-sided deal with the digital devil.  The moving finger clicks on the internet, and not a word of piety or sorrow can erase a digital bit or byte of it (apologies to Omar Khayyam).  In a digital form of poetic justice, masses of the offended are now threatening to bite the hand or finger of the social media platform they had embraced and terminate their online affairs.

The Pandora's box of the digital world has been opened, and the digitized Devil behind the "tree of knowledge" temptation revealed.  What further dire consequences await us?  Whatever they might be, they will be delivered via the internet...now connected to everything.

Charles G. Battig, M.S., M.D. is a Heartland Institute policy expert on environment and contributor to American Thinker.  His website is www.climateis.com.