Not too far into the movie, The Matrix, did the character known as Morpheus let Neo know in uncertain terms what his life has come to mean within the world he lived. Neo is told that he is not free as he cannot see the cage in which he exists. Morpheus’ proof of a false life, false security nearly proves debilitating to Neo. Unlike Neo, we do not have to be shown the true face of the Internet to know what it really is.
Pre-2010 Web Time Capsule
Imagine a person who used a more open Web. He goes away for a while. When he comes back, many things changed. The Web is less open and he sees a sharper difference than those of us who moved along with the gradual changes.
Such a person actually exists. He has an interesting life story.
Someone else by the handle, WOOFYGOOFY, has more to say about this reality. It is they, and their careful description of the information winnowing process that caused me to remember something. This person’s description of how the Web becomes a means to seal a person’s fate reminded me of something slightly deeper.
Sophisticated, Hi-Tech Trapping
I will not summarize everything WOOFYGOOFY said. One of the things he said across a few paragraphs I will state as follows. Every link you click on the Web indirectly profiles you in a way others can use to direct you. Not in real-time, but to set the conditions for doing so at a later time and place. The structure of the Web has a price. You have to weigh the costs when and in how you use it.
It reminds me of hunters and prey. The prey in this case is choice itself. How do you control choice? It is the animal you hunt. People have the hunter instinct and it is going to be expressed in a certain way. When not directed towards fowl and fauns in a woodland it may be addressed to minds. The Web can be a tool for the latter. A wet ground of footprints clever trappers and hunters can use to guide prey and cattle alike.
Mankind has evolved its hunting technique. It is getting better everyday. Whether in financial scandals, well-meaning laws, or misleading altruistic representations of technology. As in earlier times, only the top 1% of hunters will have the best technique. Shinier tools hide the true underlying nature of the process. A nature that has not withered but thrives in new ways.
Can you free yourself from this? The real world answer is no. Not really. You can work to reduce the effects but you cannot separate yourself from this process. The following are some things to do.
- At best, strive to make up your own mind about things.
- Do not automatically take what the crowd does as correct or wise.
- Stay mentally alert when voluntarily watching news, do not watch it passively.
- Try to read books more than watch broadcast or streamed video.
- If you watch video or movies, try to watch them exclusively from a physical medium like DVD, Blu-ray or what comes after.
- Spend time writing your own content so you remain aware of how information is put together.
- Hang out with friends in person talking about things.
All these steps together will generally keep your mind independent. They may not help with hunters who may want to design you a different way. You just have to accept that is a part of living. When you look at a film like The Matrix do not consider the foreground characters in terms of the message. Instead, check out the characters in the background, the environment in which they live, and the possibilities for individuals. That is probably near the core of the real message.