Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The Bells of Saint John"

Clara: “You going to explain what happened to me?”

The Doctor: “There’s something in the wifi. This whole world is swimming in wifi. We’re living in a wifi soup. Suppose something got inside it. Suppose there was something living in the wifi, harvesting human minds, extracting them. Imagine that! Human souls trapped like flies in the World Wide Web, stuck forever, crying out for help.”

Clara: Isn't that basically Twitter?

There is a pleasure in watching near future science fiction as we catch up with the visions being imagined. The TV show Doctor Who has been visiting the early Twenty First Century for decades now, and it is quite comical to see what the writers of the late sixties thought our world would be like. However, in our break-neck speed of technological advances these days it is also a bit entertaining to see what people less than a decade ago thought we would be like today. As the show re-launched in 2005 it quickly advanced the “present day” on the show into the teens and twenties of this century, but that world looked pretty much like the 00s only with a sudden awareness of a vast amount of aliens interested in Earth. They had no idea of how pervasive things like smart phones, social networking, and wifi would be.

The idea that these new technologies would be our downfall is nothing new in fiction. Every generation has been a bit paranoid about societal advances. We do right to question developments and guard against unforeseen consequences and dangers. Ultimately this is an action adventure story and not a horror, but the fears it addresses do bear reflection. Just how much are we compromising our humanity as we embrace a second sphere of societal interaction?

Much of the way we engage each other these days had no precedent five years ago. Imagine if some of the facebook posts or tweets we read today were uttered by someone in a “normal” social setting. Some of those response baiting ploys that are quite ordinary today would have been seen as socially unhealthy—even maladjusted—a few years ago. Our increasing tendency for unchecked drama and the way we delude ourselves into thinking we are some sort of celebrity in our own world cannot be good. We may not be experiencing some extraterrestrial predation through the internet, but we sure aren’t doing ourselves any favors either.

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