I really enjoyed this editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal by sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card, author of Ender’s Game, among many other books. Card engages in some interesting soul searching about the impact of the Net and digital technology on our lives, economy, and culture. He concludes his essay by noting that:
We’re still the same human beings we always were. Consumers still act like consumers; people still search for love and friendship. But the Internet has freed us from the boundaries of distance and many of the risks of embarrassment in social interactions. This re-sorted geography has brought its own pitfalls and forced us to create new rules of etiquette.
But just as I have no desire to give up cars, trains and planes to return to the hay-eating, vet-needing, poop-generating, one-horsepower horse, I don’t want to go back to pre-Google research, pre-Amazon shopping, pre-blog newsmedia, or the loneliness of villages limited by geography.
Quite right. Card is expressing the sort of “pragmatic optimism” I’ve written about here before in my essays about the ongoing battle between Internet optimists and pessimists. I’ve tried to articulate a sort of middle ground position in this debate that embraces the amazing technological changes at work in today’s Information Age but does so with a healthy dose of humility and appreciation for the disruptive impact and pace of that change. As I’ve noted before, we need to think about how to mitigate the negative impacts associated with technological change without adopting the paranoid tone or Luddite-ish recommendations of the pessimists. Read Card’s entire essay to get a better feel for how we can begin to think in that way.