I think the conversation about freedom might not be so much out of place here, as long as we talk about it from the dimension of how technology has dramatically changed things. I think the reason we're in this forum is because we loved the way our Chumbys used to provide us with exactly the information we needed to make informed decisions about our days. Sometimes it might be trivial gossip buzz, but that really matters to some people. For me, it was usually a warning that a storm was coming or that my commuter train was shut down. But then every 5th or 6th channel would be a news feed, and I could instantly find out about something important that was happening in the world, right at that moment.
Of course, our Chumbys were just a small part of our modern information technology, though I honestly believe they were one of the best, at least for me.
So, on this Independence Day weekend I think it is fascinating to think about how 'instant information' has changed politics and freedom over the decades.
Close to home, look at how text messaging created flash mobs, which improbably laid the ground work for "Occupy Wall Street" and similar actions. I'd love to know if cell phones really did play as big a role in the "Arab Spring" movements as was reported. I'm still not sure how I feel about Wikileaks, but I was amazed to see how efficiently government and business could work together to shut down an important Web Site. And despite the fact that a thousand mirror sites sprung up, somehow Wikileaks then appeared a little "sleazy" and less relevant in the American press.
The technology of democracy has even started helping me feel more effective on a local level. We have an active local "bulletin board" in my town. My town's been in bad shape since Hurricane Sandy. On the 3rd of July, I saw the City do a public works job that was wasteful and destructive. (It was a "pave paradise, put up a parking lot" kind of thing.) I'd actually talked to the workers and found out who was behind the project. Our BBS was buzzing with folks trying to figure out what was going on, so I was able go sign on and report. That's a long story without much of point. But it's the kind of thing that really shows the good side of information technology.
It's a corny anecdote to bring up for this holiday, but remember school fables like "the midnight ride of Paul Revere." Sometimes it took weeks for news to travel through the colonies.
I shared a lot of the sentiment in BoloMKXXVIIIs original post. I especially worry about the *next* generation who may never know privacy as we did. Ironic that as much as the government snoops, Google still knows more. But I don't think things are too bleak. I was shocked when Obama was elected President. I think that happened because those voters were informed about the issues that mattered to them. I think thanks to 'boring' technology like C-Span we have a new kind of checks and balances today, whether or not people choose to use them.
I read recently that the Crystal Radio is sometimes considered the first electronic appliance. (If you never have, make one!) I know some of us went through gadgets like short-wave radios to find out first hand what was happening on the other side of the world. Well, about a month ago I got fiber-optic TV, and suddenly get hundreds of channels. I was really surprised to find out that I now get Al Jazeera. Yeah, I really think the freedom of information we're allowed in this country is a remarkable thing, especially with this level of technology.
So now I've seen Al Jazeera and was not impressed. Honestly though, I'm not thrilled that my TV Provider knows I watched it. I might be getting some pretty weird targeted commercials now. This brings me back to why my Chumby was always my favorite source of information. I'd much rather have Duane knowing my interests than Google or Verizon. (Though I'm sure he couldn't care less!)