Lessons From the Election

Man struggling under weight of informationIf you had asked me 18 months ago what I expected to learn from the Presidential election, I might have said something silly – like more information about the issues. Instead, I learned more than I expected about technology and its potential impact on virtually everything.

In the waning days of the campaign, I spent a lot of time thinking what a mistake it is to look at technology as simply a convenience. Technology makes it easy for anyone to do almost anything–take photographs, shoot video, research a topic or post unedited information on the Internet.

But that’s the problem.

With so much misinformation, it’s easy to lose direction. And the harder you try to find your way, the more you discover that technology magnifies mistakes, illuminates redundancies and quickly turns from amazing to annoying. Here’s what I learned from the campaign:

If you say something once, it’s (possibly) interesting. But if you say it so many times in front of so many microphones that it becomes predictable, it’s a problem. I never want to hear another word about “using a scalpel instead of a hatchet” or having “scars to prove” anything. I’ll also pass on bridges to anywhere and boasts about riding the Amtrak train.

It’s better to say, “I don’t know” than to guess at an answer.Your mistake will be broadcast over and over on everything from major network TV to random blogs worldwide.

Ben Franklin was wrong. Franklin thought the surest guard against tyranny and arbitrary power was free expression, the free flow of ideas and a free press. That theory ended as soon as technology created universal access to the Internet. It’s unfortunate that it coincided with a universal loss of common sense, making it impossible for people to recognize misinformation.  

Just because something looks credible doesn’t mean it is. Blogging platforms make sharing your thoughts quick, easy and free. The software automatically formats unedited ramblings, indirectly giving a measure of credibility to even the most absurd thoughts.

The average person seem to believe anything he hears enough. An interesting fact if you’re trying to, say, artifically boost property values or sell a questionable product…artificially

Be creative. Technology puts video and audio in more hands than you can imagine. And half of those who record something apparently have YouTube addictions. The bottom line: I probably already heard what you said/promised/claimed yesterday to your constituents/potential voters/business associates or clients. So say something original today. Please.

There was a reason your mother/aunt/teacher told you not to say things like “swell” and “neato.” Stupid sayings are annoying…just not as annoying as the people who say them repeatedly.  But thanks to technology, we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying  random colloquialisms, without apparent end, for month after month. Gotcha!

Technology can backfire. Rick Shenkman, a history professor who wrote a book titled Just How Stupid Are We?, says “Television has played a leading role in the decline of the party system and is responsible for the superficiality that marks so much of modern American politics.” I’d like to disagree.

But I can’t. When I worked at a newspaper, back in the days newspapers still existed, TV reporters had plenty to do. There was all that make-up to consider, of course. In addition, it  took time for the videographer and sound person to lug massive amounts of equipment from place to place. Now  nanotechnology keeps make-up fresh all day, broadcast equipment is small enough to carry in a tote bag and most of the experienced reporters have been replaced with less expensive novices. The result is questionable analysis instead of news from TV reporters with too much time on their hands and the mistaken belief viewers care what they think.

Too many smart people are creating technology. Some of them should return to other industries, like news, politics and middle management. Technology is only as smart as the people using it…

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Filed under mistakes, random, Technology, thoughts

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