The Internet of Us | Michael Patrick Lynch

Summary of: The Internet of Us: Knowing More and Understanding Less in the Age of Big Data
By: Michael Patrick Lynch


Enter the world of ‘The Internet of Us,’ where Michael Patrick Lynch transports readers into the realm of big data and its impact on our daily lives. Through engaging and thought-provoking insights, this book explores the distinction between data and information, the rise of ‘Google-knowing,’ and how it affects the way we perceive and understand the world around us. Dive into discussions on privacy, networked knowledge, and the importance of thinking critically in the age of the Internet. Ultimately, Lynch reflects on how the ever-evolving digital landscape presents both opportunities and challenges in our quest for true understanding.

The Limits of Neuromedia

In the digital age, access to unlimited information through advanced technology seems like a utopian concept. However, the concept of “neuromedia” raises concerns about privacy and safety. While the internet of things and big data offer a wealth of knowledge, true understanding involves grasping relationships and connections. It is not enough to have correct information; you also need the ability to apply it correctly in different contexts. Therefore, knowledge is not the same as having an opinion, and grounding is necessary to guide actions. Overall, while access to information is important, there are limits to what it can offer.

Internet and Knowledge

The internet has become our primary source of information. However, we need to be cautious about the sources we trust and our uses of technology. We must balance our quick, receptive thinking with reflective, skeptical thinking that questions the sources of information. While relying on personal observations or experience may not always be efficient, being skeptical and breaking up information cascades is crucial in the expanding Internet of Us.

The Internet and Group Polarization

The internet doesn’t isolate individuals, but it amplifies “group polarization.” Following certain news streams leads to segregating society based on religious, political, and economic views. The web doesn’t promote rational thinking, and it provides more reasons for disagreement rather than consensus. The philosopher, David Hume, pointed out people often miss the common point of view, a problem amplified by digital technologies. The internet makes it easy to find facts that fit your beliefs, fostering the “rationalist delusion” that reason trumps intuition. Critical thinking is essential to avoid further fragmentation of society.

Truth in the Online World

The concept of truth is essential both in real life and online, where governments manipulate media to promote their own version of truth. This is evident in China, where the government deletes certain phrases on social media to control the narrative. Social media has also been instrumental in promoting activism and encouraging people to share their message. However, the abusive use of big data is a potential danger and can pose serious threats. In Locke’s view, truth has two distinct qualities – primary and secondary – that are independent of our perceptions. Our perceptions mediate our understanding of truth, and this becomes more complicated in the online world, where the boundaries of reality and subjectivity become blurred. For instance, it is challenging to differentiate between real and fake online personas like “sock puppets” and “socialbots.” In conclusion, just like a common currency is necessary to exchange money in a civil society, a common currency for exchanging reasons is also crucial for promoting truthfulness in society, whether online or offline.

Your Digital Life: Private or Public?

Your digital life may seem like a fishbowl, but remember that you entered it voluntarily. Cookies track your clicks, and targeted ads offer products based on your past purchases. Your smartphone sends out continuous streams of location data that make it easy for marketers to examine your shopping behavior. Knowledge has become transparent. The Internet looks back in on us. This is why it’s crucial to maintain control over what we share online to guarantee the privacy of our data. People might not actively share how they think and feel, but someone could enter their mind and access any information without their knowledge. This would leave them vulnerable. Similarly, incidental collection of data by government organizations like the National Security Agency should be a concern. The choice is yours to weigh convenience and autonomy over privacy and security.

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