Why Is the Information Revolution So Scary?
Does the truth matter anymore? For the past several years — but especially since the 2016 US presidential election — Russian hackers, the mainstream media, social media platforms, conspiracy theorists, Twitter bots, U.S. intelligence agencies, and unscrupulous businesses have all been blamed for polluting our information sources with fake news and deceptive information. Anyone can publish anything — sometimes influencing elections, entrapping minors, setting off international crises — and often making money on the side (through advertising). Meanwhile our computers and phones are entered by hackers who may charge ransom to unlock our data or steal our identities to compromise our financial accounts. Nation states are building cyberwar capabilities to disrupt electrical and transportation networks, disrupt industrial production, disable critical weapons systems. Life in the information age seems to be scarier by the day. What happened to our utopian dreams about free information, anywhere, anytime?
Jeffrey K. MacKie-Mason is the University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, University of California, Berkeley, and a professor in the UC Berkeley School of Information and the Department of Economics. Formerly he was the dean of the School of Information, University of Michigan. At Michigan, he was also the Arthur W. Burks Professor of Information and Computer Science, and a professor of economics and public policy. He was the founding director of STIET (a research program for Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions).
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