Friday, December 30, 2011

Chicken Soup with a fellow blogger...

I left an excessively generic comment on someone's blog a day or two ago that evidently caused some confusion about my overall objectives. Here's the problem as I see it:

There's an old story in Plato's Republic that involves a magic ring which allows its wearer to become invisible. Sound familiar? You can get the details by googling "Ring of Gyges" but the story has been used over and over in contemporary fiction. Plato argued that men who behave in a moral fashion do so not out of a deep seated sense of obligation to civilization but simply because they lack the power to behave immorally and escape punishment. The Ring of Gyges tells the story of a simple shepherd who acquires the power of invisibility and quickly uses it to improve his own quality of life at the expense of others.

Enough about Plato. He's still dead.

I wouldn't recommend holding your breath while waiting for magic rings and invisibility cloaks to be developed, but we are faced with a problem. Technology is creating a situation where a growing number of otherwise insignificant individuals are acquiring an increasing ability to cause harm to others with little chance of being punished. Today you worry about visiting the wrong websites because of computer viruses. A few decades from now your grandchildren will be worried about real viruses. Should they open that direct mail advertisement, or even touch it? Should they touch that doorknob or accept that offer of leftover cookies in the company breakroom? You get the idea.

The sort of people who create today's computer viruses are the product of the same social processes as those who will be creating tomorrow's real viruses. They are the product of a society that proudly displays a corrosive level of depraved indifference toward others. Read almost any post in this weblog for an example. Anyone with the technical ability to gain something, even if what they gain is as petty as a temporary thrill of empowerment by causing harm to others is much more likely to use that ability if their value system developed in a social environment like ours. In America, virtually every public school student learns that cruelty is rewarded and victims of cruelty are shamelessly blamed for what others do to them. In many schools, the adults in authority simply ignore complaints from victims of cruelty. The Columbine Massacre was not a mystery. It was an embarrassment. What a toilet.

I don't expect to change much of anything simply by writing a blog, but doing nothing would only make me feel as ugly and lacking in character as those who enable the criminals described in this weblog.

If this explanation is insufficient, leave a question and I'll attempt to provide a suitable answer.

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