"We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience." -John Dewey
Graphic from The Guardian online, December 9, 2013. AOL, Twitter, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn are combining efforts to lobby the US government to stop bulk collection of online proprietary data.
Several key social media outlets recently announced their plan to send an open letter to Washington and increase lobbying efforts to curb surveillance by the US National Security Agency. The open letter, available here, suggests five principles to guide future government inquiries and also contains the personal statements of seven prominent CEOs and corporate lawyers.
Brad Smith of Microsoft puts it concisely: “People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”
Corporations worry that surveillance from the NSA and governments worldwide will cut into their profit margins. Still, this issue has a lot to say about alienation and engagement with the digital communities of the Information Age.
Alienation describes an estrangement or isolation from groups with which you would normally connect. These groups might be social in nature, but they could also be Nature at large or some spiritual ideal. Although online communities are arguably an important social sphere for many modern people, the recent statements of web leaders point to the crucial role of trust in overcoming alienation.
High-risk situations stunt the mind’s ability to connect. In a state of fight or flight, a person cannot engage with others and may even disassociate from her internal values. Similarly, the NSA’s actions have launched many people into a state of heightened awareness and trepidation. When people subsequently drop out of online networks or fail to use them to their full potential, this holds back a wealth of potential progress made possible by Information Age communication. Furthermore, it compounds social alienation from more traditional networks like national governments, closing doors on popular initiatives to promote human rights and other worthwhile projects.
Fear will not improve the relationship between individuals and their government. Trust is a step in the right direction.