Every piece of technology is a two sided sword.
It gives, but it also take away.
The automobile was a remarkable, life changing invention, but it also destroyed the countyside, led to urban sprawl and continues to dump billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
It gives and it takes away.
Last week, one of the newest and potentially most life- changing technologies reminded us of this aphorism.
"Remember lads, subscribe to PewDiePie"
With these words, the New Zealand Killer both started a live video stream and opened fire on 50 innocent worshipers in two mosques in Christchurch, NZ.
PewDiePIe, for those of you who don't know, is a Swedish YouTube vlogger named Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, with more than 90 million subscribers and 20 billion views. He currently holds the #1 slot amongst those who are followed online for video.
Most of his content relates to commentaries on video games, but it is laced with 'politically incorrect' (to put it nicely), 'humor' (to stretch the definition of the word).
In January 2017, Kjellberg began to receive criticism for his non-gaming videos. According to International Business Times, one of the videos "appeared to show" him using a racial slur[which caused #PewdiepieIsOverParty to trend worldwide on Twitter. A few days later, Kjellberg created further controversy, when he uploaded a video featuring him reviewing the website Fiverr, which allows people to sell a service for US$5. In the video, Kjellberg shows his reaction to a duo he had paid to display the message "DEATH TO ALL JEWS" on a sign.
This is the price we pay for a free press.
The New Zealand Killer was framing his live mass murder as a kind of YouTube stunt. That this could be viewed as 'entertainment' is too revolting to contemplate, but he clearly seems to be a product of an online video culture where anything goes, and the more shocking, the better.
In 1751, Denis Diderot published his great Encyclopedia. It was the first printed compendium of all human knowledge, from how to forge a plow to how to weave cotton. Think of it as the Internet of its day.
Jean le Rond d'Alembert, a French mathematician and a contemporary of Diderot's wrote the Introduction To The Encyclopedia of Diderot. In it, he wondered, what would happen when everyone had access to all of human knowledge all the time.
Would peasants leave their fields and start their own mills? Would crops rot because they could not be harvested?
Diderot and D'Alembert lived in a world in which 95% of the population worked in agriculture in some capacity. It was an agrarian culture. Today, 3% of the population works in agriculture, but 100% of the population is online, some up to 11 or 12 hours a day.
They were an agro-centric culture. We are a media-centric culture.
By the time the average person reaches the age of 18 today, they have already seen more than 200,000 acts of violence, between TV, videos and video games. Some far more than that.
We become innured to the violence. We begin to see it as normal. We begin to see it as entertainment,
And that which we see as normal and entertainment, we naturally recreate and 'share' for others.
And that is what happened here.
You cannot blame the techology.
You can, however, start to ask yourself if we should not set some standards of what is unacceptable. Not illegal. Just morally unacceptable.
Morality has a place in culture.
Almost as important as entertainment.