When new technology arises, there are two things that inevitably come up: speculation and fear. Speculation over what the new technology is capable of, and fear of how it might affect our lives. Usually, however, it’s the fear that takes over.
In recent years, there have been more than a few scares over hacking, privacy, and what have you. However, I worry that our view of what technology is capable of is being influenced be the media, particularly Hollywood.
An early example is the paranoia surrounding the internet in the mid-90’s. In the awful cyber-thriller The Net, Sandra Bullock plays a “lonely” computer geek whose entire life is ruined when hackers manage to alter her Internet profile. Being as the film made around $110 million, I must wonder what the public opinion of the Internet must have been like at the time. But let’s remember, that movie was awful.
Flash forward 12 years later, and we have Die Hard 4.0, in which a group of hackers hack into government computers and are so good at hacking, it’s as though they have the power of an all-seeing god. The sheer improbability of this reaches its peak when the hackers make some natural gas lines explode under the streets simply with “the power of hacking”. Clearly this was trying to buy into the cyber-terrorism scare of the mid-late 2000’s, but nothing like this happened in real life, or ever will, because this is Hollywood, who really shouldn’t be believed in the first place.
It isn’t just movies. TV shows are doing this too.
In an episode of Anger Management (“Charlie and the Hot Nerd”), anger management therapist Charlie Goodson dates a young technology enthusiast named Monica, whose ex-boyfriend, Kent, doesn’t like that one bit, so he apparently hacks his entire house an takes over his TV. The explanation given as to how he can do this is that, supposedly, Monica hooked Charlie’s appliances up to the internet so they can be controlled wirelessly (which is actually impossible). To add to this, it’s further revealed that he was a hacker for the CIA (what?).
I think the writers are using this to demonize smart people and the so-called nerds. Why? Well, let’s remember that Kent is depicted as a stereotypical nerd of around age 20-30 who still lives with his mom (when will they let that stereotype die?), and gets mad over petty pop cultural matters, like the Star Wars prequels. Apparently, the writers think that people like Kent don’t really want to live with their moms in the shadows of their basements surrounded by a wall of technology and would give anything to be a college jock. You know, the kind of stupid, drunken, misogynistic kind of guy we should be despising.
Obviously, the media just wants to scare us with something. They did this with communists, they did this with the nuclear bomb, they did this with terrorists, they did it with technology before as part of the whole Y2K madness, and they’re doing it again with the threat of hacking. Hacking is not a problem if you know how to keep your computer and contents secure. I have a feeling that there are more people who do keep their details secure than people who actually get targeted by hackers.
The fact that these paranoid fantasies are still around also speaks volumes of how we’ve come to worship technology as a god, and how increasingly lazy we are becoming. When someone gets hacked, you don’t blame the hacker for everything. Half of the blame should go to the incompetence of whoever failed to keep their details safe in the first place. Why do think governments guard their secrets with the best they have?
Hopefully, the scaremongering will stop, and the anti-intellectualism that comes with it will die with it.