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Richard Thieme’s Take on Technology and Its Effects

Oct. 21, 2010
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Richard Thieme, part author, part techno-philosopher, has been writing and speaking for 20 years about technology and its effects on our culture. In the 1980s, when the era of personal home computers was in its infancy, he recognized that we were on the cusp of a technological revolution. He identified computers as an influence in our society as powerful as the first printing press. In addition to two books, Thieme has written numerous short stories, articles and essays, and has given speeches for hacker conventions, government agencies, businesses and religious organizations around the world.

What effect do you think modern technology has on today's kids?

What people think when they are young becomes the benchmark for them of what is normal for the rest of their life. I remember when I was a kid my mother saying, “Shhhh, we're on long distance.” That was a big deal when I was a kid, but now you can pick up a cell phone and call all around the world without any degradation of service. That's what is happening to this generation. For them, connectivity has become a normal reality. That's why you can't say to a kid, “Don't text.” Their assumptions about reality are profoundly different than previous generations. Young people don't think of themselves as separate from their connectivity. The Net is very interactive, modular and fluid, so identity has become very interactive, modular and fluid.

How is our culture's morality being affected by the Internet?

We are trying to understand what is the right thing to do online. But at the same time, who we are is being altered profoundly while we are online. Every time there has been a change in the word, from spoken, to written, to printed, it has changed what we think is right and appropriate. Every evolution of the word has required people to redefine ethics and reality because our religious systems are being transformed by the same technological processes. We have to watch out for the dark side of human nature misusing technology. We need to assume our privacy, as we knew it, is gone, and live transparently.

What do you see in the future for the Web?

The Web began as the government built it, with ease of access and as a free system between the government, universities and some corporations. But ease of access and trust equals security problems. So to eliminate the security issues, what you are going to start to have is concentric nested levels of networks. Some will be the Internet like we have now, publicly available with ubiquitous ease of access. Increasingly, there will be more private networks, probably with air gaps for complete security. Laws will evolve to protect the free flow of commerce and exchange in an insurable and socially acceptable way. Technology will be increasingly invisible and will deeply permeate all levels of society.

For more information about Richard Thieme and his work, visit


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