In sociology class, we discussed who has control of the information we reveal online. As someone who always clicks “agree” to the terms and conditions of use without reading them (you’re lying if you tell me you do otherwise), I’d never necessarily considered where my information was going and who had control of it. This never seemed like a big deal to me until I started considering a monopoly on information. Is there value to physical objects in a digital world? We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us no. We’re encouraged to keep our files in the cloud, trust Google to keep a copy of our university papers, and place our credit card numbers in our phones for ease of use. It’s not that these methods aren’t secure, it’s that the products of our society don’t even seem to exist in the same universe as us. If an ancient society is destroyed, we are able to learn about them through what was left behind. If our modern society was destroyed, we would leave no relics. Without a code on a disc, a DVD player is simply a box. We’d leave behind iPhones and Macbooks and anyone who tried to understand our society as it once was would be lost, wondering why we seemingly worshipped these empty bricks.
Even our books are being converted to digital copies and libraries are becoming sparse. Is there any value to having physical objects anymore when we can keep everything online? It’s terrifying to think that whoever owns the digital copy of an important book, such as the Bible, could edit the words and change the meaning of the book and we as a society would have no physical proof to show otherwise. That seems like an awful lot of power for the owner of information to have. Of course, some information is going to be left behind as we progress as a society, but who gets to choose what information we leave behind? Considering how well propaganda affects the masses, a company having ultimate control of information has dangerous implications. For example, a dictatorship that has ultimate control of its country’s media has an immense amount of power over its people. Historically, Nazi Germany was able to indoctrinate a whole society into dangerous beliefs through control of information, and since we so willingly give control over our personal information to others, we are giving people with that information a bit of power over us. Though it seems so harmless, the implications of sacrificing information is extremely dangerous.
Not every bit of information we create will be valuable. Not every video that came out on VHS has become a DVD, and not every DVD has become a Blu-Ray. Regardless of how society progresses, we will lose information we create, but who is it that gets to decide what we leave behind? Leaving information behind is not necessarily negative, but if we sign the terms and conditions that allows a company to decide what information we bring with us into the future, that is giving that company a lot of power. The direct comparisons made between modern society and the dystopian society created by George Orwell’s 1984 are haunting, and it seems as though life in modern society would be the worst fear of someone who lived a hundred years ago. To control information is to control a society, and we willingly hand over this power bit by bit every single day. As much as I and many others see the benefits of the digital age, it’s difficult to ignore the step by step progression into a monopoly of information created by technological development.