Friday, January 9, 2009

Clay Shirky on Social Media

Clay Shirky
From CBC Radio: Spark

"The ugly parts of society get poured into these new tools just as surely as the good parts do. And, the Ethics of new tools are very rarely worked out by ethicists. You will see ethicists sitting around ringing their hands about “oh, technology is outpacing our ability to have ethics”… but that’s always the way it has been. Ethicists are ambulance chasers in terms of technological change. No ethicists are sitting around working on the ethics of time travel or anti-gravity machines just to be ready. So, anybody who makes that complaint is really saying “I wish things wouldn’t change because I understood the world the old way.” The way society works out the ethics is a bit at a time. These stories surface and people sort out the good from the bad, and then social norms start to form, and then at some point the law comes in and recognizes it. But that’s not a quick conversation ... The interesting thing about the history of the printing press is we didn’t move from a world with only scribes copying bibles to a world where there were lots of publishers publishing new material, there was a hundred and fifty years of chaos in the middle, and I think that we’re moving into a world where a lot of stuff that we’re used to in the current society is going to break. But what replaces it is not going to appear in any direct or short–term fashion. And so, rather than saying we need to sit down as a society and have a conversation about ethics –- which never actually happens –- I think that the people who tell stories need to tell bad stories as well as good ones. I think it’s imperative that we not just hear about the good news stories but also about the downsides, because society is going to have to factor all of that in, one member of society at a time."

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