Monday, December 7, 2009

Lead us not

In a recent article, Derek Gordon provides a recap of internet evolution for 2009. He talks about the meteoric rise of Facebook, the advent of Twitter, and how these methods have integrated with the use of mobile technology. For those of us who are more than just passive users of these innovations, this is not really news. In fact middle school students understand the impact of being able to use such tools for validation.

But what Mr. Gordon wrote next caused me to take pause.
" and information aggregation sites like Daylife, that intuit relationships based on the search queries you provide to deliver both the content you want and suggestions for associated content are already changing the ways we look for information and entertainment on the Web."
I know this has been happening a while, but I can't help but fear being led by the nose through the power of suggestion, to a place of depraved homogeneity. Yes we make the choice to click, but how easy would it be to be led to a place we really didn't intend to go? (Yes I realize the irony of this as these words are placed right beside my GoogleAd, and thanks for the click)

This brings to mind early images imprinted in Catechism as we learned the phrase, "Lead us not into temptation." As seven-year-olds, we were just taught the words, not what they meant. But, somehow I knew, the request was to stay away from a very bad place. In my mind that place was dark, scary and cold. And I knew being led there would not be favorable.

As much as the internet connects us with friends, community and family, I can't help but see that there are still dark, cold places there too. And as our activity, our interactions, and our curiosity are harvested, processed and used to create a path of breadcrumbs for us to follow, I can't help but worry that malevolent intentions could be at play. One could argue that the algorithms used to create that trail are indifferent, after all they are just based on numbers which are neither good nor evil.

But even the idea of being led to a place is disturbing. Visions of sheep come to mind, ever trusting of their shepherd until they are led to slaughter. Makes me wonder if we are placing too much trust in suggested avenues on the web. Thus my atheist ways are cast aside as I remember those words, "lead us not..."

I feel they will still serve me well.

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