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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Net Stole My Identity

Please forgive me; today I’m going to be a bit more philosophical, rather than looking at technical stuff.  It happens to me once in a while; I start thinking too deeply, fall into a few hours of intense pensiveness, and come up with some strange theories.  Then I take two aspirin and lie down, and a few hours later I’m fine and geeky again.  So please excuse me, this won’t last long…

In the book that I used to teach students the A+ Computer Technician’s course, the author at some point made the statement that “If you’re not on the net, you don’t exist.”  With that statement he implied that you had to have some form of online identity in order to “truly be someone”.

That reminded me of the Sandra Bullock movie, “The Net”, about a woman whose entire life was deleted from the “system”.  Suddenly nobody knew her, everyone thought she was someone else, because that’s what the computer said.  Her total identity was caught up in the bits and bytes floating around Cyberspace.  So I started wondering how true this is these days.

I know identity theft to the extent of “The Net” is still a bit extreme; in lovely South Africa, at least, a problem like that would be sorted out with an affidavit, a few Rands, and about 72 hours spent in line at Home Affairs.  But, I wondered, what about the statement that you’re a nobody if you don’t have some form of online identity?

Well, in all honesty, I think it’s nonsense.  I recently started searching the internet for one specific guy.  He is one of South Africa’s most successful businessmen.  He is also a committed family man and very actively involved in charity.  And yet very few people even know who he is.  He is brilliant enough at business to stay in the background, benefiting from the business financially, but not even being seen by most people.  The point is, apart from a few isolated interviews, Google couldn’t help me at all.  He doesn’t have a Facebook profile, he’s not on MySpace (and even if he was, I would doubt that it was actually him), not on Twitter, he doesn’t have a blog (though I would read it if he did), a web site, or anything.  He is on LinkedIn, though, but apparently not very active (he doesn’t have any contacts and doesn’t answer messages).  And yet this guy is one of THE jet-setters in South Africa.  He is known to have contact with guys like Allan Knott-Craig (former CEO of Vodacom) and Ruben September (former CEO of Telkom).  He is notorious as a family man.  And yet, online, NOTHING.  Obviously he isn’t too dependent on his “online identity”…

Which leads to the next question – do we really need technology, and specifically information technology, as much as we think we do?  I’d like to hear your thoughts.  And I may post a full article about it sometime.  But for now, the aspirin are starting to kick in and I’m starting to feel the urge to take up my Lightsaber again.  Must be getting back to normal.  So, until later then.

Lourens, out.


  1. This is a very interesting phenomena you are touching on. We are see some initial steps to forming a single human organism with the help of technology. I think that this is a very probable step in the evolution of humanity. We are mirroring the same behavior as those initial single celled organisms did just before they collectively said "ok guys lets work together, keep in constant communication and make a proper organism of this ramble". Of course not everyone joined and we can still see them hanging around but they are now completely excluded from the current multicellular club. Being continuously connected to everyone may seem scary for some. But to have true clout today you must have a digital signature. This is true for the mentioned jet-setter. He probably has many business orientated profiles (bank accounts, airline memberships, mobile phones etc). He is on the grid, but not necessarily socially. Social connections (Facebook, twitter, myspace) are removing the fear often held by technophobes that assimilation is bad. I have even seen the despondency when some individuals are disconnected for a few hours.

    We should embrace the technology that connects us (and many do much more than they think they do). Those who don't will still exist but they may be seen as different species in the future…

    I will now also take 2 aspirins.

  2. I personally doubt that it is in fact that you do not exist... In my mind the only people to whom it would seem as if your existence is futile is the crowd who is active participants to the "online" philosophy... I would however agree that people who would refrain from having an "online footprint" would probably not enjoy all the goodness that came from it(Internet banking, Online shops, porn[Only kidding about the porn]) but seriously I think it comes to one point only, where there is an old saying that 'Ignorance is bliss'... And I believe it applies here as well...

    On saying that I also believe that one who does dwell within the dark corners of cyberspace couldn't truthfully comment on this as it is more of a social issue of acceptance rather than a person not existing... And also the people living without an online "identity" either cannot afford it or do not want it...

    I personally have family living in the farmland areas and being there has their own farms etc... They do not believe in technology, and to them a dialup modem is still secretly engraved with a pentagram and produced by slaying innocent kittens and watching Barney the Dinosaur episodes mixed up with Barbie movies twelve hours straight a day.. Some people are used to doing something in a certain way and do it really well... And they probably believe that why would you change it if it works?

    Those are my thoughts though, however I feel that I should note that I am already high on nasal spray and R10's...

    So I will just go and play StarCraft 2 now...

    STAY BLACK PEOPLE!!!11(one)

  3. *Claps in joy at Lourens' post*

    If you have no online presence, then strict formal logic dictates that you necessarily do not exist if, and only if, the online equals the universe. And that is the crux of my point. That 'online' is not all life has to offer. That 'online' is in fact a great awesome part yet pathetically small fragment of what life can be. And I do not need to feel obliged to bother myself with 'online' where and how I don't see fit to do so. And sometimes 'online' is just such a shitty alternate reality in which people can absorb themselves (curse me for doing it to myself when there was better things to do!).

    Balance! Not having it is unhealthy.

    But online gaming is awesome. And I see fit to bother myself with it every single day if I could :-P Hee hee hee

    I utterly shun social networking as a complete or 'very representative' form of social interaction, as the world by and large seems to do without caution. Social networking is but a quirky hack, that extends my social interactability both significantly and yet completely fails to do so in most regards (eg. tone of voice lacks in text, though I love text as a social/comms medium; the subtle but essential ways in which we seperate and manage relationships is nonexistant; and hey, you don't actually get to physically poke anybody)

    As for Blog of Ice's view: evolution is not my religion at all (and I regard it as exactly that), but your quite well formulated argument merits an attempt at reply in kind: for the length of this paragraph I shall assume darwinian-style evolution. So what makes us so much better than the amoeba after all? Or my dog? Or the accursed eczema that can last as long as the human it grows on? I think being my dog might be better than being me in many regards. Does complexity and sophistication imply superiority? Doesn't it sometimes just make the complexity and often the pain of living greater? I admit it is fun being able to be the species that plays online games. And irrevoccably trashes the planet in the process... If the flu virus can kick humankinds's ass as hard and ever consistently as it does, then in your analogy I'd rather evolve into the hardy microorganism of the future, rather than the human. Or the shark. Sharks are cooler than, but less complicated than humans. Is that perhaps balance? Or am I just permanently crazy? (please don't answer that)

    Anyway, as for me, I unfortunately am stuck this crazy philosophical way most of the time. I should perhaps try asperin some time... so good for you most-of-the-time-normal-level-of-crazy people :-P