Sunday, March 14, 2010

14 March 2010 Herd enough yet?

14 March 2010 Herd enough yet?

“March 9, 2010

Report: Facebook to add location features

Posted: 04:27 PM ET

Beginning next month, Facebook may start telling its users not only what their friends are doing, but also where they're doing it.

The New York Times' Bits Blog says the popular online social network will announce this "location-based" feature at its upcoming conference, called f8. The conference takes place April 21-22 in San Francisco.

Site users, according to the post, will be able to add their locations to status updates on Facebook.

Similar location services are an emerging trend with online social networks. Some Web sites, like foursquare and Gowalla, are dedicated largely to telling your online friends where you are at any given moment. This is seen by some as a helpful way for friends to find each other and meet up in real life. It's also regarded as an advertising opportunity for businesses that can convince customers to post about their store visits on the Internet.”

Humans are social animals, engineered by genetics to gravitate toward group life.

The tendency to function as a pack was pro-survival in the generations when we existed as hunter-gatherer clans of often-inbred extended families. The most lethal genetic combinations became readily apparent and were usually excluded from the chromosomal heritage passed down to evolving clans. We managed to last long enough for families and clans to grow into tribes and city states. Our ability to create and use language as a tool allowed us to pass on ideas and concepts to other tribes and to eventually adopt what they would share. At some point in the early history of human kind we learned to cooperate to accomplish tasks. At another we learned that sometimes a leadership structure or hierarchy was essential in order to accomplish anything. City-States grew in size and power, spread out into larger territories, and ruling classes developed based upon various criteria such as physical prowess, property and/or land ownership, ability to communicate with local deities – or to make everyone else believe that one possessed such ability. Merchant, farmer, soldier, priest, and royal classes became part of the structure of every city-state.

Along with this growth in population came an evolution in how humanity communicated. From the rudimentary face-to-face grunts that were language we progressed to writing as a means of transferring information to people not present. We sent such messages by courier at walking or running speed. The domestication of horses provided greater speed of transfer; boats allowed information to cross water barriers, carrier pigeons could transfer a very limited message but were faster than foot powered transfers. Along with flashing mirrors, signal flags, and a few other mechanical methods people on foot or on horse essentially carried most information from the beginning of recorded history up to the invention of the telegraph. Then, suddenly, a lot of information could be transmitted very rapidly, once the wires between A& B were in place. Then, at the opposite end, the message quite often was delivered to the end recipient at pedestrian speed.

In the last decades the rapid development of relatively cheap and relatively reliable cellular telephone service has provided almost everyone in an industrialized nation with the ability to misuse the ability to transmit verbal messages from place to place and person to person.

What this capability to chatter endlessly has spawned is the existence of social packs that make up for their lack of ability to locate one another by sight, scent, or sound, by wireless connection. The youngest generations have become so in need of constant pack contact that they spend hours using cell phones to send text messages back and forth before making any decision or taking any action. The pack must approve whatever it is the pack member wishes to do. The pack must know what every pack member is doing at all times.

Social networking sites feed into this pack behavior. Millions of people log onto one or more such service at least once a day to “update status.” Among the younger generations this can become a constant practice unless someone actually pries the means of communication from their fingers. Then they are all too often lost.

Yes, I recognize the moderate level of hypocrisy involved in posting this entry on a social networking site. Yes, Gloria and I have cell phones. The only time I’ve ever used mine to send a text message was on our last night in Vancouver while trying to meet my son for dinner. Because of where we live and how we use telephones we still maintain a landline. Cell service is very iffy in the mountains of TN. Yes, posting this entry and similar entries is a form of “status update” but it is rarely more than a once a day event. The only person I regularly consult by cell phone is Gloria and I’m careful to avoid driving while talking. Almost everything we need to relate to each other can be related once we are both home and face to face.

After spending long years on call for one laboratory or another I don’t want to be in constant contact with a horde of people. I can decide what to eat, where to shop, what road to take without input from a dozen people. I do not need and do not want that same dozen or an even greater number knowing where I am every minute of the day. I want to see the younger generations learn to act as individuals, to operate a car or truck without simultaneously talking to one, three, or more people. I want them to appreciate what a wonderful tool they have been handed far too early in their lives.

CNN in the article linked above asks the reader if the practice of uploading one’s location constantly is a good thing. I don’t want to come to rely on a monitoring system that is not geographically viable for any safety concerns I might think justify the plan. While I can think of some reasons revolving around safety for others, which any criminal with half a brain can rapidly work around; my answer is a loud and definite, “No!”

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