Michael's essay: Technology is changing faster than our ability to control it

Even the man who invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, is sounding the alarm.
"When [Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web] talks about what has become of his creation, there is frustration in every syllable," says Michael Enright. (Shutterstock)
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Last week in his documentary, producer Ira Basen guided us through the dark canyons of something called persuasive technology.

This is the practice, clearly invented by the devil, in which Silicon Valley tech companies have figured out a way to keep us addicted to our devices while selling us stuff we don't need.

Basen pointed out there's a thin membrane between occasional use and outright addiction. The nagging fear is that persuasive technology is taking over not only the internet, but our lives as well.

Reality often overtakes expectations, especially when it comes to the new and disruptive.- Michael Enright

One more bit of evidence that technology is metastasizing faster than our ability to control or even understand it. And the waves of more change to come will not easily be turned back.

Reality often overtakes expectations, especially when it comes to the new and disruptive. This appears to be what is happening in the new technological age. 

And for the man who began most of it, this is very bad news.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the father of the world wide web. In 1989, the engineer and computer expert made a proposal for what he called an information management system. Which ultimately became the web.

A millionaire 50 times over, he has taught and given speeches all over the known world. He has been hailed as one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century.

And he is not a happy man; not happy at least when he looks upon what has become of his original idea.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee wants to take back the web from corporations and in essence, re-democratize it. Can he or anybody do it, or is it too late? (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

This past summer in a profile by Vanity Fair writer Katrina Brooker, Berners-Lee acknowledged that "the Web has failed, instead of served, humanity as it was supposed to have done — and failed in many places."

Designed to promote what he called meaningful connections, the Web has become "a large scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human."

What he worries about most is the intentional emotional manipulation of people by huge corporations. Which is no small thing. It is estimated that by sometime in November, fully half the world's population be online. That's four billion people.

The ubiquity of advancing technology has raised obvious concerns about personal ownership of data, privacy, national security and an inexhaustible transmission of misinformation.

Berners-Lee talks about his feeling of devastation over the current state of his creation. Not to make any comparisons, but Einstein must have felt somewhat the same way, looking at how his work had been weaponized.

Berners-Lee wants to take back the web from corporations and in essence, re-democratize it. Can he or anybody do it, or is it too late?

As high-tech critic Jaron Lanier argues in his latest book: "We're all lab animals now."