The danger of living in an all-digital world

Barnes & Noble wants to shift me away from buying printed books and get on their Nook system.  My church wants to stop sending me paper newsletters and send me e-mail instead.  My bank stopped sending me canceled checks, or even photocopies of canceled checks, a long time ago.

My medical records and bank records are all in electronic form, and I’d guess (though I don’t know) that those records have no physical back-up

Digital-MediaNow influential people are talking seriously about phasing out paper money, and doing all buying and selling by means of credit cards or debit cards.

It doesn’t make sense to me to become so dependent on software systems when nobody can guarantee that these systems are completely reliable.

The Internet and digital technology are great blessings.  I just don’t want to become completely dependent on them.

I want to read a book that can’t be deleted because of a windstorm, a software glitch or a corporate or government edict, and I want to be free to do what I please with the book.  If somebody else wants to use Kindle or Nook, that’s fine.   Just don’t deny me access to printed books in order to make life easier for book distributors.

I don’t want to give up cash.  I use my credit card more and more as the years go by, and I have automatic payment systems for most of my utilities, but what happens if I am a victim of identity theft?  What happens if my bank account or credit card account is frozen, due to a computer glitch or to a corporate or government edict?

I am a fairly affluent member of the American middle class, so the various transaction fees involved in using electronic and on-line systems are not unduly burdensome to me.   This isn’t true of everyone.  What I treat as nickel-and-dime expenses are heavy burdens to people who are just getting by.

And it is not as if, when things go wrong, the average American can rely on good customer service to get them fixed.

By all means, use the Internet and digital technology.  Strive to make it more reliable.  But don’t eliminate the alternatives and backups just for administrative convenience.  That’s too big a risk.

LINKS

The Hubris of Trying to Eliminate Cash by Conor Friedersdorf for The Atlantic.

Software Controls Every Aspect of Our Lives, So Why Do So Many Software Systems Fail? by Alex Eliefson for Vice magazine.

The Nightmare on Connected Home Street by Matt Honan for Wired.  Science-fictional satire.

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One Response to “The danger of living in an all-digital world”

  1. Holden Says:

    As an IT professional and technologist, I completely, wholeheartedly agree with you. The more engulfed I personally become in digital, the more I realize it is bad news.

    I think at its core, it is a guaranteed way to control and manipulate the public.

    If all money is digital, all money can be tracked and easily taken away. If all products are digital, they can’t be resold on the secondary market and again, they can be tracked and easily taken away. If all records are digital… same thing! Easily tracked and erased.

    And think of our vehicles. What happens on the day that they become linked to us digitally like everything else? Suddenly the government can easily turn your car off remotely? Too many speeding tickets? Didn’t pay your taxes…. your car won’t start anymore.

    Crazy talk? So was the idea of the NSA dragnet surveillance just a few years ago.

    Like

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