The Digital Revolution and the End of the World as We Knew It

By Roger Paradiso

You know you’re in another world when you call the 800 number for a product you have and get the following recorded message: “Hello and thank you for calling. Your call is very important to us.” Really? How come you can’t answer the phone if it is that important?

The recorded voice continues to instruct: press one if you have a question about a purchase, press two if you have a question about this and that. The final blow is “Please hold on. Our [virtual] representative will help you.”

Now, you can’t even answer the phone without getting a virtual secretary. A virtual secretary? There goes another job to robots.

THE DIGITAL DIVIDE: While mobile technology puts a world of information at our fingertips, it can increase our social isolation as we spend more time glued to our screens, and less time connecting face to face. Photo by Bob Cooley.

Here is my list of the most disruptive offenses caused by the digital revolution:

Pirates. Bottom of Form

Have you heard about “pirates?” They don’t roam the open seas stealing treasures anymore; instead, they loot your booty while sitting in their rooms with banks of computers. Piracy has been going on since the days of Captain Kidd. But with the digital age and the internet, it really took off in the mid- 1990s. Yes, even your identity and copyright are being threatened now.

Artists and consumers have to fight off pirates thanks to the vulnerabilities created by the digital age. It is so much easier to steal nowadays. You don’t believe me? Ruth Vitale, of CreativeFuture, who has spent much of her career fighting for artists’ rights in the digital age, wrote the following for a story in her monthly magazine. “We can all agree that stealing a car or a computer constitutes a crime—but stealing a movie? Well, as TorrentFreak put it earlier this year, they believe that a creative whose work is being pirated is presented with an ‘opportunity’.”

How could that be? Ruth reports that TorrentFreak stated that “research repeatedly shows” that the people who watch pirated content “are consumers too,” and that these consumers—who reportedly visited pirate sites 130 billion times in 2020—have “commercial value” as a group “whose data can be used to target ads to.”

We have now brought up a generation of virtual pirates who think that it is their right to steal a film, or anything, on a computer.

Digital is better

What is this digital revolution costing us while we pace faster on the treadmill like the rats of the previous generations? It’s no longer a rat race. It’s a reality show of you racing way faster than those crazed rats. So, the rich guys make money faster—is that it?

Digital is better? Not always. “No wonder that, by 2022, the U.S. film and television industry—which supports 2.6 million jobs across all 50 states—is expected to lose more than $11.6 billion per year to piracy. And no wonder that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that such losses are costing the overall economy at least $29.2 billion annually and at least 230,000 jobs” (Ruth Vitale).

When we went to VHS tape for movies, the studios were ecstatic about the cheaper way of distribution. Films could now be brought into the homes of their customers. But the pirates would steal and copy the VHS tapes. Remember those guys who would bring a VHS camera into a theater and blatantly steal the film by videotaping it and then going out and selling it on the street? A problem was that the quality was poor to very poor, as tape degrades quickly. So we invented easier and easier ways to steal. We invented CDs, then DVDs, and now streaming.

Social Media

Facebook is really about connecting the world. It’s about family and love. When I first heard that PR jabberwocky in the early 21st century, I told my son, nephews, and nieces not to put anything personal on social media, like pictures of yourself and your family and, well, you know the drill. Did they listen? No. They made Zuckerberg and the other guys and gals filthy rich. Now that I am using social media, my son, nephews, and nieces are telling me to get off it; it’s nothing but a marketing scam. Do I listen?

People are worried about chips being implanted and controlling their lives. It’s already been done if you carry a cell phone with you. “They” can track you and can hack all your information.

The Stock Market Economy

When the market goes up and down, we listen to people who say “Don’t panic.” I’m panicking. My portfolio increases by five percent, just above inflation. The one percent guys who tell you not to panic, somehow, make two zillion times what you make. It’s called wealth inequality now.

According to Professor Anthony Gronowicz, “The money from the tax cuts for the rich did not go into improving the economy for the majority of Americans, but into the pockets of the rich who then invested it in the stock market, which explains why it is so high.” This makes me ask myself why we have a stock market. So the wealthy can accumulate wealth, right? Is there any other reason?

Automated Checkout Counters

Don’t fall for them. If you do, you will be causing the loss of many jobs for checkout people. And, at the same time, transferring problems and the packing to you. I mean—who wants to look up the cost of an avocado? Who wants to bag their groceries? Why don’t they just send us to the fields where we’ll pick the crops ourselves?

This is a clever deceit—to cause people to lose people jobs to robots. Even if there is only one checkout counter open, with a human operating it and bagging, do not cross the line and go to the robot checkout line.

Copyright laws

Village artists unite! They are trying to ignore copyright laws and not pay artists in certain countries. Do not buy anything from those countries.

I will let Ruth Vitale and her CreativeFuture staff have the final words: “Currently, the biggest threat to the creative communities is posed by large tech companies like Facebook and Google who turn a blind eye to the rampant piracy on their platforms. Though these companies have created robust content moderation tools to help police their platforms—like YouTube’s Content ID and Facebook’s Rights Manager—they only offer these tools to a small fraction of rightsholders. The independent creatives without access to these tools are left to track down each individual case of infringement on their own free time, and then fill out a cumbersome “notice and takedown” form to have it removed. These platforms should come to the table with copyright owners and discuss how they can expand access to their content protection tools. Our communities need these tools now more than ever.” 

Stay tuned to next month’s WestView issue, when I will discuss how our digital world makes our lives easier. LOL.

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