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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Searching for Heaven - The Enigma That is Youtube

You choose....
The YouTube phenomenon is something nobody predicted back in the 60s when I was coming of age. I read a lot of science fiction and I don't remember that anyone ever predicted that the advance of technology would create the creative explosion that it has. Everybody was actually predicting that we'd gradually all become prisoners of our TV sets and that creativity would die away from neglect.

Then came the Internet! Who would have guessed that what was essentially a military communication tool designed to survive and apocalyptic nuclear war and still function would metamorphose into a digital Wild West where anything goes and almost anything can happen. And who expected the personal computer would get smaller and smaller as it grew more and more capable of doing things. Who knew that for a few dollars one could have his own video production and sound studio in his living room and to produce CDs with professional looking labels? Who expected technology to open the gates of opportunity to creative people to disseminate their art, sell their goods and bring down the gatekeepers (record companies, broadcast companies, and shake the movie moguls down to their toes?

The explosion of beautiful things that have burst forth as the Internet opened up a world of opportunities for creative expression to choose from. People responded by producing some quite lovely things in places like YouTube. Music, films, and documentaries are everywhere. Some is ugly. Some is beautiful. I like to think that the beauty we create is just us looking for heaven and trying to create a little piece of it using that ability to create beautiful things that free will gives us.

We are observing the outworking of decentralized freedom of choice, technological capacity, and increased opportunity. It's shaken the economy to its core. The old gatekeepers are losing their power. Oddly enough, thought, at the same time the generation which has learned to navigate the wild new digital landscape so masterfully, at the same time have come to embrace a political system which promises to wreck this decentralized, wild in the streets growth of individual opportunity in favor of massive centralization of power and authority.

It has become fashionable for cynics of this generation to demand that, if there is a God he would solve all these problems by waving his hand and forcing people to be good. Yet no one really thinks much beyond some kind of magical instant problem-solution to what it would mean if God did that. It would mean the end of free will. You see free will is part of the problem. If people can choose, then taking away their ability to choose makes them not  really human anymore. We're robots if we cannot choose. If we can choose, it creates a problem. If we can choose we can choose to do bad things.

We are a self-destructive lot, we humans. We want to do what we want to do, but we don't want to deal with the consequences. Like spoiled children, we humans want to do what we want to do and then we want someone else to clean up the mess. That's more than a little unrealistic, but people do manage to cling to the delusion that somebody, somehow should come along and solve all our problems and then not make any further demands on us.

We want a Santa Claus that doesn't keep a naughty list and there ain't no sucha thang! Which brings me back to the Internet and technology. The freedom of choice that makes the Internet work so well as an incubator for individual art, music, and business, is anathema to centralized, authoritarian utopias.  You cannot have safety by selling your freedom. You cannot have freedom if someone else makes all your decisions for you.

It's scary as all git-out to navigate a world in which good and bad things can happen. So long as humans can choose, bad things can happen. The only way to solve that problem is to get rid of everyone who chooses to be bad. Socialist dictatorships try to do that, but since they can only look on the outward appearance, their judgment about who should be executed tends to be seriously flawed. Only God can separate the sheep from the goats and that's what it's going to take. The only reason He hasn't done it yet is that He's giving us time to decide whether we're going to be sheep or goats.

In the same way the Internet produces beautiful music, movies and independent businesses alongside porn and hate speech, a world where humans have free will creates beauty alongside horror and misery.  It's a brave old world we live in, especially those of us who believe in doing good rather than evil. We have to have the courage to risk a world where men and women may choose. We have to believe that the risk is worth the actual worker's paradise we've been promised by a kind and loving God who chose to create children and not robots.

© 2017 by Tom King








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