Novel Entanglements of Law and Technology
Chapter 3: The onlife world
On 7 March 2014 the fifth annual National Day of Unplugging took place. In a blog post in The New Yorker, we read that ‘[t]he aim of the event, organized by the non-profit Reboot, is “to help hyperconnected people of all backgrounds to embrace the ancient ritual of a day of rest”…. participants abstained from using technology, unplugging themselves from their phones and tablets, computers and televisions’. As the blog post notes, the reasons people give for unplugging, vary from ‘to be in the moment’ to ‘to be more connected’; the author observes an underlying anxiety about reconnecting with the ‘real’ world around us. He continues: ‘[a]nd yet the “real” world, like the “real” America, is an insidious idea. It suggests that the selves we are online aren’t authentic, and that the relationships that we forge in digital spaces aren’t meaningful’. The blog post than takes an intriguing turn by quoting Pope Benedict XVI sharing his thoughts on social networks: ‘it is not only ideas and information that are shared but, ultimately, our very selves’. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Pope argued, the digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young. During 2011 and 2012 I took part in a philosophical exercise conducted by a group of philosophers, scholars of artificial intelligence and social scientists that resulted in a Manifesto on what it means to be human in the digital world.
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