Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

Added on: 10.05.10, by Todd Knapp

If you were to ask my wife, she would tell you that we named our Beagle “Nemo” after a plucky little fish in a Pixar film. However, the source of the name is different for me. I named him after a Jules Verne character.

Captain Nemo was the captain of the Nautilus, a futuristic (at the time) vehicle that was powered by the same forces as the sun and which could dive to the deepest depths of the ocean; 20,000 leagues under the sea. Capt. Nemo was a man that would not take no for an answer.

Capt. Nemo was a man that would not take no for an answer. He was a man of vision who, when displeased with the course of society, simply developed this marvelous technology that allowed him to escape to a world of his own creation. He was part poet and part madman. In that way, my dog is aptly named.

Nemo the Beagle can’t be constrained by the laws of man, or my house. His senses lead him to explore what he will and take what he wants (most often the trash). I think his name suits him.

Of course, all three Nemo’s (the man, the fish, and the dog) share that quality. I like to think that it’s because Jules Verne used Nemo to write himself into his works. Of all of the characters in his books, I really think that Verne labored over and loved Capt. Nemo most of all. I believe that it was his expression of his own self image. Verne himself was a man ahead of his time. His vision was not limited by the constraints of the technology around him. He saw the natural world and imagined new ways it could be harnessed. The Nautilus was a frighteningly accurate description of a nuclear powered submarine. In fact, a hundred years later, the US navy would name their first nuclear powered submarine after the Nautilus.

Verne wrote other books, of course, but the trend was the same. In “From the earth to the moon” he essentially described in detail the capsule that would later take Neil Armstrong far past the boundaries of lunar orbit to our largest satellite.

Of course, Verne wasn’t the only one looking ahead. In “The Time Machine” H.G. Wells described a future society of people that were docile and conforming. It turned out that they were being raised as food, like cattle. In the book the “farmers” only needed to provide a constant supply of food to keep the people compliant.

While (I hope) that isn’t actually happening today, it does feel a little bit analogous to the way in which we blindly hand over our freedoms and privacy to corporations that give us palate pleasing things like Facebook, MySpace, iPads, Twitter, Netbooks, Droids, Blackberries, iPhones, frequent flier miles, Gmail, loyalty clubs, NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube,, and the ever-present, frequent user of our mind numbing, soul robbing, hope crushing, zombie making, stare at the computer screen until you go blind, hoopty-gadget card.”

Don’t misunderstand; I am not saying that technology is bad or that corporations are evil. To the contrary, I am a purveyor of technology and I run a tech company! All I am saying is that technology is purpose built, and that purpose is to get you to buy. Big corporations are also purpose built; their purpose is to make a profit and retain customers. They react to what the market will bear.

That means it is up to us to set the limits and enforce the boundaries. We have to be the ones that read the fine print on the online privacy policy and vote with our dollars and our loyalty.

Corporations are doing their part. They are giving us the technologies and features we want. Our job is to provide meaningful feedback and let them know when they have done well, and when they have crossed the line.

There’s been a lot of flack lately about Facebook’s continued privacy issues. I say that’s a good thing. I also say that it hasn’t been loud enough. Do you really know what information is private and what isn’t? What about your twitter account, LinkedIn, and for that matter your credit card, online banking, and electronic health records! Take a minute and read the fine print. It’s ok if H.G. Wells misses the mark in this one instance. It’s ok if we stray from his vision of the future. Let’s not become that docile, mindless, race of cattle people that are there only to feed another group that claims to care for us, but ultimately want to consume our being.

With that my rant is done. It’s time for me to post this… but first… I think I’ll read over the terms of use on Blogger.

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