Beware the FOMO Bullies of Technology

from The Atlantic

Here is my confession: I’m traumatized by a David Letterman clip. It’s from November 1995, and Letterman’s guest is a young, bespectacled Bill Gates. The video starts with a question from the legendary late-night host: “What about this internet thing?” he asks. “What the hell is that, exactly?”

Gates, freshly minted as the world’s richest man, gamely tells the host about the wonders of the web—but Letterman isn’t having it. He pooh-poohs a recent announcement that Major League Baseball will broadcast games over the internet: “Does radio ring a bell?”

Gates smiles and looks down before explaining that the internet will offer access to abundant information about everything. “You can find other people who have the same unusual interests as you do,” he says.

“You mean the troubled-loner chat room on the internet?” asks Letterman, chuckling.

More here.

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5 Comments

  1. When I first read the headline, “Beware the FOMO Bullies of Technology”, I thought it was about social media and FOMO. Our generation was in the phase of being too young when Instagram and Snapchat launched, and not kids anymore today when it is booming. I would hate to be in middle school and grammar school right now. Many of my mother’s friends have kids younger than me, and one thing most of them say to me is that their kid has FOMO now because of social media. Their kid would see one or multiple of their friends having fun or hanging out without them. I could see kids that age getting really upset seeing that on their timeline.

    Talking about the actual article, I love how the writer, Charlie Warzel, was so intrigued by the Gates and Letterman video clip. Warzel depicts Letterman as being a pessimist in the clip and being wrong about the internet. However, toward the end of the article Warzel writes, “Just as important—and just as overlooked—is the fact that in this clip, Letterman also has a point. Gates may understand the power of connectivity, but Letterman sees something too: He understands, through his instinctive skepticism, that an experience he loves (in this case, reading a magazine) may be cheapened or degraded, and that large-scale connectivity for the people he dismisses as “troubled loners” isn’t guaranteed to be a universal good.”

    Letterman was the only person who thought the internet was nothing significant. Many people were doubting how the internet even worked. The fact is that no one knows what the future is going to look like. The only thing we can do is make an educated guess on what we think is the future. Technology people have been right before, but they have also been wrong. Everyone should just do their own research and make their own decisions on the future.

  2. Letterman says any interesting saying in the video published in this article. I think it perfectly describes critiques of Web3. Letterman says “It is easy to critique something you do not know much about”. With the constant innovation of tech companies and individuals interested in pushing technological boundaries, a new version of the internet is inevitable. Whether or not critiques believe in the adoption of Web3 into society, Web 3 will be coming sooner or later. Many internet users believe the current, Web2, design of the interweb is out dates. I frankly can agree with them. Cryptocurrencies and NFTs have proven that the internet does not have to be controlled by a corporation or government. Instead, individuals can take ownership of their piece of the interconnected web. Fully understanding the possibilities of cryptocurrencies and NFTs without being a computer scientist is extremely difficult. Even computer scientists have difficulties fully grasping the idea of them. What I will say is that Web3 is unfolding to be quite a dangerous FOMO for the economy.
    After the blow-up in price from Bitcoin and Ethereum, FOMO in the markets hasn’t been this high since the dot com bubble. The speculation did not stop there, after the rally in cryptocurrencies NFTs were introduced to blockchain networks as a way to own virtual intangible assets. People are paying millions of dollars for .jpeg files which any person can screenshot if they wanted to. If that does not spell extreme speculation then I do not know what does. Web 3 is an ambitious project, but it is quite literally a danger to the economy itself. Cyber security has been a big threat to crypto and NFTs. Many people have had their crypto and NFT wallets hacked into. There are no secure places to store such digital currencies and properties without worrying about a catastrophic occurrence happening, and people’s million-dollar .jpeg files getting deleted forever. All jokes aside Web3 can be the next generation defying technology, but society has to proceed with caution in order to avoid an economic downturn from over speculation.

  3. The significance of this article in society today is unmatched. As there are constant advancements in technology and the internet it can be very hard to keep up to date with it all. Reading the above comments on this article I have to say I disagree with the view that it is directed towards those of a younger generation, I believe that as the younger generations are growing up with a knowledge of technology and also being taught how to properly use it through education systems they are at an advantage. When it comes to FOMO of technological advancements it is my opinion that this comment is directed towards the middle aged and older generations.
    In the beginning of this article it explains how David Letterman was baffled by the emerging internet and how advanced it was becoming i.e Web2, he was sceptical and almost refusing to believe it would “catch on”, however in my opinion Letterman was part of the FOMO technology bullies as he could not have what he could not understand. This meant that instead of being in support of technology advancements and emerging internet advancements he would become sceptical and present this to all who listened, therefore planting seeds of scepticism.
    Web3 is going to be the equivalent in this decade, many people are having trouble understanding already what the internet can do, the lengths it can go to. However, the advancements of technology and the internet are not going to wait for everyone to ‘catch up’. Many older generations still can not grasp that we can view loved ones through a camera on the other side of the world and have a clear connection to view and speak to them, nevermind coming to terms with Blockchaining. This is where in my opinion there is going to be FOMO from the technology bullies, who are really those who are digitally illiterate and cannot grasp Web3 concepts.
    I think an important takeaway from this article is that no matter how far technology and the internet advance, there will always be scepticism and those who are “technology bullies” will always criticise what they do not understand. However this will not hinder the progression of technology nor the internet therefore it is important for us as the growing technology advanced generations to ensure those coming after us are digitally literate and can grasp these advancements at the rate they are expanding.

  4. Letterman’s sentiments mirror that of ours in the current day, what with the coming of “Web 3.” Like us regarding present day Web 3, Letterman couldn’t see the vision that Bill Gates had for the internet. The article plays with the idea of ambivalence, and that we don’t know if this will be successful or not; we never do when something completely new is being tried. We are diving into uncharted territory, and only time will tell if the coming reality will become a technological utopia which skillfully integrates the digital landscape with our economy, or if the web will wind up like it is in Web 2, with greedy technological giants like the ones who built the social internet.

    The author brings up extremely persuasive takes for both sides of the blockchain (Web 3) argument. In web 3, the blockchain means everyone owns a part of the internet; people may be given digital tokens and be able to vote on how it evolves and is governed. The idea is that the user creates the rules. Also, people can “port their data anywhere, using a digital wallet.”

    While the prospect of this may sound appealing to some, I still can’t see the vision. I’m still a Letterman, and that’s ok. Plenty of people are skeptical with me. The fellow Letterman’s of our age argue that Web 3 could be a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the same “greedy and immoral technology giants who built the social internet.” The prospect of Web 3 could just as well be a buzzword that’s being thrown around to pump up stocks and make the masses jump on the hype train. Web 3 could lead to the dystopian financialization of every aspect of our digital lives, which is a scary thought.

    When looking at an article linked in the article above, I started to see the commonalities between Web 3 and Communism. The reason the internet drifted from being decentralized in Web 1 to centralized in Web 2 was because, “people don’t want to run their own servers, and never will.” While communism isn’t fundamentally bad, it just doesn’t WORK. Or hasn’t been proven to at least, without cheating people out of their freedom. It’s a genuine possibility that the blockchain may not be as decentralized as we’re lead to believe. It’s extremely likely that some people will find a way to get a leg up on others, even in this proposed even playing field.

    I think for the time being, I’ll remain a skeptical Letterman and see how things play out. I would like to be pleasantly surprised, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

  5. Similar to a few others that have commented on this post, I too thought this post was going to be about social media and how FOMO affects today’s youth. Speaking on the topic of how social media can be somewhat hurtful to young kids and teenagers was interesting to me because of how much social media, and technology as a whole, has been interwoven into our daily lives, as well as how much it impacts us. Even though this idea or concept can be slightly related, that is not the true idea of this article.

    When David Letterman interview Bill Gates on the Late Night show, the public was generally aware of who Gates was and what he does, although now as widely popular as today. For those who were unaware, Bill Gates was CEO of Microsoft before stepping down from the position in the year 2000. Although Gates is still thought be involved with Microsoft, he currently does not hold a professional role, and it has been that way since March of 2020. In regard to the interview, Letterman was asking Gates’ opinion on what the capability of what the internet can become within the foreseeable future. Letterman was thought to be playing the role of a sceptic and was making jokes about how serious the internet has and was becoming. In this interview, the idea of baseball games being streamed on the internet comes to the audience’s attention. As this was seen as a somewhat unusual advancement at the time, Letterman responded with, “Have you ever heard of a radio?”. This just goes to show how far the internet and technology as a whole has come over such a relatively short period of time of just about 30 years.

    You could make the connection that Letterman and some audience members who may have that Gates was being overly confident have FOMO today. FOMO is an acronym meaning, “Fear Of Missing Out”, and this can be applied to these people as they may not have gotten as much out of the internet or taken the time to learn and understand how to use it as they could have. Being early in these technological advancements has shown to be extremely successful across multiple industries and even if you aren’t early, people should take the time to get involved as the internet and technology is only evolving.

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