“There has been technical advancement, but how little man himself has changed.” — Khan Noonien Singh, Original Star Trek, “Space Seed” episode.
On Tuesday, Americans will officially vote for the person to be our president, one of the most important positions in the world. Republicans and Democrats agree that voting is an important civic responsibility. The difference is that Democrats want voting to be as easy as possible. They believe that the action of voting, in and of itself, is the beginning and end of that responsibility. I believe, as I think most Republicans do, that voting should be difficult. Voting is not the goal but the very last step in a whole process. The first step is to understand the issues, the politicians, their opinions on the issues, their capabilities, their experience, and every facet affecting their qualifications for office.
Technology has given humans the ability to research and understand our world so much faster and more comprehensively than at any other time in human history. Understanding the issues and the candidates should be easier than ever in history. Yet many people don’t utilize it. Oh, they may spend more time talking online. Or shopping online. Or playing online. But click-of-a-button research is too much for many of them.
Progressives talk about the growing technology divide. They claim that the divide is between the wealthy, who have access to technology, and the poor, who don’t. I believe it’s actually not the access that’s a problem, it’s the use. Even the poor in America have smartphones. Net worth is not the issue. Just because someone has access to technology doesn’t mean they’ll use it.
Because of technology, we no longer have an excuse for misspellings, yet I see them on the rise. I often get emails with so many errors I don’t know if the meaning is one thing or the exact opposite.
Technology has the ability to improve our lives, but only if we utilize it. Why do people refuse to utilize it?
In Isaac Asimov’s famous short story “The Final Question” written in 1956, generations of more intelligent computers over time are asked a question about the ultimate end of the universe. In one distant future, the computer exists in a scattered cloud of electronics. People have small boxes to which they can pose any question and get an answer. When I was young, I wondered how magnificent it would be to live in that future era. All disputes would be resolved quickly. People would be better informed. Life would be harmonious. And peaceful.
We now live in that future, but the problems seem to have grown worse. The answers are literally at our fingertips, but we refuse to search for them. Granted, search engines and news sites are biased. But we can use different search engines, different news sites. We can find first-hand accounts and see videos of events. We can decide which “facts” are true and which aren’t. Yet we don’t. It requires just the click of a mouse button, but many people won’t do that. I think they’re afraid that their strongly held beliefs are actually false. Like those who avoid going to the doctor, equating a diagnosis of cancer with the cancer itself, many people think that searching for an answer might show their beliefs to be false and they would then have to deal with that.
I get attacked online by many people who claim to want to debate me but often can’t defend their own positions. I give links to sources for my arguments; people can check them. They can send me links to counterarguments. But they rarely do. I posted on Facebook an article from Fox News about the recent riots. One person I know commented that the article was wrong. Fake news from a fake news company, he said. So I linked to an article on MSNBC about the same incident. He told me it didn’t matter. Once he saw it on Fox, he told me, he “knew” it was false and nothing thereafter would change his mind.
As a conservative, I mostly get attacked by progressives. But sometimes also by other conservatives, which can feel worse because we’re on the same side and generally have the same beliefs. If we don’t support each other, and disagree civilly, how can we be role models? How can we disagree civilly with progressives who hold very different beliefs? And how can we criticize them for doing what we sometimes do ourselves?
Many libertarians in particular are such strong ideologues that any real-world data that contradicts their word view must be attacked. I became popular with libertarians after my dystopian novel “Good Intentions” was published because it satirizes a government with absolute control over markets, media, and people’s lives. Yet if I stray from the “libertarian ideals,” I’m often criticized.
Libertarians used to believe in a strong patent system, because patents protect intellectual property, perhaps the most valuable property known to mankind. In recent times, libertarians have (mistakenly) come to the opposite belief that patents are government-sanctioned monopolies.
When I wrote the article “Why Libertarians Should Support a Strong Patent System” and posted it on a libertarian Facebook page, I was immediately attacked with comments like “libertarians have never supported patents,” “patents aren’t property,” and “patent trolls destroy innovation.” I responded with “You didn’t actually read the article, did you? Did you know that you could click on the link and the magic of the Internet takes you right to the article? Complete with text, pictures, and reference sources. All of these issues are addressed in the article and if you wanted to have a reasoned debate about my conclusions, I would welcome that. Instead, you read the headline, ‘knew’ it was wrong, and went on an unsupported rant.” I tend to be reprimanded and sometimes even kicked off discussion groups as being “mean and disrespectful” for comments like these.
Incredible advances in technology have put all of human knowledge at our fingertips where we can actually envision eventually learning the answer to the Final Question, yet humans and human nature have changed so little. The real technologic divide is between those who utilize technology to understand issues and those who don’t.
So how do we get people to take advantage of the technology that should be uniting rather than dividing, answering questions instead of creating questions, radiating sunshine rather than spreading fog? I don’t know. What I do know is that if you haven’t looked up the candidates online, if you haven’t investigated the bills on the ballot, if you haven’t researched the issues, then please don’t vote in this election. Voting really is a responsibility. You wouldn’t drive a car without lessons; you wouldn’t operate a handgun without safety training; you wouldn’t perform brain surgery without medical schooling. So don’t vote if you don’t know what you’re voting about.
Bob Zeidman is the creator of the field of software forensics and the founder of successful high-tech Silicon Valley firms, including Zeidman Consulting and Software Analysis and Forensic Engineering. He is the author of textbooks on engineering and intellectual property as well as screenplays and novels. His latest novel is the political satire “Good Intentions.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.