I often wonder if we are going through a strange psychological shift with new technologies. In particular, I wonder if people are somehow lulling themselves into a belief that the digital world is not real or somehow divorced from the real world. I pondered that notion when I read today about suspects in an alleged hedge fund insider trading case exchanging text messages by cell phone about what to do with the evidence and then destroying flash drives and gutting the hard drive of computers and dumping the physical material in several garbage trucks (see ‘Juicy details’ report). They seemed to not realise that technology was there keeping track of what they were doing, not least through the simple wire tap of phone conversations. Disconnected thinking 101?
The next instance was the breaking news of Rep. Chris Lee (Republican), of New York, who resigned after it was revealed that he had posted half-dressed images of himself on Craigslist and reportedly tried to meet a woman through the site (see CNN report). What was he thinking? Was he thinking? Surely, this is the behaviour of self-immolation? This is the same Congressman who wrote in the Tonawanda News in June 2009:
“Through the Internet, with a few keystrokes and the click of a button, a young person can call up information for a research project, make new friends or discover new hobbies. At the same time, responding to what may seem like a friendly e-mail or an appealing marketing offer can have serious consequences. Private information and images can so easily be transmitted to friends and strangers alike.”
Maybe his focus on the young left him to believe that age would cure all.
The digital world is about ones and zeros jumbled together, but when the binary codes are thrown about they still know how to reassemble themselves. Shredding or burning printed material and throwing it all over the place may actually destroy evidence, but it’s not so simple with digital information.
The converse to this naivety cited above about digital reality is that some believe that it is only the digital world that holds reality. Curiouser and curiouser.