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Alexey Elistratov

The Crisis in Information Technologies as a consequence of the System Crisis of Civilization

Good day!

First let me introduce myself. My name is Alexey Yelistratov. I am the leader of the Young Humanist League. I am a mathematician, specialized in programming and computer nets. This, i.e. my profession, determines the topic of my report. For a long time I am also engaged in psychic culture and in public work striving for the success of humanist ideas. It gives me the opportunity and grounds to see the situation in the field more fully.

The title of my speech might surprise many of the audience. Is there really a crisis in this field as well?! The rash informatization of society is occurring everywhere including Russia, the free access to information through computer nets is becoming possible, you can easily and quickly contact people in various parts of the world... So where is the crisis?

I hope to uncover the essence of the crisis in my speech.


There are not many computer experts here, so to begin with I define some basic terms I am going to use.

Information technology (IT) is an aggregate of methods, industrial and program-technological means ensuring collection, storing, processing, output and distribution of the information.

Modern means of IT are computers and applications. The following terms exist in technical literature for a long time already.

Hardware the very computers and their accessories, such as processors, memory chips, hard discs, advanced devices of all kinds etc.

Program data for managing particular components in the system of information processing.

Software program complexes ensuring the processing and transferring of the data by PC and PC nets. The examples are the widespread commercial OS Windows, free OS Linux, and numerous packs for the office tasks (Microsoft Office is mostly known), for working with graphics, sound, video etc. This list can be very long.

Hardware and software are the two most important interrelated components of information technologies.

Informational culture the ability of a man and society to use effectively the informational resources and means of informational communication and to apply the progress in the field of informatization and IT.

Psychic culture knowledge and experience which help people in self-knowledge, self-perfection and optimal realization of their own abilities.

Information system is a set of data and information technologies for collection, storing, processing, output and distribution of the information.

Now I tell you about the main parts constituting any modern information system. These are data or information, hard- and software, nets and also a man, or a PC user in computer terminology. An important remark to be made is that in IT they attach significance to the characteristics of soft- and hardware, nets while a man appears as an abstract user, as an object with nothing to be said about, except perhaps his level of knowledge and skills in computer field. Our humanist approach is just the contrary, and man, this most important part of the IT, will be at the very center of my attention.

Cultural and socioeconomic analysis of the IT field

The IT influence on the modern society cannot be overemphasized. The pace of miniaturization of the computer and telecommunication devices is gripping. In the near future the production line of miniature integrated devices will start. They will have all the abilities of the modern computers and mobile phones plus the ability of video transmission, plus wireless LAN access (in big cities anyway). But how many people will be able to use this technical potential effectively, for the good of society and man?

To answer the question lets look at the ordinary PC user. Instead of benefiting from the high tech potential for self-education, research, creative works, team-work, most people play many long hours insane computer games, visit porno- and entertainment sites in internet, have an idle talk in chats.

Why things are like this?

All this happens for one and the same reason: the computer industry (as any other industry in the consumer society) develops taking no account of the modern knowledge about man and of the spiritual experience of humanity but solely with the view of making profit. Such profit-making character of the industry is the very reason why colossal technical potential goes to waste or even harms man. The conflict between the true needs of people and the producers desire to make money by any means is the basic cause of the crisis in the IT field, as well as of the whole commercial civilization crisis.

Further I will try to explain this statement more fully and to illustrate it with some examples.

The IT crisis

It is true that the computer and application industry is now one of the most dynamically developing fields in the world. They make huge profits from it. The founder of the Microsoft Corporation Bill Gates for example was up to recent time the richest person in the world. It would seem that such businessmen should be interested in peoples knowing more about computers, using them more and thus buying more.

Not at all!

Lets see what kind of a PC user sharks of the computer business do need.

First of all, they need an insatiable user who would buy always new, high-powered and modern computers, applications, additional devices etc. It should be noted that the real power of the modern PCs is far above the one needed for most common tasks. For example, a PC produced six-eight years ago suffices to work with texts, tables, simple graphics and internet.

How to make people insatiable in such situation?

Firstly, to advertise widely, this is to suggest, impose the need and prestige of owning everything of the latest design. Such is the situation in every field of production. Secondly, the progress doesnt stand still. A great number of clever men use their brains thinking out how to full out super-power computers with simple tasks like office tasks, not to mention computer games where hardware is used at full possible power. It results in an intense competition of always new versions of commercial program packs. They make a parade of dubious improvements of interface, i.e. appearance and way of interaction with the user (commercial qualities) whilst the functionality and reliability of programs (consumer-oriented qualities) dont change and sometimes even become worse. Also, as a rule, the new program packs need more resources which means more demands to hardware. And this is exactly what producers of computers and their component parts want. They in their turn start a competition of gygahertzs, gygabites, newest microchips etc.

It is obvious that there is an unavowed agreement among the two giants of computer industry (soft- and hardware industries). Its essence is to make people buy more and more computers and program packs.

Competence crisis

Id like to note again that neither producers nor sellers are interested in the very people, their growth and true needs. In the modern liberal society this is ones own personal matter. The producers are not obliged to care about all-round human development, there are no such laws. And what is more, to gain a maximum profit the level of users competence and informational culture must be as low as possible. An ideal consumer must only have some basic elements of computer competence. In this case it will be easy to convince him that to be fully happy they only need to buy a newest computer or a last version of a program pack where according to producers a fantastic power is combined with a fantastic simple use. In actual fact most people dont use even 1/10 of potentialities of the programs they are working with. But from the individualist stand these are their own problems if they dont use they are just stupid or lazy.

One more essential cost of software profit-making orientation is copyright protection. Broadly speaking it is a set of technical means and means of law which prevents the use of a program unpaid for. The copyright protection complicates program installation and use. It gets worse and worse as it goes on. A qualified specialist can easily evade the copyright protection. That means that in a society with a high level of informational culture the copyright protection is absurd. It is evident that here as well the incompetence of a user is profitable for producers.

Thus, whatever we regard, we come to the conclusion that the giants producing computers and programs and investing fantastic sums into advertising and promotion of their production are vitally interested in users incompetence. In their wish to join IT the users will buy the latest and the most expensive, most advertised things.

The competition

Another point to cover is the competitive struggle and its consequences. It is made up of following elements.

The war of standards. The creation of the company standards brings great profit to the producers. It makes sense to bind the user to the production of the company or consortium that had elaborated and supports the given standard. The richer and greater the company or consortium, the more impertinently it makes the consumer who has bought once a device or program of this standard buy all the rest. Otherwise products bought from different producers may turn to be incompatible with one another.

Supplying programs and devices with always new functions which are often unnecessary and obscure to the most people, but skillfully advertised. The quality of such functions is as a rule far from being perfect, but the price of the product can increase very significantly. Today it is not profitable to produce and to sell simple and cheap computers and programs because then they would not buy expensive ones.

Formation of consumer demand for specific services and programs through making global problems or worsening them and scaring users. Such problems are global attacks of computer viruses, hacker attacks, spy programs etc. They are solved by antivirus packs and firewalls, the hacker protection programs. Of course one can not exclude the possibility of an agreement between virus-makers, on the one hand, and the noble antivirus-makers as well as hackers-crackers on the other. Due to the latters activity the demand for corresponding programs can sufficiently increase

The conclusion is, the competence crisis in the IT field, as well as in high tech generally, is a direct consequence of the competitive struggle and the producers interest in consumers incompetence.

As a result we observe, on the one hand, a very low level of informational culture (not to mention psychic culture which is absent at all) and, on the other hand, the baffling complexity of the modern IT as a consequence of science-intensive character of the area as well as of competition and struggle for the profit. This contradiction may not be solved within the existing model of social organization!

A man in the IT industry

Now lets talk about people. What role they play in IT and how IT influences them?

First, lets examine the psychological aspect of relations between a man and an information system. From the standpoint of authentism which I follow, any subject-object interaction (in our case the subject is a man and the object is a computer) is determined rather by a subject than by an object. It means that the character of a mans interaction with information systems depends very much on his knowledge, experience and inner world.

Here is a humorous but true example. The lack of informational and psychic culture sometimes makes the users perceive the computer as a monster who has its own and, as a rule, evil will. One may master such a monster only by means of magic. Usually they try to offer some absurd explanations why he doesnt want to or wants to do this or that, and to practice some odd rituals with a view to please this mysterious and guileful devil. In this way the mythological consciousness of the primitives reappears on the modern technical basis. It is funny but sometimes it is the case, I observed it even with rather intelligent people.

It is appropriate to remember what S.Semenov said about the inevitable actualization of the subjective image of the Fiend, devil in the modern liberal society.

In accord with the laws of psyche opened by K.Jung this image is projected outwards, to the informational systems, i.e. computers and internet. The inner devil is projected both by producers and consumers. For example, the most popular service of the modern Global Net is named by its founders World Wide Web.

One more example of domination of evil forces is computer games. Their content is determined by the prevailing ideology, liberalism: fights, murders, sinister monsters and other evil spirits, exploitation of the vile emotions, in the best case just empty entertainment giving nothing for persons development.

I think most of the audience doesnt imagine the real scale of this dream-industry. For some groups of teenagers and young people computer games and internet become more real than the world around them. Living in these monster illusions is the real living for them. All this industry not only influences people, but forms them, perverts their humanity. The growing generation may be lost. Their psyche formed in the illusive world is distorted to the extent that they may be unable to understand real worlds people. Their experience is completely different This dangerous phenomenon comes from the common mechanism of perverting a man into a consumer. Extreme use of certain human needs, deformation of motivational sphere, and active suggestion of non-existent needs to a man are the manifestations of that mechanism. The general principles of the system crisis worsening are quite applicable to the field in question.

A man! Thats the weakest link of the modern IT. The crisis of humanity and lack of focus on man is the cause of the crisis in the IT industry.

Humanist prospects

I did not touch upon positive tendencies in the IT sphere. There are such tendencies but their proportion is very small. The main positive fact is the very existence and development of this sphere, as its role in the future humanist transformation of mankind is to be very important. Moreover, the humanist society is hardly possible without information technologies. That is why we have a section of humanist computer technologies within the Young Humanist League, where we carry out research and education activities. Unfortunately, our possibilities are limited, so we are highly interested in cooperating with specialists and organizations of the field.

Yesterday S.Semenov called for cooperation with pedagogues, psychologists and psychotherapists. In my turn I call for cooperation with humanistically oriented technical specialists, so that together we build new paradigm of the humanist informational society and create the basics of the related global infrastructure.

Lets build our humanist future together!

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