To Trust, or not to trust…

Who and what can we trust? Should we always be skeptical and ask questions?

I remember hearing Ragtime pianist Max Morath say, “Trust everybody, but always cut the deck.” He was quoting a version by the character “Mr. Dooley” in Mr. Dooley’s Philosophy (1900) by Finley Peter Dunne, p. 260: “Thrust ivrybody—but cut th’ ca-ards.” It stuck with me. But, how often do we take the time to ‘cut the deck’ before we proceed in the Technojungle. I seem to forget all the time. I get used to just doing things because I can and it is easy. I don’t always have time to stop and think. The Technojungle is a busy place and makes every attempt to keep you from thinking carefully about your next steps on the path. It beckons you forward with often undue trust. Cutting the deck is at the heart of what these books are about. Sure the dealer has shuffled the deck, but it is up to each one of us to make a final cut of the deck. We don’t want the Technojungle to deal from the bottom of the deck.

When you walk across a foot bridge, do you trust the wood, or other material, under your feet? If you are not sure, you can test it as you go. When you deal with another human being face-to-face, are you usually able to tell if you can trust them? How about online? It is quite another matter in the online world of the Technojungle. There is no solid ground under our feet. When we interact with someone through the online Technojungle, hopefully another human being and not a bot, we really don’t know who is on the other side. The Technojungle acts like a curtain separating us from other people making much of our experiences seem artificial.

We have allowed our worlds, including online, to get incredibly intricate and convoluted. Is it difficult for you to know how, or be able to, manage your own life? Do you in most cases simply put aspects of your life in the hands of the Technojungle technologies and those who operate them and trust that you will be safe? The more you do this, the less control you have.

When you send an E-mail through the Technojungle, do you hope that it gets to its destination? Do you also hope that it remains private? Do you even think about these things? Do you know that your E-mail is going out into the wild abyss of the Internet where someone, or some smart machine, with the right means can find and read your message without your permission or even knowing? It is not sealed in a paper envelope that would be difficult to open without someone eventually detecting. It also passes through many servers and gets copied along the way. Our paper mail passes through one government agency that we can trust. Do you also know that your E-mail could end up in a variety of places and exist forever somewhere out there in the Technojungle? Would all that matter in the long-term of time? It is these sorts of beliefs that can cause us humans to drop our guard a bit at times and write something that we might not want to be for all eyes to see? Could it be that, since it is called mail, our connotation is that it is similar to our safe and secure paper (snail mail) that we are used to, so we believe it is safe and secure? 

Much of what we send through the Internet of the Technojungle is encrypted, that is scrambled up like eggs into a code. Do you trust that, when we are told our information being transferred, is safe and secure and is encrypted, that it actually is? Don’t we trust that it exists in only one place, but we really don’t know and can’t be sure? Don’t we trust that nobody can read it unless it is intended for them? That is a whole lot of trust in a world where not even the largest corporations and governments can secure their computer servers from hackers. Yet we are enticed and encouraged to carry out our activities as if we are somehow protected and immune from personal information and identity theft. Which of your information transfers into the Technojungle do you believe are safe, secure and encrypted? How do you know? Can you check to see if what you trust is safe?

The Technojungle acts like a curtain separating us from other people making much of our experiences seem artificial.

As I sit here at my Technojungle computer with my smartphone next to me, I am trusting that my computer is just helping me do my writing. I trust that my smartphone is just sitting there waiting for some action—I pick it up to do something, or the phone rings. This is what I trust is happening, but I don’t know for sure. Both devices have microphones and both have cameras and a smartphone has several other features that collect data. Both are connected to my wireless network. Can I be absolutely sure that what I believe is happening with my devices is only, and all of, what is happening? Should we believe what we are told concerning what these devices are actually doing? This is quite a dilemma. 

I know, from meeting a hacker that it is easy to hack into these Technojungle devices. Can my computer’s camera be turned on remotely and not have the active light come on? Can a microphone on one of my devices be turned on without my knowing? Who might be watching or listening? Why don’t we like to think about these things? Because we don’t know, and it means we don’t have control? The reality is, as we understand from earlier chapters here, that all cell phones let the network they are connected to, and the Technojungle company who provides the cell phone service to us, know exactly where we are at all times. We are, in fact, being tracked. This is dehumanizing.

I have been living with smart technologies around me for many years. I don’t like to think about what else the devices and technologies I have allowed into my life are doing behind my back. It would be easy to become paranoid. I just know that it is quite likely and possible that something might be going on. 

We need to keep in mind that, as soon as we connect a device to the outside world like the Technojungle Internet, or we leave our house, we humans are probably being tracked, recorded and monitored in many ways. Some of the tracking, recording and monitoring we face everyday is done for legitimate purposes, however, we can’t be sure.

We know that one reason for the tracking, recording and monitoring of us humans is for safety and security. In a world where terrorists can be recruited and carry out terrorist plans from anywhere in the world, don’t you welcome trading some privacy for some level of security? Don’t we also trust that the data and information collected about us and stored somewhere in the Technojungle will remain, in some way, private and secure? Is this another one of those promises?

I have been living with smart technologies around me for many years. I don’t like to think about what else the devices and technologies I have allowed into my life are doing behind my back. It would be easy to become paranoid. I just know that it is quite likely and possible that something might be going on.

If you stay home to hide from the Technojungle and don’t use any smart devices, do not connect to the outside world and stay out of the high-tech areas of the Technojungle somehow, would you be able to have both privacy and security? Venture out in some way into the real world and the Technojungle, and you must give up some of your privacy if you want some level of security. It is the trade-off for life in the Technojungle. The more privacy we need to give up, the more we need to trust in the security we humans are trading for. Nobody told me the future was going to be this complicated.

What if you don’t care about your privacy and security? I have heard many people say just that—they don’t care. Do you believe, as they seem to believe, that you can’t stop the collection of information about you and that you can’t control what happens to it? How about, “…if someone wants to do something with your life, they are going to do it?” Does all this just seems to be part and parcel with living one’s life in the Technojungle? Forget the dilemmas and carry on doing the best you can to live a human life in a world of technology. How free and humanizing is this mindset?

Do you even care about what is happening with your life in the Technojungle? Or do you simply let life in the Technojungle unfold as it may and decide your privacy and security is not worth worrying about? Just enjoy the jungle and live your hopefully human life. Is this a responsible approach? Should we be responsible? What is the worst that could happen?

I wonder, can a person be free in any circumstance if they just accept their circumstance and simply believe they are free? Does fighting back somehow reduce your freedom? Think about all the people throughout history who were in some way oppressed or enslaved; how did they become free?

It seems that every Technojungle device we use, every technology we allow into our lives and even those we don’t allow, all have the capability to do more than we believe they are designed to do. What about our TVs? Remember the TV with ears in Book One? What other devices do we have around us that we trust are doing only what we want them to do? What about all the information about you that is out there somewhere, perhaps on the Internet Technojungle? Should we have the right to control our own information, to manage our own digital footprints and digital identity in the Technojungle? We can own land, a house, a car, however, our digital identity lives on servers out there that are owned by various corporations, government agencies, groups and organizations. This is certainly baggage I never expected. We need to hold on to our humanness and humanity.

We humans have to trust so deeply in the Technojungle technologies we use. Can you think of ways we are hoping that our technologies don’t betray us through, malicious access, and use of that which comprises our human lives in the Technojungle? Suppose a network the listening TV sends your data over, or the servers storing the data, get hacked? We know that hacking happens every day. What if a corporation to which we have entrusted some of our information, is sold and decides to change the policies that you initially agreed to when you didn’t read the agreement and clicked the little box next to the, “I have read and agree to the terms and conditions…?”

I remember one night we came home and my parents suddenly began questioning us to see if we had been playing with matches. They soon realized that the house had been broken into and things had been stolen. I remember the police coming. I’m pretty sure we used to lock our doors. If not, however, an event such as that may have been a trigger for us to start locking doors when going out of the house. We may have started leaving a light on too, just to indicate that someone might be home.

When we humans suffer some sort of compromise, as the credit card companies like to call it these days, we suddenly look at how we can become more secure in the Technojungle. This involves looking at the options. We have to determine what level of inconveniences and costs we can tolerate versus the level of safety and trust these measures bring. Then we can make decisions as to the steps we feel we need to take to protect ourselves. However, as time passes, we begin to find security measures more inconvenient, restricting what we can do in the Technojungle, and slowly we drop our guard. Look around as you safari and see how security slows things down. Have you had a compromise? How did you feel and what did you do? What happened? Have you relaxed and let your guard down? If so, why?

If you heard that millions of E-mail accounts were hacked at the company that provides your E-mail account, what would you do? What could you do? You can’t go lock the doors and close all the open windows. Do you even hear about all the hacks into places your personal information is kept in the online Technojungle?

Wouldn’t you love to be able to just leave your doors unlocked? Wouldn’t you love to have no need for keys, no need for logins to all your online Technojungle accounts? Could it somehow be possible to simply trust everyone? Could everybody have respect for everyone else and leave what is not theirs alone? Has this ever been possible? If so, why? Do you think there might be societies somewhere in the world where this might be the case? What would be necessary for a safe world where you didn’t need to protect yourself and your personal possessions, data, and information?

Do we live in a Technojungle world where trust is not as valued as it should be? Do you like to think, as a person, a human being, that you are trustworthy? What does that mean? We hear advertising where a company states, “…the trusted name in… for over… years!” Sometimes someone will say, “…you can trust me.” Or, “…I trust you.” 

We all fail. We can all fall into temptations. It is part of being human. Do people, after being betrayed in some way, wonder deeply about who they can trust? While some people might become paranoid, don’t others perhaps give up and just let life happen? What is the worst that can happen? Maybe they think, “What could the Technojungle do to me anyway?”

In the real, physical Technojungle world, we have a pretty good handle on what we can do to protect ourselves from theft. However, usually we have to compromise somewhere and agree that, “If someone really wants to get in, they will.” All locking a door does is stop the casual wanderer from turning the handle and entering to help themselves. Other security measures might slow someone down, however, the professional can be in and out in moments. They are long gone before authorities arrive. Consider the ‘rock through the car window, grab and run’ type of thief. That has actually happened to me a couple of times.

Do these same issues apply in the artificial, virtual, online world that makes up parts of the Technojungle? If they do, the issues would be infinitely more complex and difficult. As we develop an ever deeper reliance on existing in the online Technojungle world, shouldn’t we question our levels of trust? Have people who don’t care been dehumanized?

People use free Internet Technojungle services without thought of what “free” means. Do you keep in mind that, in the Technojungle, you are not the customer, you are the product—a commodity to be sold for advertising? It is the goal of the providers of these services to extract as much as they can from you about you and gather it to sell to their real customers, the corporations who will pay for that information. Are corporations working together to exploit humans? This is dehumanizing.

In earlier chapters, I discussed matters concerning what happens to your information that is stored out there in the cyber world of the Technojungle. How safe do you believe your information is out there in the cyber world of the Technojungle? Who has access to it? How has your information been mis-used? What can you do to have more control? Ultimately, if you don’t have control, how can you trust? Is trust necessary to be human? I also mentioned that the licence agreements we face when using a product or service from a corporation are not in place to protect users, but to protect and favor the Technojungle corporation. 

Ultimately, if you don’t have control, how can you trust? Is trust necessary to be human?

Financial institutions have what is called a fiduciary duty to hold your money in trust and to act in your best interests. This sort of arrangement exists in other fields such as medicine and law. Where a corporation holds or deals with a persons important assets, the corporation would become a fiduciary and act ethically and responsibly in the best interests of the user. This is usually called a fiduciary duty. Social media is one area where this should be important. People surrender all sorts of personal information about themselves and others and the social media platforms should protect the users’ information from misuse. What about new providers’ responsibility to provide accurate true news and not fake news? Can you think of other areas of the Technojungle where the idea of fiduciary duty would be beneficial?

Sometimes documents are leaked about how governments spy and collect data about people. We now know that, whatever we thought was going on regarding surveillance, was far behind what was actually going on in the Technojungle. You only need to do some shallow digging to find examples of surveillance and poor levels of security. Are these examples to be believed, or left alone as conspiracy theories? What if we ignore the examples and give up to the thinking that we have no control over them?

One of the foremost examples of trust lies in our daily trust in the financial systems running our economies. We know positively that all corporations suffer cyber attacks by hackers through the Technojungle. We also know that a large portion of these attacks are successful. A few are by hackers with no ill intent; they just like the challenge of finding and showing vulnerabilities in Technojungle security systems. We know that existing security systems lag behind the abilities of the attackers. We know that banks and other financial institutions are corporations, and are primary targets for attackers. Do we really know what goes on with cyber attacks? What would happen if we did? It is probably safer that we don’t know because we might panic and take drastic action. This is a dilemma.

If we really knew what happens with cyber attacks in the Technojungle, our confidence, and therefore our trust, in the financial systems would fail and there could be a financial collapse. Isn’t our trust carefully managed? Can we say that we humans are carefully managed? Rather than pay for greater levels of security for that which we may not deem as necessary due to being somewhat ignorant of what is happening, we pay for the damages and losses instead. The system thus looks safer and we have a higher level of trust in the Technojungle. 

The financial systems example is similar to every other area of the Technojungle. Lack of trust in the technology by the public is one reason the progress of self-driving autonomous vehicles has been slow. I think another important target for cyber terrorists is the power grid. The power grids we rely on for our electricity are connected to—you guessed it—the Internet of the Technojungle. Our power grid is part of the online Technojungle. If our power grid ever gets taken out, we would have utter chaos. Take a moment to think of what might happen. Remember, there would be no traffic control lights. Wait, take away the electric Technojungle and we become disabled and dehumanized. We need to think about this dilemma.

We need to look around the Technojungle carefully and be observant. We must learn to see what is really actually happening. Then we have to ask questions to determine our actions in appropriating technology into our lives in ways where we can have trust while being better human beings and living in this world of technology—the Technojungle.

The official motto of the United States is “In God we trust.” It is on the money. By trusting the Technojungle without question, might we be making it our god? Trust is an interesting word and topic. With the Technojungle changing daily, right before our very eyes, are there some ways of feeling more protected in this wild world?

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