What frightens me about the generation that is building technologies to exploit the internet is its youth. I fear these visionaries are too inexperienced to be left in total control. Mark Zuckerberg’s motto, “Move fast and break things,” reflects the same rebellious attitude of his peer, Ross Ulbricht. “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” (“Brave New Underworld,” by Nick Bolton, Vanity Fair, May 2017, pg. 71.) The difference between the two is that Zuckerberg’s picture appears on the cover of auspicious magazines while Ulbricht, 33, shares a cell with the notorious drug lord, “El Chapo” as he awaits his appeal on a double life sentence for murder. (Ibid, pg. 73.)
Calling himself “Dread Pirate Robert,” Ulbricht built the Dark Web’s (Blog 19.19/15) infamous Silk Road. He used his new persona to subvert what he considered to be unreasonable laws affecting drug use. To his surprise, the business mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar enterprise and expanded to provide… Oh, if it’s illegal, you name it.
Unfortunately, Ulbricht failed to envision how other entrepreneurs would usurp and alter his vision. Think Uber and assaults; 3-d printers and untraceable guns; social media and cyber bullying; Twitter and fake news.
Ulbricht awakened to the simple truth that humans can affect change but not always control it. To protect his enterprise, he turned ruthless, moving imperceptibly toward the darkest of the dark side, a world of violence and death. For his crimes, it’s unlikely this clever young man will ever see the sky again, except through prison bars.
We, in the United State, tend to worship youth. We want to look young, act young, and be seen with young companions. Madison Avenue salivates for their attention. Understandable. They are the demographic with the most discretionary money. Yet what they possess in worldly fortune, they lack in worldly experience. Foolishly, we of older generations, allow them to go on creating real and virtual worlds based upon their whims and enabled by their large bank accounts. But where are they taking us, this Sixth Estate? Isn’t Ulbricht’s example enough to warn us that we must hold these young dreamers accountable for their effect upon the future? (Blogs 2/10/15 & 3/38/17.)
(Originally posted 5/19/17)