Social Problems of the Future

Social Problems of the Future,Lorne Tepperman,James Curtis

Social Problems of the Future  
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By making better predictions, we can prepare better for the future. We cannot even hope to prepare per- fectly, no matter how good our predictions may be. However, where social organization is concerned, prepar- ing is always better than being taken by surprise. Like much else in the past hundred years, the problems of the future will probably involve science and technology, travel and communication, war and inter-group con- flict. Since we will likely continue to live in a global society, humanity's problems will be increasingly global in scope. Cyberspace---the notional location of most of our information in the future---will be the source of many new social problems, especially problems of social control and misinformation. Of all the changes that will bear on the future of societies, and on the future of social problems, none is likely to have more impact than cyberspace and the information that resides there. Five centuries ago, scholars could decide what was the appropriate body of knowledge within any liter- ate society, be that society Chinese, Western European, or another. This idea of the demarcated body of knowledge---of what educated people should know---has also been produced by technology of the day, as has the question of 'knowledge ownership'. The Internet affects the relationship between consumers and producers of knowledge, changing the whole way we view information and changing the relations of its production. Not only does the Internet ease information sharing, commerce, and social support, it also allows people to create and try out new identities. This issue leads, necessarily, into a discussion of information diffusion and two particular forms of diffusion: rumours and contagion. In an information society, all social, economic, and political life depends on the qual- ity of the information available. One foreseeable social problem of the future concerns rumours and conta- gion, two deviant forms of information flow that can have powerful consequences for societies of the future.
Published in 2003.
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