When Alfred Nobel invented dynamites during the late 19th century, he did not intend to take down the London Bridge. All he wanted to do was to construct roads and mines. But today the brainchild of this man we have the Prizes to thank for becomes an alleged “accomplice” for some of the suicide bombings in history. This ‘misuse’ is not by itself, for what we have seen in the upheaval that happened in the past few days, where another creation has been accused to be responsible for the city’s partial anarchy – the BlackBerry’s built-in real-time chatter, known as BBM (BlackBerry Messenger).
But what has TNT got to do with the BBM and riots anyway? Well, actually, BBM does share similarities with dynamites except that it does not blow up literally.
For starters, let’s look at the etymology of dynamite. Interestingly, dynamite has a Greek origin which meant “connect with power”. What BBM and other communication devices alike do give us all is a greater people power. There is a double meaning. With the smartphones these days coupled with access to the Internet, networking is instantaneous. At the same time, it gives every single one of us regardless of status and class, an invisible microphone to reach out to the public. For the past few days, it is witnessed by us all, whether is it to plunder the high street or to perform a street spruce.
Both objects work effectively, we all know how quickly a demolition is performed. On the other side, it is no coincidence when the protest formed by 20 protesters, mainly the friends and families of the deceased 29-year-old, Mark Duggan, mushroomed into a mob which shares no particular cause for the incident. With applications like BBM, Facebook and Twitter available on smartphones and consumer devices, notification alerts pop up automatically on the screen, this way allowing “participants” to receive the latest “instructions” on where to move on next. They also receive tip-offs within a minute across streets when the Met is approaching.
I suppose the BlackBerry manufacturer, Research In Motion (RIM) did not see the events coming when they created BlackBerry Messenger, that one day it would be under the hands of troublemakers and make lawmakers point finger at them. The UK police demanded RIM to share their “information” so that they could identify the sturdy chains of network of suspects plus to suspend its services. According to OFCOM, Blackberry smartphones account for 37% of the youth market share in the UK and by many accounts, ownership is driven by the BBM service. One of the messages that are posted in the web, read: “Police are NOT ON DIS TING. Everyone meet at 7 at Stratford park and let’s get rich.” We all know what happens after.
- A BlackBerry handset and a dynamite image; ability to improve and ‘destroy’. The real problem is not whether machines think, but whether humans do
In other countries, India warned that the country will ban the use of BlackBerry unless RIM agrees to share certain information about the activities of BlackBerry users. Another state of the Middle East region also demanded to have access to the conversation logs of all BBM users to find out any woman is communicating with “another man”.
Nobel makes me wonder at times if he regretted inventing the explosive. But whether he does it or not, someone will one day, therefore, it is the user, the humans who hold the utmost responsibility. In order to live better, we can never blame the use of technology. Perhaps what requires more interest and immediate attention, is the disciplinary framework of the society, but of course, the officials have no time for that right now, but even if they do, will we see a change? Will the rod still be spared?
Nonetheless, it’s time to wake up to reality, electronics and all objects are dead and will always be, what’s worth doing is to always remember the good intentions of creations set in the first place and to every action, opposition always have an equal consequence.