In the beginning, there was the Internet. And Andreeson said, “let there be Netscape”, and Netscape appeared and all things were good. Or whatever.
In the earlier years of the browser age, things were pretty cool. Most of the information on the Internet was academic in nature. It was actually fun to browse with this new web browser thing. Along came Microsoft with their own version of it. But it did some new things…and the browser wars ensued.
During this time, businesses became aware of this “Internet Thing”, most likely through their personal AOL, Prodigy, or CompuServe account. Companies began commercializing the web. Things moved pretty slowly at first because the browser wars were still ensuing and business web developers had a tough time keeping up with the differences in browsers.
Anyway, that’s my recollection of things.
Fast forward to today…
What have we accomplished? (We’re still having browser wars, by the way)
We’ve managed to connect a significant amount of the world’s population with one another. That’s a good thing.
However, what we’ve also done is all but eliminated individuality and free thought. WHAT? You might be thinking. But hear me out.
There’s very little information that you can create that hasn’t already been created. For instance, suppose you dream up this great plan to rule the world. You wake up, pull up your favorite search engine, and type in your plan. You’ll get at least 10,000 hits (the top 5 matching precisely what your plan was). If you don’t believe me, check out the word “patent troll”. Someone had that dream before you did. If you’re lucky enough to have friends in the venture capitalists world, you’re in good shape. All you have to do is come up with an angle, create a business plan, and get your funding. The rest will go down as the market determines.
Therein lies the problem. The market determines the validity of an idea, not the usefulness of the idea itself. An idea that might have been useful, but unprofitable, is buried somewhere in the lost pile of business plans. Or worse, it never got into a business plan.
Anyway, if I continue, my ignorance of VC and market forces will be even more obvious. I’m trying to make a point, though. Where has the Internet brought us? Where are the academic roots that were once the breath of the Internet? They’re buried somewhere in Silicon Valley, revealed only to investors, board members, and software developers.
Ahh, software developers. There’s a great group who would argue with me. The Internet is the PERFECT resource for the software developer. That’s true, and I’ll agree to that. But, in the end, who do the software developers serve? Commercial entities that must make money. And all of them have a presence on the Internet, most likely either bringing in ad revenue or paying it out. The Internet has become one giant, self-serving capitalist machine, devoid of any real and true value, when it comes down to it.
Certainly, there are thousands of exceptions to what I’m saying, but the trend is there.
What about social networking? What about it? It’s just a race to see who can collect the most followers or friends to share their benign and historically insignificant musings with. There’s nothing wrong with that, but again, it’s collecting ad revenue in the end (maybe not for the users, but certainly for the owners of the sites). Hmmm, except those that still haven’t found out a way to make money on their “idea”.
What about “microblogging” (http://twitter.com) ? What about it? 120 characters (or whatever) to say what you want to say at the moment. Try an experiment, use http://search.twitter.com and put in a phrase,let’s say – #NobelPeacePrize. Check out what you get back. Read a few pages of this. When you see the letters “RT”, it means that someone is repeating what someone else wrote. Generally, the original idea (or “meme”) is a link to an article, blog post, product review, or funny picture. But the majority of the time, the result is a “retweet” (RT).
What does this say about our culture? We’ve become obsessed with texting, tweeting, and social networking. Where is the true value in all of this?
What happened to “in your face” meetings? What happened to true “social circles”. What happened to parallel discovery? What happened to the security in knowing that you had an individual thought? That you did something today that no one else did?
The Internet has also brought the seedier side of our culture into homes across the globe. Before the Internet, if someone wanted to get pornography, they had to specifically ask someone at the store counter to hand them a copy of the latest copy of [insert raunchy name here]. Now, it’s as easy as opening up your browser and navigating to a website. You can do it all alone, with no one knowing about it…not even your family. Teenagers and kids, husbands and fathers, even unsuspecting teachers are finding this stuff. Many times through accident, many times on purpose.
This is desensitizing the world to the importance of healthy sexuality. It is teaching young teenagers that it’s OK to debase women by treating them as sex objects and not the women they should be. It’s bringing sexual addiction that is hard to cure into the homes of millions.
Online gambling has ruined millions of people, as well. Staking their mortgage payments on a few games of online poker. Owing total strangers thousands of dollars.
And the media. Oh my. They’re another group that has a PERFECT use for the Internet. More propaganda and a cheap way to spread it. Certainly, there are “individuals” out there with their own “ideas”, but I argue…where did they get their information? What are their sources. What’s their angle?
It’s all a house of cards and I think if we look behind the curtain, we’ll see that we’ve done more harm than good with this technology.
Of course, that’s just my opinion today…