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VI-Now that we’re here, where are we?

February 1, 2012


They opposed the Industrial Revolution. They destroyed machines and did their utmost to impede the rapidly mechanizing gears of progress. It’s not hard to draw some comparisons between the Industrial Revolution and the onset of the Digital Age (or “Digital Revolution”), of which the Internet is of course a major part. But there were no Luddites to get in the way. Why?


(The above video has nothing to do with the Internet, but it exudes the appropriate amount of enthusiasm for the subject).

The Internet made everyone’s life better, without having to make sacrifices like crawling on your knees through dimly lit tunnels full of noxious gas dragging carts of coal. Or traipsing around 1880s Leeds being a “rag collector” like my great great grandmother(true story, according to Before the Internet, there was nowhere to gather and collect pictures of cats. In the past, if you wanted to have a discussion about your cats, you had to make contact with another human, something most cat people avoid at all costs in their dreary meowing hovels.

Before the Internet, once you graduated from school or stopped working somewhere, you never saw your 178th favorite person from that place again. Now you know when they meet someone, when it gets serious, when they get married, when they need to stop putting their shoes on the couch, when they get divorced, and when they get publicly excoriated for not paying child support and being a bad lover. And then you can laugh (and cry a little….inside).

Before the Internet, if you played a game with a child, you beat them, unless they were some kind of savant genius or something. Then you explained to them what they did wrong, they made a remark about how smart you were and probably used the words “gee whiz”, and maybe you would hug. Now they run up behind you and slit your throat and then scream every emasculating obscenity they know at you over a mic from an undisclosed location.

Before the Internet, if you wanted to watch music videos, you had to watch MTV. Well, thank God for the Internet.

In all seriousness, there’s no question the Internet has made the world smaller and increased the amount of information available to the average person by a thousandfold. Potentially, the Internet could even bring about world peace. Think about it. If you had a facebook friend from every single country on the planet, would you really want them to be bombed? Let’s imagine for the sake of argument that they don’t post pictures of cats. Of course there are a lot of obstacles in the way of this. The PRC censors the Internet and so do countries like Iran. Also, some people use the Internet (particularly social network) as a vehicle for spouting alarmingly stupid and hurtful messages, but I don’t want to get too political here.

How we can use the Internet to help society instead of hurt it remains to be seen. But society has been making steady progress for a couple thousand years now. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

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