What would we do without the #internet?

bright idea 2Last night, The Offspring and I faced an evening of utter misery – no emails, no WordPress, no jigsaw puzzles and no GAMING! -wail-

We did have our Kindles, and we did have the TV, but as the ratings season has not begun yet, there was nothing on the TV worth watching. I suspect we would not have watched it even if there had been because the internet eclipsed the TV long ago, at least for us. We only have five main TV channels so the degree of choice is fairly low. By contrast, the internet has literally everything.

As a teacher, I’ve long known that ageing Boomers would benefit from the freedom and connectedness the internet provides, but even I was surprised by how pervasive it has become in my own life. It entertains me whenever I want or need to be entertained, it connects me to friends all over the world, and it’s also there when I’m working. Need to check a fact? Just Google it. Need to find a half-remembered quote? Google it. Need a smart sounding saying in Latin? Google it. Need to find out how to do something? You guessed it, Google again.

But Google would be nothing without all the information it searches.

And right there is the true power of the internet. It’s like an ever expanding, shapeless repository of knowledge that is being added to and tweaked every moment of every day by someone somewhere around the world.

This giant amoeba of knowledge is not organized as neatly as a Wiki, and you have to know how to phrase your question to find the answer you need, but it’s all there, 24/7, 364 days of the year.

Except when it’s not.

Having learned to take all this knowledge for granted, what would we do if it were suddenly taken away, from everyone? And no, this is not the beginning of a new science fiction story, although it would make a good one. I am genuinely concerned.

Why? Because I know that only a tiny fraction of all that information and knowledge is ‘backed up’ in physical media such as print books, tape backup, DVDs, you name it. That means only a tiny fraction of our combined, human knowledge would be available to us if the internet went down permanently. Worse, what knowledge we still had would be proprietary, and jealously guarded by those that ‘owned’ it.

Now I know that ‘owning’ knowledge is nothing new, we’re living with the consequences of patenting information every day. But can you imagine how much worse things would be if all the other knowledge in the world were no longer shared either?

As a species, homo sapiens has progressed fastest when knowledge was shared, freely and without favour – think of the explosion of creativity that occurred during the Renaissance. If we lost the internet we could easily lose much of what we have gained over the last two hundred odd years, going from the age of enlightenment to a modern dark age, virtually overnight. And then we’d fight wars over what was left.

Of all the infrastructure the world can no longer do without, I’d put the internet at the top of the list of things to guard with our lives. What do you think? Am I being realistic or have I simply not had enough caffeine yet this morning?

Meeks

 

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

14 responses to “What would we do without the #internet?

  • Carrie Rubin

    Everyone worries about a nuclear attack, and of course we should, but I think a cyber attack would be more likely to do us in, certainly at least in some ways. For example, the loss of information like you describe. Scary to think about, and it would indeed make a great premise for a book!

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  • anne54

    Meeks, I love how you make me think about things in a different way. I had never thought about the issue of “owning” the knowledge in the future in this context. Indeed the internet has allowed knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge to be broken from the small number of people who previously controlled it. Think of old style media, in the hands of a few media moguls. Now anyone with a smart phone can create news. There are problems of authenticity with this, but it has democratised many areas of knowledge. And we are the beneficiaries.

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    • acflory

      Yes, we do have to ‘beware’ but the benefits far out weigh the potential dangers. And think, this whole concept of democratized information sharing is only 1-2 decades old! I really really want to stick around till I’m 100 jus to see where all of this will take us. 🙂

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  • mikeberretta

    What is this “internet” you speak of???
    We have barely, if at all, secured our water and power supplies, which are crucial to our existence, let alone the unquantifiable amount of information that is somewhere out there.

    Very good point.

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    • acflory

      -grin- A very good point sir. In fact, aren’t we tying some of those vital bits of infrastructure /to/ the Cloud or some such? I could be having a senior’s moment about this one though.

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  • Hariod Brawn

    I think Carrie is correct, and that cyber warfare has already likely surpassed bomb dropping and bullet firing in the minds of the war planners. Russia, China, Israel and the U.S. have all been caught red-handed already. Land is no longer the thing for war faring nations to conquer, but economic power and the means of production is; and they can both be attacked with computer code.

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    • acflory

      On the one hand I’m grateful we won’t all go up in a great bit mushroom cloud. On the other…much as I love growing veggies I really do not want to become a subsistence farmer in my old age. 😦

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  • EllaDee

    Our lives would be so much smaller without the internet, we’d need to refocus on the resources of local communities. Not such a bad thing. But not perfect, sometimes communities don’t provide the variety & allowance for different the virtual world does. That said, I hope the need never eventuates, as on a day-to-day basis I believe we’re so much richer for the internet & global interaction, especially along the lines of Anne’s comment.

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    • acflory

      Yeah, I agree. We live in a nice real world place with more of a community spirit than in most suburbs I’ve lived in, but like anything, community takes work. I like that on the internet we can form communities of like minded people from all over the world.

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