Internet Wins, And The Need To Appreciate What We've Got Before It's Gone

from the golden-goose-preservation dept

It’s become quite fashionable these days to gripe about the Internet. Even some of its staunchest allies in Congress have been getting cranky. Naturally there are going to be growing pains as humanity adapts to the unprecedented ability for billions of people to communicate with each other easily, cheaply, and immediately for the first time in world history. But this communications revolution has also brought some extraordinary benefits that we glibly risk when we forget about them and instead only focus the challenges. This glass is way more than half full but, if we’re not careful to protect it, soon it will be empty.

As we’ve been talking about a lot recently, working its way through Congress is a bill, SESTA/FOSTA, so fixated on perceived problems with the Internet (even though there’s no evidence that these are problems the Internet itself caused) that it threatens the ability of the Internet to deliver its benefits, including those that would better provide tools to deal with some of those perceived problems, if not outright make those same problems worse by taking away the Internet’s ability to help. But it won’t be the last such bill, as long as the regulatory pile-on intending to disable the Internet is allowed to proceed unchecked.

As the saying too often goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. But this time let’s not wait to lose it; let’s take the opportunity to appreciate all the good the Internet has given us, so we can hold on tight to it and resist efforts to take it away.

Towards that end, we want to encourage the sharing and collection of examples of how the Internet has made the world better: how it made it better for everyone, and how it even just made it better for you, and whether it made things better for good, or for even just one moment in one day when the Internet enabled some connection, discovery, or opportunity that could not have happened without it. It is unlikely that this list could be exhaustive: the Internet delivers its benefits too frequently and often too seamlessly to easily recognize them all. But that’s why it’s all the more important to go through the exercise of reflecting on as many as we can, because once they become less frequent and less seamless they will be much easier to miss and much harder to get back.

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Comments on “Internet Wins, And The Need To Appreciate What We've Got Before It's Gone”

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Anonymous Coward says:

i think the most important point to make is which industry actually wants the Internet to collapse completely or be given over to it so it can then control who can access what, when, how, in what format and for how much and that is the conglomeration of Hollywood, the MPAA, RIAA, just about every game studio, publisher, professional camera user, etc, etc, in fact every single part of the collective industry known as the Entertainments Industry! it is so backwards, so intent on staying in the C20th, maintaining a stranglehold on keeping it’s stuff unavailable unless it is paid a fortune, while at the same time, doing whatever it can to hinder advancements in all manner of helpful directions, as well as throwing cash in certain directions, i’m surprised the ‘Net hasn’t collapsed already!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Tip: don't consume products from "Entertainments Industry"!

That’s advice I follow. They don’t gouge me for crap, nor annoy me with difficulty to get, nor will be prosecuting for piracy.

Problem is of course that you are addicted to those mindless “entertainments”.

Now, no matter how often I say to QUIT CONSUMING AND STARVE HOLLYWOOD, there’ll be one-liners accusing me of being industry shill. — Another big benefit of teh
internets is false accusations.

Rapnel (profile) says:

Re: Re: Tip: don't consume products from "Entertainments Industry"!

Actually, I believe the relevant addiction here are “those mindless “entertainments”” having an extremely unhealthy addiction to their entitlement. Tell me we’d be filtering anything other than spam and malware without these guys paving the way over your rights with their entitlement. To say nothing about forcing everyone around them to do their work for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Internet has certainly spread knowledge of animal penises.

And various sexual perversions, bondage, child pornography…

Allows every shouty little group to inflate its importance and apparent normality.

Corporations now get to arbitrarily control major speech outlets, soon to rid us of non-leftist non-globalist diversity…

Lord_Unseen (profile) says:

Re: The Internet has certainly spread knowledge of animal penises.

Trust me when I say that the current corporate controlled outlets are not robbing you non-leftist POVs. Leftists and corporations are diametrically opposed. Leftists would tear down all corporations if they could and as a result, corporations don’t much care for leftists.

With that said, if your views are being taken down by the corporations (which we have already established are not leftist) maybe there’s another reason. Most sites have a report function. People do use it. If you’re getting reported a lot, maybe it’s time to re-examine your views and stop blaming the platform?

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

As a student in the early 1980s I would spend hours in the library looking up information. Often that information was dated by the time my library acquired it, if it was even available at all. Now, I can look up the latest information in seconds thanks to search engines and the many online repositories of information.
As an electronics designer, I used to have shelf after shelf of bulky databooks describing the available components. Those databooks needed to be replaced annually in order to stay reasonably current. Now, every single component manufacturer has current datasheets of all components online and available 24 hours a day. This is a huge savings in time and money.
What’s even more important is that the internet can connect me to a community of people solving the same, or similar problems. Being able to share solutions means that often I find my problem has already been solved by someone else, and occasionally I find that I already have the solution to someone else’s problem. The result of all this is that everyone can accomplish more working together than we can do working separately.

ECA (profile) says:


“perceived problems with the Internet (even though there’s no evidence that these are problems the Internet itself caused) that it threatens the ability of the Internet to deliver its benefits, “

The internet has the same problem we had before, and hasnt really Changed much of it, or made much WORSE..
The internet has made 1 HUGE change.
ALLOT of communication.
Everyone gets to say something, Good, bad, Weird, Strange…
Those that are REALLY “OUT THERE”, that are trying to say the WRONG things, in the WRONG WAY…are getting shut down, and TOLD to find their OWN place to talk/speak/bitch/moan and groan..Make their own location on the net, and OTHERS LIKE them can join in.

There are Soo many places to have open discussions that we can get opinions from Anywhere in the world..

We are not Pigeon holed, restricted, Held back, Diversified, Stomped on.. we can find places to SPEAK, say, express, Examine, Experiment… We can Watch IDIOTS EXPRESS THEMSELVES, and LEARN WHY “FIREWORKS” DONT WORK UP YOUR BUTT..And not do it ourselves, or Wait for another idiot to IMPROVE what was done before..(Maybe)

Why do SOME people THINk they see things WORSE on the net?
Its an old conspiracy, that all those Groups from the past, that were Social groups, were 1 way or another..FEW have survived. And for Strange reasons they slowly disappeared.. Internal problems, to Lawyers, all kinds to strange reasons.. Its like Schools not teaching Wood working, Wielding, Metal shop, … We have kids now that CANT COUNT CHANGE..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Correction?

Its like Schools not teaching Wood working, Wielding, Metal shop

That all right, there are better teachers of those subjects, and all other practical skills on YouTube and other places on the Internet. What is more there is a choice out there and the student can find someone whose style of teaching keeps them engaged and learning.

Anonymous Coward says:

*NOT* better for everyone

” … examples of how the Internet has made the world better: how it made it better for everyone, … ”

Not everyone, certainly not everyone. Like all technological innovations, there are winners and losers. We all know about the winners, but let’s talk about the losers.

The internet has also resulted in the contraction of numerous established industries and the complete destruction of others. It has put people out of work, destroyed careers, and wiped out pension funds. It’s been particularly hard on older workers who find themselves suddenly having to enter a whole new occupation and try to compete with people half their age for job openings that pay half their previous income. And not surprisingly, discovering that no one wants to hire them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: *NOT* better for everyone

Your statement isn’t wrong but it also isn’t correct either. Let me explain.

Has the internet caused or been involved in all those things you described? Yes. Not in every case but in some of them, yes. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Now hold on before you go getting all upset so I can explain.

The reason why it’s not necessarily a bad thing is because in addition to making some jobs/industries irrelevant and obsolete, it has also created new ones, as you acknowledge. And the reason why those jobs/industries are obsolete is because the internet offered a way to do those same tasks better, more efficiently.

The printing press put a lot of monks and people who copied manuscripts by hand out of work. Was it bad? No, it revolutionized a way in which we communicate and share knowledge and ideas. The monks may have lost a job market but would you rather they have jobs and we were still relying on people to copy books by hand resulting in less ability to learn and share knowledge? Or higher book prices? It also ushered in thousands if not millions of new job opportunities for writers, journalists, newspapers, magazines, and more.

It’s the same with the internet, yes it is sad, in some respects, that it has put people and businesses out of work, but the internet has revolutionized not just communication but our entire lives for the better on orders of magnitude.

And some of it isn’t even directly. Some of the benefits are indirect. Science, medical, technology, and other research has exploded because now they can share information in minutes or seconds instead of weeks, months, or years. This has resulted in better quality of life for everyone because we’ve advanced our understanding of each of these disciplines faster. Medical especially.

And it doesn’t just stop at advancing knowledge, new job opportunities have exploded almost as fast. And even if you aren’t part of the big tech companies, the barrier to entry to start your own business is far lower now. You can now start your own business for a fraction of the cost it used to be. You can sell your goods direct on any number of online market places. Artists have exploded on to the internet and used it to create new forms of art via video/audio works and web pages.

The internet literally offers almost limitless possibilities for people.

Were there winners and losers in the internet revolution? I suppose you could choose to look at it that way, but then you could say that about any technical, social, or economic innovation/revolution in history. What about the industrial revolution? That probably put a lot of blacksmiths out of work. Do you want to go back to that? Is it wrong that we found better, faster ways of doing things?

There are only losers if people choose to not adapt to progress and technical innovation. Those people who lost jobs and are now facing a new occupation? If they choose to not adapt, yes, they will make far less money than they were. But if they do adapt, and use that to their advantage, they have just as much opportunity as all the rest of the people in the market.

Anonymous Coward says:

I read quality newspapers, blogs and other non-fiction material regularly because of the internet. I follow politics and I am capable of nuanced policy debate because of the internet. My parents watched poor quality, propagandistic corporate/oligarch-owned commercial television to access political information.

Here is a good one:

Ninja (profile) says:

I was worried these days that I’ve been reading less books than in the past and started discussing with a friend why I was reading less. That’s when I realized I’m not reading less, I’m reading tons and tons more than before because of the Internet. I have much more knowledge at the tip of my fingers. I made some rough calculations and I’ve reached the conclusion I’m reading at least 10 times more “books” than in my teens if I consider articles, studies and books and separate them roughly in 300 page books. Except those books are happening right now as well, being researched as I read what’s produced.

We shouldn’t let this die.

Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

Good things from the Internet

A public radio reporter ran this story on WWII veterans a little while back:

He just tweeted this update: “I wrote this story a week ago. It traveled around the Internet. Not only are they down to 45 names, people in the Netherlands who lost track of each other, rediscovered each other. The internet is cool.”

Ryunosuke (profile) says:

I think the single most recognizable contribution of the internet isn’t JUST communicating with other people at an instant for little to no cost. It’s the dissemination of information. Having actual communication engineers tell the world (more or less) why or how the CIA is doing what it is doing. And even more recently, initial studies by civil and bridge engineers theorizing on why the bridge in Miami collapsed, even before the official investigation has started.

Having ALL kinds of chefs and food critics disseminate cooking stuff, from Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsay, to Binging with Babish.

Sharing of different art forms and entertainment across the world unprecedented because of RIAA and MPAA, from those weird Japanese TV Game shows and anime to Dr Who to American TV/Movies that would take years to cross the borders, if at all.

The near instantaneous and archival powers of the internet means we know when the President says something, and it is remembered, forever. And we can paint a picture of their personality, for better or worse.

And has been pointed out in other comments, the internet really is the largest single collection of human knowledge since the Library of Alexandria.

William Dudley says:

Internet wins . . .

The internet has made it much easier to repair things, because it’s much easier to find parts, schematics, etc. Now it’s possible to discover that somebody has a huge stash of parts (or old machines that can be scavenged) in some garage in the middle of nowhere, and buy those parts. Before the internet, that stash ended up in a landfill, as did all the broken stuff that need those parts.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Easy access to information

In a nutshell, the internet has enabled me to find information at the touch of a button. Tutorials, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other information sites have provided me with a range of information for a range of purposes from shopping to learning my trade as a web designer (before I got my current job).

It also fosters community by providing forums for fandom, for tech advice, and for enabling the creation and publishing of blogs like this.

It also fosters creativity since the limits of what the internet can do are determined by our own imagination. Put it this way: back in the late Eighties when I dreamed of having my own home computer I never imagined that I’d be writing blog posts, creating my own graphics, or learning or buying online. I certainly never imagined communicating and debating with total strangers from other countries in real time. The internet has expanded my horizons in ways I still don’t understand.

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