Author Topic: Was the internet a mistake?  (Read 999 times)

Online Hydra009

Was the internet a mistake?
« on: August 08, 2018, 02:39:06 PM »
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The main thrust of the video is that the internet has revolutionized our world - it was initially heralded as a technology that would bring people together, inform citizens, and empower greater civic engagement.

And while there are examples of that, there's also a darker side to the internet.  The internet might actually serve to placate people, giving them an outlet to complain or giving them distractions so they might never feel inclined to do the hard work of lobbying for change.   Additionally, there's pseudo-charity, where people online "like" a cause without supporting it, giving the illusion of helping.  There are also walled gardens, insular communities of people who consume media designed to support their beliefs and shun media that challenges it.  And related to that, there's the proliferation of pseudoscientific beliefs and fake news online.  So, on the whole, is the internet good or bad?

Personally, I've had this debate with my mom.

She sees the internet in a very negative light - filled with hackers who want to steal your money, russian bot farms who want to misinform you, and all sorts of deviants who use it to indulge their grotesque desires and engage in illegal activities (I won't go into too much detail, suffice it to say you can use your imagination)

And while I don't deny that these sorts of people exist, I very much doubt they're the mainstay.  I see the internet in a much more positive light - it allows you to navigate from one corner of the country to the other without ever getting lost and it gives you instant access to whatever information you wish - the internet is essentially a gigantic library kept current and easily searchable.  Compare whatever copy of Webster's you have lying around to online dictionaries, Encyclopedia Britannica (or Microsoft Encarta) to Wikipedia, etc - there's no contest that the internet version is a HUGE improvement.

To show an example of how the internet has changed our lives, let's say you're watching a TV show.  In the early 90s, you'd likely watch the show and maybe talk about it at the watercooler at work the next day.  That's about it.  With the internet, there are huge communities discussing the show in real-time as it airs, giving reviews, creating wikis, posting video clips and fanart and cosplay, making theories, asking questions directly to cast members in AMAs, creating cons, etc.  You name it, they're doing it.  The amount of engagement is absolutely bonkers.  The difference between pre-internet and post-internet is like night and day.

And while I don't dispute that the internet can be used to harm, I think the internet - like any other piece of technology - can be used for good and evil - and that it all boils down to how you use it.  While our modern age has its problems, I would NEVER ever choose to rewind the clock.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 02:44:54 PM by Hydra009 »

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2018, 02:49:25 PM »
Yeah, the 'net is just like any other tool, to be used for good or bad. I'm just glad I lived to have access to such a wonderful tool!
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"Thinking, analyzing, inventing are not anomalous acts; they are the normal respiration of the intelligence."
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Offline SGOS

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 03:17:07 PM »
I've thought about this too.  I'm hooked on the internet, which in itself can be good or bad.  Was it a mistake?  I don't know because I can't predict he future, so the jury is still out.  I have no idea where it's going.  All along the way, things have been happening on the net that I have never conceived of.  Sometimes I have found that when I have a good idea like, "Why can't we do this or that with the net," it turns out someone has already implemented it long before I even had the idea.  And there are nefarious activities taking place that I never conceived of too, things that seem to me are taking it in the wrong direction.  I might have a more well defined opinion 50 years from now.  But I think it's too early to call it a mistake.  So I tend to disagree with those who say it is.

Online trdsf

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2018, 03:48:23 PM »
I sometimes say as a joke that I don't really remember what I did with my time before the Internet... except to some extent, no, I don't anymore.  I worked, I gamed, I wrote, that was about it.  I still do the first and last of those, but now mostly I also communicate with like-minded individuals on a nearly-daily basis.  And post pictures to my Flickr page.  And I clean scams out of my inbox... well, it can't all be fun.

I've been on the Internet for 25 years now, connecting just before the You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login.  My first connection was through a BBS with a UUCP connection that handled up to 60 messages per day on each of a limited selection of Usenet groups... and that was enough to keep up, at least until the Endless September, even though the groups I was following were rec.music.gdead, alt.tv.mst3k and rec.arts.drwho.  Keep in mind this was before spam was invented and the original Usenet netiquette still essentially held.

I could stop here and just declare that commercialization ruins everything, but commercialization made the current high-speed internet feasible — I have a 100mb/s connection at home, for fuck's sake!  You just about had to be IBM or General Motors to have a connection like that 25 years ago.

Yes, I miss interacting one-to-one and one-to-many on the old Usenet.  But a lot of that is duplicated on forums like this one, even if it's not the open frontier it used to be.

But a mistake?  No.  It's just not fully socialized yet.  I have no doubt in the 1920s and maybe even into the 1930s there were people who said the automobile was a mistake.  You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in the 1950s or 1960s to agree with that.  I expect by 2030 the Internet will just be an assumed part of life by all but the most hard-core of Luddites or disadvantaged populations.
Sir Terry Pratchett, on being told about the theory that the universe is a computer simulation: "If we all get out and in again, would it start to work properly this time?"

Offline Munch

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2018, 03:50:10 PM »
I've made more friends and meet my boyfriends due to the internet. I've ordered things online I'd never have been able to get before it. I've shared fan fiction and art across the pond, and enjoyed tv shows, movies and cartoons I'd only dream about getting ahold of before this.

I remember the times before the internet, it wasn't very fun, and harder to meet people and find things you were really into.

But as unbeliever says, its a double edge sword, with all the good of it comes all the bad, and the people who ruin it. Hackers, criminals, trolls, extremist ideologies given a platform, and worse stuff on the darker parts of the net. But that is life, doesn't matter with or without it, you will have the evil part of humanity along with the good, its just the nature of the beast, and the net is just a tool the beast shapes around itself.

Online Hydra009

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2018, 04:02:20 PM »
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I've been on the Internet for 25 years now, connecting just before the You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login.  My first connection was through a BBS with a UUCP connection that handled up to 60 messages per day on each of a limited selection of Usenet groups... and that was enough to keep up, at least until the Endless September, even though the groups I was following were rec.music.gdead, alt.tv.mst3k and rec.arts.drwho.  Keep in mind this was before spam was invented and the original Usenet netiquette still essentially held.
I started somewhere in the mid-90s, I think.  A few years later than you.  AOL, RealPlayer (buffering), upgrading the modem to a 56k, lol.  I remember that the initial community was very well-behaved.  You could generally assume the other people were communicating to you in good faith and they were generally helpful if you asked nicely.  That's very different today.  The downside to everyone getting on the internet is that everyone is on the internet, including people you'd rather not associate with.  C'est la vie.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 04:52:49 PM by Hydra009 »

Online Hydra009

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2018, 04:24:22 PM »
I've noticed that a few of the responses are that it's too early to tell.

Fair enough, but the web as we know it has been around for around 20 years so.  Surely by now we have some early judgment on it, albeit without yet knowing where this all is ultimately headed.

One thing that immediately strikes me is how the news is now basically playing second-fiddle to the internet.  You watch the nightly news report and the top news is whatever the President just tweeted, the latest hashtag campaign on twitter, and sometimes they'll even cover some viral video or something as a fluff piece at the end.  It really is quite jarring in just how much the internet, specifically social media, has taken over real life.

Another thing is the massive time dedicated to the internet in day-to-day life.  At work, whenever there's a moment to spare, the smart phones come out.  And I very much doubt this behavior is limited to work.  At meals, in bed, on the toilet, even probably in the car - the sun never sets on the internet isles.

How much of this activity is meaningful?  My initial impression is that most of these people are just blabbering on facetime, oogling some instagram model's latest pregnancy photo, celebrity gossip, trashy music, etc.  Though of course, I'm hesitant to throw too many stones lest my glass house shatter (my playlist of 10+ hours of Shooting Stars memes is no doubt incriminating)  And while I admit that I fritter away countless hours, I also spend a good deal of time watching intellectually-stimulating content and enjoying amazing art that I otherwise would miss out on.

So I'll rephrase the thread title this way:  is the internet making us smarter or dumber?
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 04:36:17 PM by Hydra009 »

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2018, 04:59:10 PM »
Newspaper are the original evil.

On the griping hand the Internet kept me alive a few months ago.
We 'new atheists' have a reputation for being militant, but make no mistake  we didn't start this war. If you want to place blame put it on the the religious zealots who have been poisoning the minds of the  young for a long long time."
PZ Myers

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2018, 05:44:11 PM »
The internet is changing everything: economics, politics, entertainment, relationships, sex, etc. It's too early to know how it is affecting us. It is also difficult to study because data gathered just one year ago can easily be obsolete.

“Centuries ago human knowledge increased slowly, so politics and economics changed at a leisurely pace too. Today our knowledge is increasing at breakneck speed, and theoretically, we should understand the world better and better. But the very opposite is happening. Our new-found knowledge leads to faster economic, social and political changes; in an attempt to understand what is happening, we accelerate the accumulation of knowledge, which leads only to faster and greater upheavals. Consequently we are less and less able to make sense of the present or forecast the future. In 1016 it was relatively easy to predict how Europe would look in 1050. Sure, dynasties might fall, unknown raiders might invade, and natural disasters might strike; yet it was clear that in 1050 Europe would still be ruled by kings and priests, that it would be an agricultural society, that most of its inhabitants would be peasants, and that it would continue to suffer greatly from famines, plagues and wars. In contrast, in 2016 we have no idea how Europe will look in 2050. We cannot say what kind of political system it will have, how its job market will be structured, or even what kind of bodies its inhabitants will possess.” ― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

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So I'll rephrase the thread title this way:  is the internet making us smarter or dumber?

I think arguments can be made either way. There is evidence that we are losing certain types of knowledge. A read a study that young people don't have as keen a sense of direction as their elders because we now depend on GPS to navigate. We have willingly surrendered this cognitive task to technology and will continue to do so with others. This can be seen as a smart strategy, for why waste effort memorizing information when Google can retrieve it quickly and more accurately? However what kind of information is being retrieved and what is curating that information makes a huge difference. Retrieving when the next solar eclipse will take place is a different type of information than learning what your neighbors think about Trump. I think in order to maximize the benefits of the internet, to be smarter, we need to make a concerted effort to understand how these algorithms work and not be passive consumers of content and information. We need to ask ourselves questions like, "Does being on Facebook really enrich my life or could my time be better spent doing something else?"

"In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. [...] In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.”

― Pema Chödrön

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2018, 06:22:55 PM »
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On the griping hand the Internet kept me alive a few months ago.
Really?  How's that??
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent,
Is he able but not willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able or willing?
Then why call him god?

Online Hydra009

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2018, 06:26:50 PM »
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I think arguments can be made either way. There is evidence that we are losing certain types of knowledge. A read a study that young people don't have as keen a sense of direction as their elders because we now depend on GPS to navigate. We have willingly surrendered this cognitive task to technology and will continue to do so with others. This can be seen as a smart strategy, for why waste effort memorizing information when Google can retrieve it quickly and more accurately?
True, though one could similarly argue that paper maps have also adversely affected young people's sense of direction.  The key benefit of technology has always been offloading demanding physical or intellectual tasks onto something else, be it a packmule or a calculator.

Knowing how to navigate the warren of side streets and frequently clogged highways is not too valuable of a skill to render obsolete.  In fact, future generations may look at us badly for zooming around in steel cages, narrowly avoiding catastrophic, life-changing collisions at high speeds, disaster barely avoided by an opportune twitch with the steering wheel while placing a hot coffee cup between one's legs with one hand and clutching the all-important cell phone in the other.

Imho, entrusting ...*visible distaste* ...this activity to anyone or anything else more trustworthy is nothing short of a massive public good.

Quote
However what kind of information is being retrieved and what is curating that information makes a huge difference.
Indeed it does.  How is it curated?  I'll be honest here, I have absolutely no idea how most of what I link to got their information or decided that was the story to run with.  Sometimes, I'll see a blog post that references a blog post that references another blog post and I start to wonder if the whole thing isn't one giant circle.

And for the more unscrupulous amongst us, I have no doubt that you could slap Hitler quotes on a picture of FDR and post it on social media and get tons of likes and shares.  Please don't, btw.  The world is horrible enough already; don't add to its problems.

Quote
I think in order to maximize the benefits of the internet, to be smarter, we need to make a concerted effort to understand how these algorithms work and not be passive consumers of content and information.
Good idea.  How would I go about doing that?
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 06:50:48 PM by Hydra009 »

Offline Sal1981

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2018, 06:33:05 PM »
I don't think the Internet was a mistake.

Taken the origins of the Internet into account, I think it was inevitable. Its impact, however, was not so foreseeable.

If someone 20 years ago told me I would have all the knowledge of the world in my pocket, I would think them crazy. Who is to say what will be a reality in 2038? We're definitely living in changing times. I for one do not know what the future will bring with any certainty. But I do think that the time for an eventual technological singularity won't be so close as Ray Kurzweil says it will be (2045), I think there will be both sociological and political hurdles on the way.
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool" --- Richard P. Feynman

Offline SGOS

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2018, 06:34:54 PM »
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There is evidence that we are losing certain types of knowledge. A read a study that young people don't have as keen a sense of direction as their elders because we now depend on GPS to navigate. We have willingly surrendered this cognitive task to technology
This is true.  So true.  Even for avid map readers of the past.  I've had jobs that depended on map reading skills, and of course I still have those skills, but in driving, I have already surrendered this cognitive task.  9 years ago, I bought a new home in a different part of the country, and since I'm out in the woods, I do a lot of driving when I want to do anything besides walk in the woods, but it's all done by GPS.  Consequently, I eventually learned my way around without the GPS, at least for the places I frequently go, and I can now do it by site recognition (Turn right onto 706 by the white church, etc.).  But in 9 years, I'm finally getting the lay of the land.  The town 20 miles away, that I thought was directly south from my house, turns out to almost west.  The next nearest town which I thought was 35 miles south, turns out to be almost east.  I just figured this out last year.  The GPS is oriented FORWARD rather than NORTH, so I never know what direction I'm headed, and I never see anything more than a half mile radius from my position.

This all happened while I occasionally glanced at a state map in my living room.  The point is, I have no need to know what direction a place is to get there anymore.  So that skill has been discarded.

Now sailing across the ocean from Mexico to Hawaii and then to Alaska was all done by GPS, but in addition to GPS, I was sitting directly behind a compass, and the GPS screen was huge compared to the ones in my cars, and much of the time I was zoomed out to encompass 9,000,000 square miles (I just calculated that on my hand held since I long ago forgot how to do multiplication lol), so I could see Hawaii and the West Coast at the same time.  Since I wasn't following the red line, which on the GPS was probably 100 miles wide, I steered with the compass much of the time.  I could have zoomed in close and just followed the arrow, but that seemed kind of lame, so I just used the compass.

But with those car GPS systems, you never know which direction you are going.  Of course there is absolutely no need to know that to get to your destination.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 06:37:24 PM by SGOS »

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2018, 07:21:42 PM »
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Really?  How's that??
My surgery was kibitzed by two surgeons somewhere in England. They were the Pros From Dover for this operation and the VA asked them to observe and suggest as they saw fit. The local surgeons wore spectacles with stereo camera on them. If I had been awake I would have been impressed.
We 'new atheists' have a reputation for being militant, but make no mistake  we didn't start this war. If you want to place blame put it on the the religious zealots who have been poisoning the minds of the  young for a long long time."
PZ Myers

Offline Baruch

Re: Was the internet a mistake?
« Reply #14 on: August 08, 2018, 07:57:52 PM »
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I don't think the Internet was a mistake.

Taken the origins of the Internet into account, I think it was inevitable. Its impact, however, was not so foreseeable.

If someone 20 years ago told me I would have all the knowledge of the world in my pocket, I would think them crazy. Who is to say what will be a reality in 2038? We're definitely living in changing times. I for one do not know what the future will bring with any certainty. But I do think that the time for an eventual technological singularity won't be so close as Ray Kurzweil says it will be (2045), I think there will be both sociological and political hurdles on the way.

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Computers start with the military in general and intel in particular.  The whole point of the internet was Arpanet ... for fight and win WW III for the US against the Soviet Union.  It still is.  The spam email and porn, that make up most of the traffic, is just noise, the real stuff is hidden in plain sight, like steganography.  Google, Wikipedia, Facebook are all CIA fronts ... same as Air America in 1968.  Most of the Earth's population is simply future collateral damage.  Think Alinsky's Rules For Fascists.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2018, 08:11:18 PM by Baruch »
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luu shalmaata luu balt’aata
May you be well, may you be healthy

 

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