New mediums of communication may transform daily life, but they cannot transform life. They promise only to mediate, albeit in new and exciting ways, the same old good and evil that make up every human being.
An article published in the recent edition of Foreign Policy titled, Think Again: The Internet, explores how the internet changed our lives but failed to change us. No surprise.
In the days when the Internet was young, our hopes were high. As with any budding love affair, we wanted to believe our newfound object of fascination could change the world. The Internet was lauded as the ultimate tool to foster tolerance, destroy nationalism, and transform the planet into one great wired global village. Writing in 1994, a group of digital aficionados led by Esther Dyson and Alvin Toffler published a manifesto modestly subtitled “A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age” that promised the rise of “‘electronic neighborhoods’ bound together not by geography but by shared interests.” Nicholas Negroponte, then the famed head of the MIT MediaLab, dramaticallypredicted in 1997 that the Internet would shatter borders between nations and usher in a new era of world peace.
Well, the Internet as we know it has now been around for two decades, and it has certainly been transformative. The amount of goods and services available online is staggering. Communicating across borders is simpler than ever: Hefty international phone bills have been replaced by inexpensive subscriptions to Skype, while Google Translate helps readers navigate Web pages in Spanish, Mandarin, Maltese, and more than 40 other languages. But just as earlier generations were disappointed to see that neither the telegraph nor the radio delivered on the world-changing promises made by their most ardent cheerleaders, we haven’t seen an Internet-powered rise in global peace, love, and liberty.
And we’re not likely to. Many of the transnational networks fostered by the Internet arguably worsen — rather than improve — the world as we know it.
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