This may seem like a sharp departure from the usual meat of this blog, but humor me for a moment.
Twenty-five years ago today, Tim Berners-Lee (now SIR Tim Berners-Lee), opened the Internet to the general public. It was done without much fanfare, and with no knowledge of just what a hornet's nest was unleashed.
I've been around long enough to remember that my first foray onto the World Wide Web was via a text browser. Yes, there was a time before graphical user interfaces. How times have changed.
It's been 25 years since the Web's debut, and what a world it has created. It's as if the printing revolution had been recreated, but its impact increased by a factor of 100. Even two decades and more out from its creation, the full ramifications of the Web are yet to be felt or discerned.
One can't even point to what facet of human endeavor the Web has impacted the most. It has impacted them all. It has made a world which even 25 years ago seemed vast and incomprehensible fit onto a silicon chip. A flood occurs in Bangladesh, and within a few minutes there's a hashtag on Twitter. The world is more interconnected than at any time in its history.
It is also more disjointed. The forces of separation and chauvinism use the Internet to find kindred souls. Jihadis, white supremacists, extremists of all sorts fester on the Internet. And where before they would be isolated and atomized, they find strength in numbers in this virtual landscape, with results we can all see.
But, the Internet also amplifies the power of the voiceless. Black Lives Matter wouldn't exist, at least not in the same shape or with the same urgency, had there been no internet. The wanton murder of African Americans by US police forces would be swept under the rug as usual save for the proliferation of smart phones connected to the internet. Barack Obama was twice elected President partly on his ability to utilize social media—I'm sure Sir Tim didn't foresee Twitter or Facebook when he flipped the switch. Just as movements for injustice swarm the cyberspace, so do movements for justice, equality, and peace. As with all human creations, the good comes with the bad. But, on reflection, the internet seems to be more a force for good, as things which were once hidden are now revealed. Even having the world's bad agents using the internet to organize exposes their perfidy, allowing for counteraction.
So, happy Internaut Day. The only reason you're reading this essay is because of it.
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