This week marks the 20th anniversary of my relationship with my wife. Not our time married, mind you, an alternate, secret date which reflects when we started dating (that I was only just made aware of). It got me thinking: our time together pretty closely correlates to the amount of time that most of us have been aware of and using the internet. Sure, its different now, but if you were in high school or college in the 1990s you had a Yahoo, AOL, Earthlink, Toadnet or other account; if only for school. We all used email and had Netscape, we went to Geocities and might have run Napster or Limewire. There was talk of this thing called Skype, which would allow video calls, now that broadband was finally getting rolled out. Overall, the internet was filled with promise and potential: a new world to build, create and explore. Only good things could come of it.

Now in 2019, the internet is the backbone of many facets of our lives: we socialize on it, pay our taxes, conduct business and order thousands and thousands of brown boxes with blue tape (each a tiny Christmas in of itself).

The iPhone is 12 years old, and in 2019 your car is likely to be a hotspot, your phone a supercomputer, and your life both better and worse for it. Blockbuster is gone: we stream HD on ever present bandwidth that supports my home security system, all of my lights, music in every room, computers, phones and all told 23 devices in my house alone; a house built in 1931. A full-on internet outage is as bad as a power outage used to be: systems stop working, doors do not open, calls are not completed.

Because this would be the longest blog post ever, the concept of this is that we have myriad posts, sharing the perspectives of our team, partners and even clients who contribute as guest posters.

 

 

There are two broad categories: Good things brought about by the Internet; and bad things.

 

Good Things:

 

  1. Communication: Global, cheap, instant. From Skype to Webex, our phones and computers give us hundreds of ways to find, reach out and share with others.
  2. Convenience: Our phones are our new short-term memory, storing hundreds of phone numbers, email and physical addresses, pictures and my favorite: Maps, which work nicely with GPS.
  3. Education: Never before has so much information been available to the common person: Free courses from Yale to Kahn Academy mean that with the internet, there are endless learning opportunities.
  4. Inclusion: Being different has never been easier because the internet allows us to find and create groups of like minded persons where we can have a greater conversation and impact overall.
  5. Real News: With the proliferation of phones there are multiple ways to film, stream, snapchat the events happening around us, AS THEY HAPPEN.
  6. Tech Consolidation: Most technologies do one thing that is clear. What people do not realize is that each discovery can lead to new ones, or better ways of consolidating tech. For example: VR is not possible without fast enough computers, clear enough screens, wireless tracking and lots of bandwidth.
  7. Commerce and the flow of money: Whether I want to buy something I need, or make a donation to a worthwhile charity, the internet of 2019 gives me multiple options and avenues to get there.
  8. A societal memory: In the ‘olden’ days, music would be forgotten. We would hear a song for a summer, then never again. Now we can access archives of news, music, television, books and just about anything else we could want.
  9. New Careers: You can make six figures as a professional social media manager.

 

 

Problems of the Internet Era:

 

  1. Social Media monetization and making its users the product: People who were shocked by Cambridge Analytica and the ensuing scandal should re-read the Facebook terms of use.
  2. Privacy: What does it mean when the government can track me through my Phone, Google can track me through my house/maps/the world; and Amazon knows I have a thing for imported British chips?
  3. Robo Calls/Spam/Web Noise: No more long distance means that the spam call you just got was likely from Latvia.
  4. Fake news: With news coming from everybody, it is inevitable that some people would adjust or modify the ‘news’ to suite their ends. Now it is not just people, but companies and government too.
  5. Election manipulation: We know it happens all the time, but with the internet it is easier and more impactful.
  6. Societal Empathy: It is going away, we are more likely to look for our own group to surround ourselves, than to try and understand or appreciate another group we are not part of.
  7. The monetization of stupidity: Do something stupid enough and you can make money on the internet: Ride your bike off the roof of your house, set your hair on fire, eat a bunch of cinnamon.
  8. Nothing is forgotten: This is on the good list as well, because it cuts both ways. Ask any young person who over shared on a social network, or had nasty content about them posted online.
  9. Lack of access impacts intelligence: We no longer expect to not have access to the internet, so we no longer memorize phone numbers, addresses and other key information. Then the internet goes out and we are roughly as smart as our cat was in the late 1980’s.

 

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is meant to address both the good and bad of the Internet today, a place we call home.

 

Stefan Muirhead
stefan@ignition72.com

 

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