In almost 20 years of existence, the internet has become the most powerful information tool since Gutenberg’s printing press, but also the most instructive and threatening.
The experience of internet has shown how the trails of information that we (particulars, companies) leave across the web are not only redefining privacy, but also are creating feedback loops that may be narrowing our horizons, rather than opening our eyes to be new. It has also shown how we (individual, company) think and are. Clearly at beginning, the internet has brought about a lot of transformation in what information we have at our hands. It is very much empowering; no one now has the monopoly of information: everyone has the freedom to participate in the library of knowledge collected online, by accessing them or creating them. Anyone who has historically held control over the distribution – government, media – is repositioning itself vis-a-vis internet.
But it is always dangerous, however, to be blinded by idealism. The internet is, with no doubt, a transformative technology on a par with the printing press, but it’s difficult to believe that it will bring the end of inequality or will erase international conflict. In fact, some people have learned how to manipulate the internet’s power for their ends.
The internet becomes something considered as dangerous when it is used to radicalized new recruits to fundamentalist causes, to attack a country’s banks and institutions or to promote propaganda within authoritarian states. The debate becomes more personal when we consider how the use of this overwhelming commercial space is transforming what privacy means now. As we cross the internet, our personal information is captured and manipulated. We enjoy services for free, but our actions are analyzed to generate precise targeted advertising that funds companies behind the websites. When we search on our computers at home or at work, we may thing that we are only transacting only with our machine. In fact, when we type a query in Google’s search box (for example), we are divulging our needs to a technology which all over the world, with hundred of eyeballs trying to match the perfect advertising to your search terms. Yet, we still think it is an oracle, giving it personal questions.
Our relationship with the internet is a synergy: as it grows, so will we. And as it draws us into its networks and hyperlinks, we will shape them in our global image. It is the most revolutionary evolution that we as a planet have ever participated in.