Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In Defense of The Internet (Brought on by reddit. It's been ages since I wrote anything argumentative)

You know, we whine about technology all the time, particularly the internet. WHY? Right, I’ll hand it to you, it can suck your time, make you unproductive, encourage the banal, even make actual face-to-face interaction difficult if you use it enough. A lot of the other technology we use can have similar pitfalls. Cell phones/texting can degrade your grammar/writing skills. Fast cars result in devastating crashes. Advanced medicine can also be used for warfare purposes. But let me just take the four things I mentioned, and compare how they make our lives different from say, 150 years ago.
We’ll go backwards. Advanced medicine. Imagine a world where perhaps a third of your siblings die before you’re 12. I mean it. Imagine that. If you have two brothers, one is dead. A simple infection can kill you. Diseases are transmitted lightning fast for lack of vaccines or access to them. Surgery is terrifying and primitive. No Vicodin here.
Fast cars. We’ll keep with the health issue. Ambulances. Ask any doctor, and they will tell you that minutes can decide whether someone lives or dies. I could give you any number of anecdotes illustrating the fact. Now imagine being a doctor with nothing but a fast horse. I know, ambulances are sometimes too late as well. But you cannot tell me the horse was more efficient. Life is fundamentally, completely interconnected. That person on the gurney might have been your soulmate.
A plane can drop bombs and be gone before anyone knows what’s happening. It can also get supplies to natural disaster victims in a matter of hours, food to desperate people before they starve.
Texting. We are going with convenience here. It is simply a pain in the bum to make ten calls trying to meet with someone, changing the plans. It takes half that time to text, and you’re enjoying your friend’s company twice as fast. Just phones in general: how would you like to wait for months for mail, imagining all the things that could have happened to your faraway friend in that time. Even the Pony
Express, crazy cool though they were, cannot hold a candle to le telephone.
Now, the Internet. This, to me, is the most complex one, because it is so incredibly multi-faceted. It is ridiculously easy to air your opinions, enlighten or deceive people, make them laugh, steal from them, inspire them, we could go on and on. Behold, I’m doing it now. I think the bottom line of it is that we need to stop acting as though the Internet, and not humanity, has problems. The internet is just a bunch of code and electricity and invisible stuff, fundamentally. It is a THING. It has no conscience, no compassion.
So there are a lot of idiots on the web. They were there before! You just didn’t know they were an idiot. It merely makes it easier for them to inflict idiocy on everybody else. So there is obscenity and racism on the Internet. Have you ever really studied Shakespeare? Have you ever heard a bawdy old bar song? Seen certain ancient art? HEARD OF THE CIVIL WAR??? They didn’t have internet. It’s nothing new. And may I point out that nobody is making you look. Nobody is stopping you, but they are not forcing you to click on the link your conscience doesn’t like.
So those are the cons. Here are the pros. The internet allows you to quickly and thoroughly research to an incredible degree. I know there is false information out there, but don’t tell me you can’t still cross-check things. It allows you to understand much more fully what is going on in other countries and how such things affect you. As previously stated, it brings the interconnectedness of everything to light. It allows you to share interesting things, to spread ideas, to connect with people on the other side of the world,. It can emphasize the truth that there's only one kind of people. People. That’s it. They are fundamentally just like you. It is often incredibly conducive to creativity and art, if you are willing to search out the right people and websites.
I’m not saying we’re better than our ancestors. They did great things and terrible things with the tools they had. Our times are not better, they are not worse. They are just that, ours. You can’t time travel. Live where you are, and quit whining about it. As Eugene Hutz so wisely says: “There were never any good old days,/they are today, they are tomorrow./It’s a stupid thing we say, cursing tomorrow with sorrow."

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