Lo and behold: The Internet!
A history of sorts...
If we take a moment to stop and think about just how vast the internet has become in such a short span of time (60-some-odd years), it’s staggering. It has become part of our daily lives and its integration into the modern world is practically seamless and feels like it all evolved in the blink of an eye.
Answers to questions are received within moments. You no longer have to make that special trip to the library 30 minutes away to use microfilm readers for research. You aren’t even required to be logged in to your computer to do these things. It can all be done from your handy-dandy micro-computer, the smartphone.
The internet gives us access to fast communication platforms, diverse forms of entertainment from games to streaming networks, and feeds us news and a wealth of information happening in real-time.
IT HAS BECOME OMNIPOTENT.
It has made life easier in a sense, but at what cost?
If the internet shut down today, perhaps riots and mass chaos would ensue because we’ve forgotten how to live before it — before the life of instant gratification.
What will be the existential impact of the internet on humans?
In the 2016 documentary, Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, filmmaker and Director Werner Herzog followed the life of the internet from its past to present and questionable future. Along the way, he talks with experts and amateurs about it (and other avenues of technology such as robotics, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, etc.) and questions its impact on humans.
I was engrossed by the investigation and history of it all.
The Past: The Revolution
The University of California, Los Angeles.
IEEE MILESTONE IN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING AND COMPUTING
Birthplace of the Internet, 1969
At 10:30 p.m., 29 October 1969, the first ARPANET message was sent from this UCLA site to the Standford Research Institute. Based on packet switching and dynamic resource allocation, the sharing of information digitally from this first node of ARPANET launched the Internet revolution.
—plaque in a science building at UCLA
The message sent that night in 1969 was from the UCLA campus and the recipient was the Standford Research Institute in Menlo Park 400 miles away. The goal was to log in from one computer to another. To do so, they needed to type in “LOG” and the computer would finish with “IN” automatically.
The data entry for this momentous hour is, funnily enough, written on a paper notepad and it states that the first message sent through the internet is “LO” because the computer at SRI crashed before getting to the “G.”
“Lo” and behold: The Internet!
A decade later, the entirety of people on and using the internet was kept in a directory about an inch thick, disclosing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of each person. The idea of keeping an internet directory today doesn’t sound fathomable with its abundance of users.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s, though, that the internet became groundbreaking when the World Wide Web was invented and everybody could go online and “be connected.”
Even though this newfangled, innovative technology had started to weave itself into our existence, these were slower times, so they felt. Computers had slower processors, hustle culture didn’t exist, and new adventures felt promising every morning. Maybe I perceived life this way because I was simply a naive kid at the time, but I wouldn’t trade that mindset for anything.
The internet was on the verge of changing our existence and the virtual world was coming to the forefront.
The Present: The Disputed Darkness
“In any frontier, before the law gets there, there’s always people seeking to take advantage of the system.”
—Sam Curry, Security Analyst
Nobody is held accountable and this shows true character.
We’ve arrived in the timeline when it’s become easier to be cruel to others because words and actions can be said and done anonymously from behind a screen with no subsequential repercussions. These bloodthirsty fiends don’t give a shit about you and, at the end of the day, people feel more isolated than connected on both ends.
There has always been evil in the world. The internet just gave it a bigger platform.
The internet has become a safe-haven for some and a Hell for others. Hiding behind its walls has brought out the worst in some and the best in others. One man’s tool is another man’s weapon, so it goes.
But not only have human emotions been damaged by hateful words, physical and mental needs have been neglected.
In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults (aged 18+) worldwide were overweight, making that 39% of the adult population. Yes, food is a huge factor, as is the internet. These statistics are alarming and considering this was 5 years ago, I’m betting the numbers have only increased due to more jobs having moved online thus causing more inactive lifestyles.
Leading such unhealthy physical lifestyles can cause unhealthy and inactive mental lifestyles. We’ve become lazy in our critical, independent, and creative thinking skills. Our finesse is deteriorating because the internet does our bidding for us.
“I deeply regret the fact that deep critical thinking and imaginative thinking, that creative thinking is lost. In my opinion, computers and, in some sense, the internet are the worst enemy of deep critical thinking. Youth of today are using machines to basically replace their examination of the things they’re observing. They don’t understand what they’re looking at or what they’re hearing or what they’re learning. They depend upon the internet to tell them and decipher it. They look at numbers instead of ideas. They fail to understand concepts, and this is a problem.”
—Leonard Kleinrock, Internet Pioneer, UCLA
Society has begun to blur the line between virtual life and real life. Awareness in the world of reality has become abnormal, such as common sense is no longer common. And this will need to be fixed to create a better internet for a better society.
The Future: The Paradox
What will be the existential impact of the internet on humans?
Maybe we’ll be more connected than ever in an optimistic respect. Maybe the death of privacy will be the demise of ourselves. Maybe we’ll have computer screens ingrained in our hands by the year 2073 like in the film What Happened to Monday.
Who knows, but I fear once it’s capable of dreaming, we’ll have reached a Borg society. We are being desensitized and resistance will become futile.
So resist while you still can and don’t let your cognitive skills be destroyed. Once these skills are gone, we’re a pawn in someone else’s game.
Slow down and make conscious decisions about your needs because the decisions you make will determine your life.
“The internet is a reflection of our society and that mirror is going to be reflecting what we see. If we do not like what we see in that mirror the problem is not to fix the mirror, we have to fix society.”
—Vint Cerf, a.k.a “Father of the Internet”
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this rambling. Feel free to leave a comment, discuss, and if you found this interesting, please consider sharing with friends and family.