Some of us have been on the internet for well over 10 years. Others are fairly new. This can lead to some pretty amazing differences of opinion when it comes to evaluating the internet and its contributions to the better, more intelligent, more gracious world that was promised at the turn of the century.
I would truly love to hear Toffler’s opinion today about how well his predictions have been implemented.
There was a time when we were led to believe that computers and the internet would be an ecological boon to humanity. They promised to simplify our lives. They promised that we would have a more free time and less clutter. There was a time that we were told that we would be saving tons of paper and entire forests of trees because we’d use so much less paper. Computers would bring people together, allow us to work more efficiently, cut down on waste and open our minds to an awesome new world.
Actually, the promise still can become a reality…. if we once will start to think about how these tools can be used productively. Yup, they’re just tools that we can control and use to our advantage, just like hammers and fire and cars. Some of us got the message. But for some the promise has gone right over their heads – like the jet planes that are long gone before we hear their sonic booms.
It’s really not anybody’s fault. A huge segment of our population grew up in a time when it wasn’t even cool to know how to type. Yup, when I was in high school (before the internet) I wanted to learn to type. But I was put in a college prep course. I was told “You’ll never need to learn how to type. And if you want to learn, then you can do it on your own time. You need to learn Matrix Algebra, Chemistry and Latin.”
It was a time when women – in a vain attempt to avoid being trapped in the secretarial pools and hoping to move into management – simply refused to admit that they knew how to type.
Of course, the influence of those who would use the internet and our computers to bombard us with their advertising and scams hasn’t helped people to feel comfortable. But they will … in fact, I’m hearing a lot of rumblings from companies and marketers who are saying the internet market is fading and they have to go back to direct mail again (hmm, I wonder who killed the goose that was laying the golden egg?)
Of course, there were those who flat out believed that once they graduated from college, they were done with learning…they could begin to reap the rewards in cushy jobs. And some actually did manage for a while.
Some of us, determined to stay ahead of the curve, jumped on the technology bandwagom with a vengeance.
Many others can thank our children for leading us – some of us kicking and screaming – into the bright new world of technology. Our kids took to the internet much better than many of the older generations. It wasn’t because they were smarter and their elders were dumber. Our kids just didn’t know any better.
They approach(ed) technology as a playtoy. They had no fear…any more than they had any fear of getting behind the wheel of a car racing down the freeway at 70-80 miles per hour. While Mom and Dad (more cautious as a result of many more years of experience and understanding cause and effect) tend to be deathly afraid they might break these newly acquired, and very expensive, investments, their kids charge full steam ahead.
Be all that as it may, computers and the internet are here to stay. Hopefully, the government will keep its hands off and let it be the wonderful free tool it was designed to be — all that it can be.
Sure there are challenges that need to be addressed – and they will be… in time. Like any tool, they have to be used properly. And it takes practice to learn how. In the wrong hands, they can cause great damage. They can be time wasters, tools for unwanted invasion into our private lives and sources of stress and frustration. They can be used to lure our children into danger. They can be bottomless pits for addictive personalities who can’t say “no” to the latest and greatest gimmick.
Be that as it may, just think of the wonderful power our computers and the internet has put at our fingertips…
We can play games — all the old favorites and new ones. We can do puzzles, play alone, against the computer or with peers and we don’t even need to worry about losing the pieces.
We can save countless forests – by learning to read on screen and resisting the urge to print out everything. (Heck, who wants to print out all those advertisements and company brochures anyway?)
Why, we have an internet public library now and countless classics and popular books are already available for our online reading pleasure.
We can delete all those unwanted and offensive emails that get dumped on us — better yet, we can set our computers to do the deleting for us, automatically. We can ask for help on everything from how cook an egg and potty train our toddlers to how to build a computer from scratch and beyond…and get honest expert advice and recommendations from others who have “been there, done that”.
We can get our news from worldwide media, when and where it happens. Better yet, we can watch our leaders in action We don’t even need to wait until the media tells us what they said and did (check out https://houselive.gov/ for example)
We can tell companies and politicians what we want and expect from them and exercise our rights to say NO when they’re off base. Google, Dogpile and other search engines put their websites, email addresses and phone numbers at our fingertips almost instantaneously. We can be heard, loud and clear! And keep speaking up until we are heard.
We can literally let our fingers do the shopping and become very savvy shoppers at the same time… check the quality of the product we’re buying and get the best deals available in a worldwide market.
We can save gas and time, cut down rush hour traffic, and reduce their impact on global warming…using our computers and the internet as they were designed to be used… just as soon as we get past the obsessive need to control what everyone else is doing and learn to treat each other as mature, responsible people who do know how to take pride in our work.
We can get acquainted with other peoples and cultures and build a peaceful world network where friends around the world talk intelligently with each other and work cooperatively together.
We CAN learn to control these powerful tools. They are, after all, not a whole lot different than cars and microwaves….machines with replaceable parts that we can manage for great good.