The Internet’s impact on culture, business, and politics is vast, for sure.
It is becoming a bigger part of our lives everyday, making life more convenient but also taking away the human element of living in the moment and making relationships more superficial.
But where actually is it take us?
To answer that question is difficult, because the Internet is not simply a set of interconnecting links and protocols connecting packet switched networks, but it is also a construct of imagination, an inkblot test into which everybody projects their desires, fears and fantasies. Some see enlightenment and education. Others see pornography and gambling. Some see sharing and collaboration; others see e-commerce and profit.
The purpose of this post however is not to highlight all that the Internet has achieved or all that it will achieve.
It is to ask the question is it good for a Democratic World.?
We know that it is exposing Capitalism for what it is and Communism for what it wants, along with the comity of Nations. It is making us ask what a well-functioning democratic order requires.
It is creating a world people’s voice that could be manipulated in the extreme.
You might think with all the other problems the world faces this it is of little importance. You would be wrong as it is shaping the Future.
As a result of the Internet and other technological developments, many people are increasingly engaged in a process of “personalization” that limits their exposure to topics and points of view of their own choosing.
The growing power of consumers to “filter” what they see and the servers to dish up what they want you to see is from the standpoint of democracy, a mixed blessing.
But in a heterogeneous society, such a system requires something other than free, or publicly unrestricted, individual choices. Without shared experiences, a heterogeneous society will have a more difficult time addressing social problems and understanding one another.
People should be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance.
As a matter of technological feasibility, our communications market is moving rapidly toward this apparently utopian picture which is a far cry from reality.
It is happening on the Internet where private corporate interests rule, money calls the shots, and we the people are seen as mere subjects to be controlled.
We are moving into “Corporatism which is the halfway point on the road to full-blown fascism.
Consider this: It is estimated that the 2016 presidential election in the USA could cost as much a $5 billion, more than double what was spent getting Obama re-elected in 2012.
We are allowing ourselves to become fearful, controlled, pacified zombies, Screen watchers.
The internet is introducing a system of perfect individual control reducing the importance of the “public sphere” and of common spaces in general. It is increasing people’s ability to wall themselves off from topics and opinions that they would prefer to avoid.
I am sure that if new technologies diminish the number of common spaces, and reduce, for many, the number of unanticipated, unchosen exposures, something important will have been lost.
Because the Internet has changed the quantity and range of information available to citizens, it directly influences how societies evaluate government performance—in all parts of the globe.
It is Changing Democratic Attitudes throughout the World.
It is altered the informational relationship between governments and their citizens.
In how information is packaged, how that information can be physically transmitted and the networks that determine who can send and receive those transmissions. This has meant the largest decentralization in communication capacity and increase in expressive capacity that we have ever seen in human history—particularly in nations where access to political information tended to be very limited, often due to strict government censorship of traditional media.
Thus, the expansion of the Internet has significant ramifications on the amount and type of information that individuals use to evaluate their governments.
The global nature of the Internet opens a larger window for individuals to better view how governments function in other countries, particularly the advanced democracies that are most visible on the Internet. This provides users with a more realistic and globally consistent scale by which to make comparative evaluations about how well their own government functions.
As a result, the Internet is playing a central role in shaping the political evaluations and resultant satisfaction that citizens have toward their governments.
This is significant because the impetus to act politically—from day-to-day civic activities to the more extreme cases of protest and revolution—begins in the minds of men and women.
An understanding of this mix will permit us to obtain a better sense of what makes for a well-functioning system of free expression and to address the serious dangers that are hidden within the Internet.
For example the creation of perfect and splendid isolation, or a process of getting over disagreements, or the undermining our values to the detriment of the all of us.
The reasons why the Internet is supposed to strengthen democracy include the following.
1.The Internet lowers the entry barriers to political participation.
2. It strengthens political dialogue.
3. It creates community.
4. It cannot be controlled by government.
5. It increases voting participation.
6. It permits closer communication with officials.
7. It spreads democracy world-wide.
In contrast, the Internet, far from helping democracy, is a threat to it precisely because the Internet is powerful and revolutionary, it also affects, and even destroys, all traditional institutions–including–democracy.
To deny this potential is to invite a backlash when the ignored problems eventually emerge.
So why will there be problems?
Because more than half of communications traffic is data rather than voice.
Because it has been liberated from the terror of the PC as its gateway into the world of Smart Phones.
Our smartphones have become Swiss army knife–like appliances that include a dictionary, calculator, web browser, email, Game Boy, appointment calendar, voice recorder, guitar tuner, weather forecaster, GPS, texter, tweeter, Facebook updater, and flashlight.
Because a politically disenfranchised digital underclass is emerging.
Because with the commercialization of the Internet things previously unreachable are now available through our personal computers.
Because cars will be chatting with highways. Suitcases will complain to airlines. Front doors will check in with police departments. Pacemakers will talk to hospitals. Television sets will connect to video servers. Keeping this aggregated information in the cloud allows researchers and developers to examine the data and identify “digital bio markers” to inform prevention, diagnoses and treatment in a constellation of brain and mental disorders that are now mostly defined by subjective symptoms.
Because it is making Politics More Expensive and Raise Entry Barriers.
Because it is making reasoned and informed political dialog more difficult.
Because it disconnects as much as it connects.
With the increase of smartphones in recent years many have all griped about the narcissism of people who spend all their time on social networks, text messaging at a dinner table or taking photos of the food they eat.
Because it is facilitating the International Manipulation of Domestic Politics.
Because it will essentially making the world a global village with vast deserts of highly visible inequalities which would not be possible without the internet.
And this is why ubiquitous, scalable technology such as the Internet must be part of the solution if we are to avoid an information-choked societies.
Because it is creating a mental fog or scrambled thinking in a kind of weird, impersonal cyber way.
Constant multitasking is taking its toll.
Although we think we’re doing several things at once, multitasking, this is a powerful and diabolical illusion. Ironically, multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient. The flow of information can be overwhelming and lead to “paralysis by analysis.” Chronic multi-tasking can make us less productive, not more. Increased choices and uncertainty can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
Because it is causing fragmentation, increasing cost, and declining value of “hard” information. Our brains are busier than ever before. We’re assaulted with facts, pseudo facts, jibber-jabber, and rumour, all posing as information.
Make no mistake: email-, Facebook- and Twitter-checking constitute a neural addiction.
It’s naïve to cling to the image of the early Internet – – nonprofit, cooperative, and free.
You might say that the CONTROVERSY ITSELF is superficial; as the obvious reality is the internet and technology are not only here to stay, but constantly evolving and permeating more of our lives.
The real conversation should be how we can best use the Internet in smarter ways that help us to monitor and enhance the brain, and how can we actively prepare to manage information overload.
“Big Data” applications are becoming available and capable of helping personalize brain health tools at the individual level, based on both past data and information gathered over time. This, in turn, is already changing research and preventive health practices. Tablet-based screenings can be instrumental in diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and MCI.
Mobile devices are already entering the sports world, with cognitive tests for concussions. Institutions like AAA have begun large-scale web-based assessments and cognitive training that works on driver’s cognitive skills in order to become safer (and less expensive to insure) drivers.
Now, every new technology presents a fair set of challenges. It is important to note that these are quasi-universal features of modern life, not the type of conditions of disorders that our medical system is set up to address.
There is talk about how social networks and new devices like the Google Glass visor have diluted privacy, smart phone apps “turning us into sociopaths” and the danger of turning over our daily routines to new technology like Apple’s Siri digital assistant.
The trick will be in properly preparing and guiding people to adapt to the mental demands of a modern society. Fortunately it is us, not the Internet, who have a plastic and resilient brain.
My conclusion is that information does not necessarily weaken Democracy or the state but electronic voting will not strengthen democracy as it will be manipulated by Big data.
So is the internet good for the brain?
If the analytical and collaborative power of the internet is used properly to monitor and enhance brain functionality in a cost-effective, scalable manner the answer can be a resounding “yes”
At the moment it is having a negative impact on our societies having a polarizing effect on democracies. Although it has the capacity to bring people together, too often the associations formed online comprise self-selecting groups with little diversity of opinion.
Free speech on the Internet is not enough to ensure a healthy democracy. The conception of free speech emerging in today’s communications market emphasizes “an architecture of control…by which each of us can select a [customized] free-speech package.”
Google News feed filters out the information we receive. It is a product of what information we demand.
We should create twenty-first-century equivalents of the kinds of public spaces and institutions where diverse people will congregate.
If we are to avoid western democracy being hobbled by disengagement, falling turnout, and disconnection with citizens we must counter the growing power of consumers to “filter” what they “see” will create information ghettos and isolated citizens.
The Internet changes expectations. The Avaaz 41 million-strong online internet community is a prime example.
It lowers the economic and information cost of group formation and the internet lends itself to this type of direct connection, and hence is likely to create demands for more direct forms of democracy. But the way the Internet empowers people – by giving them huge choice over the information they receive – can make them less likely to engage in a free debate of ideas.
Because there will be neither leaders nor agendas to make Governments sit down with their detractors.
Citizens can use new media to avoid, rather than embrace, new ideas or common experiences.
The Internet, as a highly democratic and participatory medium, can perform democratic wonders. But the bien pensant e-Democracy consensus is wrong and dangerous if it thinks this will happen automatically. All of these facets are critical if we are to thrive at a human.
Let us hope the consensus can be remade.
So let’s hear your voice.