The internet, and I include the world wide web in that word, has become a messy, chaotic, unruly mess. Navigating a news media site to actually get to the article you want to read has become a nightmare. Streaming services are taking us back to the age of regular cable TV with ads. Social Media platforms have lost sight of the humans and started chasing each others algorithms. They’re failing. The commercial internet was built in a chaotic way from the start, as most free markets are. And while this can all be very frustrating, it also reflects humanity. This may actually be good.
Humans have always been messy and haphazard in the sociocultural systems that we’ve built. Throughout history we’ve tried many political systems. Much of the ideas of the Enlightenment that drove Western European thinking, societal and political models actually came from Native American societiessuch as the Mi’kmaq and Algonkians, especially human rights. The technologies that evolved from different cultures and became digital did so in chaotic ways. The internet itself is the combining of a number of pre-existingtechnologies.
We have this notion, because it’s easier for our minds to process, that big social changes happened overnight. One day we’re picking berries and the next we were planting berry bushes. In reality, it took thousands of years for agriculture to evolve. Or one day we just switched from feudalism to democracy or communism. Political processes and today’s dominant models took hundreds of thousands of years. And we’re still figuring this out.
It took the internet nearly 40 years to become mainstream in consumer society. But once capitalism got hold, well, the rest is history. The internet is, perhaps, the first global scale sociocultural system humans have ever built. It is, in a way, magical. It is humans applying language to metal, spawning new ideas and solving problems unlike ever before. It is chaos theory at work. It is wonderful.
The internet has become the warp and woof of our global society. Social media, the technology that enables humans to ideate unlike ever before. Cave drawings on steroids. Through social media, we are sharing culture, many cultures. Humans use culture as our very means of survival. Technologies have evolved to where they are because they’re part of our cultures.
It is only now that governments around the world are really starting to understand the true implications of the internet. Some have been faster to realize this than others. Some, such as authoritarian governments like China and Russia have used it to control their societies. Democracies see the internet as a bastion of free speech and capitalism. Other governments are somewhere in between.
It is absolute chaos. And it’s going to be for a while yet. Perhaps it always will be. The very nature of the internet is a reflection of human cultures and societies and it has become deeply integrated to our current state of affairs. We are constantly experimenting with it as well. And that is part of its magic.
The internet has enabled us to invent cryptocurrencies, blockchain, scale Artificial Intelligence, explore new ways of building more egalitarian ways of working and living and likely saved us from global economic failure during the pandemic.
The internet however, is poised to undergo some rather significant changes in the coming decade. Changes that will impact us al in both big and small ways. There is a shift underway. It is perhaps, inevitable just as the evolution of human society is inevitable. We have been adapting to the internet and our digital lives for a very short time. Our brains are having a hard time keeping pace. This will get harder in the short term.