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What to know about the net

Funny thing was happening to us on the journey to the future. The internet went from being an exotic thing to a boring utility, much like mains water or electricity – and we didn’t even notice. We ended up becoming completely dependent on a system that is utterly obsessed. You think I exaggerate about the dependence? Then, ask Estonia as one of the most internet-dependent nations on earth, which in 2007 was shut down for two whole weeks because of an incessant attack on its network infrastructure. Or imagine what it would be like if, one day, you suddenly found yourself in a position where you couldn’t book flights, transfer money from your account to your bank, check the timetables of buses, send emails and search Google or make calls to your family with Skype purchase music from Apple or books from Amazon, buy or sell things on eBay, watch clips from YouTube or BBC shows on iPlayer or perform the many other things that are now almost as normal as breathing.
The internet has slowly enshrined itself into our lives, but we seem to be remarkably unreflective about it. It’s not due to a lack of knowledge about the internet; on the contrary, we’re awash with the things. It’s just that we do not know what it all is. We’re in the state once described by that legendary cyberspace expert, Manuel Castells, as “informed confusion”.

Mainstream media doesn’t do much here, since the majority of media coverage of the net is negative. It may be essential for our children’s education they acknowledge, but it’s filled with online predators, seeking children to “groom” for abuse. Google is supposedly “making us stupid” as well as destroying our focus into the bargain. It’s also allegedly leading to an increase in plagiarism. File sharing is killing music, the internet is killing newspapers and Amazon is taking over bookshops. The company is making a mockery of legal injunctions and the web is full of distortions, lies and half-truths. Social networks fuel the proliferation of vicious “flash mobs” which ambush innocent columnists such as Jan Moir. And so on.

This could lead an observer who isn’t in the loop to ask what if the internet was an absolute disaster then how is it that 27 percent of the population (or around 1.8 billion people) use it happily every day, and billions want an internet connection?

What can we do towards a more balanced view of the net ? What do you really need to know in order to understand how to comprehend the internet phenomenon? After thinking about it for a long time I’m convinced that all you require is some basic concepts that, when combined, drastically reduce the confusion that Castells writes so eloquently.

There are many theories, but how many? In 1956, scientist George Miller published a famous study that appeared in Psychological Review. Its title was “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Limits to our Capacity for processing information” and in it Miller set out to summarise some of his earlier studies that sought to measure the limits of the short-term memory of individuals. In each of the cases, he noted that the effective “channel capacity” lay between five and nine possibilities. Miller did not draw any definitive conclusions from this, however, and contented himself by merely conjecturing that “the recurring sevens might represent something profound and significant or could be just a coincidence”. That, he thought, was that.

But Miller had underestimated the appetite of the popular culture for anything that had the word “magical’ within the name. Instead of being seen as a mere aggregater of research results, Miller found himself identified as a sage — a discoverer of a deep truth concerning human beings. “My problem,” he wrote, “is that I’ve been subject to a shaming by an number. For seven years this number has been following me around, entered in my most private data and has also frightened me on the pages of the most widely read publications… Either there really is something unusual about this number or maybe I have delusions of being targeted for a snare.”

In actual fact, the basic idea that Miller formulated in his 1956 paper has been able to stand the test of time. The concept is that our short-term memory is able to hold between five and 9 “chunks” of information at any time (here a chunk is defined as an “meaningful unit”). When trying to determine how many major thoughts about the internet would be relevant to the majority of readers it was reasonable to go with a amount of. Then, here they are.

The most interesting thing of living through a revolution is that it can be very difficult to see what’s happening. Imagine what it must have been like living in the city in St Petersburg in 1917, prior to the time that Lenin and the Bolsheviks eventually took over power. It’s obvious that significant events are on the horizon as there are many kinds of contradicting theories and rumours and theories, but no one is sure how things will play out. Only with back-of-the-scenes knowledge will we get an accurate picture of what actually transpired. However, the clarity that hindsight can provide is not always accurate as it doesn’t reflect how confusing things appeared to people at the time.

We’re in the same boat today. We’re living through a radical transformation in our media environment. As we don’t have benefit of hindsight we don’t really know where it’s going to take us. The thing we’ve learned from the history of communications technology is that people tend to overestimate the immediate impact of the technology advancements and undervalue their long-term implications.

We can see this all around us when aspiring savants commentators, writers, consultants and visionaries spout their own theories about what internet technology could mean for business, publishing and retailing, education, politics and the future of the civilisation as we recognize it. Often, these interpretations are transformed into catchy slogans such as memes, aphorisms, or memes: data “wants for free”; the “long length” represents the future for retail “Facebook has taken all control over the web” etc. These types of statements are simply short-term extrapolations from yesterday’s or today’s experience. They tell us little about where the revolution we’re currently experiencing is headed. The problem is: can we improve our performance — without falling into the trap of trying to appear to have that we are omniscient?

This is an interesting idea that is: why not try to determine if there’s anything to be learned from the past? Since mankind has experienced changes in its communications environment, that was triggered through the invention of printing through movable type. This technology revolutionized the world . In fact, it shaped the cultural environment where the majority of us have been raised. The best part about it, from the point of view of this article is that it allows us to see it with the benefit of the hindsight. We can see what actually happened.

A thought experiment

Therefore, let’s carry out what Germans call a Gedankenexperiment -A thought experiment. Imagine that the internet is the same kind of change in our communication environment as that wrought by printing. What could we learn from this experiment?

The first Bibles printed appeared in 1455 from the press created by Johannes Gutenberg in the German city of Mainz. Now imagine that the year is 1472 — ie 17 years following 1455. Imagine, in addition, being the equivalent of a Mori pollster sitting on the bridge in Mainz with the clipboard in your hand and asking passers-by a few questions. This is question number four on a scale of 1 to 5, with one indicates “Not at all likely” and five indicates “Very likely” How likely do you think Gutenberg’s invention would:

(a) Subvert the authority of the Catholic church?

(b) Power the Reformation?

(c) Let the rise of science today?

(d) Create entirely new professions and social classes?

(e) Change our conceptions regarding “childhood” as an unprotected time in one’s life?

On a scale from the one-to-5 scale! One only has to ask questions to see the absurdity of the notion. Printing had indeed all these effects however, it is impossible that anyone back in 1472 in Mainz (or any other place for that matter) could have anticipated the extent of its effects. be.

I’m writing this in the year 2010 that’s 17 years since the web was made mainstream. If I’m correct about the net effecting an alteration in our communication environment, similar to the one created by Gutenberg It’s utterly unreasonable for me (or anyone else) to pretend to know what its long-term impact will be. The truth is that we’re not sure.

The problem is, that everybody affected by the net is demanding an answer immediately. The print journalists, as well as the employers of them are eager to know what’s likely to change their business. Also, the music business publishing, television networks, publishers radio stations, government departments, travel agents as well as universities, telcos airlines, libraries and lots of other. The sad truth is that all of them will have to learn to be patient. And for some, by the time we’ve got the answers to their questions, it’ll be too late.

The most frequent — and surprisingly popular — myth is the idea that internet access and web are the same thing. They’re not. The best way to grasp this is via an analogy with railways. Consider the internet as a track and signalling infrastructure that runs everything. In a rail network various kinds of traffic depend on the infrastructureexpress trains that are high-speed slow-stopping trains, freight trains, commuter trains and (sometimes) specialists in train maintenance or repair.

On the internet, web pages are just one of the numerous kinds of traffic that can be tracked on virtual tracks. Other kinds of traffic comprise music files that are exchanged through peer-to peer networking, or through the iTunes store or movie files moving through BitTorrent; software updates; email; instant messaging; conversations with a phone via Skype as well as other VoIP (internet phone) services streaming audio and video; and other stuff that’s too complex to list.

And (here’s the most important part) there will definitely be other types of traffic, ones we’ve never even dreamed of yet, running on the internet in ten years’ time.

What you need to remember is that the internet is massive and crucial However, it’s only one of many things that are powered by the internet. The internet is much larger and much more significant than anything that travels on it.

Make this distinction clear and you’ll be on your way to wisdom.

One of the things that confuses (and the most) users of the internet is its capacity for disruption. At one point, you’ve got a stable, profitable business that includes, say, being the CEO of a record label; then the next the industry is struggling to ensure survival, which means you’re having to pay a ransom of king’s pound to intellectual property lawyers in a futile struggle to stop the flow. Maybe you’re a newspaper, wondering how a solid income stream from classified advertisements might have gone out of the window or a librarian at a university asking why students are using only Google now. How can this stuff happen? And how does it happen so fast?

The answer lies deep in the structure of the network. When it was being created in the late 1970s, Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn as the main designers faced two daunting tasks: how to design an integrated system that could seamlessly connect lots of other networks, as well as how to create a network that is future-proof. The answer they had to come up with was shockingly simple. The answer was founded on two principles. The first is that there should be no central ownership or control – no institution which would decide who should join the network or what it could be utilized to serve. In addition, the network must not be designed to be suitable for any specific application. This led to the idea of a “simple” networking system which could do only one thing – accept data packets at one end, and then do its best to deliver them to their destination. The network was neutral regarding the content of those packets – they might be fragments from email, porn videos phones conversations, images… This network was not concerned, and would treat them in a similar way.

In implementing these twin protocols, Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn made what they believed was a global machine for springing unexpected events. Their idea was that should you have the idea of a concept that was implemented using data packets, then the internet could implement it for you, no questions asked. Also, you didn’t need to ask anyone’s permission.

The explosion of creativity – in the form of disruptive software – that the world has seen since the internet was created in the 1980s could have taken a lot of institutions and industries by surprise however, it was also predictable, given the architecture. There are lots of smart programmers in the world and the internet has provided them with a perfect launchpad to unleash surprises. What kinds of surprises? The web itself. It was the result by a single person – Tim Berners-Lee, who in 1991 put the code on an internet server, without having to obtain permission from anyone.

Ten years after Berners-Lee started work, a disgruntled, music-loving teenager called Shawn Fanning spent six months creating software to share music files. He also in 1999, he threw his unique surprise on an internet server. He named it Napster and it grew to over 60 million delighted customers before music companies managed to block it. However, by the time it was shut down, the file-sharing genie was out of the bottle.

While that was going on and happening, a lot of smart programmers were coming up with more sinister surprise, in the form of a deluge of spam, viruses or worms. There are also different security “exploits” which they have been able to unleash over the internet, which doesn’t seem to care what’s in your data packets. The dangers that could be posed by this “malware” explosion are alarming. For instance, some mysterious groups have created “botnets” (made comprised of millions of covertly compromised, computers that are networked) that can be employed for massive and coordinated attacks that could conceivably destroy the infrastructure of networks of whole industries, or even entire nations. So far in the past, with the exception of Estonia in 2007 and 2007, we’ve not seen this kind of attack, however the worry is that it’ll happen and will be the internet’s version of 9/11.

The internet’s disruptiveness is a consequence of its technical DNA. In the words of programmers it’s a feature not a flaw – that is, an intentional feature that is not a mistake. It’s also difficult to comprehend how we could disable the capability of the network to create unpleasant surprises without also taking away other types of creativity that it creates.

As an analytical framework economics can come unstuck when it comes to dealing with the internet. Because while economics is the research of the allocation of scarce resources, the internet world is distinguished by the abundance. Similarly, ecology (the study of natural systems) is focused on abundance and it is a good idea to analyze what’s happening in the media from the perspective from an ecologist.

Since the web went mainstream in 1993 Our media “ecosystem” or whatever you like, has become a lot more complicated. The old, industrialised, mass-media system was marked by a decline in growth as well as a relatively low number of profitable, powerful slow-moving media companies and broadcasters and mass audiences made up mainly of consumers who were not actively engaged in centrally-produced content, few communication channels, and a slow rate of change. The new media ecosystem is growing quickly. It has millions of publishers, billions of online-savvy, active well-informed readers, listeners and viewers; innumerable communications channels, and a dizzying speed of change.

To an ecologist, this appears like an ecosystem that’s biodiversity has grown significantly. It’s as if the world with large-sized organisms such as dinosaurs (think Time Warner, Encyclopaedia Britannica) had trudged through the land slowly exchanging information in huge, distinct units, but the world was changing into an ecosystem in which millions less diverse species consume transform, aggregate, or disintegrate and exchange information goods in much smaller units – and where massive new life-forms (think Google, Facebook) are appearing. The natural environment is undergoing a transformation. greater biodiversity is closely related to higher whole-system productivity – ie the speed at which energy and material inputs are transformed into growth. Could it be that this is happening in the information sphere? If it is, who will benefit in the future?

Even if you don’t accept the ecological metaphor, there’s no doubt that our new information-based environment is more complex – both in terms of numbers of participants and interplay between them and the pace of change – unlike anything we’ve seen before. This complexity isn’t an accident or something to be ignored It’s the current reality, and one that we have to address. It’s a big challenge due to a variety of reasons. The first is that the behavior of complex 링크모음 systems is frequently difficult to understand and even more difficult to forecast. Furthermore, and perhaps more important the collective mentality of the government and in industry aren’t well adapted for dealing with complex systems. In the past, organizations have attempted to solve the problem through reducing complexity by buying competitors or locking customers in, producing standardised services and products, etc. These strategies are unlikely to work in today’s dynamic environment, where intelligence flexibility, agility, and the willingness to try new things (and fail) will provide better methods for handling the challenges that the connected environment is likely to throw at you.

For baby-boomers, a computer was a standalone PC that ran Microsoft software. In the end, these computers were linked to the internet, first at a local level (via office networks) and then globally (via the internet). As broadband connections to the internet were commonplace, something odd happened: if you had the speed to connect to the internet then you were less worried about the precise place of your stored data or the device who was executing computational tasks for you. The tasks were made easier to do. In the beginning, the organizations (Yahoo, Google, Microsoft) who provided search also started to provide “webmail” – – email services provided by programs that didn’t run directly on your personal computer, but instead on servers in the internet “cloud”. Then, Google also offered word processing slides, spreadsheets, slide-making as well as other “office”-type services via the network. And so on.

It was a time of transition from a world in which the PC was really the computer but now the network is actually the computer. It has led to the advent of “cloud computing” – a technology that uses simple devices (mobile phones, low-power laptops as well as tablets) to access computing services offered by servers that are powerful online. This transition to computing as a service rather as a service you can provide using your own devices has implications for security, privacy as well as economic development. public perceptions are lagging way behind the rapid pace of technological advancement. What is the fate of your family’s photos collection if they’re stored in the cloud, and your password is transferred to grave with you? What happens to your files and emails kept in the cloud on a different server? Or your “reputation” on eBay? All over the place the shift to cloud computing has huge implicationsbecause it has made us more and more dependent on the internet. But we’re sleeping through this exciting new world.
7 THE WEB is changing

At one time, the web was just the medium for publishing where publishers (professional and amateur) uploaded websites that weren’t actively used to servers. For many people who work in media it’s their default image of the web. But the web has seen at least three different phases of development – from the initial web 1.0, to the web 2.0 of “small pieces disconnected” (social networking as well as mashups, webmail and many more) and is now heading toward a form of web 3.0 – the global platform built on Tim Berners-Lee’s notion of a semantic web that will contain sufficient metadata about their content to enable software to make informed conclusions about their significance and function. If we wish to understand the web as it exists and not as it once was in the past, we must develop more realistic mental models of the web. In particular, we have to remember that it’s no only a platform for publication.

In the past, critic of culture Neil Postman, one of the 20th century’s most perceptive tech critics was predicting that the wisdom of two writers would like two bookends, determine our future. Aldous Huxley was of the opinion that we would be destroyed by the things we cherish, whereas George Orwell thought we would be destroyed by the things that we fear.

Postman was writing before the internet became a powerhouse in our society, but I believe Postman got it right. On the one (Huxleyan) hand the internet has been an enormously liberating factor in our lives , bringing endless opportunities for information, entertainment, pleasure, delight communications, and seemingly unaffected consumption, until it has been able to acquire a quasi-addictive effect particularly for younger generations. It is possible to gauge the magnitude of the effects by increasing levels of anxiety among officials, teachers and even politicians. “Is Google making us stupid?” was the title to one of the most cited articles in Atlantic magazine in 2008. The article has been written by Nicholas Carr, a prominent writer and blogger, and addressed the issue of whether the constant access to information on networks (not only Google) can turn us into restless shallow thinkers who have smaller attention spans. (According to Nielsen, a market research firm, the average time spent on a web page is 56 seconds.) Other critics are worried that constant internet use could be altering the brain’s wiring.

The other (Orwellian) hand the internet is the closest thing to a perfect surveillance machine that anyone has ever encountered. Everything you do on web is recorded. Every email you send, every website you visit, each file you download, every search you perform is recorded and filed somewhere, whether in the server of your internet service provider, or in cloud services you use. For a totalitarian government interested in the actions, behavior, and thought-process of its subjects, the internet is just about perfect.

In the analog world the copying process was slow and was degenerative (ie duplicates of copied documents got more and more worse than the original). In the digital age it is easy and perfect. In reality, copying is to computers just as breathing is to living creatures, inasmuch as every computational operation involves it. If you browse a web page, for example there is a copy of the page is stored in the video memory of your computer (or smartphone, or iPad) prior to the device being able to display it on its screen. So you can’t even look at something on the internet without (unknowingly) making a copy of it.

Because our current intellectual property system was created in a time when copying was difficult and unreliable, it’s no surprising that it seems increasingly out of sync with the internet-connected world. To make things worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint) the digital age has provided internet users with software that makes it simple to edit, copy, remix and publish anything that is accessible via digital formats – which means nearly everything today. Because of this, millions of people have become “publishers” by the fact that their creations are published globally via platforms such as Blogger, Flickr and YouTube. In other words, everywhere you look at things, they violate copyrights in one way or in another way.

This is a disagreeable but unavoidable fact, as unavoidable as the fact that young people tend to drink excessive alcohol. The only way to stop people from copying is to close the web. It’s not a crime to have intellectual property (or alcohol) in and of itself but the laws governing copyrights are so laughably out of touch with reality that they are falling into disrepute. They must be updated urgently to be relevant to current digital conditions. The problem is that none of our legislators comprehend this, which means it’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

It’s ridiculous to claim that these nine ideas encapsulate all that is there to be learned about the internet. However, they provide an outline for looking at the phenomenon “in the round”, as it were and could serve as an antidote for the fevered extrapolation that often serves as a comment on developments within cyberspace. The sad truth is that if there is an “truth” regarding cyberspace, it’s straightforward: to virtually any major concern about the network’s long-term implications the only valid answer is that famously offered by Mao Zedong’s foreign minister Zhou Enlai, when asked about the significance of the French Revolution: “It’s too for me to know at this point.” It is.