Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
The Universe and the Internet
July 14, 2006
When son John was in Junior High School he came home one day and announced that he was going to write an essay on "The Universe." That seemed a bit presumptuous even for a Jr. High kid, but nothing is too big to think about when you are that young. I wonder whether now he would consider another paper on, "The Internet ." At this point in time, I think it would be about as grandiose as his other one.
Today we are living in the information age, the age of instant communication all around the world and
access to knowledge worldwide.
We had a long time to get ready for it.
Before the invention of the printing press there was no flow of information. In the middle-ages only the monks and a few scholars who could read, had access to the few books that existed. Those were extremely valuable and kept chained to the walls. The church and the state had a vested interest in keeping "information" isolated, away from the common people.
With the invention of movable type in the 15th century it all began to change. When Martin Luther and William Tyndale translated the Latin Bible into the vernacular, the information genie was out of the bottle, never to be stuffed back in. Literacy increased, Luther started a new religion, and the powers that be started yearning for the good old days when they had control.
But the information explosion had just begun. Remember the early days of radio? Most of you don't, but I do. My parents were quite worried that I would be unduly influenced by jazz age music coming right into our house on the little crystal set my dad built out of an oatmeal box and a lot of copper wire.
Then came TV. Some people "knew" that television would be the destruction of civilization as we know it. There are those who still think so, but the little "off" button is a practical solution.
Now we have the World Wide Web and the Internet, bringing instant communication around the world, and a profound change in the intellectual landscape. Suddenly the world is at our fingertips.
And oh, that wonderful Internet. I don't have the statistics, but there are billions of words out there in on phone lines and dancing around in cyberspace -- from somebody to somebody. I can communicate in minutes with my kids, and the largest corporations in America can do a large part of its business with it.
Individuals run around with cell phones smaller than cigarette packages and including a camera, a computer with Internet, and I think maybe a toaster oven. They have (notice I say they) have DOA's and Blackberries and Blue Tooth (Teeth?) and tiny calculators and I pods. We have PC' on our home desks and CD's and DVD's in our music rooms.
Of course there are problems. Where information and opinions flow freely Censorship rears its ugly head. There are those who think they alone can control all that information. Congress has already passed the Children's Internet Protection Act, although filters are plentiful.
Libraries use them, and they allow parental ;control in the home.
Congress is again considering Internet control legislation.
That would be a little like herding cats.
Brock Meeks writes, "The Internet is an untamed resource, full of the good and the bad and the ugly -- just like the schools, the streets, the 7-11 and the mall. The responsibility for what we read on it is up to us."