Tonight I attended a lecture held by two professors titled “Cyber Politics: Power, Knowledge and Piracy in the Digital Age”. It was intended to be an expose highlighting how people in countries such as Egypt and Sweden had used technology to spread ideas and information nearly as quickly as that information was formed.
To some, the lecture may have been enlightening and covered a subject they held little knowledge about. It could potentially have been an informative experience had one of the professors not already shown how far separated she was from today’s users of technology in terms of internet experience and understanding. Repeatedly we were told that our minds “should be blown right now” when we were told how quickly information is disseminated compared to only 50 years ago.
Are we really to buy this as members of this younger generation? Are we to truly expected be surprised when we’re informed that, yes, a few years ago information did actually take weeks to move a few thousand miles while today it only takes seconds? It’s not that we find it hard to believe, we all understand the physical limits behind moving a letter half-way around the world versus moving electronic signals at the speed of light. It’s that some adults of a generation ago still find this magical and expect us to as well. This is something we’ve been experiencing for years, why should we find it incredible anymore? Yes, we appreciate all that the networks, technology, and bits and bytes have done for us, but we also appreciate microwaves, central heating, and television yet we’re not constantly inundated with calls to appreciate the magic of these things like they’re some sort of new-age gods we don’t fully understand and therefore need to worship and praise with all our will.
It seems high time that we, as a society and population, begin to accept the internet for what it is and all of its amazing capabilities. This way we won’t be so awestruck next time a country such as Egypt is able to organize protests and civil disruption through an internet service which has been around for years. Instead of being completely flabbergasted by this, instead we will be able to aid in more constructive ways and help those who are doing the revolutionizing. This all must begin with an understanding of today’s technology and what it is truly capable of. Then, finally, we will hopefully be able to get past our initial reactions that technology is magical and appreciate it for its original goal: to bring people and information together in ways never before thought possible.