What would happen if the internet disappeared tomorrow? Would we really care? They’d be panic initially, of course. But would anything of real substance disappear? People would initially argue that they couldn’t “do anything.” Commerce, democracy and liberty itself would then be said to be under threat.
Personally, I think that life would eventually go on much as it did before. The internet is a wonderful thing, but most of its power comes from a mixture of convenience and efficiency and the downside is that human relationships are being fragmented and demeaned.
There’s also the argument, eloquently outlined by Jaron Lanier, that Web 2.0 is really nothing more than endlessly reheated and rehashed content and that friendships found online are “fake”. They are “bait laid by the lords of the clouds to lure hypothetical advertisers.”
As for the wisdom of crowds, forget it. Yes, a network can solve local ‘weak tie’ problems, such as where to find a good dry cleaner. Large numbers of people are also good at solving simple problems or filtering ideas, but most Web 2.0 content is vapid, mawkish, puerile and of no enduring significance. And yes, that includes this blog.