What if the Internet Disappeared?

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.

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6 Responses to What if the Internet Disappeared?

  1. Bradley says:

    Merry Xmas Richard.

    You are confusing Web 2.0 with ‘The Internet’. If ‘The Internet’ disappeared, I think you’d find the country would quickly ground to a halt – banks, utility companies including telephone companies, the government (IMHO the core issue with the Wikileaks story is that governments globally use the same network as us lot!) all rely on The Internet to conduct communications and control. I even know of traffic lights that are controlled remotely via The Internet.

    TV services such as BT Vision rely on The Internet too (viewers would be able to watch live TV, but the box/service quickly degrades without Internet connectivity).

    Bottom line – The Internet is now the core infrastructure behind much than email and Facebook.

  2. Richard Watson says:

    No, I don’t think I am confusing the two, although I think Jaron Lanier is primarily talking about Web 2.0. Yes, I know all web apps would grind to a halt, but banking, telephone calls and most other things functioned perfectly well before electronic networks and could be made to do so again in time.

  3. Richard Watson says:

    PS – Merry Christmas mate!

    Can’t help wondering at what point does the UK become defined as a “developing economy”? So far my experience of the UK includes water being cut off, trains not working, electricity down, airports grinding to a halt and libraries being closed.
    I was reading something yesterday saying that it no longer makes sense to think of developed and developing regions. I agree – we have exchanged places!

  4. If Internet disapeared, we would have lost many really important things. In fact, with the cloud technology, which are the base of many companies, losing the Internet means losing companies’ files and platforms. Also, the electronic commerce is so important these days that losing the Internet means closing thousands of stores. Also, blogs, wikis, web articles… are important knowledge. Losing this information would be like burning hundreds and hundreds on libraries at middle age. I think that you over simplify the web and you do not think enough at the implications of it. I know that Facebook is not a necessity, but many people working at Facebook would lose their job too.

  5. It would probably do this nation some good to get back to the old fashioned DO IT YOURSELF WAYS and stop relying on electronic gadgets and instead rely on GOD ALMIGHTY! We have become a lazy nation and probably no longer want to work as GOD intended!

  6. Rogerio says:

    We surely would not feel that much “globalized” anymore, in that the pace of business, relationships, would slow down to the levels we knew in the 80s. It would impact more the generations who were born within The Internet life spam, who seem not to know how to live properly without constantly checking their blackberries’ screens. Scary would be the reshaping of the global economy, though, in that all companies who operate in the Internet market field (think of Mountain View or Korea) would go down together and paper would be fashion once again. For the looks of it, and despite of what romanticists would say, that would be a quite long and depriment process.

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