Man, this article really hit home. I’ve been thinking about my own optimistic idealism about the web (on full display at the end of this talk), and how the events of the last few years have really knocked that optimism down a peg or three.
It’s quite easy to see the differences between the internet world we live in and the utopia we were promised. And a fair measure of that is because we didn’t actually make it to the utopia. The solution, then, the argument goes, is to keep at it. To keep taking our medicine even as the patient gets more sick, on the faith that we will one day reach that future state of total-information-freedom and equality of voices.
While reading this article, the books The Shallows and Cognitive Surplus popped into my mind. Cognitive Surplus paints a pretty rosy picture of what’s possible when everyone can access and contribute to the web. The Shallows on the other hand paints a pretty damning picture of echo chambers, information overload, and poisoned online communities.
The reality is of course all of those things. The web is a platform where all of humanity’s greatness and ugliness plays out. I still believe that the web has the ability to bring people together, to accelerate progress, to bring about equality, and so on. I’m embarrassed of my own naiveté, but I hope I’m able to consider the reality of the medium in order to continue to try to make the web a better place.