This is an exciting moment in human history. The Internet has provided humankind the ability to communicate over great distances and access to information and collaboration that’s unprecedented. The result is a great push in the advancement of our species. As a part of this technological wave of improvement, I have taken a moment to reflect on what that means now and for our future and how we can each contribute to the advancement of our civilization.
The Internet is really, really cool. Anyone in the world can communicate with anyone else in the world in a split second, as long as they’re connected to the Internet. This is a huge deal.
I rank the Internet as the third greatest technological achievement in human history (behind only fire and electricity). It provides us a global communication system that accelerates advancements in every other field of human study: Medicine, mathematics, physics, law…you name it. With the Internet, we can perhaps achieve more in the coming 50 years than mankind has accomplished in the past one thousand.
With the Internet, Socrates’ famous words have never rung truer: “I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.” We are no longer a tribal species; we are a global species. Today, we can easily send information, currency, physical goods, and communications around the world in trivial amounts of time. If we follow the natural path that these advancements present, we can truly achieve a global culture, global governance, and hopefully global peace.
It is easy to see that education has the power to change some of the bad stuff in the world. Technologies and infrastructure like those offered by Wikipedia, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Reddit, PayPal, and Bitcoin are enabling communication and the sharing of knowledge and information which is progressing us towards a global civilization. Anyone with access to the Internet can connect to sites like Carnegie Mellon, Stanford University, or the Khan Academy to take high-quality courses for free. They can then share what they’ve learned with people around the world on sites like Reddit, Tumblr, Stack Exchange, and WordPress. This type of access to information and interaction is unprecedented. People from all walks of life and cultures are collaborating – thinking, learning and problem-solving together. I love it. This system, with all its benefits, is empowering individuals, but it also feeds “Big Brother.”
The concept of a global government is frightening. George Orwell opened many people’s eyes to the idea that one-way transparency is a bad thing. We are seeing real manifestations of his fictional “1984” in the news lately. Governments are definitely spying on their citizens. In the US, every word written and spoken has a good shot at being recorded and stored somewhere in Utah. Even still, I’m willing to wager that technology and freedom of information will overcome the rise of tyranny.
There are many who say “if I’m not doing anything wrong, what do I care if they watch me.” The problem is that you may think you’re not doing anything wrong, but the government may think otherwise. Many countries censor the politically outspoken, even torturing and killing those who do not support the party in power. The constitution and the bill of rights in the US argue for the freedom of speech, due process, checks and balances, and the right to not self-incriminate – but it is becoming clear that the US no-longer plays by its own rules.
The potential for corruption and using new technologies to go after law-abiding citizens is eye-opening. Fortunately, the transparency cuts both ways – leaking information and whistleblowing are easier than ever.
We are on the precipice of a global renaissance, and very few of us even realize it. The idea of contributing a single line of code, or a single blog post that brings us closer to capturing a type I civilization motivates me to write that code. It is why I am so passionate about technology.
As we’re in the midst of these exciting times, ask yourself this: how would you react if electricity was just invented? Would you behave like the majority of people who scoffed at it as a parlor trick?
There’s a good story about a man who thought that electricity could change the world. His own father thought that he was a fool. Now, JP Morgan stands as one of the most respected and visionary business men of all time. If only we could all reflect on this moment in history, it might teach us to respect each innovation for having the potential to change the world.
When a decentralized communication system (the internet), a decentralized currency (Bitcoin), and a decentralized voting system (TBD) come knocking at the door – will you jump on board?