Friday, March 15, 2019

A Tangled Web

Greetings! You don't look a day over twenty-five!
I am addressing the World Wide Web, which turned thirty earlier this week. Thirty years young and still growing. I am currently packing even more information into this network of computers and related peripherals by typing this birthday salutation. 
Anecdotally, it was my wife who once opined to me that saying "WWW" out loud takes longer than saying "world wide web." Which is just one of the fascinating pieces of information you might find if you chose to lose yourself amid the flurry of pages, sites and pop-up ads currently available on Al Gore's Internet. 
And it wasn't really Al Gore that invented the Internet.
I know, I know. Take a breath. I will explain: On March 12, 1989, Tim Berners-Lee published a proposal at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Now half the planet is using the tool he had hoped would be a space for progress-oriented minds to collaborate. If this includes arguing about which Kardashian is the hottest and making sure you get your Peanut M&Ms in a timely fashion, then we could say "mission accomplished." But that phrase tends to collapse under its own weight, and we are left wondering if the noble intents of Sir Berners-Lee have been left behind for the capitalistic hate-filled fury that half the world spends its time perusing each day. 
Yes, that's right: The inventor of Al Gore's Internet was knighted for coming up with a way to send cat videos across the globe. On the occasion of the web's double quinceaƱera, the knight of the Internet wondered, "Where is the balance between leaving the tech companies to do the right thing and regulating them? Where is the balance between freedom of speech and hate speech?"
My answer to this somewhat rhetorical question would be "right here." The world wide web is a glorious mess, and attempts to reign it in run contrary to the user's purpose. Yes, it would be thunderously great if this series of tubes could be used to find a cure for cancer. Or bring fans of Cheap Trick together to finally get them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The challenge is building a conscience into the puppet that Geppetto carved and the Blue Fairy brought to life. A mix of carpentry and magic had to be retrofitted with an external conscience. A cricket with the same initials as Jesus Christ. Coincidence?
Which brings me back to the stated purpose: Thank you Al Gore and Sir Berners-Lee. Thank you for this peculiar forum and a spot for my convoluted thoughts.  

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