One Last Rant About Technology
The World Wide Web is 20 years old this month. As if that wasn’t enough to make you feel old, consider the fact that, as would make sense for something that has been growing and developing for two decades, nostalgia is surfacing for the way the web used to be.
Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist who invented the World Wide Web, published an article in The Scientific American on November 22 arguing that social networking sites are threatening the openly accessible, indiscriminate nature of the Web by privatizing information. “Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles,” he warned. “If we, the Web’s users, allow these and other trends to proceed unchecked, the Web could be broken into fragmented islands.”
Though generally unsuccessful so far, attempts to regulate and control the Internet usually spark conversation about how to preserve the web’s “Wild West” feel. The net neutrality debate is still raging, and those in favor of neutrality are afraid that letting Internet providers or governments put any restrictions on certain sites, or play favorites with others, would undermine the principles of the Web. It’s unruliness, which translates to total freedom, is what we love about it, and we’re afraid to lose that. Totally reasonable.
But at the same time, the Internet is not only the ultimate symbol of progress, but often the tool and setting of said progress. The two are inseparable. If we can be nostalgic about even the very platform of progress, where will the pathological nostalgia end?
We already look back at MySpace and Napster with the condescending fondness reserved for the primitive.
It’s natural to resist change when we’re comfortable with something, but when we start to fear the development of the developer, it gets a little ridiculous. Fighting to preserve the very driving force behind progress makes the whole preservation vs. progress debate far too circular, and the argument for nostalgia moot.