1. The Internet is complicated.
The internet is probably the most complicated thing in history, although it’s built on technology (TCP/IP) that is deceptively simple. Confusing the technology with the creativity and conversation is like confusing the truck with the beer it’s carrying.
2. The Internet isn’t a thing or an agreement : it’s a place.
Actually, it’s probably all three, but aphorisms have to be pithy, so you’ll excuse the confusion. The best way to understand something that’s complicated is to examine the metaphor or metaphors one uses to describe it or think about it. In America, football is a metaphor used to think about business, and war is a metaphor used to think about football, for example. This helps us to understand why bombing the living sh-t out of Iraq will magically make problems with the economy go away.
The internet feels like a place to most people – an environment that exists out there independantly of whether of not they are participating in it. The wires and servers, the hardware and the software – the things give the protocols a way to interact. The protocols are an agreement, and they allow the space to exist. The space is where we exist when we are on the net. See also : highway, truck and beer.
3. The Internet isn’t stupid, but it’s filled with stupidity.
The internet isn’t about packets, it’s about people. Just like in the real world, many of those people are egregiously stupid, and say and do stupid things. There are a few barriers to entry – literacy and money are two, for example
– so this makes the situation slightly less excruciating than it is in our daily lives offline.
4. Adding value to the Internet adds to its value.
If you change something about the way the internet works to favour a certain way of communicating or a certain technology, you may well be having a negative impact on other aspects of the environment. If all you are doing is adding something, however, the expected rules apply. More is, however, not necessarily better, for anyone except those who want to make money. See also : 8c.
5. Value on the internet goes unnoticed unless some high-traffic node connects it to the mainstream.
It’s entirely possible that the most brilliant minds of our generation are out there in the net hinterlands, exposing their genius for the world to see, and nobody is seeing it except the googlebot. Unless a higher-traffic node or nodes of the net (with a human intelligence in the driver’s seat) notes and disseminates the value that is being created out on the edges back into the middle and out again, nothing happens, and our new Shakespeare or Einstein labours unnoticed.
6. Money moves to the greedy.
If value goes unnoticed until the Big Nodes notice, then you or your product needs to get noticed by the central hubs somehow. Once that happens, the greedier you are, the more you’ll make. Mostly it’s about knowing the right people, just as it is in Real Life.
7. The asshole of the world? Nah, the world of assholes.
Because the internet is a place, it’s populated by all sorts of folks : the good, the bad and the fugly. Many people with even a shred of decency and integrity left bemoan the cesspool of evil, filth and stupidity that much of the internet has become. For some, the metaphor we used to use to describe my end-of-the-world hometown when I was young might be appropriate : The Asshole of The World.
This comes as a natural consequence of human nature, of course, and is to be expected. Just as in any other place, there are the good neighbourhoods and the bad, the saints, the sinners, and the scumbags. The internet may route around damage, but it builds a bus route directly to porn and cheap laughs. (You got here, didn’t you?)
Regardless of whether the internet is the rectum mundi (ahoy! fake latin to port!) or not, the place is unimportant without the people who populate it. Unfortunately, just as in real life, many of them are deeply unpleasant : the world of assholes.
8. The Internetâs three vices
So, those are the facts about the Internet. See, I told you they were complicated.But what do they mean for the behavior of the corporations and corporatists that keep trying to make the internet into a mall or a propaganda tool or a surveillance network?
Here are three basic rules of behavior that are tied directly to the factual nature of the Internet:
a. Americans dominate it
b. The wealthy populate it
c. More inhabitants does not automatically mean more value, except to those who want to sell you something
Let’s look a little more closely at each…
8a. Americans dominate it
Americans, with their brash ways, their aspirations to Empire, their big hair and good teeth. Ah, those wacky Americans. They built the internet, and they’re determined to make it a mirror of their crumbling society. It’s a safe bet they’ll succeed.
8b. The wealthy populate it
Not too many poor folks on the net. Damn near none, in fact. Most people who can’t find enough fresh water to drink on a daily basis (well over half the population of the planet) don’t have access to a personal computer. And the wealthy got wealthy f–king the poor, personally or by proxy, so nothing’s new there.
8c. More inhabitants does not automatically mean more value, except to those who want to sell you something
A virtual space cannot get overcrowded, but it certainly can get messy and loud. But more people online means more targets for marketers, more data for surveillance units, more money for telcos. Go go go!
9. If the Internet is so complicated, why do so many been seem driven to try and simplify it?
There’s money and recognition in talking down to people.
Could it be because the three Internet vices are the exact analogue of how governments and businesses view the world?
Americans dominate it: The American government (and many of its people) are keen to dominate the world politically, militarily, and economically. Why should the net be any different?
The wealthy populate it: If you haven’t got enough money to buy my products, then f–k you.
More inhabitants does not automatically mean more value, except to those who want to sell you something: More human targets mean more sales, and more data for the Information Awareness miners. If they’ve got the money to get online, they’ve got the money to buy stuff, and if they’re breathing, they’re quite possibly a threat to the American government.
10. Some mistakes we can stop making already.
Enough already. Let’s stop banging our heads against the facts of Internet life, and go outside for some fresh air.
We have nothing to lose but our cupidity.