Ramblings of a Southern Christian Engineer

Month: July, 2015

Save the Internet

I’ve been around the Internet for a long time. In truth, I was in college when the Internet became a real thing for everyone. In a flash, BBS’s and the various iterations of CompuServe and AOL withered as the educated elite began to discover EMail, IRC, FTP, Archie, Gopher, and all the rest of the bunch. But then came the World Wide Web and the signal to noise ratio has never been the same.

Normal people started popping up all over. There was little we geeks could do to stop them. We hid Mosaic from them but they found Netscape. The web was just too easily accessed by them with all the pictures and blinking lights.

So we can’t go back now. Pandora’s Box is open. The genie won’t go back in the bottle. There’s no use crying over spilled bits. Or bytes. Or whatever.

But it’s not too late. We can still save the global information network. The solution is right there in front of our faces: a license to use the Internet.

That’s right. Just like driving a car. One license to read things and another to put things up that others can read. The posting license would be like a CDL with a complicated test and not a lot of people would have one. Kids could get a permit and only use the Internet with a licensed user handling the web browser.

I hear talk about licensing for all firearms but any moron at any age can shout loudly to the entire world. This is lunacy. The Internet is much more dangerous than a pistol but instead of keep mental patients and felons from using the Internet we encourage it by providing them with advertising and an audience of children and like-minded adults.

The test would simple enough. We would, of course, put it on the Internet. A licensed user would accompany you to the web site, where you would then be allowed to prove you could use the Internet responsibly.

Ironically, there will people who read the above and completely miss the satire. They are exactly the people who should not be using the Internet. Of course, I would go stark raving nuts if someone actually wanted to limit the use of the Internet to any group of people. My “civil liberties” warning buzzer is going off just thinking about it.

So therein lies the rub. I don’t want the Internet to be censored at all, so I end up having to read bad writing, see things I didn’t want to see, and deal with false information that was passed on to the people around me. By providing the masses with a tool that allows them to organize and revolt against an oppressive government, we have also provided a tool that hate groups can use to coordinate attacks on that very freedom. To get Wikipedia, we have to put up thousands of web sites telling me about FEMA camps and killer asteroids.

That is the cost of allowing everyone to use something. It’s like a public bathroom I suppose. One would like to think that everyone will clean up after themselves but the list of stunning ways a person can foul up a restroom is apparently unlimited. And so goes the Internet.

I’m curious what the effect on civilization will have been in 100 years. Regardless of what Aubrey de Grey may think, I have no expectation that I’ll be around for it. With great power comes great responsibility. The Internet provides great power with no responsibility at all.

The Republic

I remember talking to friends in college once about representative government and polling. We were talking about the job of a politician in the United States in general and comparing the idea of polling the people to decide how to vote on an issue versus simply voting based on one’s own convictions about something. Some of the viewpoints we discussed are still in my recollection.

Since most issues of consequence have more than one valid way they can be looked at, and the people you represent are going to be on different sides, so no matter which way you vote on an issue, the people you represent are going to be angry and happy. In any case, their say in the matter may not have any real impact. The majority of the people you represent are unlikely to have a complete understanding of the issue, so why would you listen to them anyway? Most of the time these days when I talk to someone about an issue of importance all I really learn is which news program they watch on TV anyway. They just repeat what they have heard or, worse still, read on Facebook.

Then there is the problem of what is good for my people, moral in general, and good for the larger country. Sometimes a thing may seem good or lucrative for the people I represent but I feel it may be immoral based on my personal beliefs. What about a thing that I know to be best for my country but bad for the people I represent? What if I have a chance to do something as a representative of my own people that I know will be very good for them but will hurt someone else: in the next county; in another generation to come; in another part of the world?

I suppose here is where I have consider my own Christianity. Wouldn’t a good Christian who was a representative of a group of people find it unconscionable to vote for something that hurts others? Or would it be right (ethical?) for them to say, “I work for the people and regardless of my own opinion, I have to do what they want.” Is it a simple matter of doing what one thinks Christ would have done if He were voting, or it is a matter of doing a job well and deciding that one’s job is to do the will of the people?

I know that when I’m developing software I never ask myself, “what code would Jesus write?” Christianity does not work that way. So, is a politician the same in that regard? Can they consider themselves simply “at work” and make their decisions based on what any good politician would do, or must they, in recognition of the fact that their job will have an impact on the lives of people that other jobs will not, consider their own personal morality on each decision and therefore each vote?

Maybe it is more complex even than all this. Maybe there are numerous other parts of this puzzle that I have not considered since I’ve never been in any public office. Nevertheless, I can see that it really is not so simple as just deciding a thing one way or the other, even if a person tries to truly uphold their Christian morals as a representative of the people.