Save the Internet

by thomaslsimpson

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.