Several years ago I was out for dinner with a number of my colleagues.
They were mostly engineers, technical people, maybe one or two business weasels had joined the motley crew. Very intelligent and experienced people from Finland, Japan and America, if I recall the gathering correctly.
I remember making a rather long speech, I may not have been completely sober, how I believe the Internet is the best thing ever happened to democracy.
But democracy has its limitations, that is, even the ignorant can have they say. You can vote without knowing why you vote, who you vote, you can do this even without caring what you are doing.
I know this is not a politically correct statement, but how can you really avoid thinking about it: In a democratic election, all votes are equal whether or not you care, or understand what you are doing. How can it be so?
Internet should be the democracy of knowledge. That is fine.
But there is also intellectual ignorance, abundant in the Internet, people not caring what is true and creating they own realities. There is also intellectual terrorism in the Internet, people to are deliberately spreading false claims or outright lies, for one reason or the other, usually for money.
We have vaccinations critics, we have alternative medicine, we have climate change denial, just to name a few. And it is not so rare that people who support one false idea, support also an other.
These things are not only incredibly stupid, they simply can kill.
Are the people who are promoting alternative realities ready to take responsibility of their actions? I don’t think so, at least it does not seem that way to me.
One phenomenon that is widespread in the Internet is false expectations for technology, based on bad engineering, pseudoscience and wishful thinking. And or course, lying for financial benefit.
Internet can make you think that technology and science are advancing to directions they are not. Sure, they are advancing fast, but not as fast as some would like to think.
And fairy-tales are not helping.
We have intellectual ignorance, cowardice, terror and the fairy-tales. What can we do? Of course, you can’t have intellectual dictatorship, or be required to have a license to think, no more than you are required to have a license to vote, in a democratic country.
We all just need understanding, how to learn to care what we think is true; and what, who, and why we want to vote.
I still think the Internet is the best thing ever happened to democracy. But all good things come with a price. The Internet is a powerful entity we have created, and we should take good care, that our children and grandchildren learn how to use it.
And learn it before they learn to read.
Happy New Year in the new, free thinking, democratic world. Lets be carefully out there.