Thoughts on the Evolution of the Internet

Hello world,

I find the openness and lack of governance in the development of software to be a very intriguing model for problem-solving. It’s remarkable how anything got accomplished through this system, because everyone had different opinions and could never settle on anything. Trivial questions such as right-left or left-right reading of bits took years and years of arguing to no definitive answer, and other arguments mentioned in the readings struck me as being so specific, such as what went on the left/right side of the “@” symbol of emails. Was the final decision reached by what the majority of people used? I feel like this system really pissed a lot of people off because there were so many different ideas and eventually only one of them would be standardized, but I see how it was overall a very effective system because so many ideas were shared and considered. Furthermore, a lot of problems just never reached a definitive answer. I think online debates nowadays are similar in the sense that there are no/very few moderators, and although no final consensus is reached, people learn about different perspectives and ideas nonetheless. This positive result argues for the necessity of free speech, but there are also many difficult questions concerning hate speech, what that constitutes, and how censorship may be required to facilitate free speech.

Another aspect I found interesting in our discussion concerned what was considered remarkable in the earlier days of the Internet. Getting a response to an email within 90 minutes was seen as revolutionary in the 1970s, and Prof Waldo mentioned the magical sense of being connected to the outside world only 3 times a day. There is such a stark contrast between that and our current culture that is fuelled by instant gratification. People nowadays are so used to getting instantaneous answers, whether it’s by text or asking Google, that we forget how to be bored. Instead of thinking of our connections to the network as being remarkable, we have built a reliance on it. When I’m waiting in line, I feel the need to pull out my phone because I don’t know how to be bored. We miss the opportunities to learn how to juggle or meet new people by constantly using our hand-held technologies to browse through cute animal videos or refresh our newsfeeds. There are movements now to recreate what it was like before, when people were not always connected. Trips like FOP help people disconnect from the world and be more mindful of the present. I have a friend who transitioned to using a flip-phone now and I have to dial her number every time I want to reach her (like what??). I personally can’t imagine myself not being near-constantly connected, but I see the reasons for wanting to be so.

I also wanted to share a small connection that I had when I read about the guy who got his razor back by sending a message through ARPANET. The amazing feeling that guy had reminds me of the way I felt when I was little and first started using MSN. My parents had forbidden me to use any type of social media, but my best friend at the time got an MSN account and convinced me to get one too. I remember the first time we had a secret online conversation, and that feeling of amazement and wonder, magnified by the sense that I was doing something “forbidden”. It’s the rush that people get when they’re doing something rebellious and it’s an addictive feeling; I think this played into the rise of using ARPANET to send personal messages instead of academic resources.

Our discussion today was super interesting and I look forward to next week!


1 Comment »

  1. Jim Waldo

    September 17, 2017 @ 5:57 pm


    Nice entry, Cindy.

    One of the things that differentiated the discussions about how to write the software from a lot of the (unending) discussions you see on the Internet today is that, at the end of the day, something had to get built. Actually writing the code often led to seeing that one approach was better (faster, simpler, easier to maintain) than another. This didn’t always work (which is why the order of bits in a byte was a long-standing argument; the different implementations didn’t answer the question). But for some things, this was where the argument stopped– you either could build it, or you couldn’t.

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