Advantages and Disadvantages of the Internet Revolution
The computer revolution that started in the latter part of the 20th Century is potentially just as significant as the industrial revolution that began two centuries before it - and may well turn out to have even more impact on the way that human beings live, work and communicate with each other.
One of the major developments to come out of the advances in computer and communication technology was the creation of the internet, an innovation with effects on the economic and social development of humanity that are still evolving and being assessed.
Given the huge influences on work and entertainment, plus the effective further democratization of information, the long term effects may be societies evolving different structures, as well as humans developing a different view of themselves.
The effects may not all be positive, however. Increasing restrictions and spying by governments, child pornography, bullying are just a few examples of negatives that the internet has brought with it.
Given its huge impact, I thought it would be interesting and instructive to list the main advantages and disadvantages of the internet revolution, which you can read below.
Advantages of The Internet Revolution
Speed of communication – The internet means that people can communicate using a variety of media types in real time over long distances now. In the past, the telephone and fax machines were the only devices that could communicate in real time and they had major limitations.
Interactive link-up – Unlike traditional media such as books, which are static and read-only, the internet can provide services that constantly update and are genuinely interactive. That means that many sources of information, at least in theory, never go out of date, as happens with traditional media such as printed books or newspapers.
Global scale – The world wide web links up the entire planet in a way that has never existed before. It is truly international and brings humanity together.
Freedom of ideas/democracy – For the first time in history, there can be a free exchange of ideas on local, national and international scale. Oppressive regimes now struggle to control their population’s access to news and other information and the internet can be a useful tool for those organizing protests.
Pooling of knowledge – The entirety of human knowledge and experience can be stored online and be made accessible to anyone in the world who has a computer and an internet connection.
New forms of communication – email, webcams, chat rooms, and websites are just some of the new ways that people have of communicating which wouldn’t have come into existence without the creation of the internet.
Wi-fi technology and integration of mobile phone technology mean that people no longer have to carry huge amounts of information around in bulky things like books and CDs when they are on the move, and can instead store information online.
E-commerce – Browsing stores and comparing prices, online banking, buying plane tickers, and ordering products from the comfort of your home is now an everyday reality, thanks to the internet.
Entertainment – The internet has created a revolution in the entertainment industry and provided enormous increases in the choices available for people, whether it’s music, movies, or new forms of activity such as online games. Modern generations have access to massive amounts of media, as well as increased freedom to experience things like movies and TV shows at a time and place that suits them.
We are all now connected by the Internet, like neurons in a giant brain.— Stephen Hawking
Disadvantages of The Internet Revolution
Information overload – It is becoming increasingly difficult for people to keep up with the amount of information they can receive over the internet. Many workers now spend a large proportion of their lives just reading and answering emails, for instance.
Lack of privacy – It is virtually impossible to control what personal information people put on internet and once it is out there, you cannot take it back. Everything from embarrassing photographs to slurs on your character, or information such as phone number or address can all cause problems.
Increasing government controls and restrictions - Recent scandals have shown that it is not just oppressive regimes like in North Korea and Iran, where governments have taken an interest in spying on internet users. The Edward Snowden revelations revealed the extent of internet spying in Western countries like the USA and UK.
Pirate media and illegal file sharing – The ease with which digital media can be copied and shared means that artists and creators now struggle to keep their intellectual property rights on things that they create, whether it is music, movies, writing, or software.
Attention span shortened – There is evidence that the internet is influencing the way that we think and that we are now more focused on absorbing only short snippets of information. This means that we often have a broad coverage of knowledge, but it is shallow – traditional media, such as books, gave us far more depth.
Pornography - The internet is saturated with pornography, making surfing it an uncomfortable and potentially traumatizing experience for parents and children.
Spam and unwanted advertising – Although the internet’s aims may be noble, in practice, much of it is clogged up with unwanted advertising and we spend a lot of our time online just trying to sort through it, delete, or avoid it. Malware, trojans, and viruses also waste time and cause serious problems.
Information and identity theft – The internet makes it very easy to steal massive amounts of personal data from individuals and organizations. The impersonal nature of the internet makes it easy to fake an identity, or steal someone else’s.
Cyber warfare –The increasing dependence of modern societies on the internet means that cyber warfare is now a reality, with the potential for countries to have their military systems, transport, media, hospitals, power and communication networks etc. knocked out by cyber attacks.
Social disconnect – Some psychologists are concerned that increasingly people are socializing virtually instead of doing it face to face, which may cause emotional and social problems, especially for children and young people who's brains, communication and interactive skills are still developing.
Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.— Mitchell Kapor
© 2011 Paul Goodman