The battle lines have been drawn. In a recent open letter to the US government, published in every major American newspaper, leading tech firms including Amazon, Google and Apple raised their concerns about heavy-handed surveillance. In their words, “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual.”
I’d like to add my voice to the cause. And I’d like to do it by praising the internet, an entity owned and controlled by its users which illustrates beautifully how human beings are programmed to work together for the common good.
A love letter to the internet
The internet. Run by the people, for the people. It’s a place where billions of us co-operate, collaborate and connect every day. We do business on it, make and lose fortunes, engage with each other, work, play, create and fall in love on it… all remarkably peaceably.
My beloved internet reflects the human condition like a mirror. Yes, there are trolls. Yes, there’s porn. But the ‘bad’ elements of the web are no worse or more widespread than in the real world. Which is pretty damn amazing, and something we can all be proud of.
If our default setting was criminal, the web would be a very different place. Ergo, our default setting is obviously quite the opposite: kind, helpful, selfless, co-operative and positive. And how do we do this wonderful thing? We self-police. As reasonable human beings, the majority of us do the right thing, behave in a civilised manner and stick within the limits of the law. And we don’t need governments’ help to do it.
So why are governments around the world – including places like Britain and the US where freedom is supposed to be our right – getting so hot under the collar about the online world? Cynical me… could it be because they hate the fact they can’t control it, which means they can no longer control us?
Governments certainly can’t keep as many secrets, which can only be a good thing. The fewer secrets there are, the less opportunity politicians have to behave badly on the quiet. I wholeheartedly support the whistleblower Edward Snowden and I admire Wikileaks, both of whom have opened shameful cans of political worms to the absolute outrage of those in power. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
What’s next? Who knows. But one thing is clear: governments currently know bugger-all about how the internet works, which means their efforts at controlling it are doomed. And long may their ignorance last. In the meantime, us netizens will keep up the the good work, and the digital world will keep turning.
As 2014 approaches, here’s to a bright virtual future unspoiled by political nuttiness, power games, paranoia, ignorance and scaremongering. Butt out of our lovely internet, we’re doing just fine without you.