The Hidden Power of the Web

The real power of the web can only be unleashed if we embrace its apparent inconveniences.

The full potential of the internet revolution our society is currently experiencing, and above all the untapped potential that we are still unaware of, can only be realized if we completely let go and embrace the apparent disadvantages that come with it. By “potential”, I refer not only to the technology, like the eluding Web2.0 or the much talked about Semantic Web, but above all the usefulness that can be achieved with these technologies.

As web citizens, we will have to accept some compromises, or what seem now like compromises, in order to get the full benefit of this revolution. Some of these compromises will be more difficult to accept than others, like the ones regarding our privacy. But it is the price to pay, and we will manage it just like we did in the past. We may not realize it, but regardless of the internet, our so called private life in our modern, centrally managed and closely controlled society, is a lot less private then it used to be not very long ago. Our great-grandparents would probably have been very uncomfortable with the kind of private life we claim to have these days. Along with this apparent erosion of privacy, institutions and watchdogs were created to ensure that our private data was used in a manner ethically acceptable to most of us. We managed and got used to it. Now it is natural. And that is what we need to do with the internet revolution: embrace the change but harness it. I’m confident that most people will agree at the end of the road that it will have been worthwhile.

Because the internet can change our society in a more profound and beneficial way than we can imagine. I deeply believe that it can help us make this world a better place. How exactly? I’m not sure. What I do know is that information and knowledge gives power. And, since the internet means more information and knowledge, the internet ultimately gives more power to the people. The web possesses the potential to profoundly change the economic and political balance of power in societies.

Furthermore, it will help us grow along the way. It can help us, as a society and as individuals, to become more mature and wise. Because we all need to become wiser in order to thrive in this new communication era. The internet is not for dummies. Among other things, critical thinking toward information, responsible digital consumption and digital community involvement need to become second nature to future web citizens. It is at these conditions only that this technology will be beneficial to humanity.

I realize that this scenario is far from being the only possible outcome. Countless pitfalls lay ahead. We may not succeed in becoming wiser; ruling classes may take control of the technology for its own profit; and the web could become just another tool of repression and alienation to the human race, and a powerful one indeed.

For one of the rare time in human history, we have at our disposal a tool enabling us to exert considerable power over the outcome or our future. It is up to all of us, web citizens, to seize this extraordinary opportunity.

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