Why the Internet Will Never Die

An opinion and Request for Comments.

8 December, 2001
Matisse Enzer <matisse@matisse.net>

San Francisco, California Over the past 18 months or so a great many stupid Internet companies have gone out of business. Over the preceding 3 or 4 years (say, from 1995-1999) a huge amount of money was spent on a lot of very bad business ideas. But the Internet is more powerful than it has ever been, and will continue to grow in power and influence for the foreseeable future, and by that I mean for generations to come, not just for a few years.

Of course, with power there is both opportunity and danger. With the Internet the primary danger is that the most powerful users of the Internet will become a closed group - an elite that admits no new members.

Is it a Good Thing?

Not in itself.

For the internet to be Good Thing it must be applied and used with Justice. Without justice there can be no lasting peace nor prosperity nor honor nor dignity. More on this....

Why is the Internet so Important?

The simple answer is that it connects people to each other. The most important thing the Internet does, staggeringly important if one really thinks about it, is the amazing, far reaching, practically unstoppable way in which the Internet connects people together. The Internet allows people to communicate with each other over vast distances, and across all kinds of boundaries that formerly made communication difficult or impossible.

Using the Internet individual people are able to join with others to form, and re-form groups based on new and/or supressed common interests.

The Internet fosters new relationships, and perhaps even more importantly, new kinds of relationships. The kinds of far-reaching, casual relationships that people create using the Internet have never existed before on the scale which they do now and will in the future. In some cases these relationships will become more deeply connected.

Of course love and friendship are relationships. But so is business and so are politics.

The invention and spread of printing changed the human society deals with information. Likewise the spread of the personal computer. The spread of the world-wide network changes the way human society deals with relationshsips.

One big change is that so many more people now have the ability to connect with so many other people. Anywhere the Internet exists it is very hard to keep people who have access to it from connecting to anybody else in the world who also has access to it. that means, for example, that if you are connected to the Internet you can do many kinds of business with people anywhere in the world who are also connected.

Almost every single business and political institution on the planet will eventually be using the Internet. This is as simple as saying that they all use printing. The real question is HOW they will use it.

Every existing power structure in the world is facing the question of how to deal with the new technologies of information. Most want to use these technologies to mainatin and extend their existing power. They are working as hard as they can to do so. We have passed the point (if it ever existed) when the Internet could be shut down. Existing institutions are deeply committed to extending the reach of information networks, even as each group tries to shape those systems for their own benefit, and as newly connected people and groups try to further their (previously un-connected) interests using the new technologies.

The Internet will no sooner fade away than did printing, or language.

Personal Importance

The importance of the internet to each person is as varied as people. There is no single value, good or bad, that the Internet nrings to everyone. Each persons' experience is different.

Political Importance

The Internet and related technologies make the formation of new political alliance somewhat easier than in the past. The Internet forces all politics to become somewhat less centralized, although the degree of decentralization can and does vary tremendously. And of course there are many who will try and change the Internet into more of a broadcast medium than a many-to-many medium.

Commercial Importance

The most basic commercial importance of the Internet is how it moves the world slightly closer to a perfectly knowledgeable market, a market in which every thing that is for sale is advertised and every thing that is wanted for purchase is requested somewhere, and buyers and sellers can contact each other with no cost. Of course the Internet only achieves this in a limited way, and even then with huge variations. The market for airline tickets in the US is a good example of this.

Spiritual Importance

I'm not at all sure the Internet has any spiritual importance at all, separate from the spiritual work of the individual who asks the question.

What the Internet Does Not Do