“The Internet”


This is (supposedly) self-referential humour about how people waste so much of their attention on the Internet.  But there’s something in it that bothers me still.

“The Internet: A Warning From History”

We can consider two dystopian views of the future: Orwell’s and Huxley’s.  Orwell’s vision of an authoritarian, surveillance state is one that is all too familiar to us, one we guard against.  Huxley, on the other hand, spoke of of the cult of consumption, and of stupefying ourselves with meaningless, mindless entertainment, and is one that we appear to embrace.

If I consider Mozilla: we’re very concerned with the former, with a user’s privacy, with the limits of what statutory power exists over the individual’s data.  But we pay little attention to the effects of the Internet on the individual.  Is this because we believe they are well served by the individual’s own choices and the free market?  That it is not our role?  That we have no competence here?  We might describe this as a philosophical divide between the libertarian and the paternalist.

I’m not advocating that Mozilla should aim to make this central to our mission.  I don’t see how we could.  But I do wish that there was more quantified data and a public discourse on our mental health.  Looking at the Internet, I’d have to conclude that the only health issue that matters is a preoccupation with the swift and effortless acquisition of well-defined abdominal muscles.  At least, that’s what the invisible hand shows me.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““The Internet”

  1. I very much agree. I am concerned about this, too. I think that Mozilla’s opposition to DRM in the W3C standards is related to it, and whether Mozilla means it or not, I support it. I wrote about it a few months ago.

  2. I recently (last year) re-read Brave New World and agree we could do more.

    Mozilla’s Webmaker program is a great effort to help change our consumption-driven world, but why isn’t it integrated into Firefox somehow? We do seem to work harder to add consumption features to our products (e.g., social api for Firefox) than production features.

    Social media can (really should) be equal parts mass-production and mass-consumption. I’d like to see us work on that somehow.

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