Wednesday, January 11, 2006
In a surprising, and even slightly impressive, move, AOL has launched a commercial to at least give an impression that they give a damn about what the fundamental service they provide really means to this world. The Internet. This well-thought out commercial is even more impressively so given that it is a company that's been criticised and parodied by amateur comedians for its infamous piss-ass service. Still I remain a skeptic of the service they actually provide. I thought HSBC commercials had me convinced it was a good bank until I couldn't make out anymore the difference between a wet market on a Saturday morning and a HSBC branch.
To quote casually AOL's attempt to discuss the Internet:
Some say the Internet is a good thing.
In the past year, the percentage of donations made to aide organisations for natural disasters overwhelmingly exceeding those made by governments were made through the Internet. Some say that the Internet is truly the only form of free expression*. The Internet is powerful learning tool for propagating and obtaining information at the click of a mouse button. Orwell was wrong. Society could not be controlled but instead flourish into a free-er, more diverse society.
*Except China. And Singapore. And Malaysia. And etc.
Some say the Internet is a bad thing.
With the Internet, you could be robbed blind without criminals even setting foot in your home. With the Internet, you could buy someone's baby if the price is right. It has been used to propagate the most sinful of desires such as child pornography. Without control and restrictions, terrorists preach and spread their extreme ideologies. Orwell was right. Now that society has fallen reliant on the Internet, Big Brother is able to watch your every move.
I am tempted to side with the latter given that I believe the number of stupid people who spew crap at any one time overly exceeds that of borderline intellectual discussions. Which reminds me of that other interesting credit card commercial scientifically stating that the world is in equilibrium so that for every clever thing that happens, something stupid will happen. Unfortunately if that were true, we'd have cured AIDS and cancer by now and probably be populating Mars as we speak.
Alas I conclude that despite the size of population stupid, they surely cannot outweigh the benefits to be reaped from the Internet. In the end, no good thing ever comes without the bad. It is the crumbs and the crust and even the corners of the bread that we must eat to enjoy the tasty white bit (the analogy doesn't work if you insist that a knife will solve the problem... or if you insist that the crusty bit is the best). If like China, a government may not even consider the white bit being the part to eat and you end up with small bits and chunks that ressemble bird feed (OK clyde, enough with the bread talk!) . The Internet boils down eventually to the freedom of expression. The freedom to communicate in a manner more easily than any other form known to mankind. It is often easier to attack the weapon of crime rather than its perpetrator. Where does one draw the line between weapon and tool?
A recent tv one-off show tried to deal with religion in a similar sort of way. Given that organised religion has been used as an excuse to justify atrocities carried out throughout history. Bush and his "God told me to do it, man" versus Bin Laden's "fuck all non-muslims" being the latest holy war. It is of course unthinkable to even mention the abolishment of organised religion, despite the cost of civilian life and collateral damage associated with some form of destruction in the name of God/Allah/etc. No one is going to close down the Vatican City, or Indonesia. Perhaps religion would make for a much better discussion as to why we should think that a greater good can come of it. Why does a gay muslim man, exiled by his own religion and abandoned by fellow muslims still continue to embrace it? Anyway, back to the topic.
Some say the Internet is a bad thing:
And who is to say that the information is correct anyway? No one is held accountable for what is posted on the net, so can you ever really be sure that what you are reading isn't just a load of rubbish?
True, that enough rubbish is already posted on the Internet that one has to sift through carefully. For example, a particular Singaporean blogger (I'm not naming names) once bragged about how great the toilet space for disabled people were and that the handicapped should wait in line for the toilets just like everyone else. Now if you thought, "hmm, that sounds like a good idea. I think I'll try it some time and tell that retard to get back in line next time", then you're the unfortunate idiot. Not the blogger. I am fond of pointing out cyber-idiots, but I concede that to complain about them would be like the captain of the ship complaining about the sea. You just deal with it. This might be the most mediocre interpretation of "wrong information" nor the most suitable example, but it is hardly a case of whether the Internet presents useful information or not. I'd like to believe it encourages the development of objectivity amongst anything else. The Internet does not pose wrong information. It only poses all information. To have everything spoon-fed to your mind is already the death of you should you choose that direction in life.
There are of course, more deviant crimes such as the propagation of racism and hate on the Internet. But chances are if you buy into that crap, you'd probably turn out to be racist anyway whether you had an internet connection or not. Minds are more easily poisoned than we'd like to believe, especially so in young people. Like most other freedoms, responsibility comes with the package. In my final metaphor, the inherent dangers of the Internet towards society is like that of a car. They are ultimately useful. They get us somewhere.
But if you can't drive, don't get in the fucking car.
"If you can't understand why disabled people need this space, then why don't you go try and break your fucking neck."
uuith: (etymology, english) how a shivering old man says 'with'

I just love the commercial, which basically says: "think the internet is a terrible thing? then why not buy a computer with AOL and tell us all about it. we PROMISE we'll give a shit"
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