Collective Thought on the Internet

I just opened an email from the Electronic Frontier Foundation claiming to update me about this week’s developments on SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, a piece of legislation with growing infamy among the internet savvy that is now in committee in the House. The news was good. While the legislation is still on the table, the outcry against the bill from the Internet’s industry as well as its patrons was loud enough to raise the eyebrows of our representatives’ campaign managers, and further consideration of the measure has been postponed till January (which in a Congress that can barely find time to keep the lights on in the office, is a promising sign that continued opposition can condemn SOPA to the waste bin of scheduling obscurity that has collected so many much better ideas).

Since I stumbled upon the controversy surrounding SOPA through the tried-and-true “COPY from Facebook and PASTE into Google”, I have done all I could as a citizen to stop this legislation from going through. I wrote to my Congresswoman and Senators about opposing the bill and emailed my friends about doing the same. To my horror, my New York State Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, wrote back defending her position as a cosponsor of equivalent legislation in the Senate, the Protect IP Act.

I still did what I could to participate in our democracy. As I much as I could, I tried to talk about this issue and, as Justice Scalia might say, “change the minds of my fellow citizens.” After talking to my friends and observing the vested interest of Hollywood, however, I gave up. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am among the 91% of Americans who disapprove of Congress. Washington and Hollywood are both so drowned in the capital of those who have it that I couldn’t imagine my efforts making much of an impact compared to the Goliath of the entertainment industry.

I am so proud of the intelligence and ingenuity of my generation evidenced by the outpouring of online videos, blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, forum threads, memes, Reddit threads, and even shitty pop songs advocating a free Internet and the defeat of SOPA. Opposition to SOPA went viral! This is very interesting because the weapon that we have wielded against SOPA is that very beast it wishes to tame, and the implications are HUGE.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are witnessing today a historical revolution in the medium of information dissemination and in the mechanics of social thought that will have implications far greater than those had by some of the most important technologies ever developed. Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440 was the spark that lit the fire of the Enlightenment, renewed mankind’s curiosity for thought, and ended the Dark Ages. The Internet is the printing press for the 21st century, and it’s the stuff of revolution.

One cyborg anthropologist even offers that the Internet is not just a revolution, but evolution, too. One defining characteristic behavior of higher primates is the use of tools to expand operative capabilities beyond the limitations of the body, and now, human beings are using tools like the Internet to expand the operative capabilities of our minds. We are able to connect to anyone on the planet and access limitless information in seconds. My friend said to me yesterday, “How crazy is it that the Internet is always just there, man?” The world wide web of communication we have built has taken on its own life. The Internet is like an organism that we have built. Only humans haven’t built the Internet per se; human beings are the Internet.

This goes beyond piracy, beyond emails replacing snail mail, and beyond Facebook. I think we are building a mind. Imagine… the GOOGLEPLEX, a connection of the mind of every human being. All of society’s knowledge, instead of being placed by each specialist in each book in each library or on each page of Wikipedia, is instantly accessible to every mind directly. The limitations of space and memory are eliminated and innovation is instant. Is this “hive mind”? I don’t know. But I do know that as societal knowledge grows, so does quality of life. Politically, I think the Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to return  to the strict egalitarian ideals the United States was founded on. What’s the use of an electoral college when everyone is wired to the web?

Okay, so I have a flare for science fiction. This goes way beyond SOPA, which should basically be opposed today because it threatens free speech as well as technological innovation in one of the few growing industries remaining in America. My point: threats to the flow of information, which today is the Internet, are dangerous to our growth as a species. I’m optimistic though, because recent political action has shown us that the Internet is already powerful enough to prevent its own demise.

Wow, I cannot wait to see the future. On second thought, I’m just going to go enjoy being young…

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