Worldwide Disaster: Right at Your Fingertips
Internet junkies and world leaders alike are dealing with a phenomenon they do not fully understand; the internet, a vast, ungovernable, intimate, alter-reality, through which, almost anything is possible. Although many acclaim the internet as a harbinger to a new age
and extol its virtues as an information source, the internet brings challenges few are ready to face. The versatility
of the internet brings these troubles into many realms of our everyday life. This paper will discuss how the internet hurts commerce, international relations, and interpersonal relationships
The commercial industries have latched onto the internet as if it were free money. Many, though have been caught unaware. Commerce suffers greatly from information leaks and infringement. One of the largest losses come from the loss of trade secrets. Joseph Kizza, an expert researcher in the field of internet influence, states the problem succinctly:
Two types of information can leak on the internet: (1) information on devices, designs, processes, software designs, and many other industrial processes, and (2) information on individual employees’ life possessions-- employee- accumulated
knowledge and experience...When an employee is hired by a company he/she usually signs a contract with a new employer against disclosure of information “acquired in the course of employment.” But by the nature of the internet an employee can live by this contract and yet disclose as much information, most times unknowingly, into the internet community. (147)
Such information leaks can do great damage to individual companies in a competitive environment. Years of research and millions of dollars can be leaked out unwittingly. Infringement uses these trade secrets for gain. An infringer is anyone who uses proprietary information to profit undeservedly. But, unlike other lawbreakers no public law enforcement can be used to investigate an infringer (Kizza 78). The owner of patents or copyrights must pay any expenses incurred for investigating and prosecuting. Considering the inability to trace internet access in such a case few infringements are ever caught. This can be devastating to commerce (Kizza 78).
Concerning international relations the internet has already done much damage. The British Broadcasting Company, ran a program in 1995 explaining how before any real bombing began in the Gulf War, the US government used internet warfare to drop the “I- Bomb” on Saddam Hussein’s information systems (Bourdieu 57). The program intimated that the damage done in such warfare is more devastating than the physical damage done by the bombing. Even the occurrence of such an event leads citizens all over the world to wonder what kind of damage could be done to the infrastructure of their respective countries. This uncertainty cannot help trust grow between nations.
Heidi and Alvin Toffler warn of a different problem in their article “The Futurist”. With the internet bringing a new information age the separation of industrial countries and agricultural countries widens. Since the information intensive countries have a higher value added the food producing countries of the world are scrambling to leave their fields and move onto computers (Toffler 26). The internet does not grow food on its own. If those who are growing food can access any information that they want they will quickly change from an agricultural nation to a technological nation leaving behind empty fields and broken international relations.
On a more intimate scale our interpersonal relationships will suffer on the internet. Right now on the internet thousands of chatrooms exist. In this chatrooms, participants create their own alter identities and interact with other alter identities creating what would appear to be an alter community. Kevin Robbins, in his study “Cyberspace and the World We Live In”, unmasks this illusion. There is communication in this chatrooms, there is community. There is fulfillment, but there is no commitment. “In the end”, he says, we have “not an alternative society, but an alternative to society” (22). People run away from reality to the internet forsaking true interpersonal relationships.
Annette Markham, an expert in internet relationships suggests in her book, “Life On-line”, that part of the reason why such a denial of reality is so enticing is the control given to each participant (124). Each player in the chatroom, can be whoever he/she wants to be controlling the perception that other people have of them. This control breeds dishonesty and damages an individual’s capacity for quality interpersonal relationships. Ironically, Markham adds that while they are controlling others they are not aware of the control that others are exerting on them (124). One subject that she interviewed summed it up by saying, “[on-line interpersonal relationships] require less effort and less commitment.” These unrealistic effects of the internet eventually render individuals incapable of real-world interpersonal relationships.
The impact of the internet hurts us deeply, in our pocketbooks, internationally, and even in our friendships. Cyberspace introduces ethical questions we as a society are not ready to answer. The internet reaches into every part of our lives, public and private, global and personal. The sheer breadth of the internet encompasses all aspects of living and yet, regulation of such a powerful beast is non-existent. Until society is ready to answer some serious questions about the internet, society will continue suffer from the abuse of this over-powering tool.