Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 19 May 2019

The world wide web is what we choose to make it

Technology is neither good not, bad but a tool we can use to create the societies we want

Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 developed technology that, combined with of the fledgling internet, gave us the World Wide Web. AFP
Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 developed technology that, combined with of the fledgling internet, gave us the World Wide Web. AFP

Today, we celebrate the 30th birthday of the world wide web, an invention that has radically changed our lives – both for the better and for the worse. From 2000 to 2018, global internet use has increased by more than 1,000 per cent, making our world more connected than ever before. It is now difficult to imagine life without email, social media platforms and being able to buy more or less anything we want with the click of a mouse. Many of its innovations, from online education to mobile navigation systems, have improved our lives immeasurably.

However, we have also become more exposed to online piracy, fake news and hatred. In an open letter, timed to coincide with the anniversary, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has expressed concerns about the spread of political misinformation and prejudice online. Apple’s co-founder, Steve Wozniak, meanwhile, shared his worries about the way the digital revolution has eroded our control of sensitive personal data in a recent interview with The National. “I have a thought in my head and you aren’t entitled to it,” he said.

Although these issues should not be taken lightly, it is wise to remember that technology has no inherent traits. It is neither good nor bad, just a tool. The AgTech initiative, for instance, is a Dh1 billion programme launched by the Abu Dhabi government to support the establishment of agricultural technology companies, as part of the Ghadan 21 stimulus package. Aiming to solve the many challenges posed by farming in arid environments, its results are likely to have life-changing impacts far beyond the UAE. On the other hand, the relative anonymity of many online communities has provided fertile ground for populist politics, racism, sexism and all manner of other prejudice to flourish in. As in the physical world, there are no quick fixes to these problems. Similarly, the world wide web is largely what we choose to make it. As such, we all have a duty to ensure it is a force for positivity and progress, not conflict and discord.

Updated: March 12, 2019 06:36 PM

SHARE

SHARE