April 21, 2011

A call to arms?

My time as an electrical engineer at Warwick University, but perhaps more importantly my extensive, overenthusiastic and at times downright unhealthy use of the internet has bred what I deem to be a vested interest in the issues surrounding net neutrality. There is no doubt that ignorance is no longer bliss here...everything which originally transformed the internet into such an invaluable resource to humanity as a whole - most notably in terms of free and unrestricted access to any and all content made available on the world wide web as well as the provision of tools for easy content generation and distribution - stands to be lost, or worse, controlled and restricted by our insect overlords, if you will. We will have surrendered our technological freedom, and it's not a huge leap of the imaginination to begin to sense Orwellian overtones if the sheer power and scope of the internet are utilised for such 'evils' as invasive surveillance and even brainwashing!

Currently mass media often chooses to gloss over this subject, a phenomenon which I believe is twofold in origin. It is due in part to a lack of both understanding of the concepts involved and a sense of gravitas regarding the increasingly large role net neutrality will play in determining the manner in which content is consumed as the technological age advances, and partly due to the fact that many of the major players in the industry are backing ideas which are rightly unpopular, and would be even more so if widely acknowledged. This is in fact one of the lynchpins of the issue: it is hard to know which sources and information channels to trust when many have unseen agendas.

The battle lines have been drawn, sides have been chosen and to see it any other way would be foolhardy. This is like no war previously seen however; the battlefield is ever-changing, paradigms are shifting and blurring. It is this which we may be able to use in our favour when the inevitable call to arms approaches, as we sharpen our keyboards and Whatsapp our loved ones in the knowledge of the adversity we are soon to face...get a load of me, regular Braveheart over here. Still, recent events such as those involving Wikileaks and the Anonymous group have acted as flashpoints between the opposing sides, serving mainly to highlight the issues and raise awareness. This is probably only a taste of what we can expect in the coming months and years, an ominous but necessary harbinger of what may be required of any of us who value and cherish the internet as the connecting and informing medium it is.

It's entirely possible our names will ring out through the blogs and databases of ages...but even if not, this cannot be ignored. in 1970 Joni Mitchell pointed out that we 'don't know what they've got 'til it's gone...' and even though the internet was very much in its infancy at that point, with the web a mere twinkle in Sir Tim Berners-Lee's eye, it's not so hard to see that that's pretty much what she was on about. They're about to pave paradise and put up a tiered service model (obviously she went with parking lot,much better ring to it).

I will be attempting to explore the various facets involved with this wide-ranging subject, as objectively as possible (despite how it may appear from the rousing diatribe above) while trying to stay up to date with future developments and observing their impacts. Stay tuned.


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