WEB OF DEATH: THE INTERNET
Why the Internet will never be a part of a healthy world and
why we should stop talking about 'Net neutrality' and 'digital democracy'
The Internet is a social, spiritual and ecological poison that is ushering the world towards its own destruction. While this statement may seem “extreme” within our techno-dependent culture, a rational analysis, with the goal of social and ecological justice to guide us, will demonstrate how unfortunately pertinent such a label is. Since so much effort is put into “saving the Net” in the name of democracy, it would be of utmost benefit to take a closer look at whether or not the technology is actually compatible with genuine democracy, beyond simply parroting typical phrases generated by the corporate world such as that the Internet is “connecting us all” and “bringing us all together”. Furthermore, “democracy” here is used in its truest sense, as in direct decision-making by the people over their lives; it is not being used in the popular meaningless sense that equates to the freedom to choose which fast-food restaurant to eat at and which millionaire candidate to vote for every four years. Democracy, then, has not actually existed in any Western nation thus far. In fact, the most democratic of all societies have generally been indigenous peoples who we often consider “primitive”. It is best to question such assumptions about others, as the following analysis of the Internet (and consequently of modern technologies) will not only cast doubt on our negative attitudes toward non-Western cultures, but reveal that perhaps our denigration of others is rather a subconscious reflection of the problematic aspects of our own culture.
The key to understanding the contradictions in the ideas of 'Net neutrality' and 'digital democracy' lies in first recognizing and admitting that no technology is neutral. Arguments that claim “it's how you use it that matters” are convenient for the corporate and government sectors and may make us feel better about our own addictions to technology, but ignore some fundamental realities. Every technology carries with it a certain way of thinking and promotes certain ways of thinking and behaving. As anthropologists are well aware, every technology is a cultural artifact that tells us something about the culture that created it. After all, it is a specific cultural mindset that leads to certain inventions. A culture determines how one interacts with the world and views relationships with the Earth, and thus the culture also shapes what kinds of technologies are developed. For example, in a culture which views humans, plants and animals as belonging to the same family, where no one is “superior” to another (such as in the Lakota's prayer mitakuye oysasin - “We are all related”), no one would ever think to develop technologies such as nuclear weapons, mines, factories, or pesticides. However, in a culture that posits humans as superior and separate from nature, it is only logical that such people would find it easy to destroy the natural world and create technologies that either are aimed at controlling (i.e., destroying) nature, or destroy nature as a consequence.
Contrary to what is commonly assumed by Westerners and many around the world who have been “converted” to the Western way, the ability to create modern technological gadgets which are all based on the destruction of nature (such as cars, cellphones, airplanes, nuclear energy, and nearly all products of industrial capitalism) is not a sign of greater intelligence or cultural superiority but rather it is a sign that the culture is characterized by alienation from nature and a pathological mindset – for why would any sane culture destroy the natural world upon which it depends for life? Yet it is a taken-for-granted assumption of Westerners that technological complexity reflects intelligence and superiority, ignoring or ignorant of the multitude of different cultural ways of knowing and the unique abilities of members of non-Western cultures. It is unfortunate that our judgement of superior intelligence is based on technological complexity rather than on the ability to live socially healthy lives in such a way that the natural world is able to flourish for thousands of years. Furthermore, this taken-for-granted assumption, rooted in Social Darwinism (which itself was a Victorian Age cultural artifact used to justify genocidal British colonial behavior), is one key reason why all of the world's cultures are being destroyed to make way for the one monoculture of the Judeo-Christian, Western industrial capitalist technoculture.
Another way of seeing the non-neutrality of the Internet (and of all technologies) is to recognize that every technology both extends some human ability and weakens that same ability. For example, as C.A. Bowers points out, a stick can be viewed as a technology. A person who wishes to get a fruit hanging high on a tree can use the stick to knock it down. Thus, the stick is an extension of the person's hands and arms. However, by remaining on the ground and not climbing the tree, the person uses their hands and arms and whole body less than they would otherwise, reducing muscle use and encouraging greater weakness in comparison to when climbing a tree. To take a more modern example, a car is an extension of our legs. Yet the more we drive, the less we use our legs, the more we become accustomed to sitting, the weaker our legs become, and often the weaker we become in general. The difference, of course, is in scale, which is why a stick is an entirely sustainable technology while a car is not.
Another crucial concept is that all technologies are also forms of alienation, in that they distance us from important parts of the world. In the case of the stick, we no longer climb the tree, so we have become distanced from a more intimate relationship with the tree that we would have when climbing it. Again, this is not to say that a stick is unsustainable, but merely to highlight how any technology, no matter how simple, is based on alienation. In the case of a car, the more we drive the more alienated we become from our neighbors and from the natural world in our neighborhood. The more we go somewhere else, the less we know what is in our immediate environment. Furthermore, a car is a steel cage alienating us from the outside world. While walking we get to see and know a landscape and people; while in a car we are zipping by too fast to talk to anyone or to stop and look at a tree or to notice details – or to interact with the world. Sun, wind and rain are things “out there”, and not something we experience directly while in a car. But unlike the low-level alienation of a stick, the alienation created by a car is extremely destructive. In a similar way, the Internet increases our alienation in various ways, as we shall see below.
The question of whether a technology is “democratic” or sustainable is similarly straightforward. In the case of the stick, anyone can make it, the raw materials are available everywhere, no reliance on “experts” is needed to use it, the making of it does not pollute or destroy the environment, it is biodegradable, and the disposal also does not pollute the natural world. That is democratic, just as the many tools of indigenous people across the planet have been for thousands of years stretching back two million years of human history. On the other hand, a car is not democratic and not sustainable because a person cannot make one by themselves, the raw materials are not available everywhere, and every step along the way from extraction and production to use and disposal causes immense and widespread ecological pollution and devastation. Solar energy is often touted as being democratic. Yet the raw materials are not available everywhere (rare earth metals having to be mined in Africa and Asia) and a person cannot make it alone – intense heat is needed to fashion a panel, and the factories and parts needed are dependent on a complex, wide-reaching industrial society that is just as destructive as the fossil fuel industry upon which it is based. The Internet, unfortunately, can never be democratic, for similar reasons. The list below will highlight how un-democratic the Internet is. Above all, this un-democratic nature of the Internet (anti-democratic to be more precise) is not how it is used, but that it is simply an anti-democratic technology – its form is anti-democratic, the mindset and culture behind it is anti-democratic, and thus how it is used is necessarily anti-democratic. No possible use of it can make it democratic. So while there are many positive, pro-democracy and pro-sustainability websites on the Internet, the technology itself will undermine everything they strive for, which is why, in reality, those websites are drowned out in a sea of anti-democracy and anti-sustainability.
Every cultural artifact, then, is actually a metaphor for the culture that created it. The American Indian tipi is a reflection of the nomadic Plains Indians who used them. The tipi embodies their values, their way of life, their way of looking at the world, and their relationship to each other and everything around them. Likewise, the waka (canoe) or marae (meeting house) are metaphors for pre-European Maori culture, just as the pyramids and hieroglyphics each tell us about Ancient Egyptian civilization. In the same way, a car, a computer, and the Internet are each a metaphor for the Western industrial capitalist culture which created them. Each cultural artifact embodies a far-reaching web of relationships. Yet while the relationships denoted by a tipi and waka are life-affirming and sustainable, connecting the people in respectful relationships with the natural world around them and the generations that preceded them, the relationships inherent in the car, computer, and the Internet (as well as pyramids and hieroglyphics) are rooted in destruction, alienation, and domination. To claim that the Internet is neutral and that it is “how you use it that matters” is to deny that a specific culture created it.
In essence, the point of the following analysis is to highlight the many ways in which the Internet is decidedly anti-democratic as well as socially and ecologically un-sustainable, so that it becomes clear that the only real way to create democracy and a healthy society is to follow a way which has been around for two millions years: that is, we go outside and talk to our neighbors and connect with the natural world around us. It's that simple. Anything else is wishful thinking.
ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF THE INTERNET
Computer infrastructure requires the destruction of the Earth.
Mining. Toxic chemicals. Factories. Toxic sewage. Cargo ships. Trucking. Electricity. Oil. Oil wars. Resource wars. Toxic waste. No aspect of the making and running of computers is healthy for the planet. Few people ever stop to consider just what is required to even have the Internet, regardless of how we use it. All of it is polluting, all of it is destructive, and none of it is sustainable. The ecological consequences of the computer and Internet infrastructure are deforestation, habitat destruction, mass extinction of animals and plants, dead rivers, a dying ocean, poisoned land, toxic air, and all the many additional consequences of Climate Change. This is the price we pay just to have the Internet. Our uses of the Internet (rooted in consumerism) only make it worse. This reason alone should make us question the Internet, if we were truly concerned with social and ecological justice. Again, a culture which respects the natural world and sees itself as inextricably linked to the animals, plants, mountains, oceans and rivers would never behave in such a way and never accept – much less dream up - such a technology. To claim that the Internet can support democracy is to completely ignore every aspect of the extraction, production, distribution, use, and disposal of computers.
Computer infrastructure is extremely high-energy.
Every step along the way – from extraction to disposal – requires immense amounts of energy. It comes largely from fossil fuels, or to a smaller degree, from nuclear power. None of it is sustainable. Either you radiate the planet or you fry the planet with Climate Change, and no realistic number of solar panels or windmills will alter the consequences for the Earth. Solar energy and wind energy also require an extremely high-energy infrastructure which is completely based on fossil fuels. “Alternative” energy sources are merely industrial capitalism's techno-utopian response to “concern” about fossil fuels and Climate Change, yet does not address the key problem: what we are doing with all that energy and the fact that we require so much of it (“Green Technology”, 2015). In other words, our unsustainable way of life. Whatever our source of energy, the cultural mindset inherent in the Internet is one that will destroy the Earth. The problem is in our minds.
It is important here to emphasize the looming catastrophe of Climate Change, as the Internet and the computer infrastructure upon which it is based is completely dependent on the burning of fossil fuels and perpetuates the culture that is responsible for Climate Change. As University of Arizona climate scientists Guy McPherson recently pointed out, “All the evidence points to a locked-in 3.5 to 5 degree C global temperature rise above the 1850 ‘norm’ by mid-century, possibly much sooner. This guarantees a positive feedback, already underway, leading to 4.5 to 6 or more degrees above ‘norm’ and that is a level lethal to life. This is partly due to the fact that humans have to eat and plants can’t adapt fast enough to make that possible for the 7-to-9 billion of us—so we’ll die.” Journalist Dahr Jamail reported that “we have been warned to expect between 30 to 50 percent of all current species to go extinct by 2050”, “that sea levels are now rising 25 percent faster than previous estimates”, and that “an increasing number of climate change scientists now fear that our situation is already so serious, and so many self-reinforcing feedback loops are already in play, that we are in the process of causing our own extinction. Worse yet, some are convinced that it could happen far more quickly than generally believed possible - even in the course of just the next few decades” (Jamail, “Climate”). And if people are under the illusion that the same governments responsible for this situation will do what needs to be done, or that what needs to be done will not require great sacrifice and adjustment to our Western way of life, Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2009, points out that “the only way that a 2015 [Climate] agreement can achieve a two-degree goal is to shut down the whole global economy.”
In other words, the Internet is an integral part of a way of life which is destroying all life on the planet. So the question is, how much are you willing to sacrifice for your children's future? Or do you stubbornly hold onto old patterns of thought and behavior while all life on the planet is destroyed?
CULTURAL EFFECTS OF THE INTERNET
The Internet reinforces an individualist mindset, rather than collectivist.
Using a computer is a solitary activity; it's just you and the screen. Just you clicking away. On the Internet you don't have to think about anyone else, just yourself. Even reading about someone else, “chatting” with someone, or making a video call is not genuine communication – the other person is an image, an idea, an abstraction of someone else. In other words, unless you're face-to-face, in a sense you're really just communicating with yourself. The Internet, like the computer, is a tool of Western culture which itself represents self-interest above the common good and reinforces the notion of the autonomous individual. This is often touted as “constructing one's own knowledge” out of “bits of data”. No one is bound by the past or by tradition – or by traditional ways that may have contributed to a more sustainable way of living. Instead, each person creates their own truth. This is also known as nihilism. Another manifestation of this focus on the self is widespread and growing narcissism. Almost half of all photos on Instagram in the U.K. by young people are selfies. Yet all sustainable cultures that have ever existed have been based on a collectivist mindset, in that the members, while still pursuing personal expression with a great deal of freedom, do it in ways that support the health and well-being of the group, in large part by following traditional ways that have ensured the ongoing survival of the group. Freedom and responsibility were closely intertwined. Today, however, the past is of little value and our notion of freedom has been taken to mean complete self-interest. In two million years of human history there has never been a sustainable culture based on self-interest and individualism, yet that is what we've got and that is what the Internet perpetuates.
The Internet perpetuates the Western idea of 'progress'.
Our notion of 'progress' is an entirely Western cultural concept used to justify all change as beneficial and unavoidable. Thus, ecological destruction is “the price of progress” and lost jobs are “the price of progress” and epidemic levels of cancer, diabetes and heart disease are “the price of progress”. There are so many prices for progress that at some point we must wonder, what exactly are we gaining with 'progress'? Yet the Internet, with its constant updating, constantly newer versions of software, always newer hardware requirements, its focus on the immediate present (with the past and anything “old” being worthless), and celebration of all modern technology, perpetuates the idea that the more technology, the better, and that somehow, despite all indications to the contrary, we are moving in a positive direction by relying on all this technology.
Above all, our conception of progress is entirely cultural. As C.A. Bowers points out, the “computer/futurist thinker’s way of understanding progress is not like that of the Western Apache who interpret progress as achieving wisdom by avoiding the distractions of the personal ego and the demands of the external surroundings––including the expectations of others, or that of a Buddhist in attaining a mindful existence, or that of other non-Western cultures less focused upon turning all aspects of daily life into expanding markets and profits” (Bowers, 2014).
The Internet promotes the illusion of techno-utopianism.
Similar to the idea of progress, those with the most control of the Internet – the 1% - use the Internet to reinforce the notion that technology can solve all our problems, even though no modern technology has thus far solved any problem without creating a new set of problems, and that none of the touted promises of any technology have yet come true. The Internet is merely following in the tradition of all previous “saviour technologies” as a reflection of the corporate mass media's constant propaganda that lead us to believe that living in spaceships or on colonies in outer space would represent a better way of living – or that such a thing is even possible. What these images actually represent is the extent to which technology and corporate indoctrination have alienated us from the natural world, that we could imagine living in a sterile, completely synthetic environment to be an improvement. It also represents a widespread inability to recognize how much harm modern technologies cause. This is to be expected, as the Internet is just another product of corporations, and their advertising has done a remarkable job in convincing everyone that more of their products will be the answer, even though thus far they have only succeeded in making the world more and more miserable, with all of the Earth's ecological communities bordering on total collapse.
It destroys indigenous cultures, all non-Western cultures, and is a tool of cultural imperialism.
The culture and way of thinking promoted by the Internet contradicts thousands of years of sustainable indigenous cultures. Sustainable indigenous cultures are based on the oral-tradition, face-to-face interactions, and an intimate connection with the natural world, while the Internet is based on the printed word, commodification, isolation of individuals, anthropocentrism, patriarchy and alienation from nature. While many indigenous people have adopted the use of the Internet in the hope that it can be used to strengthen their culture (according to the “It's how you use it” fallacy), the Internet can best be viewed much like the European system of compulsory schooling which has been forced upon indigenous people in many parts of the world – as a tool of cultural imperialism which seeks the destruction of all non-Western cultures.
Anyone who doesn't think or live like a Westerner will have to abandon their traditional ways. One has to adopt a Western way of thinking to use the Net and once on, is subjected to a constant bombardment of Western consumerist, patriarchal, anthropocentric and nihilist messages. Simply put, every person and every culture must be a Western culture. Everyone is turned into an obedient consumer. That is the goal of the 1% and their money-hungry corporations, with the result being the end of cultural diversity (as well as the end of biological diversity).
The Internet is anti-women.
Very few Internet start-ups are led by women, there are hardly any female engineers in Silicon Valley, women are paid a fraction of what men are paid, and there is open hostility to women throughout the Internet. Internet companies are a reflection of the patriarchal culture which created the Internet: it is dominated by young, white males who have transferred their sexist, misogynist culture to the Net. That is why 25% of all Internet searches are for pornography, why 30% of the Internet industry is pornography, and why 70% of youth come across pornography without even intentionally searching for it. The Internet is pornography (“Pornography Statistics”, Family Safe Media; “Pornography Statistics”, Internet Safety 101). In fact, the entire Western world is still dominated by rich, white men and their anthropocentric, violent, patriarchal culture, so one should not expect a technology they create to promote another way of thinking or an alternative way of relating to each other.
It reinforces a consumerist mindset.
You have to buy a computer. You have to pay for the internet. Once on it, you are subjected to thousands and thousands of ads. Everything on the Internet is a reflection of the consumerist Western culture that created it. Even a non-Western culture that uses the Internet ends up promoting and adopting consumerism. They either must buy a computer to begin with, or, if given a computer, have accepted a Trojan horse into their midst (Bowers, 2001).
It reinforces a high-energy culture and an unsustainable way of thinking.
Self-interest, greed, competition, profit, individualism, capitalism, endless growth, consumerism, professional sports, pop culture, trivia, patriarchy, anthropocentrism, nihilism, etc. That is the essence of the Net. The Internet is a product of an unsustainable, high-energy culture, and it is only to be expected that it reinforces the same way of thinking. You cannot expect a product of a consumerist culture to promote a non-consumerist way of thinking.
SOCIAL & ANTI-DEMOCRATIC EFFECTS OF THE INTERNET
The Internet destroys jobs.
The digital age has seen the elimination of millions of jobs. According to one study, 47% of all jobs are expected to be lost in the next twenty years in the U.S. (Keen, 2015). Almost 102 million American workers are unemployed (Bridge, 2014). The number of unemployed in the U.S. has tripled since 2008, while in the European Union the number of long-term unemployed has doubled in just the last several years. And globally, the number of unemployed, under-employed or “vulnerably employed” totals 2.4 billion people (Dolack, 2015). Lost jobs are either replaced by low-paid, unskilled service jobs, or no jobs at all. Corporations are obsessed with replacing workers, smashing unions, paying workers as little as possible and operating outside the law in their pursuit of maximum profit. While corporate profits are higher than ever, wages have not risen. For those willing to delve deeper, they will find that the stated aims of their revered Internet companies (such as Google, Facebook and Amazon) and all other corporations is to replace as many workers as they can with machines. This behavior is not unique to the digital age, as the behavior of the 1%, since the first machines were invented 300 years ago, was to use new technologies to replace and uproot workers (Sale, 1996).
It's a tool of surveillance.
The NSA, CIA, Homeland Security, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, in addition to the global spy network ECHELON (comprised of the intelligence agencies of the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) are all watching you and recording your every move, tracking your emails, texts, phone calls, and social media posts – and they have been throughout the digital era. While you may perceive some personal benefits to using a computer and the Internet, above all it has enabled world governments to track us and spy on us like never before (Englehardt, 2015, Valiente, 2013). The East German Stasi pales in comparison. A watched population is fearful and unwilling to challenge the status quo to make things better. Furthermore, because of all that surveillance, any attempts at democratizing society become even more difficult - especially when people rely on the Internet to “communicate”, as such a form of communication cannot build the levels of trust and reciprocity that results from real face-to-face communication and which are necessary for genuine democracy.
It's a tool of control and manipulation.
This is what all that surveillance is for. Governments have always used communication technologies to strengthen control and eliminate any ability of the people to make decisions. Governments and the wealthy control and influence the bulk of Internet activity and information. They plant information to manipulate us and the way we think – with a favorite tool being to increase fear. This is the purpose of the corporate media. With their vast networks of surveillance they can then move in and squash any potential threats to their power (Greenwald, 2014; Horn, 2014; Wilbert, 2014).
It concentrates wealth.
The richest 70 people on the planet own as much as the poorest 3.6 billion people combined, while by 2016 the richest 1% will own as much as everyone else (“Richest”, 2015). A handful of very powerful corporations control most of the Internet (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.). The digital age has dramatically increased wealth concentration. For example, in San Francisco, home of the largest Internet companies, homelessness, poverty and evictions have seen dramatic increases, and city housing is now unaffordable to 86% of its residents (Keen, 2015). Meanwhile, corporations use tax loopholes (created by their government servants) and deceitful practices to avoid paying billions of dollars of taxes, year after year. This is typical corporate behavior, and it is no coincidence that the computer age has seen the world remade into a modern feudal social arrangement (Mander, 1995).
It concentrates power.
By enabling governments and the 1% to increase their own wealth while controlling and manipulating what the people think, the 1% becomes even more powerful. Corporations, Internet companies and the 1% avoid taxes, operate outside the law and are creating a feudal society of a few very wealthy people and a majority of impoverished people who are losing all sense of how to connect with each other and assert themselves.
Computer infrastructure requires the destruction of communities.
Would you want to work in a mine? Would you want your children to work in a mine? Would you want to work in a factory? Would you want to live next door to a factory? Or drink water from a stream that passes by a factory or mine? Yeah, no one else does, either. That has to be forced. More than 3.5 million Iraqis were killed for oil. 7 million Congolese have been killed in a “civil war” perpetuated by corporations and Western governments in order to access rare earth metals and other natural resources. Millions of Chinese and other workers throughout the world are working in sweatshop factories and mines with little pay, miserable conditions and poor treatment. The destruction of communities today is merely the digital-age version of the colonialism and imperialism that has been a key feature of Western Civilization for at least two thousand years. While all civilizations (i.e., societies dependent on agriculture and cities) have engaged in imperialist and colonialist activity, the West has used modern technology to globalize their domination and destruction.
It is a tool of distraction.
Pop culture, videos, celebrity news, mainstream news, sports – the Internet is built around distraction and triviality. Information overload. People are drowned with nonsense and have no time for anything that really matters. They may care to some degree about larger issues, but what is emphasized on the Net is meaningless fluff and that is what becomes our main preoccupations.
Its use affects the mind like a drug.
Recent medical research – in addition to simply observing the world - has highlighted just how similar the Internet is to drug use. The more you use it, the more you need it. You can't imagine living without it. If it's taken away, you get upset. No amount is enough. And meanwhile life gets worse and worse.
It's a tool of mass confusion and ignorance.
Everyone and anyone puts anything and everything on the Internet. The fact that anyone can post anything on the Internet is not a reflection of its democratic capability any more than walking into a grocery store and being able to buy what you want is a sign of democracy. In both cases it's simply a sign of consumerism in which most of the products are toxic. Humans didn't evolve to cope with such amounts of information, are largely unable to sift through such vast amounts of trivia and deceit, and the result is confusion and ignorance (much as how most people enter a supermarket and 'democratically' purchase various forms of poison marketed as food).
It replaces face-to-face interactions.
When you're on a computer you're not face-to-face with a real person. That's the basis of genuine relationships and connections based on trust and reciprocity: the ability to hug someone, shake their hand, smell them, and experience the myriad other subtle aspects of real communication. Remember, all technology is a form of alienation. The Internet alienates us from other people and weakens our ability to communicate. As we rely more and more on digital forms of communication, we lose the ability to communicate in the ways we evolved over two million years to communicate: face-to-face. That is the reason why, despite total saturation of society by the Internet and cell-phones, depression and other forms of mental illnesses have been skyrocketing. Despite all this “connectivity”, we are all still lonely (Slade, 2012).
It replaces interactions with your neighbors and community.
You're on the Net, so you're not having face-to-face interactions with the people physically closest to you. That's the basis of real community and genuine democracy. The people around you – your neighbors. Not people thousands of miles away. No democracy and no sustainable society is possible without a physical community made up of neighbors who interact with each other face-to-face on a daily basis. The fact that we can now walk around with our phones while accessing the Net hasn't altered this fact. One look around reveals people ignoring each other and focusing on their gadgets. So even while being right next to someone, we are alienated from them. The more we connect, the less we are connected.
It scatters attention & shortens attention span.
With information overload and the hypertext, advertising-everywhere nature of the Internet, we're not thinking about much for more than a few seconds. Everything on the Net is designed to make us click away. Just like with a television, it doesn't matter what we do on the Net – the form itself will reduce our attention span. In the case of television, constant cuts, jumps in time and the flickering screen are the main way our attention span is reduced, no matter what we are watching. On the Internet, it's the constant clicks, constant screen distractions, and the ever-present ability to click away that encourages scattered thought and reduced ability to focus on any one thing (Carr, 2011).
It distracts us from where we are.
Since most content on the Internet is a form of pop culture and trivia, nearly all of the Net has no relevance to where we are and who we're surrounded by. Our mind is elsewhere. We are not paying attention to our physical community, nor are we paying attention to the land and natural world around us. Without connections to the people and land around us, no sustainability is possible and no democracy is possible.
It weakens memory.
There is no need to remember anything – because Google will do it for you! The more we rely on the Net, the more we forget. Google searches also emphasize the current and popular, further weakening our sense of history and perspective. This is another example of how technologies extend a human ability and thereby weaken that same ability.
It weakens the ability for deep thinking.
Deep thinking requires patience, concentration and quiet. The Internet, which is based on trivia, superficiality, consumerism and constant distractions, fundamentally contradicts all of these (Carr, 2011).
It weakens the capacity for empathy.
Without face-to-face, real-world connections to people and to nature, without patience, concentration and quiet, and without the ability to think deeply, our capacity for empathy is also weakened (Carr, 2011).
It weakens our ability to develop wisdom.
Wisdom requires patience, concentration, quiet, and deep thinking. Most important, it requires a deep connection with the natural world. The Internet represents and promotes the complete opposite of all these. In fact, the Internet promotes the idea of “data” and “facts” as the most important basis of decision-making and thought, while “wisdom” becomes an ever-more antiquated concept. Furthermore, wisdom is something that traditionally has been passed down from generation to generation through face-to-face interactions. The Internet emphasizes the new and the idea of 'progress', while the past – as well as our elders – are considered useless and have no value. Since wisdom is the key to living sustainably, the more we rely on the Internet, the more pathological and destructive we become.
It reinforces passivity.
When you're on the Internet you're sitting on your ass. That's what it promotes. Get as angry as you want, but keep sitting on your ass. Keep watching those documentaries, signing on-line petitions and 'liking' those Facebook pages. Like television, computer use promotes and reinforces inactivity and passivity. On a television, it doesn't matter what you're watching – nature documentary or silly sit-com – in either case you're being trained to sit and be passive. And while the Internet gives the feeling of “interaction” and “connection”, the reality is that a computer user is sitting and interacting only with abstractions. Emailing and “messaging” are abstract activities. A Skype “conversation” is a superficial version of a real, face-to-face interaction, and requires a level of abstraction that face-to-face interactions do not require. The more we engage in abstractions rather than action, the more passive we become. Our minds become filled with the “virtual” world and we forget how to be active and real. Democracy is only possible when people are outside, interacting with the world directly. This is one reason why, despite all the information we have access to, most people will not actively do anything to challenge or change the status quo.
If the Internet strengthened democracy or challenged the 1% it would be illegal.
Do you really think the 1% and their government servants would create or allow something that challenged their own power? While the original creators of the Internet may have thought otherwise (at least initially) the reality is that the Internet is a corporate product to increase profits, and thereby increase control. Any options given to us by the 1% - such as voting and compulsory education – will never be a part of bringing about a sustainable world, since to take such options is to play by the rules set by the 1% in order for them to control everyone else. Just as you can never vote away industrial capitalism or the rule of the 1%, you cannot “Internet-in” democracy. The only way out of this situation is to stop playing by their rules – and to stop imagining that the products they sell us are of any real benefit to us. Simply put, what is necessary is mass non-cooperation and revolution. Anything less is wishful thinking that leaves the same destructive culture in place.
When a real community exists there is no need for the Internet.
Humans and pre-modern humans lived for two million years without the Internet. Being closely connected with those around us and the land around us has been the essence of sustainability and of a healthy, meaningful life for nearly all of that time. Any sustainable society that has ever existed relied on the oral tradition, a cultural mindset that viewed humans as an equal and harmonious part of the natural world, and technologies that were low-energy and truly democratic. When humans live with such cultural mindsets, there simply is no need for something like the Internet. Only after communities have been eroded away, only after people have become alienated from each other and from the natural world, and only after people have become addicted to an industrial infrastructure, can the Internet be viewed as a “positive” or “needed” tool.
To repeat, the Internet is a cultural artifact from an unsustainable culture in which the notion of genuine community has largely been destroyed. The Internet, like all products of corporations, is used for profit and control. Corporations use advertising and the mass media to brainwash people to believe that they need it and to force addiction to their products, to the point where we defend the products and believe that such products are essential to our well-being. But who really gains from it? One look at the current global situation should make the answer quite clear.
The Internet does not contribute to human happiness and well-being.
Look at global problems: poverty, inequality, depression & mental illness, pollution, mass extinction, climate change, corporate domination, and spreading fascism – the computer/Internet age has made all of these worse. It's not a coincidence.
We must face the reality of our current behavior and culture and take whatever steps are necessary – no matter how painful – to give us, our children and future generations the chance at healthy lives on a healthy planet. Here is one way to start:
GET OFF THE 'NET AND GO OUTSIDE.
Bowers, C.A. (2002). “Computers, Culture, and the Digital Phase of the Industrial Revolution”. Retrieved from http://www.cabowers.net/pdf/computers_colonizingtech.pdf'
Bowers, C.A. (1992). Education, Cultural Myths, and the Ecological Crisis: Toward Deep Changes. State University of New York Press.
Bowers, C.A. (2003). The Ideology That Explains Cultural Domination as the Outcome of Natural Selection. Retrieved from http://www.cabowers.net/pdf/Evolution_Constructivist.pdf
Bowers, C.A. (2014). “Is the Digital Revolution Driven by an Ideology?” Retrieved from http://www.cabowers.net/pdf/Digital-ideology.pdf
Bowers, C.A. (2000). Let Them Eat Data: How Computers Affect Education, Cultural Diversity, and the Prospects of Ecological Sustainability. University of Georgia Press.
Bowers, C.A. (2001). Using Computers in Native American Classrooms: Trojan Horse or Culturally Affirming Technology? Retrieved from http://www.cabowers.net/pdf/usingcomputers2001.pdf
Bridge, Robert. (2014). “Nearly 102 Million Working-age Americans Jobless”. Retrieved from http://rt.com/usa/156800-americans-economy-unemployed-work/
Carr, Nicholas. (2011). The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. W. W. Norton & Company.
Davis, Wade. (2009). The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World. House of Anansi Press.
“Green Technology & Renewable Energy”. (2015). Deep Green Resistance. Retrieved from http://deepgreenresistance.org/en/who-we-are/faqs/green-technology-renewable-energy
Dolack, Pete. (2015). “Why the Real Unemployment Rate is Double the 'Official' Unemployment Rate”. Retrieved from http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/03/20/why-the-real-unemployment-is-double-the-official-unemployment-rate/
Ellul, Jacques. (1967). The Technological Society. Vintage Books.
Englehardt, Tom. (2015). “5 Powerful Shifts Transforming American Society into an Unrecognizable and Frightening Future”. Retrieved from http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175970/tomgram%3A_engelhardt%2C_is_a_new_political_system_emerging_in_this_country/
Giroux, Henry. (2015). "Selfie Culture at the Intersection of the Corporate and the Surveillance States". Retrieved from http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/02/06/selfies-at-the-intersection-of-the-corporate-and-the-surveillance-states/
Glanz, James. (Sept. 22, 2012). “Power, Pollution, and the Internet”. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/technology/data-centers-waste-vast-amounts-of-energy-belying-industry-image.html?_r=0
Greenwald, Glenn. (2014). “How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations.” Retrieved from https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/24/jtrig-manipulation/
Henley, Jon. (2015). "The Great Internet Swindle: Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?" (A review of Andrew Keen's The Internet is Not the Answer) Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/09/andrew-keen-internet-not-answer-interview
Horn, Steve. (2014). “STRATFOR's Strategies: Radicals V. Realists”. Retrieved from http://occupywallstreet.net/story/stratfor%E2%80%99s-strategies-radicals-v-realists
Huesemann, Charles, and Joyce Huesemann. (2011). Techno-Fix: Why Technology Won't Save Us or the Environment. New Society Publishers.
Jamail, Dahr. (2015). “Climate Disruption Dispatches”. Retrieved from http://truth-out.org/news/item/22521-climate-disruption-dispatches-with-dahr-jamail
Jamail, Dahr. (2015). “The Coming 'Instant Planetary Emergency'”. Retrieved from http://www.thenation.com/article/177614/coming-instant-planetary-emergency#
Jensen, Derrick. (2004). The Culture of Make Believe. Chelsea Green Publishing.
Jensen, Derrick. (2006). Endgame, Volume 1: The Problem of Civilization. Seven Stories Press.
Jensen, Derrick. (2006). Endgame, Volume 2: Resistance. Seven Stories Press.
Jensen, Derrick and Aric McBay. (2009). What We Leave Behind. Seven Stories Press.
Keen, Andrew. (2013). Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. St. Martin's Griffin.
Keen, Andrew. (2015). The Internet is Not the Answer. Atlantic Monthly Press.
Klein, Naomi. (2014). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. Allen Lane.
Mander, Jerry. (1995). “Eleven Inherent Rules of Corporate Behavior.” Retrieved from http://dieoff.org/page12.htm
Mander, Jerry. (1978). Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. William Morrow.
Mander, Jerry. (1992). In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations. Sierra Club Books.
Manning, Richard. (2004). Against the Grain: How Agriculture has Hijacked Civilization. North Point Press.
Mumford, Lewis. (1966). The Myth of the Machine: Technics and Human Development. Harcourt, Brace & World.
Mumford, Lewis. (2010). Technics and Civilization. University of Chicago Press.
“Poison PCs and Toxic TVs”. (2004). Silicon Valley Toxics Coaltion. Retrieved from http://svtc.org/wp-content/uploads/ppc-ttv1.pdf
“Pornography Statistics”. (2015). Family Safe Media. Retrieved from http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html
“Pornography Statistics”. (2015). Internet Safety 101. Retrieved from http://www.internetsafety101.org/pornographystatistics.htm
Postman, Neil. (1993). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. Vintage.
Reich, Robert. (2015). “In Our Horrifying Future, Very Few People Will Have Work or Make Money”. Retrieved from http://www.alternet.org/robert-reich-our-horrifying-future-very-few-people-will-have-work-or-make-money
“Richest One Percent Will Own More Than All the Rest by 2016”. (2015). Oxfam. Retrieved from https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016
Sahlins, Marshall. (1974). Stone Age Economics. Aldine Transaction.
Sale, Kirkpatrick. (2006). After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination. Duke University Press.
Sale, Kirkpatrick. (1996). Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age. Basic Books.
Selhub, Eva and Alan Logan. (2012). Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature's Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality. Wiley.
Slade, Giles. (2012). The Big Disconnect: The Story of Technology and Loneliness. Prometheus Books.
Tenner, Edward. (2004). Our Own Devices: How Technology Remakes Humanity. Vintage.
Tenner, Edward. (1997). Why Things Bite Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences. Vintage.
Turnbull, Colin. (1962). The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo. Simon and Schuster.
Valiente, Alexandra. (2013). “ECHELON: Exposing the NSA's Global Spy Network”. Retrieved from https://libya360.wordpress.com/2013/06/22/echelon-exposing-the-nsas-global-spy-network/
Wilbert, Max. (2014). “The Modern COINTELPRO and How to Fight It”. Retrieved from http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/06/the-modern-cointelpro-and-how-to-fight-it/
Wolff, Robert. (2001). Original Wisdom: Stores of an Ancient Way of Knowing. Inner Traditions.