Internet: Knowledge and Community

at The Evergreen State College

Is the Internet slowly destroying our physical world?

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Everything nowadays is on the Internet. You can check the news with the click of a button, there is no longer any need to flip through endless channels and wait through commercials to hear about a news story you don't care for. You can search for what you want, fast and effectively. You can send someone a message instantly online instead of taking the time to write a letter, buy stamps, an envelope, and send the letter, only to have the recipient receive it in three to four business days. You can also shop online and have everything delivered to you, even food. This is more convenient and effective, but does that necessarily mean it's a good thing? Soon enough there will be no point in going out side because our lives will solely depend on the Internet. Why travel to Tokyo when you can get a virtual tour of the entire city on Google? Why go to any clubs when you can join a forum? What's the point of even going to the grocery store anymore? Is our physical home truly in danger of being engulfed by the Internet? And is it even a bad thing?

Response: (by Jed)

While the question poses a healthy amount of nihilistic uncertainty, one has to believe that while the virtual world may play an ever increasing role over the physical, one can't help but be hopeful for the ways in which the virtual world are now significantly playing a crucial part of the physical world. Taking a look at the new trends in augmented reality, one can see an example where the virtual world can enhance our experience of the physical world. I can now for instance imagine taking my smart-phone to Tokyo and getting detailed location based descriptions of historically significant spots and for instance maybe pull up images of how a particular street looked 20, 30, and 60 years ago.

A question that I haven't really addressed is whether experiencing a thing physically even matters anymore?

Our collective movement into a more augmented reality is beyond good and evil. It is a quantitative shift and we are not yet able to make solid qualitative judgments about it-- the internet is too new.

While some people are very excited about the possibilities that have been made available, there are also very many people who are horribly afraid (and there are people in between these two extremes). I don't think that the internet, by itself, is "destroying" our physical world (although, the piles of toxic garbage generated by our obsessive consumerism does have a very negative impact on the environment), but the internet is creating new ways to interact with and understand the physical world.

At this point in history we can see that many people are very excited with the internet and they choose to become totally obsessed with it-- we must remember that the internet is very new and new toys are always exciting (our culture may not view the internet with the same excitement in 50 years). Some people have forgotten the importance of the actual physical world, but this doesn't mean that we all have to quit enjoying the real world. We can reap the benefits of both worlds as long as we don't get sucked into either extreme of total obsession or total denial. We don't have to destroy the physical world and we don't have to reject technology-- with a little deliberation we can take the good from both.

I agree with the point that the Internet is still a new thing which may not always remain as revered as it appears to be by so many at this time. Life is all about balance and eventually the Internet will not be such a novelty. Human beings are notoriously good at adaptation; eventually we'll get to a point where the Internet becomes so integrated into daily life that we won't even notice.

Maybe we're starting to get there already; people are so constantly connected via their mobile devices that many can't imagine a time when communication was not so easy. I just hope we don't all become desensitized to the Internet the way so many have become with television over the years. I don't think that will happen, I just think people ought to be aware that there is a world out there and that the Internet can help us to navigate that world, but shouldn't be substituted for it.

What are some ways we can we achieve balance between real life and the Internet?

~Scott Taylor

Response: (by Safeek)

I understand what you are saying about the internet being a new toy and like many new toys it is only exciting when new, but this new toy has cause our younger generations many kinds of harm, to mention a few like keeping them inside not letting them go outside and getting things done like physical interactions with others or even going outside to get their chores done like cutting the grass, cleaning the yard etc. Now all that's happening is that most of this generation is staying locked up in their rooms and probably eating to much which is not good for everyone. I do understand that like any new toy this is only a new phase and that it will be over. I do not think in this instance such will happen, I believe it will only get worse because society has created this trend that's making the internet so addictive like no other drug out there. Can we cure our younger generations from this drug?

Response: (by Scott Taylor)

It does seem like a weird drug, but I don't know if the Internet is entirely to blame for youth going bad. I just think that this whole digital transition is rough sometimes simply because it's nothing the likes of humanity has ever witnessed before. As for will it get worse, I really hope not.

I find it interesting that many new video games encourage actual physical particiaption when it comes to sports games and such and some people would actually prefer playing the virtual games to playing for real. Maybe it's good that they're at least potentially getting some excercise, right?

What are some ways we could guide the younger generation toward a better balance between the virtual and physical worlds?