We Didn’t Mean For It To Turn Out Like This

Looking at the net today, I can’t help but reflect on how it’s turning out so differently than we imagined:

We wanted to exchange information, not play games.

We wanted expected open conversation and idea exchange, not constant drama, anger, and angst.

We wanted insight into the world outside ourselves, not have the world know everything there is to know about us.

We wanted freedom from oppressive governments, not the creation of a new security state.

We expected the web to either be free or paid, not monetized based on how long it could hold our attention.

Browsers were just one way of accessing the net. We expected there to be lots more.

We expected technology to empower us as individuals, not create some kind of hive supermind.

We expected human, face-to-face relationships to be augmented and thrive based on new silicon helpers. We’re finding people staying online and disconnected for most of their lives, texting somebody sitting 10 feet away instead of attempting a conversation.

Man is a social animal evolved to operate semi-autonomously as hunter-gatherers in small tribes. What we are creating is a technological system that is adapting to, emphasizing, and taking advantage all of the weaknesses of the species while not emphasizing our strengths. Another way of saying this is: we’re not getting what we expected, we’re getting what we wanted.

They say that kids growing up in a new system automatically think that system is just the way things are supposed to be. It’s really important to tell this to whoever will listen.

I was there with some of the first commercial users on the net. (Heck, I was on before that, but as a college student I had no idea of what the net was). I was there as developers and content creators started piecing together the future. I was there when Google figured out the ad model, when the average MMORPG gamer was spending 35-hours online each week, when the NSA revelations came out, when Farmville took Facebook by storm. I was there before that. I remember where we were headed.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

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