IN The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the world’s entire computing power was harnessed to discover the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything.
The answer was 42.
At our current stage of Internet development, the answer to whether the web is changing Life, the Universe and Everything is 01111001 01100101 01110011. That’s Yes in binary, as if you didn’t know…
What we do know about the internet is that we don’t know where it’s going. Or as the script had it in one of the irrepressible Goon Shows of the 1950s, we know a little about how little we know about the little there is to know.
That shouldn’t stop us from pontificating. So try some of these off-the-shelf internet predictions the next time you want to wow them at a dinner party:
- The world will be a better place. By 2025 everyone in the world will be online, and even the coast’s looky-looky men will have home pages. The internet will make shops, offices and all non-leisure travel entirely unnecessary, and because of the savings, everything will be free. Wars will end. Everyone will be happy.
- The world will be a worse place. By 2025 everyone in the West will be online, but the growing billions of developing-world poor will still live in poverty. The resulting instability will cause worldwide war, or someone will finally use the nuclear bomb recipe available online. Everyone will die.
- Governments will take over the internet. By 2025 Big Brother really will be watching you. All your e-mails, bank details, personal schedules, everything will be recorded and scrutinised. Computers will all be fitted with cameras to monitor their owners 24 hours a day. Totalitarian regimes will come into power everywhere. Everyone will be oppressed.
- The people will take over the internet. By 2025 the sheer volume of traffic will mean government control of individuals will be impossible. Effectively self-governing little societies will spring up with people living in virtual villages. Everyone will be free.
- The internet is a passing fad, as Bill Gates once predicted. By 2025 the novelty value will have worn off. Everyone will go about their business just as before.
- The internet is here to stay. By 2025 everyone in the world will be connected to everyone else at least twice. You will socialise and have meaningful personal relationships over your computer screen, and go on holiday without leaving your desk. You will also have arguments with thousands of people you’ve never met before.
On second thoughts scratch that last prediction; it’s already here. Want to argue about it?
AS the internet grows and grows and grows, so will the number of addicts. But how do you know you’re an internet junkie?
You wake up at 3am for a pit-stop and check your e-mail on the way back to bed. You refer to going to the bathroom as downloading.
The Wi-Fi goes down and you get this awful empty feeling, like you just pulled the plug on a loved one.
You check your mail. It says ‘No new messages’ so you check it again.
All your friends have an @ in their names. You don’t know what sex three of your closest friends are, because they have neutral nicknames and you’ve never actually met.
Your cat has its own home page.