Saturday, April 21, 2012

Philosophy of the Internet

Many years ago, just after I overcame my addiction, I spent a lot of my time on the internet. I used the internet as a deviation to my substance abuse (we will talk about addiction substitution another day) to keep me busy while I stayed away from drugs. Much of this time was spent using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) which is essentially just chat rooms with different people from around the world.

As I became more and more active in the IRC world, I stumbled across a room that peaked my interest. It was a science and philosophy chat room. I spent almost six months learning about philosophy and science from various minds around the world. Some were just regular folks and others were educated professionals...one was even a professor (I did verify him). So I was exposed to a lot of different ideas. It actually lead me to study Philosophy at Memorial University of Newfoundland (great school). 

During one of the regular discussions in this particular chat room, someone sent a message across with a quote that has stuck with me since. I am unsure if it was something they themselves coined or if it was something they had quoted from someone. First I will share the quote and then I will discuss it with you. In the end, it would be interesting to hear from you about what you think. Here is the quote as it was given to me:

"In a way the net has no homeland, and the relations are pure consciousness such that we need not have the emotional entanglements of gender, nationality, race, religion, age, etc."

Read it again. Now sit and think about it. What an amazing revelation this was and still is to me. Let us take a moment to talk about this quote. Let's start with the business of the internet having no homeland. Surely the people on the internet are from somewhere; right? Of course but this is not what the intention of the word is here. What it means is that once we are online with the rest of cyberspace, our nationality becomes irrelevant. The fact that I am from Canada is of no consequence in the digital world. It offers no advantage to be from one country or another (except in terms of bandwidth and censorship). 

The next part of the quote is truly enlightening. The 'relations are pure consciousness' is an amazing revelation. When you go online, you leave the physical world behind. Your physical body serves no use in the online world. Your only tool is your brain; your mind; your consciousness. Have you ever imagined what it might be like to be telepathic? To talk to others with just thought? Well, look at the internet because it is virtually only one step down from that. Your physical self serves almost no purpose when communicating online; only your consciousness.

And finally, the last segment of the quote to examine; the lack of need of emotional entanglements. Let's be honest with each other here today. Many of our disputes, debates, fights, arguments or whatever word you wish to insert stem from one of the above mentioned ideologies: race, religion, nationality, etc, etc, etc. These labels we place upon one another from the many different aspects and areas of society we embody do nothing but separate us from one another. They create social groups and labels and then break us down into them; sometimes breaking us down into sub-groups of groups and then sub-groups of sub-groups. There is no real end to the division. It is only limited, like your own dreams and ideas, by your imagination.

So how does the internet solve this issue? Well, unless you bring those things to the table, they do not exist. Anyone can have any conversation about anything with anyone on the internet and so long as one remains neutral, the conversation remains neutral and people behave as themselves. Many times, an honest question about one of these things can be and will be misinterpreted as malicious even though it is the furthest thing from. We are a reactionary people. With the internet, that reaction is more tempered and controlled. A conversation does not escalate to violence (for the most part). 

What I am trying to say I guess is that when you enter the digital world, you are anonymous. You are a blank page. The internet knows about as much about you as you do it (the internet being your fellow cyber-surfers). You could be a man or a woman. You could be black or white. You could be Japanese or Brazilian. You could be rich or poor. You could be healthy or sick. The internet provides you with the capability to be yourself; your true self (and let us hope that is a good self). It breaks down the barriers of social identification and creates an equal playing field for us all. That's the beauty of it right there.

On the internet we are all equals (in the general sense of the term). Your opinion is as valid and acceptable as the next regardless of any social status you have been pinned with. Your creativity and imagination are encouraged and critiqued. The only bias the internet can possibly have is the bias you carry with you. The internet, in a way, is the world that all these activists are actually fighting for. Peace activists (or those damned hippies depending on how you see them) have always fought and stood for equality, equity, love, peace and harmony. Does not the internet provide this? We are all equal without faces and we share equitably with one another and not just some. Is the internet without hate? Absolutely not but it does allow for the undying love of humanity to have a greater voice and quell the hate.

Nobody on the internet has any more power than any other is able to achieve. There is no President of the Internet, no Prime Minister, no Emperor and no Supreme Ruler. We are all equals; we are all the same; we are anonymous. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the internet has created something for us that we ourselves have not been able to manifest in our own tangible, reality: a society that is engaged in itself, that is self-sustaining, that is accountable, that has equality, that has equity, that has love but most importantly, a society that takes care of everybody without discrimination.