The role of this digital hammer is as the lead actor for progress in human relationships. Is it possible that the Internet can make us more human? I think that if we learn how to use the new wealth of information provided to us, then we will be better able to construct the relationships that bind us. This is best exemplified in the move towards a semantic web. This technology tries to take advantage of relationships between words instead of nodes to construct the web. To connect at such an abstract level returns to humanity the intimacy of communication. The web becomes a tool of how things are defined, and not how they are connected. This definition will be a truly democratic process. Notice the importance of participation. How words are connoted and defined is a level of communication that the Internet currently lacks. Returning the importance of communication to digital relationships is progress.

Progress will be realized when we can use the information that exists on the Internet to create a better world around us. This opportunity exists because there is a desire to improve the general condition of the way that communication and relationships are built. When relationships are a matter of understanding and not social standing, then we can say that the Internet has helped humanity progress. Another marker of social progress will be a breaking down of barriers that produce such situations as “haves” vs. “have-nots.” Is this possible? Yes, because once the overhead cost of infrastructure is paid, then the cost of business for being on the Internet reduces to zero. Amortizing this cost in the name of a more evenly distributed world income is a desire we should all aspire towards. Understanding has been the fundamental problem in many of the discords that have plagued humanity. A semantics based web that helps us better understand ourselves is another form of progress. There is a danger that it will kill the uniqueness of language, but this uniqueness, when it becomes ambiguity, is a root cause of discord amongst cultures. I’m not asking for individual cultures to lose their language, I’m asking for cultures to learn to understand each other through improved communication.

Is there a solution to the problem of ethics and data mining on the Internet? Yes. First and foremost we must build a system of trust between vendor and consumer. If we can’t build an Internet where trust is an integral part of the communities that are forming, then we cannot build a better Internet. Without a better Internet, our information is a treasure chest for wrong doers, and not a foundation for an improved world. This improved world must truly be global. To increase participation, we must ask that government open up its uses of gathered information to act as a model for corporate entities, which are also storing information. Ethically progressing towards an open information model will be an even more important issue in the years to come, and it is a challenge that we must embrace and answer globally. The consequences of remaining silent might devastate humanity and steal from us our identity.


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