The Information Age - Are We Capable? Mature? Aware?

Information. In the right hands it can cure diseases. It can bring down dictators. It can help save millions of lives in the nick of time. It can be used to explore unknown territories. It can be used for the good of mankind. And in this age and time, when information about everything and anything in the world is at our finger tips in an instant thanks to the world wide web, are we capable enough to handle this constant flow of information? Are we mature enough to use this knowledge for the better? Are we educated enough to be able to use this information for the good of mankind? Are we aware at all of this mountain of knowledge at our finger tips?!

Thanks to the internet, students can watch lectures of courses offered by reputed universities online for free; the layman can watch news, listen to radio and read international news which he wouldn’t have known about if not for the internet; entrepreneurs and engineers discuss ideas which might one day change the world and work with people from all around the world in perfect collaboration. We have an advantage which the humans haven’t had since the industrial revolution, actually a bigger one at that and we need to know how to use this advantage for the better. There are quite a few people who are working day and night to make the internet a better place for us, to make all of the information in the world available to us hoping that there will be someone who will use this information for the good.

There have been people who criticized wikileaks and the people behind it for betraying their countries and revealing their secrets, documents and transcripts but no one can deny of the fact that wikileaks has in fact been a revolutionary step by mankind towards transparency and towards a better world. The truth about America’s operations in the Afghanistan have been revealed, privy opinions of different consulates regarding countries have been put up for the world to know.

People have created social networks online, where entrepreneurs can meet their peers, other seniors in the field and learn from them, not make the same mistakes and make better products from these lessons.

There a million sites where one can go and learn about quite literally anything and everything (Stack Overflow & Quora). People regularly post questions and answer for questions as well. It is a perfect example for a community working for the betterment of the community, growing ever so often and spreading their knowledge.

Hundreds of pages are created on wikipedia everyday which help more than a million people know better about technology, life, science, arts, history and what not. And the best thing is that the society makes these pages, individuals like you and me are the ones who contribute to these pages, regularly updating them, correcting them and making new pages if necessary. This is a brilliant example of the wonders that can happen thanks to human collaboration online. And more importantly, people donate to keep Wikipedia up and running, the society knows that donating for Wikipedia will eventually pay off as a million students use it to write their home works and project reports everyday. This is a strong
examples to prove that advertising isn’t the only option for a internet startup to survive, providing quality information will pursue the community to support it.

There are universities and startups which concentrate on free education for all, websites where anyone and everyone can attend lectures, talk to the professors and write exams to be certified and everything's done online. Universities like Harvard, Stanford, U.Penn, U.Michigan and the IITs in India have put up several courses online for the sake of students all around the world who are interested but don’t have the necessary infrastructure at their colleges.

There are places on the web where you can learn literally anything, from web designing to weaving, from programming to pottery, the web is full of resources to help you accomplish whatever you want.

The Web is literally all that you want it to be.

But well, there is always a second side. The immature and the undisciplined who aren’t mature enough to manage their time will get stuck on the internet, reading up about the papparazi, playing flash games on facebook, updating their every move on twitter and browsing through the millions of pictures and videos on the internet. And like I said, because there are resources for everything and anything on the internet, the un-oriented and confused mind will wander the online world for days together, browsing through websites, one after the other, jumping from journal papers to plague, from love to lottery and from craziness to ridicule without ever knowing why. Even for those who aren’t interested in reading on the internet, there are songs, videos, movies, sitcoms and tv shows online, which can keep a man occupied for a life time, given enough money to pay for the bills. Who among us doesn’t have a friend who updates his facebook page with stupid and unnecessary quotes everyday,
who spends all of his days and nights watching movies and tv shows, who doesn’t stay up late trying to read and know everything available on the net. The internet is a very powerful weapon against the immature mind. It can eat up his time before he even knows, it can delude him into believing things which don’t exist or happen in real life and it can break a man’s passion given enough time.

So, you see, there is always a good and a bad to a story. There is always a bad way to use the information we get. There is always a stupid way to spend our time.

The question is Are we mature enough to be able to handle this constant flux of information to us? Are we capable enough to handle this knowledge? Are we educated enough to know how to use the internet for the good of our society and mankind?

There have always been and will be advocates who don’t want the internet to be transparent, saying that there are certain things which the society or the world can’t be trusted with yet.

Let me give you an example. Most of you must’ve watched The Dark Knight Rises, where the billionaire Bruce Wayne having developed a nuclear fusion reactor which can power the whole city for half the cost, doesn’t want to reveal this magnificent piece of technology because he thinks that the people of Gotham City aren’t mature enough to handle this power yet, that they will squander this power for war and terror and that his creation will eventually the cause of the city’s destruction. While Mr.Wayne is a level minded person, he cannot be blamed for this doubt as this is what eventually happens in this movie. But, the real life isn’t a movie. Nobody is going to go ballistic on a whole town and level a whole city.

But, just as in this case, there are people who think that the internet should be censored, that the internet should be monitored for activity (specifically your activity). There are countries and organizations which haven’t revealed their systems yet because they think and say that the world isn’t mature enough to handle this level of maturity and sophistication.

The one thing we can do is hope that people will become mature enough and fight for their freedom and right to information as is becoming evident from the uprising in Iraq and East Asian countries regarding dictatorship, the ACTA and SOPA incidents in the USA and Europe; that there are people on this world who are qualified to handle this knowledge; that there are people who will strive for the betterment of the internet and that we, as a race, will slowly but eventually become better thanks to information.

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