The real story of Internet behind those closed curtains: Time for Internet age enthusiasts to wake up!


Technology has always been an aid to mankind but what if someone tells you one day that all the while what you have been thinking was on your side, was actually not. In this whole spectrum of technology, Internet as an element has made significant advances in the recent times and while most people are applauding its role, there is another story attached to it which few turn eyes towards.

While reading an article on BBC News website today by Tom Chatfield, a completely picture was drawn by the writer which doesn’t seem too implausible, after seeing all executive level conspiracy and greed stories, sufficient enough to take the world economy into  recession.  The whole internet revolution that my generation has been celebrating all this while also has problems attached to that may not have been underlined in the public domain till now but the convergence of all these multi-stakeholders (Governments, Cultures, Beliefs and Values) has complicated the issue of who has jurisdiction over the common resource called “Internet”.  Also, if all stakeholders that come to be affected by it have their respective control over it, then who gets how much control and if the deadlock occurs then how will it be sorted out? While attending the India Internet Governance Conference the past week, similar question were raised to the panelists from Google, ICANN, NGO IT for Change, Internet Society, senior journalists and academia also. Though none could suggest an answer as nobody has been bright enough till now to suggest some other than the autocratic and fundamental regimes like Iran to develop a “Halal network” based on the country’s culture and sensibilities till March, 2013 but to many it seems like Ulysses.

Tom begun his article by a quote from the Three Laws of Prediction, developed by famous science fiction author Arthur C Clarke that said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” It also got me to thinking and intrigued me.  The onset of Cloud Computing by big-wigs like Apple, Google and others where data such as photographs, music, apps and documents can be accessed online from any location in the world has changed the rules of the game to a great extent. Digital technology is said to have evolved to an extent where it has begun to be tested for multiple users today.

The word Cloud also gives an impression that this technology has no geographical or physical limitation attached to it. It still needs physical infrastructure that requires to be constantly upgraded to match up with the increasing demands in the area. We cannot be content with the way things are going around in this area as if the discussion on these issues will stop, it will be soon forgotten and any chance of changing internet for the better may be lost.

In the recent series of investigative stories done by James Glanz for the New York Times, he pointed out that the “Cloud Computing” industry is a big industry and said, “Most data centers by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner… worldwide, the digital warehouses use about 30 billion watts of electricity, roughly equivalent to the output of 30 nuclear power plants.” In order to be constantly working with 99.999% accuracy, the data centers have to be work virtually flawlessly and be provided with huge amounts of energy combined with sufficient reserves available every time. Cloud users don’t seem to realize that for the cloud to function efficiently, access to information is required continuously and the data that they are sharing on the networking websites are consuming space and electricity someplace.

This may come as a shock to some about Internet’s role in polluting our environment but not all is lost, bigger corporations in this industry have already realized this trade-off and even    started working towards it. These corporations have even constructed huge data centers against small local ones to cash in on economies of scale that are generated through these centers. As users of these websites, an individual may not realize that their use of these sites is causing consumption of a little more energy for sharing their data online but big corporations like Google and Facebook sure know of this contingency.

Though the environment related undertones may not be that glaring for the internet, yet higher the amount of data that goes online by millions of users in cables, switches, servers and power consumption will start growing significantly relevant and the implications of data in social and political context shall grow stronger with it.

Though Censorship, Digital blackouts and revolution may appear to be far spread out from the environmental issues, yet don’t fall for the misconception that these are separate issues. When politics seem to trying harder to get control over this area of information sharing digitally, believing that Internet could be used to bring together people from different parts of the world together without receiving any flak from politicians would be short sighted.

Arthur C Clarke also believes in similar lines and has said that there is no such thing as magic. To explain it further, he said, “There is only someone being fooled, and someone doing the fooling. And no sufficiently advanced society can afford to fool itself, if it hopes either to understand its present or to protect its future.”

Source: BBC News

Photo: Belle News

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