The internet is dying. The point has been passed where it could still have been saved. It wasn’t a power outage, cut undersea cables, or natural disasters that killed the internet as we know it, but commerce, consumption, and bots. At least that’s how the Dutch-Australian media theorist, internet activist, and net critic Geert Lovink sees it. He is Head of the Institute of Network Cultures at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam
point of no return
In his new essay “Extinction Internet”, held as an inaugural lecture, the professor for art and network cultures at the University of Amsterdam sees the Internet heading for a “point of no return”. The worldwide web is threatened with extinction. The repair is impossible. Similar to climate change on earth, there is also a certain point in time when it comes to the Internet when a return to the current conditions would no longer be possible.
According to Lovink, the end of an era has been heralded. In any case, the fight of Internet advocates in the 1990s for a decentralized network for everyone has been lost. Instead, corporations (“Big Tech”) took over the regime, which didn’t really care about individual rights or society as a whole. Until recently, Lovink assumed that the Internet was broken but could still be repaired. But that has now changed. Scientist believes that the point of no return will soon be reached because the normal average user will increasingly have to pay the price for their dependence on the Internet and their addiction to social media and apps. The price to be paid is a distorted self-image and anxiety disorders, as well as deterioration in short-term memory.
The end of net neutrality – all content on the internet has equal value – is just another step in the dying struggle. Only consumption and sprinkling, commerce, porn, and bots. Elon Musk’s fight against Twitter bots is the first major battle in the network of large corporations, billionaires, and algorithms. It’s not about people, but about sovereignty, power, and money.
In addition, according to Lovink in his essay, social control and surveillance on the Internet are increasing. On the one hand, this threatens freedom of expression because people no longer dare to publish opinions that deviate from the “mainstream,” as Lovink claims. Mind you, this means the loudest shouting, the fear-mongering, and the fact-free pseudo-knowledge that makes a discourse per se impossible. Using the examples of China (social points system) and the USA (data for issuing visas), the professor also notes the increased control of individual users. The result is that users are increasingly withdrawing from the Internet. The big corporations would have already realized that hence Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to his Metaverse idea. Drawing a line and simply starting something new doesn’t work, says Lovink. Especially not when the online giants are back in control. Virtual currencies also only increase dependencies instead of opening up new opportunities. However, he sees the end of the internet as an opportunity to free himself from its clutches anyway. “I think it’s possible that we’ll get used to it. There could be different software or other constructs that make us less dependent,” says Lovink. In any case, he doesn’t see so much bleakness about the future. Ultimately, Lovink says he believes “people will start avoiding technology” because those prices, which are mostly psychological, cost too much for the average user.
searched for alternatives of Internet
The “new Internet” must be based on the achievements that have already been made, which could no longer save the existing WWW because they came too late: These would be, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), initiatives against hate on the Internet and a solution for digital ID cards and contracts. In addition, it is high time to promote new technological approaches and developments that allow less damage to the environment and lower energy consumption.
The unbelievable thirst for data seems to have no end. Without data, there is no innovation. The challenge here is handling it in compliance with data protection regulations. Synthetic data can significantly reduce the risk of data breaches, say experts. Different legal frameworks are a challenge, but talent deficits, data availability, inconsistencies, or biased datasets also cause problems.
Researchers from Data Science Nigeria found last year that engineers wanting to train computer algorithms could choose from a plethora of datasets involving Western clothing, but none for African clothing. The team addressed the imbalance by using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate artificial images of African fashion – a data set created from scratch. Such synthetic datasets – computer-generated patterns with the same statistical properties as the real article – are becoming increasingly common in the data-hungry world of machine learning. These mockups can be used to train AIs in areas where real data is scarce or too sensitive to use, such as in the case of medical records or personal financial data.
As more things communicate with each other over the Internet—like remote-controlled home security systems, self-driving cars equipped with sensors, and temperature-controlled factories—the energy consumption increases. Current battery technologies are expensive and harmful to the environment. Lithium production will not keep up with demand either, so it is essential that there are new “greener” technologies that solve the energy dilemma – for a positive internet future.