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Wild Wild Web What the history of the Wild West teaches us about the future of the Digital Society

Wild Wild Web What the history of the Wild West teaches us about the future of the Digital Society
Wild Wild Web: What the history of the Wild West teaches us about the future of the Digital Society by Tim Cole
English | October 26, 2018 | ISBN: 1728863759 | 209 pages | AZW3 | 1.37 MB

Looking back on the short, exciting history of the Internet, it's good to recall the events that shaped what we like to call the American "Wild West". Then and now, a new world was discovered, explored and, eventually, tamed. And in the early day, strength and audacity were the only laws, and might was right. It took a while, but the end the West was won, the land settled, crops were grown and harvested, stage coaches and later trains made the land accessible, and law and order were established - often at the point of a gun.
Eventually, America became civilized from sea to shining And all this happened much, much faster than most people think today; almost in the blink of an eye, at least in historical terms. The Wild West we celebrate on the silver screen, in songs and Western novels, took place in a period that lasted only 65 years: that was it!
Will we one day look back on the early decades of the Internet in a similar way? And what will the future tell us about our past?
Maybe historians will look back on the "Gilded Age of the Internet" and describe it as a hectic time without rules and oversight, in which regulation gradually spread, oftentimes triggered by the industry itself because they finally come around to the notion that it is better to be part of the solution than part of the problem. A time, in which modern Robber Barons like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page were able to forge empires, just like their predecessors a century earlier, and who were equally hard to reign in - but who, too, had to submit in the end.
We all seem to believe that the Internet has been around forever but in reality, we are still at the very beginning. Today the important claims are being staked out in key areas such as video and music streaming, navigation and Cloud services. These are the fields in which GAFA - Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple - and others will wage wars between themselves, but also against us, the citizens and consumers. The cards are still being dealt, and nobody knows who the winners will be.
But one thing is clear: If we just muddle through like before, we will become stuck in the Wild West of the Internet. We not only have to demand our rights: we need to fight for them, through the courts if possible, on the streets necessary. To achieve a truly civilized online world we will need a revolution, and we can only hope that, this time, the revolution will be bloodless.
What we need is a new sense of digital sovereignty in a double sense of the word. First, in the legalistic meaning of the term, namely a return of data sovereignty to the digital citizenry. But I also mean it the sense of a certain serenity that comes from the feeling that we have things under control.


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