fbpx The Internet’s Effects on Consumption: Useful, Harmful, Playful | Harvard Kennedy School

Authors:

  • John Deighton
  • Leora Kornfeld

Excerpt

2022, Book Chapter: "The internet has been a disappointment to its parents. Tim Berners-Lee has said it “failed instead of served humanity,” calling it “a large-scale emergent phenomenon which is anti-human” (Brooker 2018). It has not grown up, as John Perry Barlow’s manifesto said it would, to be a space “independent of tyrannies,” (Barlow 1996) and is not the decentralized, autonomous liberating force that Kevin Kelly hoped for (Kelly 1998). It has grown up to enact the prophesy of Eric Schmidt that, “the Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had” (Schmidt 1999). Barack Obama has described the maturing internet as “the single biggest threat to our democracy” (Goldberg 2020). The mature internet has not even kept alive the flame of fun seen in the days of ROFLcon.1 Its outrages are cataloged annually by Misinfocon, a movement that began as a conference at MIT in February 2017. In our everyday conversations, we have found people laying at the internet’s door such ills as the loss of privacy, threats to the welfare of children, and political incivility. Young professionals working for internet companies have told us that their friends see them as morally deficient: “You say Facebook and you may as well be saying Goebbels."