Could the Internet lead to misinformation?

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is concerned that if the development of the Internet is left unchecked it could lead to the spread of misinformation. Some would say that is already happening. You can find plenty of web sites that are blatantly untrue; you can even find people hiding behind false identities so they are more able to spread such negativity. Even so, Sir Tim wants to set up a research project to look into such issues.

There is no doubt that the Internet will see radical transformations in society. For instance, political systems are currently battling away to stay in power in spite of the breakdown of international barriers. Old regimes are fighting hard against the influx of new ideas. Taxation systems are being bolstered against the possibilities of international trading without barriers. People are becoming more connected than ever before; in the past most people could count around 100 friends and acquaintances, now younger people are counting them in their tens of thousands. And the way we think is changing – people expect instant answers, rather than having to wait. Plus our behaviour is altering; we spend more time connected via a computer which we use as an extension of our brain.

Clearly human society and behaviour is on the cusp of significant change – probably the most significant change since our ancestors got up from all fours and started walking on two legs. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to come back in 1,000 years time to see what the impact had been? And whether or not Sir Tim’s research project had been influential in avoiding the potential problems he foresaw.

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