Dreams & Nightmares of the Digital Age

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DREAMS & NIGHTMARES OF THE DIGITAL AGE Recently a lot of worrying has been done about the Internet. People who are concerned about anarchy tend to see it as a thrumming hive of villainy, where crazy extremists exchange nerve-gas recipes whereas people who are fearful about government see the Internet as the perfect tool for Big Brother. If the Internet had gone wrong in just the right way, either of these threats might have resulted. But it hasn`t. When you want information on the Internet, either you know exactly where it is or you don`t. If you already know where it is, then the fact that it happens to be on the Internet is irrelevant; you could just as well get it by fax or mail. If you don`t know where it is, you have to use a piece of commercial software called a search engine. You type in a few key words or phrases, and the engine tries to find World Wide Web documents that contain them. When you try this, the search engines will turn up either irrelevant texts (documents in which the words nerve, gas and recipe happened to appear separately) or references to the general idea of nerve-gas recipes. The Internet is the only place where worrying about something makes it less likely to happen. Every time someone posts a message to a newsgroup about the danger of nerve-gas recipes on the Internet or a journalist writes an article about the same topic, which is then available on the Internet, a little more noise is added to the system, and any would-be terrorist who tries ...

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