Education and Technology

What are some of the effects of the Internet on society?
Answered by Alex Sandy Pentland, Science Channel and 1 other
  • Alex Sandy Pentland

    Alex Sandy Pentland

  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  • Ron Gdovic PhD

    Ron Gdovic PhD

  1. Alex Sandy Pentland Director, MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory


    The Internet is interesting. The people are, of course, all abuzz about social media and things like that. The data that we have about it says -- and we've looked at literally tens of thousands of companies that use it for internal social networking and in many different situations -- it's a relatively weak influence, relative to face-to-face or voice. That doesn't mean it's negligible. It's not negligible. But its primary influence is as something builds on the backbone of the more substantive, older-fashion human relationships.

    So it means several things. It means you don't have to spend as much time face-to-face as you used to. It does mean that, again, to be successful, you need to leverage these older, richer ties. And so for instance, the story I hear from the people that ran some of the revolutions in the Middle East, the success started with the fact that there were a group of people that knew each other extraordinarily well. They had done business together. They didn't necessarily see each other very often, but they knew each other intimately, and they controlled a lot of these social media.

    So they could leverage their relationships in coordination with each other, like a startup, to be able to popularize things, to be able to focus attention, and so on and so forth. So it might not have been possible at all without this more traditional background of rich personal relationships.

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  2. The Internet has had a large impact on our society and on the way we live our daily lives. In some cases, using the Internet can save a lot of time and money. Shopping on the Internet allows for instant price comparisons without leaving our homes. Relationships have changed based on Internet access, e-mail and instant messages. People meet and get to know one another online; you can remain in closer contact with friends and family and help keep everyone informed of special events. Education has expanded to allowing people to get entire degrees online without leaving the comfort of their homes.

    The Internet can be used for soliciting donations and fundraising. Political action committees have made excellent use of sharing information and raising funds using the Internet.

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  3. Ron Gdovic PhD IT Entrepreneur & University of Phoenix Faculty Member

    The Internet lends itself, in fact was designed to jump around between topics. HTML language, for example, you could be in the middle of reading something and seeing something that catches your eye, click on it, and you're on an entirely different topic. I believe society is becoming more and more accustomed to instant access to information. And curiosity drives that.  Why else would you click?

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