Internet Communications

Does the Internet have any negative effects on society?
Answered by Martha Stewart, Daniel Dubno and 5 others
  • Martha Stewart

    Martha Stewart

  • Daniel Dubno

    Daniel Dubno

  • Paul Saffo

    Paul Saffo

  • Rob Wrubel

    Rob Wrubel

  • Eric Schmidt

    Eric Schmidt

  • Bernadette Lucas

    Bernadette Lucas

  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Martha Stewart Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia


    I think we're missing a lot. This past weekend I spent with some very serious horticulturists who are not tied into the Internet in such a way, who are really delving into discovery of new plants around the world, who actually go on treks to Western China and Northern Mongolia and Southern Vietnam, who are looking for things that you can't find on the Internet. They're looking to preserve, to propagate, to do all kinds of things that so many of us are not doing anymore. We think we can find every single answer on Google, and you can't find every answer on Google.

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  2. Daniel Dubno Founder, “Gadgetoff”; Executive Director, “Hourglass Initiative”


    Ever since I was a young boy, I embraced technology to the fullest. And I found every technology exhilarating – every advance fascinating. Unfortunately, one of the terrible things that you discover – and I'm shocked to say it because I could not be a greater proponent of technological growth and of new methods of communicating, and things that the Internet has provided – but there is a dark side.

    There is a dark side in the following sense, that the ability for individuals to create weapons of mass destruction has become radically democratized. What does that mean? Prior to the First World War, scientists were not heavily involved in killing people in mass numbers. But it took large governments to finance efforts to allow scientists to create things like chemical weapons, which were initially developed in Germany, to kill an awful lot of people all at once. And then biological weapons and nuclear weapons were next stages in military development, requiring huge government, insanely large government projects.

    What has happened in the past few years – and what is inevitable to happen in the future – is that technologies to democratize destruction are becoming easily available to a greater number of people, who require less finance, less control, less oversight, no government funding. And I am very, very, very concerned that the Pandora's boxes that governments used to have the control and lid on will now be opened by individuals.

    There are a number of technologies, all hitting at the exact same time, that have fundamentally changed the dynamic of why weapons of mass destruction are more democratically available. The Internet has allowed a greater amount of information to pervade, and it is harder to police that information. People are exposed to science education around the world in much more aggressive ways. And I am a huge proponent of science education. Science education is the most fabulous thing that mankind can aspire to, in my mind.

    But the democracy of knowledge, and the availability of technologies – do-it-yourself biology technology is available on websites that you can purchase certain technologies that are useful, or critical, in the manufacturing of biological agents, for example. It is not easy. It is not simple. It is not happening at this present moment in any clear way that demonstrates an immediate, instant risk.

    But the inevitability of this kind of information, and this kind of technology, makes it imperative for us to be aware of the risk, and to work toward understanding that, as individuals become more and more powerful, and capable of doing things with less oversight, with less money, with less government intervention, we have to, at the same time, use those same wonderful technologies to combat the threat. And so I raise the threat but I don't say we are hopeless, because at the same time, the same technologies that are unveiling this – revealing these data-leak technologies – are the same technologies that will be useful in stopping some of this because they are wonderful things.

    Crowd sourcing, the ability to give the crowd to whistleblow on people who are working on things that are terrible, is a wonderful technology. We can now learn about areas of the world that once were off-limits by asking people, all around the world, what they've seen, how they've seen it, and verify information much more rapidly. Individuals are becoming more and more powerful in being able to do bad things. But they're also becoming more and more necessary in preventing bad things.

    And it's an exciting period because one wonderful thing that one discovers, as you study this, is that there is an amazing power of the wisdom of crowds. There is amazing power in what smart people can do to identify threats and combat threats and make threats known to people who will stop these threats from propagating.


    More answers from Daniel Dubno »

  3. Paul Saffo Futurist, Managing Director of Foresight at Discern Analytic


    Well, the Internet, for example, was the first thing that allowed us to look back on big brother. If big brother was watching us in the age of mass media, the Internet was the tool for little brother to look back. But as the technologies have gotten established, technologies of freedom become technologies of control.

    So the established media companies are now figuring out how to control the experience users have to charge for things that were free. The government is now able to really sniff packets as they cross on the Web. People should be very, very careful about what they say on the Internet because it will be captured.

    So there are the obvious things, then there are the more subtle things. I think one of the most unpredictable consequences of this digital age is that things are preserved in perfect, digital pristineness. So the danger is that somebody will see some offhand comment you said and, years later, hold it against you. It's actually even worse than that.

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  4. Rob Wrubel Chief Marketing & Product Development Officer, Apollo Group


    You're talking to a guy who started a yoga business. And I'm a historian by nature. So there's some bit of, "All good things come with bad." And if we believe that somehow we can't manage the balance of that, so when I look at the Internet -- and I just listed a whole bunch of destabilizing things that have happened in just 10 years of being around it -- I really think there are darker pockets of things that we have to be able to adapt to: privacy, and our ability to manage our identity inside the Internet, and to be able to manage what it means to be a private citizen. I think we have to think about these things. Human beings have unleashed these technologies and innovations. And there's always the known impacts. And then there's the hundred things we never thought to consider when we unleash the technology.

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  5. Eric Schmidt Executive Chairman, Google


    Well, there are always downsides of technology. It's always a shock to discover that there are criminals on the Internet. We did not want them to be on the Internet when we invented it. We assumed it would be non-criminals only. And so the fact of the matter is, criminals and evil people can use these tools, too. Dictators can use them to oppress people. You can imagine a new police state that used these tools to oppress its citizens.

    My personal belief is that this sort of new world, if you will, of cyberspace, the community of cyberspace values, will serve as a moderator on such people, that it will be difficult for truly evil people who seize power to do so as brutally as they did before, to kill as many people, to exploit as many of their own people as they can, simply because the oversight is so much greater.

    So my view of this is that it's overwhelmingly positive. Of course there are issues. But would you choose a world with it or without it? You'd do it with a world that's with it.

    Transparency, but also visibility into what's going on. If you go back to the development of commercial satellites, they allowed us to have CNN and other tools like that, which allowed us to see what was happening in countries that had literally been closed off to us. Because of a satellite link. The same is now possible on a per-person basis. That's the democratization of the media.

    More answers from Eric Schmidt »

  6. Bernadette Lucas Principal, Melrose Elementary School Mathematics, Science, Technology Magnet

    I think there could be an overreliance on it. I think that not only children, but adults have to be taught how to assess information sources. Every information source is not created equal. They're not all valid. They're not all well researched. So that again comes into the critical thinking. How do you assess a source? It's online; that doesn't mean it's accurate. So that's part of the downside of it. You know everything online is not accurate. But you can teach people how to assess the accuracy of information.

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  7. Although the Internet is promoted as a communication and research tool, even these positive uses can have negative outcomes. Relying on the Internet to communicate can lead to isolation. Lack of personal interaction can cause people to become depressed and lonely even if they're online much of the time. Research has shown that youth can become addicted to the Internet and that they are at risk for exposure to sexually explicit material, sexual solicitation, and even bullying. The online gaming industry can become an addiction for youth and research has shown that when youth spend too much time online, their grades drop, they have more trouble with family relations and their health suffers, usually because they get inadequate sleep  [source: Guan].

    The Internet is an excellent research tool. Research is beneficial to education and work activities, but also can be used by unscrupulous people to gain access to confidential information, plan crimes and even to plan and carry out illegal activity.

    The amount of personal information stored online can make your life easier and more productive. However, storing and sharing information online also may increase the likelihood that those who should not have access to that information eventually will. Every day people post all kinds of details about their personal lives on social networking sites or blogs. This information can include everything from personal photographs and real names to stories about things that happen in their daily lives. In many cases, they end up sharing all of this information with complete strangers. The large number of details a person posts online for others to see has been labeled oversharing.

    One of the greatest concerns of oversharing that has arisen with increased use of social media and mobile technology is location privacy [source: PleaseRobMe]. With Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare, it's important to check privacy settings to ensure that by sharing with friends every move you take during the day, you're also not sharing your moves with strangers. This can open your home up to burglary risk. Young teens in particular are making themselves more vulnerable by setting up meetings and updating their whereabouts in real time.

    More answers from Science Channel »

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