The (un)alternate world below our fingertips
The age old question, is it inherent altruism or egocentrism that makes us human. Are we a naturally fair and moral species, seeking equality, that has been waylaid and forced to adapt to modern capitalist constructs or are we instinctively selfish, power seekers. Imagine a world, a new world where we could play out these hypotheses and see whether the new society emerges as an equal utopia or just a reflection of our own reality.
How about the internet? The internet was born out of the 70s hippie idealisms of peace, equality and rejection of authority. Going online meant exploring unchartered territory, where knowledge was free and all men were equal. It cared not about race, class or gender. The webs fundamental design, its ability to share information instantly and globally at essentially no cost took control from traditional middlemen; newspapers, agents, publishers, and allowed people to connect directly with one another. Everyone could have an audience or a following. Over the internet, anybody could become a somebody.
For the casual user, the web more or less stayed true to its anti-authority, levelling ideas over the following 20-30 years. It opens doors to a wealth of knowledge and opportunity for millions. It has allowed people to educate themselves out of poverty, to find jobs and even love. However, the founding theory that a space without rules and regulations would be more equal definitely has not stood the test of time. As the web has grown a paradox has emerged. Lack of regulation means those with the most resources can shout the loudest, and a handful of super brands have emerged. Below is a mathematically correct model of web traffic on the internet.
As you can see, light years away from founding philosophies of equality and boundless possibilities, the web has one search engine, one marketplace, one bookshop and one social network. Not very equal at all. Could it be that the internet is actually a very pure manifestation of how power works, lending itself only to very narrow elites?
Something else that stuck me about this image was that it seems very reminiscent of pre/post-WWII society. The society leading up to the post war economic boom that shaped the business landscape that we see today. A time when there was just one big brand of aspirin, a couple soft drinks and a few brands of cars to choose from. Before brands started exploding and developing individual identities and USPs.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that in the grand scheme of things, the internet is still very much a toddler, finding its feet. Perhaps soon, both internet users and entrepreneurs will mature, “find themselves” and slot into particular corners of the web that best suit them. Perhaps soon we will see emerging multiple social networking sites (I know there are multiple ones currently, but I mean multiple realistically competing ones), with opposing stances and values attracting different consumers. Much like the way in which ‘style’ or ‘safety’ dictates what sort of car we buy, particular selling points will emerge that will decree where we socialise online. Or shop. Or learn. Perhaps in this way the web will mutate into a more equal space. It may take years, decades before the landscape shift to reach its final ending point. It may never find an ending point, constantly evolving and re-inventing itself, but I doubt it will ever reach that equal utopia it set out for.