This essay won me a bronze medal. Yay!
9 January 2007.
A man in circle-rim glasses and in a turtleneck announces the launch of a revolution.
In a keynote address at the Macworld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, California, the visionary Steve Jobs made the iPhone public for the first time.
Nobody could have foreseen the future from there.
What began as the launch of a product kicked off the beginning of the biggest, most powerful revolution this world has ever witnessed.
As of today, 2.5 billion people own smartphones, and 56.1% of the world’s population is connected to the internet. Every day, thousands of people gain access to the internet, and subsequently, gain access to a whole new universe of resources.
Stephen Hawking was right in saying that “we are all now connected to the internet,” but there is still a long way to go before the entire world is truly connected. The future of the internet, in my view, will begin once virtually everyone has a safe and reliable way to access the internet and make the most of its services.
There is, however, one major caveat to our imminent future. The online world facilitates methods of communication that wouldn’t exist in real life. By distancing ourselves from connecting in reality, we risk creating a vicious cycle which becomes increasingly hard to sustain real-life connections.
By sentencing ourselves to a mode of only digital connection, be it through social media, news sites, blogs or just Wikipedia pages, the lines between digital and real society start to blur. We might start to lose our idea of social responsibility, replacing patience and politeness with instant gratification and the power to use our voice without consequences.
If we go down this road, we will very surely be the architects of our own doom. Own our creation could, in the end, become our undoing, as all our current principles of social livelihood will fade away. In humanity’s endless quest to be social and connected to all, we might end up doing exactly the opposite.
Is this what our future holds? Like how Robert Frost predicted, will the world end up in ice? Cold, dark and lifeless?
Will man’s finest creation be his eventual end?
Fear not, reader.
There is hope.
Helen Keller famously said that “the world is full of suffering, but it is also full of overcoming it.” Likewise, we as a species might not always make the best decisions. We make mistakes and we pay the price. But no matter what the obstacle ahead of us might be, together, we always overcome it. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t fight back.
In the years to come, more and more people will gain access to the internet, and by about 2035, the entire world will, for the first time, be truly connected.
As social media’s importance in contemporary social life continues to rise, influencers all over the world will begin to use these platforms for more goodwill reasons than mere self-promotion. We will organize marches, cleaning drives, non-profit organizations–anything that connects people in the real world while also doing our bit to fix the planet.
With millions of new children entering schools every year, the online education field will skyrocket. Students will supplement their school knowledge with a fun and free way to learn beyond their current level. New branches of education will open up to the youth through the internet, giving them the opportunity to explore the unknown and the paths less travelled, and they will be given the chance to decide their career options for themselves. Online courses in environmental management will be on the rise, and so will children’s ideas to reduce the effects of climate change.
The internet has the power to break all socio-economic barriers that were once thought to be the most powerful man has ever seen. As internet usage becomes more secular and open-minded, so will the people influenced by it. Gender bias, racism, and casteism, to name a few, will be completely eradicated as we will become more aware of the rights every human deserves.
YouTube, amassing over 400 hours of video per minute, will become the hub that facilitates this social paradigm shift. The power of visual content will be used to move the public, moved to do something good for society.
I know this sounds utopian. But a hundred years ago, women’s voting rights would have seemed utopian, too. This could very well be our future, where we all connect through the internet and spread love, not hate. This future could be the beginning of our species going forward as a galactic dominator.
But, for this future to be a reality, we must be careful. We must be fully aware of the power the internet has over our decisions. We mustn’t become reckless and let our invention get the better of us.
Take care of that, and our future will be the birth of a new, digital era. One where the possibilities of mankind will be endless.