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When we were the internet

Stories and News No. 1296

Observing what is happening on Twitter in the Elon Musk version, I remember that it was the beginning of the nineties when at the Sapienza University of Rome - I graduated in Computer Sciences - one of us asked a professor the following question: "What is the internet really?"
“We are the Internet”, replied the teacher, as if it were the simplest thing in the world. And it is, if you think about it. The idea is elementary, easily understood even by a child: a network whose segments connect dots, which in turn correspond to the participants of this global meeting. In a word, we.
I was immediately struck by this invention like many at the time. A true revolution: making accessible more and more everywhere a tool through which you can get in touch extremely quickly with anyone in the world who wants the same. The founding core of the revolutionary aspect is that you can do it in a perfectly horizontal way, getting rid of the medium or mass media. I connect with you connecting with her who in turn connects with them no matter where we are in the world and in real time.
The potential of this innovation was almost immediately evident. First of all, the extraordinary possibilities of sharing knowledge and all kinds of information among the “participants”, a term I have always preferred to users. The latter makes me think of what we were before. As in the opening theme of the Simpson family, condemned to end up every evening before the TV. The back on the sofa and the remote control in one hand, with the illusion of control, while as brilliantly explained by the protagonist of the movie Network, played by an extraordinary Peter Finch, the only concrete chance of our freedom of thought consisted in turning off the device.
Another memorable university moment was when another professor annoyed more than usual with a group of students called them excessively lazy. I don't remember the exact words, but the meaning was more or less this: "The computer is not a television - just like smartphones and tablets, I might add - and using it in the same way, i.e. limiting ourselves to clicking a button - or scrolling images and videos -, it's like getting on an airplane and instead of flying, driving it on the ground like you would on a car or a bicycle."
That's why I prefer the term participant to user in my humble opinion. PCs, mobile phones and tablets are not only more or less large monitors. They have input tools such as the keyboard, the camera or the microphone to share information in turn, which means thoughts, ideas, opinions and so on, hopefully original and sincere. But you can't expect anything, since as we said, we are the internet. You know, we are the human race, well, it has never been a great business card, nor now and even less before the advent of the World Wide Web. The latter is due to the further invention of Tim Berners- Lee and represents the system through which today we are able to surf the net between one site and another.
I remember the early years of the internet and I can't help but compare them with what it has become over time up to now.
At the beginning, those who were there may remember it, the web was much more similar to the initial idea. We connected to each other, period. Anyone, anywhere. The early days were exceptional because, as in every debut, there was a great ferment of new ideas and many of them consistent with the primordial intuition: we the people - to use an expression dear to the North Americans - who are finally able to to put one's information at the service of the community.
In part, despite everything, internet is still this, but with the increase in the number of connected people, what is inevitable has happened. It would have been incredibly naive to think that those who see the others only as cows to be milked or flocks of sheep to be controlled and guided.
When I remember the day when my teacher said that we are the internet, I also remember that among us there are them too. In this “we” are the same big media affected by omnipotent delirium and the schizophrenic multinationals that managed the policies and the economy of the television networks in a crazy and reckless way.
We are all in this by now, except the little ones of the world, who were outside the door before and still are now, even if thinking of the current www I'm not so convinced anymore that it's bad for them.
Returning to the initial point, in this “we” there are many average citizens, but there are also billionaires, men of almost unlimited power, people accustomed to commanding and above all to being obeyed, individuals obsessed with the cult of themselves and from the illusion of being able to please everyone. They once ran newspapers, then television networks, and today social networks, as mere investors or even owners.
They haven't changed at all and the crass, pathetic and puerile way in which they pretend to administer everything and everyone according to their tastes and interests is always the same. But we the people should demonstrate that we have learned the old lesson of the professors or ordinary people of the past. And it tells us that they need us, never the other way around.
Simply take the remote control and turn it off, close the device or modem, disconnect the power, or even unsubscribe if you prefer.
I say this from personal experience. A second later the internet will still be there around us. Because to be honest, a network capable of connecting us with each other already existed. It was us, “we”, and it was enough to get up once and for all from the aforementioned sofa to take to the streets and exchange ideas and emotions face to face.
We don't need another megalomaniac billionaire to help us do that.

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