The inventor of the world wide web has made some pretty startling predictions about the future.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee is not exactly optimistic about the direction of the internet, blaming the popularity of fake news and propaganda mainly.
Although he still considers himself an optimist, he’s the one ‘standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence.’
He told the Guardian:
We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things.
The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy, so I am concerned.
People are being distorted by very finely trained AIs that figure out how to distract them.
We are so used to these systems being manipulated that people just think that’s how the internet works. We need to think about what it should be like.
We have these dark ads that target and manipulate me and then vanish because I can’t bookmark them. This is not democracy – this is putting who gets selected into the hands of the most manipulative companies out there.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however.
Sir Tim still believes the web can turn itself around and become what he initially wanted it to be, an open platform allowing anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries.
We are so used to these systems being manipulated, people just think that’s how the internet works. We need to think about what it should be like.
One of the problems with climate change is getting people to realise it was anthropogenic – created by people. It’s the same problem with social networks – they are manmade. If they are not serving humanity, they can and should be changed.
When I invented the web, I didn’t have to ask Vint Cerf [the ‘father of the internet’] for permission to use the internet.
Gas is a utility, so is clean water and connectivity should be too. It’s part of life and shouldn’t have an attitude about what you use it for – just like water.
Sir Tim invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.
The first website at CERN was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee’s NeXT computer.
The website described the basic features of the web, including how to access other people’s documents and how to set up your own server.
The NeXT machine – the original web server – is still at CERN.