The benefits of openness, a modern example

In the last post I talked about how the information exchange that trade and the printing press allowed started off the modern society. But this revolution is not the only information revolution in history. In fact, the first one probably was the inventing of writing. It wasn’t as big or sudden as the invention of the printing press, and neither was a third revolution that came with the inventions of the telegraph, telephone, and radio.

But the fourth one is as big as the printing press. In fact, it might be bigger, and it’s happening now. It’s called the internet.

The internet started out improving information exchange by making information more readily available. In a radio you only have the information when it’s being transmitted, but the benefit of the radio is that it can transmit information fast. The information of books is available any time, but you’ll have to go to the library. The internet is like having a gigantic library in your home, and it spreads information just as fast as radio.

The easy accessibility to information also means it’s very hard to censor information. This is of course the reason that totalitarian countries try to restrict internet access, or in extreme cases forbid people to own computers outright. But even in countries like China that filters internet content for it’s citizens, everybody with computers now have access to information about democracy and human rights. And this means that slowly, slowly, the government has to ease up on the oppression.

If it had stopped there, it would only have been a minor revolution, but it didn’t. Because the internet also means easy information sharing. Wikipedia is now the worlds largest collection of information. The reliability of the information varies, but it’s a great starting point almost for anything you want to know. The biggest and best encyclopedia ever. And, it’s made by having an enourmous amount of people all contributing a little bit.

Wikipedia is surely the best example of an open society in function you could have. Big enough to warrant it’s own article in the future.

And while Wikipedia concentrates on encyclopedia and facts, the blogging revolution has made sharing opinions and news available to everyone. Blogs started shaking the world when some American news was broken by bloggers a couple of years ago. This year, the Swedish political landscape was changed when a massive protest against a new law swept the Swedish blogosphere, while the traditional media was ignoring the issue.

Internet is not only giving people access to more information, faster, but are letting people share information, and collaborate on a scale never before imagined.


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