The Internet Was A Mistake

In October of 1992, when the world wide web
was just a few years old, and the idea of streaming terabytes of pornography was just
a far-fetched dream, a presidential candidate had an interesting idea: “I will have a
unique mandate… that we’re going to inform the people in detail on the issues, through
an electronic town hall, so that they really know what’s going on.” Ross Perot wasn’t talking about the internet,
exactly. He wanted to use technology to revolutionize
democracy. For instance, televised town halls or debates
could allow viewers to chime in with their phones, Press 1 for agree, 2 for disagree. Like many others, Perot believed new technology
could break down barriers between decision-makers and the average citizen. “Now, all these fellows with thousand-dollar
suits and alligator shoes running up and down the halls of Congress that make policy now
— the lobbyists, the PAC guys, the foreign lobbyists, and what-have-you, they’ll be over
there in the Smithsonian, you know — ‘Cause we’re gonna get rid of them!” Perot wasn’t the first to suggest this kind
of electronic democracy, and he won’t be the last. For those who lamented the corporate-controlled
media, or the limited flow of information in authoritarian regimes, the internet was
a godsend. One Wired article proudly announced that netizens
were better informed and more civically engaged than their unconnected peers. By 1997, a mere 8.5% of the population was
considered “connected.” But they voted more, had greater trust in
democracy, and were more likely to know basic information – like who the Chief Justice is. In other words, these connected citizens were
a bastion of light in the political ecosystem. But has this light dimmed? Was it ever there at all? Sure, we can now access unprecedented amounts
of information, but as you’ve probably guessed – something is wrong with the internet. Let’s fast forward to 2010. young people are doing exactly what futurists
predicted: connecting on Twitter and coming out in the streets to protest oppressive regimes
in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. The media heralded The Arab Spring as the
first social media revolution. The promise of the internet in action. Before the internet, political organizing
was risky business – stump speeches and flyer distribution were great ways to end up in
jail. Now, in the age of tweets heard round the
world, one can instigate change from the safety of one’s own home, until your movement is
too large to quell. But despite the praise the internet earned
for its role in the Arab Spring, some have argued that the uprisings prove that the internet
can actually stifle politics. Why? Because, in Egypt, at least, the real revolution
didn’t start until the internet went dark. On January 28, 2011, after several days of
widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut down the country’s internet. Like, all of it. Cell phones, too. “In anticipation of what had been billed as
the biggest of four days of rallies, the government completely shut down the internet in an attempt
to stop people from communicating.” One paper argued that the lack of internet
intensified revolutionary unrest in three ways. It angered those who were otherwise unaware
or uninterested in the unrest; it forced more face-to-face communication; and it decentralized
the rebellion – making it even harder to put down. Similarly the Iranian revolution of 1978 and
1979 took place only after a news blackout. Which raises another question: what if exposure
to information doesn’t necessarily compel us to fix injustices, or clamor for a better
world, but just makes us more content with the status quo? The author was inspired by another paper that
looked at East Germans living under Communism who had access to Western media. “I understand our gathering today is being
broadcast, as well, in the East. To those listening in East Berlin, a special
word.” You might think that seeing a world of freedom
would inspire East Germans to detest their oppressive regime and spur them to rebel. But it did exactly the opposite. Eastern Germans with access to Western TV
found their life under communism more tolerable than their peers without it. TV offered an escape from food lines and state
propaganda. Why fight for a better world when you can
just watch one? Why jump over a shark on water skis, if you
can just watch the Fonz do it? And why participate in politics when you can
retweet someone else’s virtue? In 2014, researchers looked at the “Save
Darfur” cause on Facebook. What they found, at this point, probably won’t
surprise you: “The vast majority of Cause members recruited no one else into the Cause
and contributed no money to it -suggesting… Facebook conjured an illusion of activism
rather than facilitating the real thing.” To be fair, there are counter-examples, like
the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised unprecedented amounts of money to fight the
disease. But entering a credit card number is a lot
different than being an engaged citizen – where problems are a little more complicated than
dumping money into research. And what about our electronic town halls,
or the promise, that digital citizens will be more informed than previous generations? In 2014, a Pew Research poll claimed that,
thanks to the internet, at least people felt more informed. But what should we make of “feeling” more
informed? Well, as early as 1996, MIT researchers prophetically
declared that the internet ran the risk of becoming what they referred to as a cyber-Balkans. Like the countries of the Balkan Peninsula,
which became increasingly fragmented and hostile toward one another, the internet would create
insular realities for its users. In other words, they identified echo chambers
20 years before everyone freaked out about them. The point is: access to more information doesn’t
necessarily dispel falsehoods, it can amplify them. Rather than discrediting flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers,
and whatever the hell Goop is, the internet has helped them thrive. And for the rest of us, why challenge your
own perspectives when you can find sources that think like you do? So, what gives? As one philosopher notes, as we produce more
knowledge, what we gain in breadth, we lose in depth. Everyone has an opinion, but is never committed
to act on it. Why? Because of what he considers to be two of
the worst calamities of the modern era: anonymity and the press. But this philosopher wasn’t talking about
the internet or even the modern era because he died in 1855. What Soren Kierkegaard identified as problems
in the 1800s – anonymity, public opinion, and armchair intellectualism – have been given
mega-steroids in the age of the internet. Kierkegaard argued the press invited us to
become detached spectators, divorcing thought from action. Ideas were homogenized as everyone began to
read the same sources. Now we read the same sh*t and hit like and
share if we agree – no independent thought needed. But before getting too cynical, should we
ask: is this the fault of the internet itself? Or things on it, like Facebook or Logan Paul? There are tons of examples, some studied,
and some not, of the bright side of the internet: times where the internet helped organize a
community, or connect old friends, or let people explore who they really are. But rather than looking at specific content,
it’s important to understand the modern internet as a system with a supreme mandate:
to produce knowledge. Specifically, knowledge about you, tailored
for you, and often produced by you. The internet isn’t about what kind of knowledge
is produced, it’s concerned with the ever-accelerating exchange of information in general. More photos. More kickstarters. More video watch time. It’s a system that cares about scale, not
quality, not integrity. And despite this ever-increasing exchange
of information, the internet seems to generate isolation wherever it goes. From early internet studies that show users
feel more lonely and depressed, on a micro level, to the balkanization of our political
landscape on a macro level. Whereas internet evangelists thought that
access to information would connect people like never before, it’s managed to do exactly
the opposite. But hey – at least there’s this:

100 thoughts on “The Internet Was A Mistake

  1. Hope you enjoyed this pilot! The video took dozens of hours to research and pulled from 36 different sources — check out the full script and get your hands on the research at

  2. Anonymity? Do you see my name right there? I don't need to hide I will say anything to anybody at any time.
    Just be bringing it!
    It's been broughten!

  3. Nerds will appreciate this:
    Borg drones disconnected from the hive mind will act independently to reestablish connection to the collective, assimilating local personnel, technology and infrastructure until they achieve this goal.

  4. You can tell right away even on youtube comments
    Where instead of something intellectual being upvoted?
    Memes copy pasted are the things most popular.

  5. You can try to crop out that office dog, but we all saw it
    What’s it name?
    Does it like to play fetch?
    Does it want a belly rub?
    The people demand to know!

  6. The problem with social media is the option to "share" posts and links. Take that away, and people will actually have to write a post telling you were to go look at the thing they saw….and people are lazy so they won't. That is how you fix the internet.

  7. You are missing the point. The Internet isn't an inherently bad idea. Its just that, like all things, given enough time, capitalist ruins all things its allowed to be a part of. This is why we cannot also allow capitalism to expand outside of Earth when we start exploring the space, through NASA only.

  8. It is the fault of the human. Everything is a means and 'WE' decide how we use it.
    So many times when I used to be on Facebook, people would say the saying 'come on man…its just facebook, dont take it too seriously'. Whilst to me it always has been just a means , not another dimension where we are not humans anymore… people are insane.
    So the problem lies in how weak and dumb a lot of humans are. They manipulate and allow themselves to be manipulated by easier realities, and lie to indeed for instance the fake activism, where people give themselves the applause for being 'woke', all the while they actually do nothing and are on auto pilot.
    In the end its all about knowledge of self, and being authentic and a sincere human being with integrity. Which is fucking hard, which is why most are not. Which is why the internet was a huuuuge mistake.
    Of course this is just 0,0001% of the why's. But …yeah.

  9. You ask for feedback – well, stop taking the piss out of your dog, for a start. She/he didn't have any choice in being forced by you to look foolish. And, no, it isn't funny to make animals look like toys, so have some fucking respect for the creature I bet you claim to love.

  10. I think the internet is still a potentially extremely positive tool, but it needs to be combined with a drastic rethink of how our education system works. Rather than focusing on teaching kids and teens stuff they could just look up on their phone at anytime, we need to focus on educating them about critical thinking skills above all else so they can actually sort through all of that information. The internet is only as great as the people who are using it.

  11. i do not enjoy cute things honestly. I usually leave that for some date I have to elaborate on some random kitty video

  12. Awesome vid! I remember thinking wow, wisecrack makes some great content it would be cool if they did some videos on society. Glad you are doing just that!

  13. Well done . They even tell their sources – like an old school bibliography ; from days when where you got your info was important . Subscribed – and I haven't subscribed to anything in years !

  14. the onternet is only a tool that let people connect and share, but people are stupid…. hate the players, not the game

  15. If we don't take this with a pinch of salt then we haven't been paying attention.

    Excellent channel, long time viewer/first time commenter.

  16. im totally against censorship dont get me wrong here, but what im about to say is actually pro-censorship … What if we had a control system, i know it might be too late by now but hear me out. A system that has control over what is posted and published online, a system that filters out the most common of lies, like anti-vaxxers spread. I know everyone has a right to their opinion, but isnt it endangerment of the public if you spread lies that might affect peoples life? Also the whole omni-gender thing that is going on … biologically theres 2 genders that we separate by the amount of either Testosterone or Estrogen and spreading anything that is just you opinion about how you feel doesnt make it a truth …. i say Yes to a Controlled internet environment. STOP THE RIDICULOUSNESS !

  17. Seems a little ironic that he starts by saying this video is about reality, not media, and the video proceeds to discuss the medium of the internet which itself includes other forms of media…

  18. So Should wisecrack close shop? Is this just a way to make a living? Or do people at Wisecrack actually believe that that the are doing good in the world?

  19. Look thro lots of pros and cons with internet and multiple study’s have shown the information superhighway has more pro then cons.

  20. After watching certain of your videos like this one, I feel an urge to smash my phone on the floor. Yet the next day I find myself watching more of this very deep and interesting content. I guess.. thank you for making me feel so confused ?

  21. Internet, that's not the problem at all. The governments of the world are the problem. They have always been the problem and they will always be the problem. If I can paraphrase from one of my favorite movies, the government is crazy, not the government really, just the people in it.

  22. The fact that "connected" people back in the day were more involved with politics, might just be because they had the money to be connected and thus were more likely to be invested in politics.
    Correlation is not Causation!

  23. It would have been a mistake NOT to have the internet. It would've given the elite class unchecked mind control over the masses. At least the internet gives us a chance.

  24. The Internet is a gift and a curse. Things like this Youtube video wouldn't have been possible 20 years ago, even though millions of people had Internet access back then. It's provided an outlet for filmmakers, singers, bloggers/vloggers, etc., which is great. I've found a lot of great content I would never have known about otherwise, and as a content maker, I've been able to find work thanks to the Internet and social media.

    The problem, IMO, is that it's become a little TOO mainstream and accessible within the last decade. In 1999, you still needed a computer and a dial-up or high-speed connection, and not everyone had those things. Now, with a smartphone and cell/Wi-Fi signal, any moron with a pulse can get online and shit out whatever meme or opinion. A lot of that also falls on social media, i.e. Facebook no longer requiring a college/corporate email. I don't think it's coincidence that things went downhill when they allowed just about anyone to join. I'm barely scratching the surface here, but you get my drift.

  25. East Germany wansnt oppressive wtf.
    I could just as easily say your country is oppressive without stating why.

  26. I sort of don’t like this, but only because if the Internet didn’t exist then I wouldn’t have access to wisecrack all of its like-minded colleagues!

  27. I agree with the above, but I also there are also labor aspects in which the internet has worsened our lives. The sharing economy's exploitative practices. Mega-corporations' abilities to offshore work to cheaper countries. The fact that all this tech runs on gadgets manufactured by Foxconn factory slaves, on the verge of suicide.

  28. Those points about “connected” people in the early ‘90s and TV-owning East Germans are really good examples of why everyone should be required to take a statistics class. Both are easy to explain if you know about endogeneity. People who were rich enough to have giant super expensive cell phones back then were already the most knowledgeable and connected people and East Germans with TVs and access to Western channels had them because they were the elites of East Germany. Luckily you can find free statistics classes on the internet 🙂

  29. Everything has disadvantages and advantages, the internet is no different. It's up to us to weigh those in order to determine whether something has improved our lives or not.

  30. I just smoked, and while watching this, every three minutes or so I would go to hit the like button and realize I already had. I have a total love-hate relationship with the Internet but if I was forced to choose I would probably lean towards hate. But then no wisecrack:(

  31. Capitalism requires continuous trimming and monitoring to play well with democracy, communism, anarchy, or really any government.

  32. I think that in spreading the internet to everyone we may have screwed up. Instead of turning uninformed, backwards idiots into model citizens, the idiots have overwhelmed the model citizens.

  33. The problems you brought up didn't start and wouldn't end with the internet. The internet is just an easy scapegoat for these very human issues because it's so prevalent and convenient.

  34. This is a blunt take with a clear bias. The internet has also opened up entirely new markets and industries, had incredible economic impacts and allowed for education and business for remote and underprivileged people. I get that you have an angle but you completely missed so much of the use scenarios

  35. Back in the day when u had sex with pigs you thought u were alone…with the internet you can google “sex with pigs” and you found thousands of forums that validate your own anchor biases

  36. lol i've been saying the internet needs to have data sorted for better access to the specific knowledge that one desires for years. As for the rest politics is mostly based off of fear of violence(yes it was terrorism before terrorism) so thinking you can produce real political change versus dictators via basically talking is a very innocent idea but it is a good tool for making people aware, so you have to find a balance between to the two much as was described in the automation walle video.

  37. I loved the format! Very interesting video!
    On the subject of the video I ask : what now? Some hard working people must have come up with plans or ideas to balance things out… ?

  38. I liked the Internet when it took 10 minutes to download a porn picture and sometimes the connection failed. Instant gratification means the thrill is gone now.

  39. The problem is with human nature. Not the internet. The internet exposes our inherent biases, some other tool (in 20 years or so) will do the same thing. And people will cry wolf about that as well.

  40. The internet was beautiful, a meta space shared by all humanity. For inspiration, for cries of help, for deep relations, political outcry. Then some las Vegas dudes invented online credit card payment. Then came commerce, paid ads and finally policing. Someone please start a new internet without censorship, neither official or by the prudists. Lets us call it something different, just let legislators know that whatever legislation exist, they don't apply because this is not the internet!

  41. I actually disagree. As much as I'd like to hate on the Internet and how much bs it contains, I think I've made genuine connections through it. I had much easier access to valuable information. I learned new skills. Heck, I can use my anonymity to criticize our president. If I did that publicly, I would be arrested or even killed. Of course, that may not be the same for many of us.

  42. Do you mean the internet IS a mistake? It is still going, no need for past tense. Gawd dam can we all just learn English?

  43. Here in the mid michigan town I live in someone recently began live streaming our town hall meetings. Which really upset the town hall folk. By the way, is it odd that majority of people in our city council and other local government are related?

  44. Have you ever been on the internet? If you ever try to ask how you can help the answer seems to be "give money" 100% of the time. Which leads to the feeling that there are already enough people doing the physical labor. Nobody needs help anymore, they need handouts. It's as if we are on the shoulders of giants and it's leaving us trapped. We can only do so much and the rest demands money.

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