Technology and society: Thinking a little more about the pros and cons of the Internet | Opinion

In previous articles I have mentioned some of the pros and cons of social media and while it is true that social media is dominating the internet, that is only part of it. What got me thinking about this was an article, “Covid Has Exposed Problems in How Scientists Share Data” by Amy Docker Marcus in The Wall Street Journal (January 15-16, 2022, weekend edition) .

Before reading this, I had always assumed that science was such a useful and powerful method of exploring reality (as opposed to swallowing some of the wacky ideas and opinions of some politicians) and was also the underlying philosophy not only of discovery but sharing the knowledge acquired in the discovery for the benefit of all.

However, it seems the sharing part is fading as scientists only use the internet to share their findings after their paper is published, which can take months. After all, being a scientist is paid work and if someone uses your research results before your article is published, not only does history ignore your efforts, but the deal and pay is diminished or not rewarded at all. Of course, it is necessary for all sciences to review articles from other experts in the same field to ensure that there is consensus on the methods used and the conclusions reached.

In this case, the Internet is both an advantage and a disadvantage. This could be (and in many cases is) a way for the scientist to collaborate with others in the same field in real time and possibly catch errors or problems before they happen, which would be a plus great benefit to society.

This problem is both political and personal and it is not surprising that it has not yet been resolved.

That said, if you search for the phrase “internet pros and cons” you’ll get more than you need to know, so I’ll try to summarize my findings.

As you would expect, it depends on the different needs and wants of specific segments of society. You wouldn’t expect the goals of a business (to obtain profits for shareholders and employees) to coincide with the goals of education (to acquire knowledge and skills for personal growth).

Without too much exaggeration, it seems that the Internet will be the stimulus that will lead to the next advancement of civilization.

In the past, rivers and railways allowed the transport of goods, which encouraged the growth of the economy and civilization in general. Today, the Internet makes it possible to transfer data and use it as information that allows companies to prosper.

Most Internet users are aware of the benefits of using the Internet to access information on topics such as economy, education, and entertainment. That was a short list of some of the pros. But tribalism, addiction, privacy, cybercrime (and, of course, all forms of spam) stand out as downsides – which are some of the issues most internet users worry about, starting with tribalism. .

“…one of the obvious drivers of tribalism is the substitution by many Americans of investment and involvement in physical communities with investments and involvement in online communities that more effectively classify them as cliques Another is the use of the Internet by many people not to verify or challenge their thinking, but to validate it” (“Our Tribalism will be the Death of Us” by Frank Bruni, in his column Opinion of the January 7 edition of The New York Times.)

Addiction is another downside to the internet. Additionally, it plays a role in promoting tribalism. Many people are addicted to reinforcing their political views using only the internet sources approved by their tribe.

Another disturbing form of addiction to be concerned about, “Porn addiction is considered a behavioral addiction that is characterized by an ever-increasing compulsion to view pornographic content or material. … Although many medical and psychiatric professionals do not treat the compulsion to view or use pornographic material as an addiction, the signs and symptoms of pornography addiction are often very similar to those which signify a drug or alcohol addiction. []

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not preaching here. Everyone has some form of addiction depending on how the term is defined. I am addicted to coffee. I used to smoke up to three packs of camels a day in college (luckily I quit when I was thirty and had two kids). Currently I’m addicted to word games like Lexulous (a Scrabble imitation) and I’m trying to wean myself off Facebook which has been hard for various reasons but porn addiction can be a disease and I’m pretty sure that most parents wouldn’t. want their young children to visit porn sites.

Using the Internet can compromise our privacy, both national and personal. It is increasingly being used by nations that spy on each other as well as their own citizens. This is sure to hurt any citizen who believes in the “right to be left alone” as long as you don’t harm others. But it’s not just the government intruding on our privacy, it’s everyone using the internet.

As Pogo commented, “we’ve met the enemy and that’s us”.

Consider this news snippet: “The amount of personal information shared on the Internet is so enormous that privacy is at risk. It’s not just identity theft that’s a problem. Kim Kardashian West had jewelry stolen in Paris because of the amount of information shared. A group of 17 people got together, followed his movements and struck because of the freely shared information. If you share vacation photos in real time, you’re telling the world you’re not home. []

Once you’ve posted a photo or story on a site like Facebook, the moment you realize it was a mistake and go to delete it, how many of your friends, family, and followers have it already read and shared? Think about it.

Another area of ​​concern is cybercrime, where malicious hackers hold businesses hostage until a ransom is paid. A more mundane and common cybercrime is basically an internet scam. It’s common for a hacker to send you an email that appears to be from a trusted source and when you click on it, you’ve been hacked and the hacker now has equal access to everything on your computer.

If you’re looking for something like “how to keep hackers off my computer” the best returns will be from sponsored sources which, while usually providing decent advice, are actually advertisements from that sponsor. The most important thing is to carefully examine the URL to see if it is a misspelling from a trusted website; the most common are just a simple misspelling like: (instead of My favorite is “” which looks legit at first glance, but that “m” is actually the two characters “r” and “n” squashed together. For more interesting examples, search for the term “typosquatting” (yes, that’s what it’s called – computer science humor is unique.)

For me, one of the greatest benefits of the internet is being able to write this column from the comfort of my home.

Dr. Stewart A. Denenberg is professor emeritus of computer science at Plattsburgh State. He recently retired after 30 years there. Prior to that, he worked as a technical writer, programmer, and consultant to the US Navy and private industry. Send your comments and suggestions to his blog at, where there is additional text and links. He can also be reached at [email protected]

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