I think I can easily say that when Brian Sterling said the internet was “spreading like bread-mold” in 1993, he had no idea how on the dough he was. After starting out as ARPANET in the Australian summer of ’69 (couldn’t resist), the internet has infected us all, holding us hostage to its divine supremacy. Sterling gives the impression that the internet is a promoter of freedom but his predictions for the future of the network were clouded by some rad rose-coloured wayfarers. He narrowed the uses for the vintage internet down to four things: “mail, discussion groups, long-distance computing, and file transfers” (1993). Whoa dude. I mean, today we have access to pretty much all human knowledge and we have the ability to speak to people face-to-face on the other side of the planet, but most of us use it to download Game of Thrones (here is a very relevant link) and look at cats.
Brian Sterling lightly touches on the desires of the military and government but I don’t think he had a grasp on how fervent those desires were. Today, there’s the good old NSA (America’s National Security Agency) keeping tabs on everyone (see what I did there, coz there are tabs on internet browsers lol) and spying on online communications without the knowledge of internet users. Not just in ‘Murica. They carried out operations in China, Italy, European Union offices and embassies, monitoring phone calls and text messages sent from around the world, all in the name of “national security” (BBC, 2014).
Now little Australia wants to get in on the fun! The Australian government wants to force all telecommunication service providers to hold our metadata, which is data about data from the internet, phone calls, texts, everything. That explanation is a bit confusing, so here’s our Attorney-General George Brandis clearing it all up on Sky News earlier this week (it gets really good after about 2.15). With more focus being placed on “security”, the internet might be losing that sense of freedom and anarchy that made Sterling so hot about it back in the day.
Works cited BBC 2014, Edward Snowden:Links that exposed US spy programme, viewed 9 August 2014, Available online: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-23123964 Sterling, B 1993, “A Short History of the Internet”, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, February, viewed 9 August 2014, available online: http://cmuems.com/2012/b/files/2012/09/Bruce_Sterling_A_Short_History_of_the_Internet.pdf