In today’s environment of echo chambers, fake news, and confirmation bias, we seem to be heading down a path to voluntary ignorance. Where the end of that path leads, no one knows. However, we know enough to say that that place resembles hell more than heaven.
The original promise of the Internet was to unite the world’s collective intelligence, unleashing the power of global teamwork and letting previously-unconnected individuals harness ideas and take them further than they ever would have before. That is what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind.
Who could have foreseen that the Internet would serve primarily as a repository of cat vidoes and Netflix series?
The Internet is what it is – each and every one of us contributing and taking what we want – so while we can lament some of its uses, we are merely lamenting the aspects of society that are reflected in the wires of global connectivity.
Yet the sea of knowledge does exist, and its most carnal form is the best destination on the Internet.
Few things in this world are more valuable than pure knowledge. Yuval Noah Hariri argues that information – and more particulary data – is what powers us. When we have access to information we can make the right decisions. We can improve ourselves. Knowledge lets us break out of our bad habits, it rights skewed arguments, it provides the proper foundation for new creative thinking. It gives credit where credit is due and at the same time opens the intricacies of the world to everyone not wearing a lab coat.
The world’s collective knowledge is Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is the true realization of the dream of Tim Berners-Lee.
I could go through the lists of things that can be learned from Wikipedia, but I don’t need to, because the reality is – as an internet user – you have probably visited Wikipedia at least once this week, if not already once today.
I don’t need to tell you how important Wikipedia is. I don’t need to tell you that its group of volunteers creates an increasingly valuable social resource with each article. Its volunteers tirelessly translate articles to free up knowledge for new populations. I don’t need to tell you that without donations Wikipedia would cease to exist.
It is not ironic that one of the most valuable resources in the world – knowledge – should be free for everyone. That is how it should be. And fortunately, for the moment, that is how it is.
But it won’t always be this way. The forces of capitalism threaten Wikipedia’s position as one of the world’s most visited websites. A lot of that pressure can be traced to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and their efforts to thwart net neutrality.
Basically, net neutrality is the fact that websites are all treated equally, meaning that people pay internet service fees (your internet or data bill) to access sites. The ISPs deliver content from websites at the same speed no matter which website it is. Now ISPs want to charge websites to deliver their content to internet users. This means that if you can pay, you can continue to give your visitors a good experience. Everyone else will have their delivery times throttled to the point that visitors will up and leave.
Yeah, it is. Maybe it makes sense that Netflix – which represents 25% of the Internet’s traffic at any given time – should pay a little bit more. But every single website? It’s an extortion of the system that should be prevented before it hurts everyone except for those with the deepest pockets.
The debate has grown even more heated with the appointment of this douchebag:
Ajit Pai was just confirmed as the new FCC Chairman in the US, and he loves the idea of ending net neutrality so that his biggest lobbiests, ISPs, can make more money.
Unfortunately for us, there is very little we can do. You can sign some petitions and boycott services, but let’s be realistic, we are using digital supports to do those things, we are hooked in.
There is a beacon of hope in all of this darkness, and that light is Wikipedia. As a non-profit its mere existence inspires people around the world, holding on to the hope that the fundamental human principles of sharing, caring, and helping each other will not be lost in the crushing teeth of short-term capital gains.
I didn’t donate to Wikipedia just because I visit it everyday. I donated to Wikipedia because I support its existence. I donate because a child in Bangladesh should have free access to the collective knowledge of humanity the same way that I do.
I donate because Wikipedia represents the world that I want to live in.
Now is the time, please consider making a donation today.