Since coming home from Berlin and returning to my job at a went village natural foods store, I’ve noticed a lot more customers are using credit cards and a lot more customers are using Foodstamps. I’m guessing the failing economy and the drastic rise of food prices are the reasons behind it. To be sure test my hypothesis (oh, this is really so scientific, isn’t it?) I did some Googling and in fact the Times reported last year Food Stamp use was almost record high, and that was March 2008.
All of that is beside the point (as if there is a point?). Anyway, yesterday at work all of the credit/ debit/ EBT card machines were down and we could accept cash only. You can only imagine how slow it was and how pissed customers were. At first I was thinking that people really should carry around cash more, but on-line banking makes using cards so easy, I guess there is no real advantage of cash. Minimal cash in the wallet is usually fine. Just a couple of dollars to buy a Take Five or beer at the bodega is all you need. But what about if the Internet goes down, like yesterday at work, and we can’t use our debit or credit cards at the grocery store or the bookstore or on-line. What then? I live in an Internet dependent culture. I am dependent on the Internet; I need it! Communication, academics, fun, learning, banking, shopping, procrastinating, watching movies, reading articles…I need the Internet. I like to think of my self as an independent woman, but I fucking depend on the Internet.
I started chatting with a gentleman at my register who sympathized with my fears of reliance on the web. He told me to check out an article in Week in Review which described much larger Internet problems. Trust and security. I am not so paranoid or narcissistic to be worried about my security, I am not the United States military or anything, but there is a lot of information about me and my life on the Internet. This article says the Internet will never be a secure or safe place, and it’s a little scary because essentially we all live on the Internet. I could launch into my existential fears that nothing, and I’m talking about life off-line, is secure; how we live in a lawless world and…and blah blah blah. But why go there. Let’s stick to the Internet. My banking information, my private emails, the websites I visit…it’s all traceable and hackable. Last year I posted a link to an article about Internet terrorists—these dudes can do ANYTHING. But to make the Internet more secure we’d have to give up a lot of the privacy and anonymity the Internet allows us. I am a classic liberal when it comes to things like welfare and government, but the Internet is different. As the article points out, it was founded on libertarian ideas. It is not built to be regulated. So what can be done?
Well, the Times article suggests we could revamp the Internet to have the equivalent of many Internet “gated communities.” This is kind of like Facebook, where you join to participate but agree to surrender your identity. The Technology Liberation Front posted an interesting response to that, saying replacing the entire Internet is not the right path, but instead creating more Internet. Creating Internets. Do you have any idea what that means? I am barely grasping on to this idea, so read the post yourself and see what sense you make of it.
I have a lot more to say about this. The political and moral dilemmas the Internet presents is so fascinating to me because they are totally modern problems. No precedents or rule books. We are sort of flying by the seat of our pants with it. It’s a little scary but totally exciting. I look forward to watching as it all develops.