The internet has been such an integrated part of our lives that some people might mistake it as a separate realm—something beyond the physical world. This could not be further from the truth. The internet is a reflection of the physical world and closely intertwined with it. The misconception that the internet does not have any real-world implications reflects a lack of acknowledgement and understanding of what the internet really is and how it affects our lives.
The Internet Is a Reflection of the Physical World
The internet is not a separate entity; it is interwoven with and an extension of the physical world. Every time we interact with the internet, we are interacting with fellow human beings and their creations. Social media, for example, creates a virtual space for individuals to connect with each other, but it is still a space created by humans. The internet, therefore, is a means for humans to connect with other humans and to interact with the world.
Take, for example, the effect that the internet and social media have on our current political climate. It is no longer just the physical world where politicians and their followers battle it out to win votes, but also an online world. Social media has become a battleground for political ideologies, where individuals can both inform and be informed about political events, while also connecting and building communities to further specific ideas.
The virtual world is not disconnected from the physical world as issues such as cyberbullying and online harassment demonstrate. These issues have real, tangible impacts, not just in the online world, but also in the physical world. Online harassment or cyberbullying can lead to psychological trauma and even suicide, and therefore it cannot be considered a separate issue from physical abuse or bullying.
The History of the Internet
Understanding the history of the internet can help to clarify why it is not a separate realm. The internet is the result of conscious human creation, an extension of human communication that dates back to the invention of the radio and television. The development of computers in the mid-twentieth century led to the creation of electronic bulletin boards that facilitated communication between individuals. The creation of the World Wide Web in 1989 further extended the connection between individuals and information, for the first time offering a comprehensive collection of interconnected links and websites.
The internet’s creation and development have made it easier for humans to communicate with each other, but also with the physical world. E-commerce, for example, is one manifestation of the connection between the virtual and physical worlds. It allows businesses to extend their reach far beyond their physical locations, making them visible to a larger audience. Customers can purchase items online, and receive them in the physical world.
The internet’s impact on commerce, as well as on social and political interactions, makes it clear that it is inseparable from the physical world.
The Debate Around the Internet as a Cosmic Commons
There is a debate going on around the internet’s classification as a “cosmic commons”. The idea of the cosmic commons comes from the Tr