Society problems

Technology and Society: We should have seen it coming | Opinion

Computers are tools for solving problems of many types ranging from keeping financial records to simulating and predicting climate change, but, as we all know, they can also create new and unforeseen problems that have experienced explosive growth since they began solving problems for the Department of Defense in the second half of the 20th century.

Were the IT people of the day unaware of privacy and security issues? Was the Pentagon, as part of its mission, certainly aware of these problems? As the title suggests, “WE MUST HAVE SAW THIS COMING” and to some extent, we did. In 1966, Professor RM Fano presented his paper, “The Computer Utility” (( in which he predicted some of the benefits as well as the pitfalls of this new incoming computer technology. in a society. not quite prepared for the vast potential benefits as well as the problems that might arise. (As Ralph Nader has been quoted “There is no free lunch”). Fano sums up some of the advantages known in the early 1960s: “The pattern of our professional and private lives has been shaped by a variety of technological products that have increased our mobility, our ability to communicate over a distance and our ability to mold our physical environment. to our needs… and acts as a knowledgeable and knowledgeable assistant. Since most intellectual activities are cooperative in nature, the system must be able to serve several people simultaneously, in order to facilitate intellectual communication between them. He must also be able to act as a repository of the knowledge of the community he serves; that is to say, it must be able to play a role analogous to that of a library containing not only books, journals and reports, but also the current working documents of each individual in the community. These capabilities have already been demonstrated, at least in rudimentary form…” He is aware of some of the privacy and security issues, but overall he is positive:

“…like water and electricity, the computer will be considered in society simply as another utility.”


The very first “Internet”, the ARPANET, comprised only four sites, all in the United States and funded by the Pentagon’s ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS Agency (ARPA) in the early 1960s. project, when there were only two machines connected, notes Fano, “experience has shown that each of the two computer installations can serve up to 30 people at any one time, and still answer (most of the time) within seconds to user requests that require less than two seconds of processing time to fulfill.” At the time, it was not sarcasm as we might parse it today, but a proud and prodigious.

As a note of interest (to me personally and maybe computer geeks), I was fortunate enough to work at the University of Illinois which was developing and using this early technology to implement the ARPANET such as the IMP, the Interface Message Processor, which was the first router to convert bitstreams into packets to allow two-way communication with computers in California.

Besides using the Illiac IV, which used 64 processors in parallel to solve massive problems such as weather simulation faster, we were able to run our jobs on similar machines located in California rather than in our database. origin from Illinois, as California is 2 hours behind Illinois time. We could arrive at 8 a.m. to run our programs in priority because it was only 6 a.m. on the west coast when the load on their computer was minimal and so we could get a faster turnaround time for our submissions. Just when I thought there was more than a grain of truth to the observation that “the smarter technology gets, the dumber people get,” this clever time-shifting strategy gave me a boost. hope for the future.

Fast forward to our current Internet, depending on your perspective, the Internet or “Web” as it is sometimes called evolved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 (the version of the Internet that we all use now). What was the main reason for this number jump? The technical reason was that Web 1.0 was read-only and Web 2.0 was read-write. Think of it this way: TVs in the 1950s could be called TV 1.0 because they were read-only. As users, we were mostly passive, just watching; the only inputs we had were the dial that changed channels. You could say we entered TV 2.0 when we started using the TV as another internet-connected device, which enabled additional functionality for voice input and movie watching.

WEB 3.0

Currently, the web is taking a big leap forward and is called web 3.0. As of this writing, there is currently no precise and comprehensive definition of what Web 3.0 is, what it does, and what it does differently from Web 2.0. However, the most interesting feature of Web 3.0 (to me) is that Internet Service Providers, as we know them now (e.g. Spectrum, AT&T, Verizon…) will be forced to undergo a cataclysmic change as the Internet would owned and operated by its users rather than a private, for-profit company.

The financial structure to implement Web 3.0 has not yet been fully defined, but we can think of it this way: Web 2.0 is like using a taxi or other driving service to get around. In this scenario, you are paying a company for a service. Now suppose you and a group of co-workers form a carpooling group—ostensibly no one is paying anyone for the ride service. Of course, in exceptional circumstances, payment for maintenance such as gas, oil and repairs must be taken care of. Not only does this save money, but it allows groups to set their own rules, as it favors people working together over large organizations, many of which are very close to monopolies.

Does this possible Internet change smack of socialism or is it an idea that both political parties can embrace? Liberals can follow suit because it provides fairer internet service for everyone and gives conservatives greater freedom of individual choice. There’s still a lot of criticism (mostly from big companies that provide internet services as well as content (e.g. Comcast owns NBC news media; conflict of interest? You decide.) other reasons to criticize, so stay tuned for the pros and cons of Web 3.0 which by all signs is coming – whether you like it or not.

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