Brice Bunner

Can the internet be used as punishment?


Image ©: Alanswart @ GettyImagesI’ve been writing about the digital divide, or digital inequity that continues to drag our country down, for a while on this blog. However, this recent article shows me just how potent the lack of internet can be. After all, if the threat of disconnecting someone like Assange to the internet has enough merit to quell his poisoned quill, then there must be value there.

Of course, one could argue that this man Assange is an internet mastermind, so it’s a bit like taking duct tape away from Macgyver, but the bizarre often highlights the truth. The internet is becoming more and more valuable as technology progresses. In fact, we can see (with IoT and smart microwaves) that the internet is the touchstone for all of our technological progress from here on.

Connecting the dots

Assange is not a direct archetype for the argument I’m making, but the fact that the government of Ecuador is threatening to pull the plug is reminiscent of the latest developments with China’s Good Citizen program. And when the internet begins to have that kind of sway in the liberties of individuals, it’s time to take a serious look at how much this technology means to us.

So, here’s how this swings to the conversation around our current digital divide: Equating loss of internet to a kind of prison for Assange—or social coercion like with China’s program—indicates what living without access can be like.

As technology continues toward whatever digital equilibrium we are aiming for, the significant number of ways the internet integrates with that technology is only increasing. We can already see how being left without access is making living incredibly difficult for some people. Soon, it might be impossible to maintain the standard of living that America demands without electronic devices and ready access to the internet.

And as that becomes reality, that access could be used for coercion. In fact, limiting access on a digital front is already taking place for some, with Facebook’s recent actions. And even Sage has felt this sting, in a way, with one of our more recent posts.

We are very close to arriving at a period in civilization where the need for the internet reaches utility level (think: electricity or telephones). Where living without a large screen device, such as a PC or laptop, and access to the information superhighway is akin to being in a kind of punitive state. It’s that correlation that makes this story of Assange so eerily prophetic to the potential potency of our digital culture.

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