1996 was the year of Internet. We constantly saw and heard the word “Internet” everywhere last year. The beginning of the Internet was the computer network called ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) which started in 1969 and was supported by the Department of Defense in America since they wanted the webbed network which cannot be severed easily. At the beginning, ARPA had been used for the military need; and when it became more commercialized, it came to be called ‘Internet’.
Accordingly, you can say that the need of defense caused Internet to begin. Currently, Internet is now changing the concept of nation, the means to communicate with people and even your view of life. Then what should we do to deal with it? Can we be only a fanatic of Internet or be an anti-Internet? First, I’d like to show the positive effects that Internet has caused; then, I will move on to the negative side.
Maybe you can come up with many positive effects of Internet. First, you can get the latest news on the web anytime everywhere. It must be interesting if students make a good use of the web because what teachers teach you is not always the latest thing. Even though the teacher say something to students, they can reply like this; `No, that’s not true, Mr. [Blank], I asked Dr. [Know-it-all] at [Top] University just a few minutes ago on the web, and he said [Blank-sensei is totally wrong, the correct information is . . .]’ You can have an opportunity to keep in touch with things new and what’s happening in the world now. This was not possible a decade ago.
Second, Internet is changing the concept of organization or system like a nation, an ethnic group, a company and a network of people. Imagine you are Japanese living in Sweden…….you can’t speak Swedish, you don’t have any Japanese friends living your neighboring city. Maybe you’ll become nervous because you can’t get any Japanese news other than the letters from your friends. You don’t have enough money to call Japan since it’s too expensive. Once you get on Internet account, your problem will all be gone!
You can chat with your Japanese friends on the web at a low price and can get any information that you want. Actually, Chinese people living all over the world are now making a network which support them each other on the Internet. For them, Internet is a very practical means to confirm their nationality and unify them as Chinese. You can be one of them (the Chinese) wherever you are. The borders between countries are fading by Internet in this way.
In case of company, the differences between the classes are now fading slowly in Japan. You can say what you want to tell your boss or a company president by sending E-mail directly. Consequently, the relationship among people in the company is changing since you don’t need someone to communicate with your superior anymore. The working style is also changing; you don’t have to go to the company everyday because you can do your work at home and send what you’ve done by E-mail. You can have more free time and can change your lifestyle as you like.
Fourth, concerning a network of people, Internet helped to connect and gather volunteers after the big earthquake had rocked the city of Kobe in 1995. The homepage made by one of the volunteer posted lots of information such as what refugees in Kobe need and which shelter needs helpers.
Fifth, Internet is a good means to express yourself. You can make your homepage and introduce yourself there. Then some people who saw your homepage would be interested in you or your information offered on the homepage and would contact you. It can be someone from unfamiliar country that you’ve never been to. Isn’t that kind of a great meeting? Maybe you want to found your own company on the web. It’s possible now. Internet is very useful if you have something that you want to do or express.
Now I’d like to state the negative effects of Internet. First, an infringement of copyright (or piracy) on the web is one of the most controversial problem that Internet has caused. It is very hard to protect the copyright since you can get any information on the web any time. You can draw some pictures offered in someone’s homepage into yours and you can copy everything that is shown on the web-which you’re supposed not to do so.
Second, subversive materials posted on the web is also a big problem. It’s obvious that subversive materials like porno or the picture of a dead body are not good for you nor for children. It can happen that innocent kids cruising the web to find a toy company’s homepage stumble across the place where many horrible pictures are posted. Though Singapore’s government now started controlling and policing those obscene material on the web, there is a question to be raised: doesn’t the regulation offend the freedom of speech?
The same question has also been raised from the United States when the obscene pictures on the web were prosecuted. Then, how should we protect our children from those subversive materials on Internet? Is there any way to measure the degree of the obscene materials? To make matters worse, there is currently no universal law that can supervise those problems. As you know, since Internet is worldwide, all countries must cooperate to restrict something on the web; otherwise, you can do it in the country where the law is not enforced.
Third, you have to be concerned about the crime on the web. Because you can offer some information anonymously on Internet, some people can also trespass upon your privacy through Internet by spreading some information that you want to private. Furthermore, a crime on the web can sometimes be very serious. If you are a computer specialist, you could steal a secret information like the military secrets of another country. It actually happened a few years ago: a guy from Brazil stole through Internet military secrets from the Department of Defense in U.S.A.
Fourth, as some people say, the Internet is a box of waste since most of the information which is offered on the web is junk. All you do on the web is just wasting your time. In addition, E-mails sometimes bother people; you can’t write back to a hundred mails! Some mails may even have nothing to do with you. Dealing with E-mail could waste a lot of your time.
As I said earlier, Internet, which was first created for military use, causes both positive and negative effects today. Nevertheless, you just can’t complain all the time about the negative effects of Internet. You know that it’s too late to stop the expanding of Internet. You won’t be able to live without it. What is now demanded for us is to deal with both positive and negative side of Internet–and, hopefully, to change its negative effects for the better.
by Rumiko Nomura