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War and peace in the virtual world War and peace in the virtual world
by Joseph Gatt
2008-05-14 07:57:56
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I first had a computer with internet connection in 1995. At that time there was no Messenger, no Wikipedia, resources were very scarce, and only famous international organizations had websites. Chatting was also becoming popular, but internet connection was slow, and often failed to be established. The internet was not an alternative for “traditional” sources of information yet, and I could not express my opinions on the internet, plus “Mister anonymous” couldn't shape virtual organizations or have a word in shaping public opinion.

Today, people have more virtual conversations than real ones, search for jobs, homes, information, wives, just about anything you can think of on the internet. Meetings are constantly interrupted by phone calls on cell phones. And all sort of portable devices help kill time that was once spent doing nothing. I am writing from the most wired nation in the world, and from one of the countries that has the most electronic gadgets and devices in the world, South Korea. People have the choice between watching TV or a DVD in the subway on their cell phones or I-pods, reading books on their portable game stations, play games, or do old-fashion things such as reading newspapers or talking to a friend.

That’s right. Meeting people in real life is old-fashioned. We have the choice to call them, have a video conference with them, send them emails or messages, chat with them, and even give them virtual gifts or eat virtual meals with them. So why bother to meet them? We are all busy watching downloaded movies or DVDs, downloading our favorite TV show, that is without having to watch the commercials, reading the news, researching, checking out our friends profiles, satisfying our curiosity by seeing who’s doing what, sending and receiving the craziest uploaded videos, all that on the internet. We are in a world of virtual reality.

Want to make money? You can gamble virtually, upload translation or writing work on the internet, sell anything you can think of on auction websites, or even offer tutoring classes on the internet through video conferencing. All you need is internet connection, software, and if possible, a webcam. How much time do people spend a day in this world of virtual reality? Or, that is, how much time do people spend a day outside this world of virtual reality?

This humble article is published in a Finland based online (that is virtual) newspaper, written in South Korea, and can be read anywhere in the world. It contains an opinion, that can influence, or give thoughts, to people established anywhere, anytime. Since this article will remain archived, one might have to wait until this website is closed down to see this article disappear. Two extreme scenarios can follow the publication of this article – which will explain my point – though they are very unlikely to happen.

The first scenario would be that people approve this article, send organizations that lead this world, and argue that my suggestion, which I will give later in this article, should be followed by leaders around the world. It could serve as a reference for students and so on. The bottom line is everyone would read it and every one would agree. Reaching that level of popularity is impossible, as even Einstein has his critics.

The second scenario would be that I would be the planet’s most hated and persecuted man. People would find this article highly offensive, sue me, beat me, torture me or kill me. This scenario is unlikely to happen either, as in most cases, people remain more or less neutral to the article.

Creative impulse

Virtual reality has made it possible for organizations and people to emerge. Companies have never done so well since they could use the internet as advertising. People have never been so surrounded by other people since the era of the internet. People have been able to raise their ego, find jobs, find dates on the internet. But these days, they often find criticism, humiliation, and scams on the internet.

The internet offers a huge number of opportunities at your fingertips. If you make proper use of the internet, you can build a business on the internet. The internet can lift people out of poverty, and has done so for millions of people. Companies that outsource jobs abroad do so thanks to the communications revolution.

I am therefore convinced that if every human being had a computer, internet connection, and had basic training on how to use the internet, that is learn how to read an write, how to type, how to download, upload, and surf the internet, everyone could make his way out of poverty.

This way, millions of other people can make their way out of poverty. If per capita GDP explains how rich people are, per capita internet connection explains how many chances people have of getting out of poverty. With the internet, even though there is no guarantee you will get out of poverty; people will know you are poor.

Destructive impulse

Communications can facilitate poverty reduction. It also raises hope. Those factors tend to decrease violent behavior among people. But unfortunately, the internet has its downside: it awakens human beings destructive impulse.

The internet has contributed to freedom of expression. That means the poor and oppressed can make their voices heard, but it also means that gangs and terrorists can recruit people. Let’s not be stubborn and think of terrorism and the Islamic world as the only threat prevailing in the world. Human trafficking, drugs, weapons of mass destruction, failed states are all threats that the world is facing.

Coordinating a drugs operations, tracing the “shipment” of your prostitute or cocaine can all be done thanks to the communications revolution. Recruiting terrorists or gangsters can also easily be done through the internet. Building nuclear facilities has never been easier, calling for the death of a certain ethnic group has thousands of ways of being done, without having to be underground.

Frustration and greed often encourage people to take part in illicit activities. So does moral turpitude. Death and sex have been trivialized through the internet, along with drugs, suicide, terrorism, weapons and crime. Public opinion has the right, thanks to the internet, to consider those as either good or evil.

Let’s get out of the virtual world and get back into the real world. I think human contact is vital, that is real human contact. I think that parents, teachers and politicians and all people with influence play a decisive role in shaping human kind, in a way the virtual world can not. Parents and teachers should be the priority.

Getting rid of cynical views

The virtual world has given today’s children and adults a lot of freedom. If the real world sounds too brutal to them, they find comfort in the virtual world. In the virtual world you can chose what you see and what you hear. That is why I am a strong defender of the anti-cynicism cause, a cause that I have made up.

What I mean by the anti-cynicism cause is that people should prevent other people from fearing or hating them. People of influence are being caught up by the virtual world. One can complain about his parent’s attitude, his teacher, his leaders, his company on the internet. Had those people been kind and friendly, they would not have been criticized.

Parents, teachers, bosses, leaders should make sure the people they live or work with appreciate their presence. They should not be feared. Because in sum, fear causes people to move away, and often, they could strike back. People with hate speeches should know that there are people who can get organized. The old days when people of influenced had to be feared by society to be respected is over. Today, people of influence should do their best to please a more and more demanding public, every way they can.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-14 13:35:25
"I am therefore convinced that if every human being had a computer, internet connection, and had basic training on how to use the internet, that is learn how to read an write, how to type, how to download, upload, and surf the internet, everyone could make his way out of poverty."

That "if" should have been underlined and written in red for it is a big IF. For everybody to get out of poverty, everybody needs to have a pc; and there lies the Gordian knot or in more modern terms, the Catch 22. As it is, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and it is an illusion to believe that push-button technology will solve that conundrum.

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