Late last month writer, painter and software developer Maciej Ceglowski spoke at the design and technology conference, Beyond Tallerand in Dusseldorf.
The Internet with a Human Face is his closing keynote for the conference – let’s try to kill that kill that awful term ‘locknote’ for closing presentations – and is a wonderful overview of the unintended consequences of the internet we’re now seeing emerge.
Maciej compares the internet’s effects with that of the motor car in the Twentieth Century – the rise of the automobile totally changed society in ways our great grandparents couldn’t have expected.
In many respects the changes were positive; the age of the motor car saw massive increases in living standards through the second half of the century. However the immediate downside of those efficient supply chains were equally massive increases in obesity rates, suburban alienation and urban sprawl.
A similar thing is happening with this wave of technological changes; as Maciej describes in our presentation, our views of how the web was going to evolve is turning out to be very different to what we expected.
One great example is in small business advertising where we expected online channels would democratise marketing. Instead the exact opposite has happened.
Maciej’s view is far broader than just the relatively trivial problem of small business advertising, particularly with the ‘Internet never forgetting’ with the concentration of the industry in one of the world’s great earthquake zones as another major risk.
Building an internet we’re not ashamed of
Ultimately, though Maciej sees the problems facing the internet industry as a design problem.
“I have no idea how to fix it. I’m hoping you’ll tell me how to fix it. But we should do something to fix it. We can try a hundred different things. You people are designers; treat it as a design problem! How do we change this industry to make it wonderful again? How do we build an Internet we’re not ashamed of?”
While being ashamed is a big call, and probably unfair in that it’s like blaming Henry Ford for 2014 childhood obesity rates in Minnesota, Maciej has flagged that there are real adverse unintended consequences to the way the internet is evolving.
All of us involved in the industry need to recognise those adverse effects and start acting to fix these problems.