Re: Too much pessimism
I'm glad I've been alive when it happened.?
Me too. But confidence and optimism doesn't sell as well as fear and pessimism.
And there is plenty to be optimistic about. Take a leading example: I don't LIKE Google's behaviours, on the other hand Google has done loads of things for me that weren't possible before, or has simplified them, done them better, or done them at lower cash cost than anybody thought possible. For those that disagree, it is easily possible to avoid Google's services, and with suitable ad-blockers and the like to avoid their intrusion to our lives. So for me, I take a balanced approach of using Google services, strapping down what I can through permissions, blockers and similar, and accepting the balance that I can't strap down is how I'm paying the bill.
Even behavioural people stuff like internet trolling is easily avoided - don't participate in unmoderated forums with huge, poorly behaved memberships. It has never been safely possible to shout your mouth off in partisan, ill behaved crowd of strangers - anybody (like my own mother) who thinks they should suddenly have that "right" online really haven't thought the matter through enough.
Rather than wringing their hands in fear, the panel ought to have celebrated what has been positively achieved, and where so much of the downsides can be avoided. I think that is the solution - education of internet users, so that they understand how and where companies like Google, Facebook etc make their money. How to manage permissions. How to install ad + script blockers. The difference between membership and open forums. The difference between moderated and unmoderated forums. How language can be misinterpreted to take offence. And perhaps more importantly, the value of the sites they visit.
A central problem behind a vast number of internet problems is that the internet as created by these wizzened old geeks has conditioned people to expect stuff for free. Nothing (other than air, dog mess, and other people's opinions) is free, and that means underhand cost recovery models, it means abuse of privacy, it means no money for moderation, and no willingness to reduce readership by moderation and exclusion. China, Russia, there not big issues - they're merely using the existing "free and unmanaged" nature of much of the web to play games.
The main technical solution the internet needs is a successful and widely adopted micro-payment service, so that content websites don't need to rely on advertising and behavioural data income. Looking at public domain data for the Register and parent company, I'd guess they'd be better off if they charged all users as little as 5p per week. At 10p a week they're making twice as much money (suggestions welcome for how they might invest that). Specifically doesn't need to be pay per article, and IMHO shouldn't be a rolling subscription. Facebook ought to be charging users, and work out their own market price, but like most hosting or user content aggregation platforms, that probably needs to be a subscription model. I can't see a choice of "free with ads" or "paid without ads" working well for content web sites, others may hold different views.
There's various sequential barriers to getting past the problems caused directly or indirectly by the "free" internet. But until that happens we won't change what we see now. So back to the wizzened geeks: Where is my internet education programme? And where's my micropayment platform?