Information is everywhere online. Actually, it is more online, and less in other places. It is no surprise to my readers that information is readily available online. But sometimes, it takes a moment of reflection to realize how unavailable it is becoming elsewhere. Yes, this can be good for consumers, but there are some additional risks we take on as we leave the world of information, and even physical goods, to the virtual world we now live in.
I don’t remember the last time I even went to a music store to buy a CD. Do those stores still exist? If they do, 1) who goes there and 2) do they make any money? I don’t buy a whole lot of music as it is — I use Yahoo Music to listen to just about anything I want whenever I want to by paying a monthly subscription price. The yearly cost comes out to what I used to pay for ~2 CDs at the store (and I never had to take the time to get into a gas-guzzling car or sit in back-to-back traffic). But, my specific music-listening-and-spending habits are not exactly the focus. The interesting part here is how the idea of physically buying music or even knowing of a good local place to get it, is lost upon me (in a VERY short amount of time).
Of course, this is the case for more than just music, a commodity that many consider a luxury (yes, I know many that believe it is a necessity). It happens to be the case for more and more of our world. I certainly haven’t purchased an encyclopedia in my adult life. But I am reminded of the “not so old, old days” when I visit my parents’ house and sneeze as I walk by their dusty bookshelf full of many expensive volumes. I can imagine “wasting” my precious time finding a topic of choice alphabetically through a thick book, and if I only need some specific information on that topic (which is 99% of the time)…I am getting nauseous thinking about sifting through, and God-forbid, actually reading the extra information presented. Of course, the same goes for phonebooks (I throw mine away as soon as it is dropped on my doorstep) and any other information-delivery-mechanism other than the Internet.
So, music and information have been monopolized by the Internet. So what? I guess my concern is what else will be. I started shopping for groceries online. Granted, there is a still a local store that I pick those orders up from, but who’s to say that won’t be the case some day. What happens when our reliance on the Internet becomes so powerful that we are not able to function as a reasonably self-sufficient society without it? Is that, perhaps, already the case? Even computers themselves are typically purchased online.
Technology and the Internet’s prevalence are bound to continue with advancements and continual adoption. One question that needs to continue to be asked is, are we doing enough to prevent attacks on our overall infrastructure and mitigating any potential risks that would keep our society from operating? I am not talking about going after naive, underage hackers, but real threats that can cripple our infrastructure for an extended period of time (okay, some underage hackers may need to be considered — by the way, please, stay away from me, my SSN, credit card numbers, my business, my blog, and my life in general — um, I like you guys). We are not just talking about academia and business anymore; this isn’t “IT security”, this is preventing destruction of a society that happens to rely heavily on technology at this point. Businesses, government, and individuals/families rely on the technology of the Internet to provide many of our necessities today.
Note: For now, I am keeping this blog posts as is, but I realize while writing it that this post probably covers two topics that both deserve their own discussion: 1) information/goods moving out of our hometowns and into our virtual online world and 2) our society’s reliance on technology and how much we are doing to protect it.