View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Monday, 17 January 2011

Without the Internet

Without the internet? I would not be able to do what I have been able to do over the past decade, and especially over the last 7 years or so. But who am I in the grand scheme of things. No, I am writing this post with several events in mind.

Without the Internet, Julian Assange would never have been able to globally publicise the documents that were leaked to his organisation from the American government. That in itself has only led to embarrassment to the US authorities, not just because of the leak, but also over the persecution of Mr Assange. Worse is yet to come. Today, it was revealed that a former Swiss banker has leaked data on 2,000 secret Swiss bank accounts to Wikileaks. These could implicate dozens of people in high office; any pertaining to UK residents could lead to investigation by the Serious Fraud Squad and prosecution. Without the Internet, this would never have happened.

Without the Internet, the people of Tunisia would never have been empowered to rise up against their autocratic leader, forcing him to flee the country. Without the Internet, the demonstrations in Iran against alleged fraud in the reelection of its president last year, would never have made it onto the world stage. They would have been brutally suppressed, and hardly a beep leaked to the outside world. And, on the subject of Iran, without the Internet, the Stuxnet worm would not have been conceived, or been able to disrupt the workings of Iranian uranium enrichment plants.

Without the Internet, seemingly impenetrable bastions of power are now vulnerable. Swiss banks, thought to be the safest in the world, are now shown to be as strong as their weakest links: the much feared disgruntled employee. And he can be prosecuted, fined, jailed, even put to death. But the information is out there; and even disrupting the website does not help, as the establishment of dozens if not hundreds of mirror-websites will render that defence futile.

The Internet has come of age, and the second decade of the twenty-first century is opening to a whole new, brave world, which operates to new rules. The old ones are becoming defunct.

This video shows the opening credits to the 1995 BBC series "People's Century". Which person, alive in 1900, would ever have been able to envisage what the world would be like 111 years later? And who, alive today, will be able to imagine the world in 2122? We won't be there to see it.

Monday 16 January

The flurry of tropical cyclone activity in the southern oceans has come to an end - for now. TC Zelia has turned into a storm depression which will lash New Zealand over the next day or so. Nothing else appears to be forming, but the southern hemisphere season is yet young - equivalent to July in the northern season.

Here in the far north of Scotland, it has turned perceptibly colder. After 10 degrees over the weekend, the 5C this afternoon felt quite cold. The hat and gloves came in handy as I made my way into town for a stint in the library. I went through the croft histories for several townships in order to glean more information on some of the WW1 casualties, for whom I only have scant information. I have already made amendments to more than half a dozen names, and more are to follow as I continue to process the information.