Technology & Leadership

Disclaimer: This post was written for The Shift, a monthly discussion among Web Developers about the internets. This month’s topic is “Making the Internet Better”.

Not only am I little late in posting this, but I’m going to ask that you bare with me while I talk about politics. I know, I know…you either rolled your eyes or closed the browser at this point. However, for those that have read on this far, let me assure you that I’m not here to try and persuade you to the dark side. I’m here to address how we can make the internet better and I sincerely believe that having this kind of discussion plays a role in it.

We, as humans, have the vast wealth of knowledge of our entire species encapsulated in a series of tubes that span the globe. And like so many arenas, the United States plays a pivotal role in its development; we’d be amiss not to realize that other countries look to us on how we govern it.

Oh, and govern it, we do. In 2013, the world met Edward Snowden and confirmed what “Batman: The Dark Knight Rises” alluded to just the year prior: the government had the means to, and was, spying on us hard. Let us not forget how Morgan Freeman resigned from Wayne Enterprises after learning of Bruce’s spying device. That’s right, when you see the Voice of God tell Batman to piss off, you know we’re treading in unholy waters.

But, in all seriousness, we had suspected it for years even prior to that. The Patriot Act, first signed in 2001, was the first in a barrage of legislation that under-minded the principles and values of the United States constitution. And we collectively as a nation (not just web developers) sat, and watched, and did nothing. This is a collective discussion that we as an entire country should be having and yet we’re more concerned about Justin Beiber.

With the encroaching 2016 elections, people are going to start talking about politics in a big way. We’ve already received a lot of fun quotes from a number of pundits regarding internet policy. Ted Cruz called “Net Neutrality the Obamacare of the Internet” even before he announced his intentions to run for president in March 2015. Donald Trump stated in a recent GOP debate that he would “shut off Syria’s access to the internet”, even though that would also shut off access to millions of innocent people and that the United States has no way of even doing so. These are quotes from the two highest polling Republicans in the Iowa Caucus and they make no attempt to hide their ignorance on the subject. One of these two individuals are a short step away from leading our country.

We as web developers are entrenched in the internet, our livelihood demands such. And yet, how many of us can honestly say that we’re spreading the gospel? How many of us are trying to educate our followers, our friends, our families about the importance of the years ahead of us? I know it’s easy to seem polarizing, but we write a part of the internet every time we manage to begrudgingly put down our coffee cups. Our collective knowledge should mean something.

Now, this isn’t a desperate plea where I’m begging you to start retweeting everything [insert your candidate here] posts. I’m also not asking you to take sides, even though that may be too late. What I am asking of you, though, is to do this: educate yourselves, and when the opportunity comes this election season, don’t be afraid to talk. Take part in a discussion that helps express the consensus of technology experts everywhere where such a voice may be dim.

That, and if you’re American: vote. It may not seem like it helps make the internet better, but it could help more than you think.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about some of the topics I’ve discussed here, I’d highly suggest this popular clip from John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. His interview with Edward Snowden begins @ 15:55.

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