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Goodbye Cyberspace - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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What would happen if the internet suddenly collapsed, utilizing it became impossible, and it was something consigned forever into memory?

What would happen if satellites stopped working, no longer receiving signals from mobile phones on the ground…and mobile phones with all their state-of-the-art technology and upgrades become nothing more than paperweights and antiques lying around the house?

What would happen if the commercial flight industry came to an end, or if satellites no longer received and broadcast the huge number of television channels currently on offer and overnight we found ourselves back to square one?

Some of these concerns, in fact, most of them, are not merely hallucinations experienced by those predicting the end of the world, or those luddites who detest technological progress, and the machine’s control of mankind, for also themes which have been examined by literature, the arts, and movies, all across the world. Most of this is pessimistic about mankind’s future in relation to the machine, and many predict mankind to be on the verge of completely becoming a creature of technology.

The latest news which illustrates this is the coverage of the swine flu epidemic in the US, which is the leading economic and technological country in the world. Fears have risen in the US over the increased number of absences seen in schools and workplaces, and a federal report has warned that the increasing number of people surfing the internet from home [due to being absent from work or school] may place extra pressure upon the internet and even lead to its collapse.

In terms of age, the internet is still a mere child; however it has become a giant in the stretch of just a few years. The internet did not come into general use until late 1994, when ordinary people began competing with academics for access. Reliance upon this wonderful communication technology snowballed, and before we knew it the entire world could be characterized by the three letters: www.

The same thing could be said about the mobile phone and how this technology entered the global scene and if we look at our Arab world we can see that telephone land lines are drawing their last breath, leaving nothing but memories of the dial-tone and the candlestick telephone. Land lines have ceased to be the main means of communication between people, even among those who live under the same roof, and in fact one of my friends communicates with his children via BlackBerry.

The question behind all of this is; is our need for mobile phones and the internet so great that previous to this we were missing out?

What other possible technologies are there which when discovered will make us realize how primitive we were before we discovered them?

And looking beyond technology, what similar social, political, or economic transformation could potentially reveal how ignorant and miserable we were before its advent?

Our relationship with others has undergone a massive change and development, as has our outlook on the rest of humanity, the surrounding universe, and the self, all of which is now an outlook protected by an illusionary conviction. However many years in the future, our descendants may look back and laugh at the nature of our petty differences.

Who knows, perhaps the acceleration in the rate of technology will breakthrough into the field of social development. I believe the communication revolution is strongly linked to social development. The mobile phone and internet generation has yet to voice its opinion [on this], rather it is still the pre-internet old men who are holding onto the reigns…and whoever God grants long-life will see even more [technological advancements and social development].

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi

Mshari Al-Zaydi is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism, as well as on Saudi affairs. He is Asharq Al-Awsat’s opinion page editor. Mr. Zaydi has worked for the local Saudi press, and has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.

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