Transcript of a lecture by Stephen Fry.
When I first found out about and joined the internet and watched it grow with the arrival of the www I described it to friends, whom I was anxious to convert and get themselves email addresses, as the greatest gathering of human beings in the history of the planet. As new services came on line and web 2.0 blossomed into the social media services we now know and perhaps rely on, I believed, I really believed, that humankind might well be saved by the all-gifted net. It would spread, art, literature, music, culture, philosophy, enlightenment and knowledge. In its train would come new freedoms, a new understanding between the peoples of the world, a new contract. This was to be our millennium’s Pandora, an all-gifted organism that would bring nothing but learning, understanding, amity, comity and friendship. I looked at budding projects like Wikipedia and I saw Diderot’s enlightenment dream becoming a reality. I saw art galleries and archives becoming freely available to all. I saw special interest groups able to exchange information and ideas with their fellows across the globe: whether it was coin-collecting, a love of a particular style of music, a shared pleasure in gaming, hiking or cosplay, a rare physical or mental disorder in common – suddenly people could contact each other across the world. Free translations, free lectures, tours, user-generated advice on travel, hunting for the best deals and bargains, sharing experience in all fields of human endeavour. Borders, barriers, frontiers and boundaries would melt and dissolve. An end to tribalism, racism, ignorance and fear. A new dawn for mankind. It was all good. You are allowed to laugh at my naivety, I do myself.