Christian Long

Jonathan Zittrain: The Web As Random Acts of Kindness

In TED Talks on May 3, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Reflection by BETH A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Jonathan Zittrain: The Web As Random Acts of Kindness

When I first saw the name of this video, I thought how boring it would because it’s about computers and how it would be a boring, monotonous talk that would be a brutal 19 minutes and 52 seconds. To my surprise, however, this video is funny, and makes a lot of sense in ways that you and I have probably seen, we just never would have thought anything of it.

For the first example, the Internet itself, I have never really known about the history of the Internet itself. The three men had no money, and yet they had no money to make. I wonder all the time how all of these “free” search engines are mega-billionaires (i.e. the Google guys) I find that to be so honest that they have made no money from their fantastic invention. The Internet has no CEO, no business plan, nothing. It just was invented and has grown massively global since then.

The second example was Wikipedia. Now, when I think of Wikipedia, I think of how I can’t use it as a source on papers because a lot of information on Wikipedia can be discredited and edited by random people. I remember watching that Stars Wars video of that kid and thinking how funny it was, but I didn’t know how he was just filming himself as a joke messing around, which eventually somehow leaked on to YouTube, nor did I know that he was going to be nationally humiliated by randomly getting filmed. I knew all of the news broadcasts had put that young man’s name in the news spotlight, and humiliating him publicly. Thinking nothing of it, I just assumed that every Internet and TV source would use him name constantly, but eventually would just blow over. I was a little shocked to see that Wikipedia decided NOT to publish his name, for his right of privacy. Wikipedia isn’t always the most reliable, or discrete source out there, but I found it rather reassuring, just like Zittrain said, “that the trend line is in fact in the other direction”, or going up. Wikipedia didn’t have to exclude the teenager’s name, but they chose to, just by the rights that they believed he had, and many argued on that entry on whether or not to include his name. Well, Internet-high-five, Wikipedia, way to prove that there’s some sort of discretion in the Internet!

Finally, the third example was one that I see very often when surfing the web, but I never thought anything of it until watching this excellent video. Seeing this picture isn’t exactly uncommon on the Internet, we as a society just blow it over and move on to the next picture:

I never stopped to think about how noble and respectful that it. There was no law suit, no threatening phone calls.  According to Zittrain, the owner just wanted it down, and the web site owner agreed to graciously. That picture could have embarrassed that person a lot, and the owner said yes, no problem.

After seeing this video, I feel like my trust in the Internet as somewhat increased.

There are still going to be those slimy people that get horrible pictures on their website and won’t remove without a court order or something like that, but at least there are people out there that are honest, respectful people that have human kindness that, for example, guided a robot from one corner of Washington Square Park to another. The natural human kindness is considered to be the golden rule, which is to “treat others as you want to be treated”. Who would have ever thought that the Internet would be one of the few peoples in the media that would actually abide by this “rule”.

So, yes, because of this video, which was very funny, and makes a lot of sense, and I highly recommend it, I feel like there are people out there, very out there in the public eye, that follow this “rule” and have a genuine kindness to respect the human privacy and dignity.


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