Letter to Master Berners-Lee (IP)
You’re a bright lad, probably brighter than you or anyone else realises at the moment. You’re going to do great things when you grow up, and you’re going to change the world. But before you do, just a few words in your shell-like.
This thing you’re going to invent, the world wide web – it’s fantastic. Let me give you just one example. At the moment, if you’re with your granny, watching an old film on television, and she looks at an actor and says, ‘It’s him, isn’t it, that was in that other thing, that thing with her, who was married to that bloke in that thing with whatsisname, before she was married to that other one, you know’, you smile and say, ‘Oh yes, so it is,’ and then later that night, just as you’re dropping off to sleep, it comes back to you, and at 3am you’re staring out of the window, hollow-eyed, trying to drag up the identities of him and her and whatsisname.
None of that, after your invention. You Google (just go along with me here) the film, you find the cast, with pictures, you click on the link to ‘him’, and there you are. Then you click on the link to ‘her’, and (click) the bloke she was married to, and then (click) it turns out that their child was married to the one who starred in that TV series, and (click) the cast for that includes that bloke (click) who’s the brother of her (click)that was married to that one (click) who had a bit part in Midsomer Murders and once shared a flat with that one (click) who got done for child pornography (stop clicking NOW). It’s still 3am and you’re still hollow-eyed, but at least you know.
Other parts of your invention – well, there’s drawbacks. One part will become known as social media. Bits of that are brilliant. For instance, the other day I knew instantaneously that my daughter and her uni friends had arrived safely for a week’s (attempted) skiing. OK, I also knew, instantaneously, that they were all rat-arsed out of their tiny minds on the après-ski that evening but, ho hum, swings and roundabouts.
Cats, your invention will be good for cats. Cats will dominate social media. Cats will be everywhere. And social media will be so democratic that anyone will be able to comment on a picture of a cat and its kittens, saying ‘God Bless this furbaby mama’, ‘Furbaby mamas better than cruel stupid human mamas’, ‘OMG I got somethin in my eye lookin at this wunnerful furbaby mama’, ‘Whoever took this video oughta be SHOT for not helpin this furbaby mama lick the ears of that liddle baby you can see she cant lick all of em at once’ ‘Whoever took this video oughtta be BOILED IN OIL AND FED TO THE FURBABY MAMA AND HAVE ALL THEIR CHILDREN FED TO THE FURBABY BABIES’, ‘This furbaby mama is really megan markel i tried to warn harry god bless the poor queen’. Yes, your invention gives the world a voice.
Which is a marvellous thing, except, well, you know human beings. Some of them tell lies. Your wonderful democratic invention means that everybody’s lies can be heard – presidents, pub bores, people who used to be called nutters and are now called conspiracy theorists – and so it would be helpful if there was some sort of filter. There’s a TV programme called ‘The Last Leg’, which comments on the news of the day, and they have a big red bullshit button, to be pressed when the whiff of manure really can’t be ignored. While you’re devising all those amazing algorithms that will bring your invention to life, couldn’t you just create one that will raise the alarm? That will be able to detect anything that is completely at odds with all verifiable science and actual fact? Things like, oh, I don’t know, the earth is flat, there is no such thing as global warming, Piers Morgan has a brain. Just basic stuff. It doesn’t have to actually remove it, and thus create martyrs. Just show it up for the nonsense it is. A flashing light, maybe, or a big wet raspberry or, if you really want to make sure the world gets the message, David Attenborough doing pretty much anything.
It’s just a thought. Good luck with it all, anyway.
Yours in hope and great admiration,