Today is the traditional birthday of what was dubbed – and the name stuck – the world wide web. On April 30th, back in 1993, Timothy Berners-Lee released the source code of his idea to link together a global information sharing system, linked to various computers around the world. Dr. Berners-Lee was a researcher at CERN (Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire), the Swiss-based centre for nuclear research, and the web certainly went nuclear.
One wonders now what we would do without it, as much of the wide world is locked down under house arrest, or at least spending a lot more time around the domicile. We are interconnected, in a way that has profound effect on just about every aspect of our lives, and even those of us who recall those pre-internet days – were they as halcyonic as I recall? – have difficulty imagining life now without access to a computer, which has access to thousands – even millions – of other computers.
There is always the philosophical and moral question of whether any given technology has made life better or worse – for no technology, in itself, is morally qualified, until it is used for some purpose which can be morally qualified by a rational agent, that is, a human. And there is a strong argument that the web has made things, overall, worse.
But we as individuals can always use it well. Not like the benighted denizens of Plato’s cave, watching idiotic videos – or worse, ensnaring ourselves in the metaphorical web of sin. Au contraire, for we also have access to all the great works of civilization, up to a certain era for free, and all of it, for a small price. Dump the Netflix and video gaming, and read some Shakespeare, Hopkins, Aquinas, Augustine, the Catechism, or even articles about them; learn a language or a skill, how to fix your bike, or bake bread (even if yeast be hard to find); download some fine podcasts; and, in conversation over the web, adopt what Thomas calls eutrepalia, or ‘good table talk’, edifying and stimulating – always, always to greater virtue, in true Platonic and Aristotelian fashion. Oh, yeah, them too.
But after all that, or even before, get outside if you can. Breathe God’s good fresh air and bright sunshine, and give gratitude to Him, as the Creator of all things.
Sun and moon, wind and rain, praise the Lord!