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Predicting the Future: The Internet

In class, we looked at a famous Newsweek article written by Clifford Stoll, an author and astronomer, about his take on the future of the internet.

Before I continue, you should read it.

Did you stop midway through thinking it was a satire? Or did you finish reading feeling perplexed? Admittedly, I didn’t read the dateline (and neither did 3/4 of my class) to realize it was written in 1995!

Here’s the line that got me:

“What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading.”

I concur about a lack of editors. That was one of a few typos I found in the article (Kudos if you spotted it!)

My favorite part was his commentary on “cyberbusiness”, more commonly known as e-commerce. I don’t know about you, but I go to great lengths to avoid salespeople, hence the reason I never go inside the bank. And don't get me started on shopping malls. There are still plenty of “sales opportunities”, just not in the traditional sense. Today, it’s digital and there are more methods that we can count being used to persuade us – chatbots, paid and sponsored content from our favorite content creators, email reminders about our abandoned shopping carts and of course, us, *WE* rate and review products online.

After discussing the article in our virtual classroom, we concluded Mr. Stoll was misguided in his assessment. I am convinced he wrote the article without taking technological innovation, creativity or productivity into mind. Then again, how could he possibly know what was to come. The best he could do was an educated guess and in his case, his guess was way off course!

What were your thoughts about the internet in 1995? Did you have any revelations about what it might become?

Cliff Stoll with a Klein Bottle. Image from

So, where is Clifford Stoll today and what are this thoughts on his article from 22 years ago? Per Michael Hilzik of the LA Times, who thinks Mr. Stoll hit the mark with his article, says Stoll hasn’t read the Newsweek column since it was published and doesn’t desire to. Also speaking to Hilzik, Stoll said the internet left him behind and affirms that some forms of digital media are a poor substitute for experiencing the real world.

Today, Stoll manufactures and sells Klein Bottles from his home in Oakland. Act now and take advantage of his 2-for-1 sale only available during total eclipses. You’re in luck!

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