If you have kids, you think a lot about how the world might look like when they grow up.
At the moment, the world is being transformed on so many levels and so rapidly that, as Seth Godin argues, we might be in the middle of a change that is as big as the change that marked the end of modernity. This new era we are heading into is, for one, characterized by the ubiquity of connection and communication. Everyone and everything can and will be connected and communication is everywhere. With this comes the synchronization of culture and information – but also the ubiquity of opportunity.
At the same time, we are about to witness a transformation of work, where computers and robots will take over all tasks that can be described and translated into repeatable processes. Infinitely trainable, infinitely patient, and, soon enough, infinitely cheap. Ubiquitous robotics. A development that will not only make a great number of jobs obsolete but also raises questions of ethics.
Finally, and by far the most terrifying of all challenges that lie ahead of us, because it is both irreversible and ubiquitous: climate change. The result of local pollution and economic growth becoming a global, ubiquitous problem fueled by more and more humans on the planet and a lack of innovative energy technologies and political inaction as a result of competing interests, lobbyism, greed, and fear.
The Web plays a crucial role in facing all of those challenges. Because the Web, just like the Internet as its underlying structure, is ubiquitous and therefore provides the only layer of communication infrastructure that is able to spread ideas and discussions to the global level and scale solutions to the necessary extent. Without the Web working as needed, we will never reach global political consensus as a result of raised awareness and global pressure. The Web is the ubiquitous medium for the new Age of Ubiquity.
To fulfill this function, the Web needs to be accessible, though. Not only in the sense of providing access for everyone, but on the most basic level: The Web needs to be accessible to everyone who wants to participate, who wants to share their knowledge with the world, who is not satisfied with the status quo and ready to change culture and society. Yet instead, we are currently building a Web of superficial distractions that is becoming less and less accessible to future generations. Generations who critically depend on the Web as an open platform.
The Web of today is a Web of the pros. It restricts access to creation with artificial, technological barriers to entry for those with the most open-minded and fresh ideas. It is accessible mostly to those who feel comfortable with the tools and processes they can master. And by that, I mean designers and developers and capital, yes, but also Big Tech. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple not only nurture their very own frameworks and distribution platforms, but they are even on the cusp of taking over the physical infrastructure of the Web. Don’t play by their rules? Access denied.
My son wants to build robots and games. He draws, he writes, and he is full of ideas and hope. One day soon, he will want to build his first website. So might my daughter in a few years. Using the Web will be the most natural thing for them. I hope their Web will still allow them to also create and participate. I hope that they will fall in love with the Web as an accessible and open platform like I did. And I hope that they, and so many others of their generation, will still be able to use the Web to make a change. It is our job to preserve this gleam of hope for them.
This is the 27th post of my 100 days of writing series. You can find a list of all posts here.