Given our love for communicating with each other and our creative and technical talents, the development of the internet may have been inevitable for our species. However, powerful tools can be used for many purposes.
A New York Times article discusses the role social media played in riots in Sri Lanka. Karsten Muller and Carlo Schwarz conducted research on the relationship between social media and hate crime – “To establish causality, we exploit exogenous variation in major internet and Facebook outages, which fully undo the correlation between social media and hate crime.” (p. 1).
Leaders of several high-tech firms have begun to remove online content that is deemed harmful. That has resulted in questions about who should be doing the monitoring and what standards should apply given the sensitive boundary between free speech on the one hand and controlling the harm speech can do on the other.
Humans in general are subject to harmful mind-tendencies that influence our behavior. And there will always be those who are congenitally incapable of caring about what happens to others.
We need to pay attention and learn how to protect ourselves from ourselves even as we collaborate to make use of our many talents in solving the complex problems we face.
The internet may be just the incentive we need to actively work at building in a level of global culture that supports human thriving while protecting us from our worst tendencies. In essence, that amounts to moving to the next evolutionary stage for our species.