The Darkening Web: Is there Light at the end of the Tunnel?

In his book “The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace” (Penguin Books, New York 2017), Alexander Klimburg, an Austrian-American academic, gives “Internet Dreamers” a “Wake Up Call”. He tells us the background-story why people start to be “anxious about the future of the Internet”, as the recent ISOC Global Internet Report “Paths to Our Digital Future” has recognized. Klimburg refers to Alphabets CEO Erich Schmidt, who once said that “the Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity does not understand”.

A Book of Dreams

Klimburg has labeled his book a “book of dreams.” He could have called it also a “book of broken dreams.” More than 20 years ago, the dream of visionaries like John Peter Barlow was, that the “promised land” of the 21st century is the cyberspace. “We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity” so Barlow in his “Davos Declaration of Cyberindependence”. Already ten years later, Harvard´s Jonathan Zittrain dropped some water into the wine by sending an early warning in his book “The Future of the Internet and how to stop it.” Now, the future has arrived. And Klimburg argues that we have to readjust our dreams. He is not without hope. But — viewing our planet earth from an eagle’s perspective — the reality is that the road to paradise is crossed by some highways to hell.

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