The Internet rewards the charitable and punishes the greedy

by Mathew on January 31, 2008 · 4 comments

Nicholas “The Voice of Doom” Carr has another one of his periodic columns about how the Internet is ruining everything, and in it he manages to somehow yoke together the evils of GPS navigation systems (because they send people through small villages, apparently) and surfing webcams. What do they have in common? Well, they’re both ruining things for the people who deserve to have them all to themselves. If that sounds a little elitist, then you know you’re reading Nick Carr.

The common theme is that the Internet “rewards the lazy and punishes the intrepid,” according to Nick. Not only are GPS systems sending drivers on shortcuts through charming villages — where they become “child-killers,” according to one article he cites — but they are apparently going to get so smart that they will just replace existing traffic jams with new and smarter traffic jams. This, Carr says, will penalize the smart people who spend their time poring over maps looking for shortcuts, who presumably deserve to keep those shortcuts to themselves.

Then there’s the surfcams. Same story there: surfers are mad because all the really good spots are getting overrun by the riff-raff and hoi polloi, who find out about the big breakers via Internet webcams. How dare they? Nick throws a bone to Internet fans with a paragraph that says there’s “much to be said for the easy access to information that the internet is allowing,” etc., etc. — but you can tell he doesn’t really believe that.

Nick says he’s worried about whether, as the Internet makes more things known, “the bolder among us will lose the incentive to strike out for undiscovered territory.” But isn’t sharing your knowledge about such things part of the fun of finding them? Not for Nick, apparently. Maybe we could share that kind of thing with a few other bold types, provided we like the cut of their jib or whatever, but not with the riff-raff. Come to think of it, maybe we should copyright those shortcuts and surfing hotspots. There’s an idea. What do you say, Nick?

  • http://virtualeconomics.typepad.com Seamus McCauley

    Nick’s examples may tend to the elitist, but I think he makes a reasonable point. Some things are better for being shared. However, some things are quite legitimately spoiled by being overexposed.

    Look at Lonely Planet, and its semi-secret policy of never writing up the best places the writers find in case a mass influx of backpackers destroys them. There are bars I go to that are lovely precisely because they’re relatively empty: I don’t especially want to deny their benefits to anyone else, but at the same time I recognise that if everyone visited those bars then what I like about them would cease to exist.

    Sure, in one sense it’s elitist for surfers to try and keep other people away from their beaches but there really does come a point at which there’s so many people in the water it’s essentially impossible to surf (just as there long ago came a point when it was essentially impossible to drive through any of our cities).

  • http://www.skinlaboratory.com Glycolic

    I would spend my time looking for new more interesting places to go, rather than gripeing about the people running over “my spot”. Or better yet if you truly care about the area that others are drawn to, through some news medium, then do something about it.

  • http://www.gpsnavigation3000.com Matt S

    The internet rewards both the charitable and the greedy, because they both have a strong desire and work ethic. It does not reward the lazy, they have no chance to make money online, and that is why they are always searching for the “get rich without doing anything secret”.

  • http://spiritualhowto.com Spiritual Info

    Hey thanks for this. It's nice to know this kind of stuff!

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