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The Internet: its effects and its future

The Internet is, quite literally, a network of networks. It is comprised of ten thousands of interconnected networks spanning the globe. The computers that form the Internet range from huge mainframes in research establishments to modest PCs in people’s homes and offices. Despite the recent hype, the Internet is not a new phenomenon. Its roots lie in a collection of computers that were linked together in the 1970s to form the US Department of Defense’s communications systems.

Fearing the consequences of nuclear attack, there was no central computer holding vast amounts of data, rather the information was ispersed across thousands of machines. A set of rules, of protocols, known as TCP/IP was developed to allow disparate devices to work together. The original network has long since been upgraded and expanded and TCP/IP is now a “de facto” standard. Millions of people worldwide are using the Internet to share information, make new associations and communicate.

Individuals and businesses, from students and journalists, to consultants, programmers and corporate giants are all harnessing the power of the Internet. For many businesses the Internet is becoming integral to their operations. Imagine the ability to send and receive data: messages, notes, letters, documents, pictures, video, sound- just about any form of communication, as effortlessly as making a phone call. It is easy to understand why the Internet is rapidly becoming the corporate communications medium.

Using the mouse on your computer, the familiar point-and-click functionality gives you access to electronic mail for sending and receiving data, and file transfer for copying files from one computer to another. Telnet services allow you to establish connections with systems on the other side of he world as if they were just next door. This flood of information is a beautiful thing and it can only open the minds of society. With the explosion of the World Wide Web, anyone could publish his or her ideas to the world.

Before, in order to be heard one would have to go through publishers who were willing to invest in his ideas to get something put into print. With the advent of the Internet, anyone who has something to say can be heard by the world. By letting everyone speak their mind, this opens up all new ways of thinking to anyone who is willing to listen. Moreover, the Internet s an information resource for you to search, gathering new data on key search aspects of your market. Perhaps most importantly, the Internet offers a new way of doing business.

A virtual market-place where customers can, at the push of a button, select goods, place an order and pay using a secure electronic transaction. Businesses are discovering the Internet as the most powerful and cost effective tool in history. The Net provides a faster, more efficient way to work colleagues, customers, vendors and business partners- irrespective of location or operating system harnessing this powerful resource gives companies strategic dvantages by leveraging information into essential business asset. The “technology of the future” here today. This is a fact.

Businesses making the transition will, and are prospering; however those that do not will most certainly suffer the consequences. One of the most commonly asked questions is, “Will the Net help me sell more product? ” The answer is yes, but in ways you might not expect. The Internet is a communication “tool” first, not and advertisement medium. Unlike print or broadcasting media, the Internet is interactive; and unlike the telephone, it is both visual and content rich. A Web site is an excellent way to reduce costs, improve customer service, disseminate information and even sell to your market.

Perhaps, the most important facts about the internet are that it contains a wealth of information, that can be send across the world almost instantly, and that it can unite people in wildly different locations as if they were next to each other. The soundest claims for the importance of the Internet in today’s society are based upon these very facts. People of like minds and interests can share information with one another through electronic mail and chat rooms. E-mail is enabling radically new forms of worldwide human collaboration.

Approximately 225 millions of people can send and receive it and they all represent a network of potentially cooperating individuals dwarfing anything that even the mightiest corporation or government can muster. Mailing-list discussion groups and online conferencing allow us to gather together to work on a multitude of projects that are interesting or helpful to us. Chat rooms and mailing lists can connect groups of users to discuss a topic and share ideas. Materials from users can be added to a Web site to share with others and can be pdated quickly and easily anytime.

However, the most exciting part of the Internet is its multimedia and hypertext capabilities. The Web provides information in many different formats. Of course, text is still a popular way to transmit information, but the Web also presents information in sound bites, such as music, voice, or special effects. Graphics may be still photographs, drawings, cartoons, diagrams, tables, or other artwork, but they also may be moving, such as animation video. Hypertext links allows users to move from one piece of information to another. A link ight be an underlined word or phrase, an icon or a symbol, or a picture, for example.

When a link is selected, usually by clicking the mouse on the link, the user sees another piece of information, which may be electronically stored on another computer thousands of miles away. Of major importance is the fact that the Internet supports online education. Online education introduces unprecedented options for teaching, learning, and knowledge building. Today access to a microcomputer, modem, telephone line, and communication program offers learners and teachers the possibility of nteractions that transcended the boundaries of time and space.

Even from an economic standpoint, the costs of establishing a brand new educational program for a few thousand students are far less than the cost of a building to house the same number of students. New social and intellectual connectivity is proliferating as educational institutions adopt computer-mediated communication for educational interactions. There are many school based networks that link learners to discuss, share and examine specific subjects such as environmental concerns, science, local and global issues, or to enhance written communication kills in first- or second- language proficiency activities.

Online education is a unique expression of both existing and new attributes. It shares certain attributes with the distance mode and with the face-to-face mode; however, in combination, these attributes form a new environment for learning. Online education, on the other hand, is distinguished by the social nature of the learning environment that it offers. Like face-to-face education, it supports interactive group communication. Historically, the social, affective, and cognitive benefits of peer interaction, and collaboration have een available only in face-to-face learning.

The introduction of online education opens unprecedented opportunities for educational interactivity. The mediation of the computer further distinguishes the nature of the activity online, introducing entirely new elements to the learning process. The potential of online education can be explored through five attributes that, taken together, both delineate its differences from existing modes of education and also characterize online education as a unique mode.

They may learn independently, at their own pace, in a convenient location, at a convenient time bout a greater variety of subjects, from a greater variety of institutions or educators/trainers. But no matter how great and significant the effects of the Internet in our lives might be, there are some quite considerable consequences and drawbacks. A very important disadvantage is that the Internet is addictive. One of the first people to take the phenomenon seriously was Kimberly S. Young, Ph. D. , professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh.

She takes it so seriously, in fact, that she founded the Center for Online Addiction, an organization that provides consultation for educational institutions, mental ealth clinics and corporations dealing with Internet misuse problems. Psychologists now recognize Internet Addiction Syndrome (IAS) as a new illness that could ruin hundreds of lives. Internet addicts are people who are reported staying online for six, eight, ten or more hours a day, every day. They use the Internet as a way of escaping problems or relieving distressed moods. Their usage can cause problems in their family, work and social lives.

They feel anxious and irritable when offline and craved getting back online. Despite the consequences, they continue using regardless of admonishments from friends and amily. Special help groups have been set up to give out advice and offer links with other addicts. Internets Anonymous and Webaholics are two of the sites offering help, but only through logging onto the Internet. The study of 100 students by Margaret Martin of Glasgow University found: One in six (16%) felt irritable, tense, depressed or restless if they were barred from using the Internet.

More than one in four (27%) felt guilty about the time they spent online. One in ten (10%) admitted neglecting a partner, child or work because of overuse. One in twenty five (4%) said it had affected their mental or physical ealth for the worse. Another Ph. D. psychologist Maressa Hecht Orzack posits that people use the Internet compulsively because it so easily facilitates the reward response common to addictive behavior. “If they are lonely and need compassion, camaraderie or romance, it can be found immediately. If they are looking for sex or pornography, they need only to click a button.

They can experience the thrill of gambling, playing interactive games from the comfort of their chairs. They can entertain fantasies by pretending to be other people, or engaging interactive, role-playing games. The reward received from these activities can anifest itself physically, so that the person begins to crave more of it. ” The effects lead to headaches, lack of concentration and tiredness. Addicts must not cut off access altogether but they should set time limits and limit Internet usage to a set number of hours each day.

Robert Kraut Doctoral Psychologist says referring on the subject: “We have evidence that people who are online for long periods of time show negative changes in how much they talk to people in their family and how many friends and acquaintances they say they keep in contact with. They also report small but increased amounts of oneliness, stress and depression. What we do not know is exactly why. Being online takes up time, and it may be taking time away from sleep, social contact or even eating.

Our negative results are understandable if people’s interactions on the net are not as socially valuable as their other activities. Another considerable drawback of the Internet is that it is susceptible to hackers. Hackers are persons that have tremendous knowledge on the subject and use it to steal, cheat or misuse confidential or classified information for the sake of fun or profit. As the world increases its reliance on computer systems, e become more vulnerable to extremists who use computer technology as a weapon. It is called cyber-terrorism and research groups within the CIA and FBI say cyber-warfare has become one of the main threats to global security. But how serious is hacking?

In 1989, the Computer Emergency Response Team, a nonprofit organization that monitors security issues throughout America from its base at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh reported 132 computer intrusions. Last year they recorded 2341! And in recent months, a few celebrated cases have shed a new light on the hacker’s netherworldly activities. One notorious hacker is American Kevin Mitnick, a 31-year-old computer junkie arrested by the FBI in February for allegedly pilfering more than $1 million worth of data and 20. 000 credit-card numbers through the Internet.

Still, the new wave of network hacking is presenting fresh problems for companies, universities and law-enforcement officials in every industrial country. In July, John Deutch, head of the CIA, told Congress that he ranked information warfare as the second most serious threat to the national security, just below weapons of mass destruction in terrorist hands. The Internet suffers around a million successful penetrations every year while the Pentagon headquarters of the US military has 250. 000 attempts to hack into computers. But what can be done for hacking?

There are ways for corporations to safeguard against hackers and the demand for safety has led to a boom industry in data security. Security measures range from user Ids and passwords to thumbprint, voiceprint or retinal scan technologies. Another approach is public key encryption, used in software packages such as Entrust. An information system girded with firewalls and gates, broken vertically into ompartments and horizontally by access privileges, where suspicion is the norm and nothing can be trusted, will probably reduce the risk of information warfare as we know it today to negligible levels.

Yet, increasingly intrusive and somehow antithetical to the purposes for which science in general is purposed. It is no accident that the World Wide Web was invented to enable particle physicists to share knowledge. Michael Binder, assistant deputy at the industry department of United States asks another key question: “How would you regulate the Internet? ” Computer and legal experts all agree that enforcement is difficult. Still, a committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has made several recommendations. One would make it illegal to possess computer hacking programs, those used to break into computer systems.

Another would make the use of computer networks and telephone lines used in the commission of a crime a crime in itself. The committee also recommends agreements with the United States that would allow police officials in both countries to search computer data banks. But for the time being, Binder says, the government is in no rush to rewrite the statute book. “We don’t know how it will evolve. We don’t want to stifle communication. We don’t want to shut down the Net. ” The problem with regulating the Internet is that no one owns it and no one controls it.

Messages are passed from computer system to computer system in milliseconds, and the network literally resembles a web of computers and connecting telephone lines. It crosses borders in less time than it takes to cross most streets, and connections to Asia or Australia are as commonplace as dialing your neighbor next door. It is the Net’s very lack of frontiers that make law enforcement so difficult. Confronted with the difficulty of trying to rab onto something as amorphous as the Net, some critics and government officials are hoping that Internet service providers can police the Net themselves.

However, Ian Kyer, President of Computer Law Association Inc. and a lawyer believes that much of the debate about the Internet arises because it is so new. “We’re just sort of waking up to it. Now that it’s an everyday thing, it’s coming to the attention of the legislators and police forces, and I think they’re not going to like what they see. One of the real problems with the law of the Internet is deciding, where does the offence occur? ” The best guide to the way the law should work is to study the past and the present, not to attempt to predict every possible future.

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said long ago, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. ” When a new media technology emerges, the best thing to do is to wait and see what problems actually emerge, not panic about what could happen. Once we understand the actual risks, we can legislate accordingly and with full regard to the competing interests at stake. But there is another problem that practically circulates through the Internet: The viruses. They can move stealthily and strike without warning.

Yet they have no real life of their own, and goo virtually unnoticed until they find a suitable host. Computer viruses- tiny bits of programming code capable of destroying vast amounts of stored data- bear an uncannily close relationship to their biological namesake. And like natural viruses are constantly changing, making them more and more difficult to detect. It is estimated that two or three new varieties are written each day. Most experts believe that a virus is created by an immature, disenchanted computer whiz, frequently called a “cracker”.

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