Forty years ago, two UCLA scientists exchanged data via computers, arguably making today the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Internet. "It would be more accurate to say some important seeds of the Internet sprouted with that data transfer," writes Stephen Shankland on CNET, but no matter. It's a good time to take stock. "Woodstock embodied the rising power of a new generation. ... Men on the moon showed us how small the Earth is. But the Internet changes everything—and it will be instrumental in the next chapters of humanity's future."
There are negative aspects, of course: The abundance of communicative possibilities can be overwhelming. Privacy issues abound: Evolution never made allowances for a social circle that spans the whole planet. The Internet can serve the interests of repressive governments just as it does the disenfranchised. "But it's only gaining in importance, power, and reach,” Shankland writes. “So my advice is to embrace it and try to shape it for the better for the next 40 years.”