Q&A With Author of ‘A History of the Internet and the Digital Future’
The Internet has integrated itself into nearly every aspect of modern life, following users on the cell phone, at work, and at home. While the Web grows, however, its history and future remain a mystery to the common user.
Author Johnny Ryan hopes to change this with his new book, “A History of the Internet and the Digital Future.” The book is the first to tell the story of the Internet from its inception up to the present. The Epoch Times had the pleasure of speaking with Ryan about his work via e-mail.
Ryan is a Senior Researcher at the Institute of International & European Affairs. His first book, “Countering Militant Islamist Radicalization on the Internet,” was published in 2007.
The Epoch Times: First and foremost, what was it that made you decide to write a book about the history of the Internet?
Johnny Ryan: I had a simple question at the start: There’s clearly something different about the Internet. But what is it?
There are certain characteristics that assert themselves throughout the Internet’s history, and which are shaping the new worlds of business, media, and politics that we can observe forming around us. If we look to the future with one ear cocked to history, there are patterns that can help us adapt.
I realized that to fully understand the functions, character, and implications of the Internet I had to explore it from the beginning. What were the assumptions on which it was built? How do Internet protocols govern communications between machines? Why did some dot com startups fail and some succeed? To capture what makes the Internet unique I had to go back to the beginning.
The origins of the Internet lie in the pressure cooker environment of the Cold War. It is 50 years since the memos began to circulate in the U.S. on how to make an Internet-like system. It is about 35 years since the introduction of the first PCs that people could properly tinker with in their garages and create parts and programs for, and a little over 35 years since the invention of e-mail. It is almost 20 years since the invention of the Web. In this time certain trends have revealed themselves, and understanding them is the key to adapting to the future of business, politics, and society.