O the sweet perks of my job. I got to schmooze with Vint Cerf, the father of the internet, the inventor or the TCP/IP protocol that is the very backbone as we know it. Three encounters with the best dressed man in Austin in a couple of hours, and I was in nerd-heaven.
Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, teed off just prior to SxSW with an open letter sharing his concerns about fake news. Berners-Lee is extremely unhappy with the deluge of harassment and fake that threw a bad shade on the World Wide Web. Rapid share platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Buzfeed, etc. become increasingly popular. A big part of the population seems incapable or unwilling to identify what is fake news, or what is a reliable source.
The very bitterness, anger, and xenophoby that flooded timelines just after the US presidential election’s campaign last year did nothing to help fighting of the bad vibes that are clouding the internet.
Be your own judge
Vint Cerf is very direct: “It is everyone’s responsibility to fight untruthfulness, it is crucial to fight misinformation, racism, harassment and fake news with all the energy and focus we can manage. It is not because technology has advanced more quickly than social norms can keep pace, that we should lean back and let bad behaviour take over our internet. We need to oppose, to guide. We need to do it together. Fact-check. Expose lies. Gravity is the weakest force … but when you get big mass, it’s extremely powerful.”
Internet for people
Vint Cerf, currently working at Google as Chief Internet Evangelist also gently pushes the focus on humans: “We invented the internet to connect human brains to human brains, through technology. You have something to share that is useful to somebody else. We just built the tech bubble that allows you to do that. It’s a human connection interface, a tool built to bring us closer together, in a spectacular free tech environment. We should never let this connection drift away from us. The machine is there for us to get closer.”
Time for upgrades
Cerf also rings the alarm bell: “The internet is pretty much still running in its first version, and on its first infrastructure. Everything we do today, still runs on that. It’s time to maintain the system, and to invest in some spectacular upgrades. If I see what is still possible, I feel like an 8 year old. But we need faster WiFi, more connections, more fibre, quicker links. Every time we invest in global infrastructure, we should invest simultaneously in maintaining and upgrading the internet. It was built for us, it was built to last. It cannot survive on its own.”
Cerf ended our interview with a wink: “You remind me of Hercule Poirot. Belgian, definitely not French.