I think the Internet is something most of us take for granted. I certainly do. Sure, I was quick to share anti-SOPA messages, and I generally understand the importance of initiatives like the Creative Commons and the EFF. But day to day? Daily it’s mostly just a tool and a time suck.
It has become so ubiquitous to our lives, it is sometimes easy to forget its incredible significance in humanity’s story, and that it is still so very very young. I think it is also easy to let slip from our attention how fragile it still is. Battles are constantly being fought that shape the future of the Internet, and fortunately there are some very intelligent people leading the charge and helping assure that, despite a massive amount of (often misguided, but sometimes malicious) pressure from oppressive powers, it remains open to all.
One such person was Aaron Swartz. Click that link, and read the “Life and Works” section. If you happen to be reading this post in an RSS reader of some form, Aaron had a part in that. If you decide to republish this content somewhere else, Aaron had a part in assuring it was easy to do that. If this post happens to get disseminated across Reddit, Aaron had a part in that too.
And that doesn’t even touch on where his most prolific contributions were — in fighting to keep the Internet on course as an egalitarian platform for free-flowing information. Sadly, Aaron will never get to be remembered as a veteran of these battles but rather as a casualty of them.
If the Internet means anything to you, and it surely does, I encourage you to go download and watch The Internet’s Own Boy, a documentary by Brian Knappenberger about Aaron Swartz’s life. But more than an homage to a very talented young man, it is an excellent reminder that we must all be diligent in being the founding custodians of the Internet. History will look back on us and the choices we make with either appreciation or scorn. We live in a crucial, formative time and we have a shared responsibility to help assure that future generations have a vast network of freedom at their finger tips.
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Photo credit: Ryan-McLaughlin.com