Already, two billion people, a quarter of humanity, are connected to the Internet. This has doubled from one billion in just two years. Spreading this access to every human being who wants it is one of the most important enabling factors in creating a truly advanced civilization. If current growth continues, this will happen around 2016. With universal Internet access, all the know-how of the human race will be at the fingertips of the individual, empowering them to make well-informed decisions on the things that are important to them. Specifically, Internet access enables —
- Online education of an extremely high quality
- Pandemic preparedness and well-organized disaster response. With wireless Internet, people on the ground in disaster zones can give an accurate, up-to-the-minute picture of where relief is needed.
- People can find out best practises for agriculture and get free seeds, so that they can grow as much food as they need.
- People can download designs for machines and electronic devices and then digitally fabricate them. This will allow just about anyone to make just about anything without reliance on the monetary economy.
- People have access to open design projects, and the projects themselves draw on a greater pool of intelligence. This accelerates software development, hardware development, scientific research and other areas.
- Telemedicine — people with Internet access can get accurate diagnostic information, they can remotely talk to a doctor, and can even undergo surgery via remote-controlled robots.
Therefore, there is a clear need to create a free wireless Internet network that covers every inch of land.
The only way this is likely to happen is local fabrication. Fab labs have already been used to build web servers and wireless transmitters. A dual approach of spreading fabrication technologies to build many small wireless transmitters, and building extremely long-range wireless transmitters, would perhaps be best.
Internet access is also a key enabling factor in the formation of spontaneous collaborative social groups, which some people have cleverly called 'adhocracies'. Spontaneous collaboration for mutual benefit has always been a part of mammalian politics, but before the Internet there was never a really effective way for people to find collaborators and form these groups. Without an easy way to communicate globally to whomever wishes to listen, people were unable to create groups that could get things done that they wanted done. This has historically been a significant cause of scarcity, but the Internet is changing the game.
That the invention of writing and the dawn of civilisation happened at the same time in ancient Sumeria was no coincidence. Writing allowed people to store and transfer information in a way had been impossible before, and this enabled larger and more complex social units than the tribes that had existed up until then. In exactly that way, the Internet enables faster, more focused communication, annihilates more time and space, and thus enables new social units. Specifically, it enables spontaneous cooperation across continents and oceans, to the mutual benefit of those involved. This is a new social structure that can help people solve their problems and empower them to sculpt their world.