Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What If We Had No Internet Access?

For my second post in the What if.... Series I have chosen the internet as my topic of choice. Internet access is an interesting topic, to me, because it wasn't very long ago that it was considered a luxury, rather than a necessity. In many areas this is still the case.

It is hard for me to believe that the internet as we know it today, the world wide web, has only been in existence for twenty years. I have been a regular user of the internet for more than 75% of that time, and was an occasional user only a couple of years after its inception. Today the internet plays a very important role in my life, and has more of direct impact on me than nearly any other technology.

Obviously this blog would not be possible without the internet. That, however, is only scratching the surface. I use the internet for work, entertainment, communication, education, and research. Fortunately, however, I am not one of those people who has become reliant on always available internet access via a mobile device, so there are at least some aspects of my life it has not yet invaded.

Lack of internet would have nowhere near the impact on my life that lack of electricity would. However, there would be some very real impacts that would require significant changes in my life. The first of these is related to my job. Having access to high speed internet allows me to work from home 80% of the time. That ability was a key factor when we were choosing land to purchase, as distance from my workplace was less important than if I were going to the office daily. I save nearly two gallon of gas each day that I work from home instead of going to the office, which works out to monetary savings of close to $28 per week. Perhaps the biggest savings, however, is the time savings. By working from home I am able to save 90 minutes per that would otherwise be spent driving. This has a direct impact on the amount of work I am able to get done around the house. This is especially true during the summer, when the best time to work is often early in the morning, before time to start work.

Lack of internet access would also create a real obstacle to my ability to research and learn about new topics, which would impact my path towards sustainable living in many ways. I rely on the internet, in addition to a few other resources, for information on topics such as gardening, learning about alternative building or renewable energy, and researching products so that I can chose the most long-lasting, or those whose manufacture has the least environmental impact. When we planted corn a few days ago, for example, Andrea did some quick research to determine the depth at which the seeds should be planted and the distance between plants. In the past much of this information was passed down from one generation to the next, but, sadly, that rarely seems to happen these days.

As much a I rely on the internet, however, there is no doubt in my mind that I could easily survive without it. Clearly people lived without the internet for millennia, and many are still doing so today. I lived without internet for the first 15-16 years of my life, and my parents lived without it until only recently. Life without internet would not be an easy adjustment, though. I suspect that without the internet I would find myself unable to do quite as much, and unable to tackle new projects quite as quickly. Every new skill would require longer to learn, without readily available information. Each new crop in the garden would require more years of experimentation, without access to others who have already made and learned from the mistakes. Perhaps most unfortunate is that I wouldn't know about the many different methods of doing a given task, but would likely just do whatever my parents, or whomever else I learned from, did. That would probably mean that rather employing organic methods or gardening we would be doing the same as my parents and my neighbors, and relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Unlike other technologies, the internet is not something I am currently working to reduce my dependence on. I think of it as a tool, but it is a tool I do not wish to do without. Yes, I could survive without internet access, but I would very much prefer not to.

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