Michel Béra, Éric Mechoulan

The Internet Machin Publication date : April 1, 1999

The development of the Internet, with its 100 million users worldwide, has signified the advent of a new society, introduced new ways of learning and understanding, of buying and selling, as well as of working and relaxing. What is the nature of this new society? Who benefits from it? After reflecting on the consequences of widespread Internet access in the developed world, Michel Béra and Éric Méchoulan minimise the fears surrounding its use, while underlining some real dangers arising from its misuse.The Internet and education: When it was decided that the Internet had a role to play in education, it was assigned a part to play in the development of young minds. Unfortunately, a crucial fact was apparently ignored: the Internet is not a learning instrument, but a tool to further the exchange of information which has already been acquired. In the future, will human beings learn to "think" as if they were machines, instead of learning how to think as human beings?The Internet and the economy: Because it allows objects to be bought and sold at the best possible price, the Internet has upset traditional methods of production and consumption. It may also have opened the way to a society where time and space, in both the professional and personal spheres, have been so profoundly altered that human beings will have little place in it. The Internet and individual freedom: Behind the Internet lurks the most highly elaborate system of social control ever invented. Every on-line operation leaves a trace. The highly powerful computers that make the network function also serve to anticipate users’ moves and every expression of their personalities, while, theoretically, refraining from infringing on their private lives.This is a clearly written, thought-provoking book, which simultaneously combats preconceived ideas and smug enthusiasm. Never before has it been so vital that we understand the development of our society and the uses it makes of technological advances.

Michel Béra is Vice President for Development at Grolier Interactive Europe. He is former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and holds a French university agrégation.

Eric Méchoulan is an analyst with the French Ministry of Defence. A former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, he holds a French university agrégation and a doctorate in history.