It's a www.onderful world
I was sitting at home last drizzly, miserable Sunday feeling also morose at about the bleakness of the lounge, now that the decorations were down and feeling further miserable because I couldn't think what I was going to write about for my next article.
As I looked across the room it suddenly came to me. At the far end, my Lithuanian wife was yapping, incomprehensibly, to her mother, 2,400 miles away on the computer. She does this most days – courtesy of our national hero and treasure, Tim Berners Lee, inventor of the Internet – and she yaps away for as long as she likes, free of charge.
She could as easily be talking to someone in New Zealand, almost the most distant place on the planet. But not only were they engaging with one another in what, as a matter of interest, is the oldest Indo-European language on the continent – proved by having the highest Sanskrit content – but they were able to see each other: all of this, naturally, in real time.
When she married this lonely widower nearly twelve years ago this wonderful facility was not available. Phone calls cost an arm and a leg and letters took five days to reach their destination.
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The pain of separation must have been considerable.
Historically, nobody knows that pain more than the inhabitants of the British isles: our kith and kin around the world form the biggest diaspora known to man.
What a wonderful world has arrived with the coming of the Internet. The global village is a reality.
Of course there are aspects of the Internet which have lent themselves to abuse – some of it serious. That is the nature of things. But it's overarching benefit to all of us is beyond dispute.
Although large numbers of older people may not realize it yet, it has the capacity to make as big a contribution to their lives as ever TV did and does. And it can do one thing that even that wonderful window on the world can never do; ease their loneliness by putting them in touch with those who are important to them.
Beyond that the whole world and its people are out there at the click of a mouse, as is the world of shopping. Even that most obscure item that you cannot for the life of you think where to go to get it can be found out there in the vastness of cyber space and rapidly dispatched to you.
Every person on the planet, of note – living or dead – is there for you to read about and any information you may need about literally anything is at your fingertips. Even troubling medical symptoms can be investigated and an analysis provided by leading experts in that field from, around the world.
Then you can research your family's history and renew contacts with your old school buddies, should you wish. In fact there is almost no field to which this incredible tool cannot be directed.
Laying bare facts – in a word, the truth – is what it is all about.
Tyrannies around the world have need to fear. Information is instant; even imagery.
I doubt that the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 in China would have been possible had every student had one of today's smart phones.
The Arab Spring relied heavily on them and it is simply impossible to hide things anymore especially when every citizen has a camera and can transmit across the world instantly. We are into realms which do not aid repression either of people or of information. That has to be empowering. One of the things which we have to guard against, however, is that because of this very instantness, panic can set in at a remarkable speed.
It can go viral and worldwide in no time. This is especially dangerous where the money markets are concerned.
A bank such as Lehmans going belly up might be all it needed. Queues around the block trying to get their money out being flashed around the world in real time on smart phones would be devastating.
But overall , the more we know: the quicker we know it the less the authorities are able to pull the wool over our eyes. A world of openness and truth has to be a better world.
I believe that many of the conflicts of the past could have been avoided had we all been able to understand each other.
So much between world leaders is lost in translation. Had Chamberlain and Churchill been able to look Hitler and Stalin in the eye and told them what they truly thought and have been understood that could have made a difference.
The principal reason the Anglo sphere of English speaking peoples rub along so well is that it doesn't need interpreters.
It is hard to envisage a conflict between any of them. Within two generations the whole world will understand English. The forces propelling this into becoming a universal language are inexorable and have been at work for some time now. Finally it has taken the Internet to make the whole process irreversible. If you want to take full advantage of this new medium, as every young person does across the world then you must understand English.
I am convinced that because of this we can look forward to a more peaceable and harmonious world.
Follow Tom on twitter @lastfoundling.com