An overview of the impact of lack of diversity on the Internet and its hazards

At a time when electronic data is embedded in daily life, the Internet, a vast network and communication system connecting computers across the globe, allows users to share and exchange information from anywhere there is an Internet connection. The Internet era of the 21st century has changed the structure of society and life extremely fast. Still today, the Internet is one of the most efficient ways of communication, removing barriers to correspondence and creating an environment that is as open as possible, with simple ways of interaction and future life possibilities. At the same time, as humans, individuals operate in different networks, but the lack of Internet diversity is gradually revealed. A diverse Internet environment allows greater room for innovation and potentials. This essay will discuss three cases in which the lack of diversity has affected the growth of the Internet and its potential harm to society and individuals. They are homogeneous network culture and workforce, an imbalance in the gender representation of males and females, and the domination of the network by artificial intelligence.

Homogeneous Network Culture and Workforce

A homogenous network culture and workforce will inhibit the future growth opportunities of the Internet and may even lead to potentially serious social harms such as racial discrimination. Turner (2021) claims internet culture is predominantly composed of white, male, and middle-class dominance. This view is recognised that a globalised network system should combine multiple beliefs and rely on and embrace diverse cultures rather than just accepting the dominant culture and white workforce. The current state of the Internet does not apparently respond to structural inequalities (Lusoli & Turner, 2021), it still needs to gain experience in diversity. As an example, the business giants of Silicon Valley tout themselves as inclusive employers, but the data show that only 3% of their workforce is of African descent (Wagner, 2018). The lack of network diversity can lead to the formation and fragmentation of serious racial issues, and unfriendly behaviour toward groups of colour deviates from the original intent of friendly global network connections. For instance, google has tagged photos of Black friends as “gorillas,” this embarrassing act that not only exposes technical flaws in Google’s systems, but affects its public perception and amplifies racially biased viewpoints (Simonite, 2018). Moreover, there is a particular phenomenon ingrained in the Internet environment that people always associate plaid shirts with workers in the IT industry, as if they are considered the industry standard. For example, in videos of Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and other pioneers of the technology industry dancing at the Windows 95 launch, they are always wearing monochrome shirts or plaid shirts (Videos, 2017).

Hence, Internet culture and workforce homogenisation continue to exist, but efforts to embrace cultural differences are indeed helping to bring to people closer that living in different cultures, social backgrounds, languages, and habits around the world. The Internet is not just a technology but itself should be a cultural product (Voiskounsky, 1999).

I’ve gone Google” by Håkan Dahlström is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Gender Representation

The imbalance of gender perception between men and women is another effect of the lack of diversity on the Internet which will also limit the progress of the Internet. Throughout the history of the Internet, most of the remarkable achievements have been led by men, such as web 2.0, developed by Tim Berners-Lee and his group, and window95, released by Bill Gates’ team (Videos, 2017). Women have shown up in only a handful of ways in the history of the Internet. According to data, women make up only 16% of those who contribute to Wikipedia worldwide (Knecht, 2020). Furthermore, women use the Internet far less frequently in underdeveloped regions. For example, in Nigeria, 45% of women do not use the Internet, compared to 33% of men (Adeleke et al., 2021). According to several authors such as Adeleke (2021), the following factors have been summarised as influencing women’s access to the Internet. These include women’s low educational attainment and traditional family values and the high cost of accessing the Internet, which results in women having limited opportunities to engage in digital society (Adeleke et al., 2021). These agreed findings also explain the lack of gender diversity on the Internet for both genders. Concurrently, the high cost of Internet usage for women is also attributed to their vulnerability to unsafe exposure on the Internet. They are a vulnerable group to sexual harassment, threats of violence and sexualised hate speech (Adeleke et al., 2021). For instance, in the case of Fappening, a huge number of actresses were hacked on the Internet to the extent that private photos were leaked (Massanari, 2017). In a further case, Massanari (2017) points to gamergate, a campaign to resist women’s use of technology to engage in public life. What both cases have in common is the dominance of men in the context of Internet culture to the extent that the role of women is mostly presented as victims. This is the same conclusion Massanari reached by analysing how the Reddit platform operates as a geek culture (Massanari, 2017). Consequently, challenges abound regarding women’s use of the Internet. Trying to narrow the gender gap in the web is an opportunity for the Internet technology industry – both to accept a wider range of customers and to allow women to participate in the way technology works. It could also be argued that when the digital industry has a greater tolerance for gender differences, the global web will be greatly encouraged in helping society grow and advance.

Gender ‘tag cloud’” by International Livestock Research Institute is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Domination by Artificial Intelligence

The early Internet era lacked diversity in several aspects, especially the single human-to-human dialogue in the beginning. With the rise of the field of artificial intelligence, the concept of human-machine interaction was frequently introduced. It refers to the communication activities and interactive feedback between humans and machines through user interfaces, which undoubtedly contributed to the progress of diversity in the contemporary Internet era (AG, n.d.). On the contrary, the lack of artificial intelligence will slow down the development of the Internet. Amazon has a great advantage in the field of AI because they are an early adopter of AI and operate efficiently through the flywheel method (Marr, 2021). According to Marr (2021), Amazon is using AI in almost every department and position to significantly improve efficiency. Specifically, the most important of these is that the automation of warehouse management saves enough labour, as such work would rely on high costs in the context of the Internet era without AI. Some single tedious tasks are now replaced by faster and more accurate AI, which in turn allows more capital for further expansion of the Internet (DataFlair, 2018). The high degree of objectivity brought by AI is another benefit, but it presupposes a high degree of objectivity on the part of the creator of the encoded AI (DataFlair, 2018). Networks that lack AI diversity can hinder technological advancement, and users can inject subjective emotions that may create bias. Furthermore, while AI can be optimised using data and experience, it cannot solve potential creative problems, such as Quill, the robot that writes the Forbes income report, which can complete a factual article based on known data but fails to humanise (Duggal, 2021). The advantages that AI brings explain exactly the negative impact that the lack of it will have on society and individuals. Conversely, thinking through the role of AI on the Internet in a dialectical perspective reveals that there are also disadvantages present. High costs, creative homogeneity and “lack of emotion” (DataFlair, 2018). Professor Makridakis, while discussing the revolution of AI, states that the biggest flaw of AI is that it has uncertainty (Makridakis, 2017). This point of view is agreed and when AI has thinking and consciousness then the consequences are potentially extremely frightening. Therefore, artificial intelligence should be a contributor to the diversified development of the Internet in the context of the times, rather than a product of the Internet that hinders the laziness of the human mind. Lack of it is also bound to slow down the development process of the Internet thus also irreplaceable.

Artificial Intelligence & AI & Machine Learning” by mikemacmarketing is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

In short, Internet diversity is important to draw attention to and create more voice for the weaker parts of society and individuals. Network inclusion and diversity are fundamental to an individual’s or group’s ability to enjoy the convenience of the Internet and to confidently use technology to improve daily lives. Undoubtedly, internet diversity is one of the driving forces behind contemporary online innovation, social progress and personal engagement.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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