How far we have come… or have we?

Among the many shades of gray that make up my reality we find my role as technical director for Kortright Presbyterian Church in Guelph. This role requires that I try to keep abreast of what’s what in the world of technology, such as Audio and Video systems, Computer developments, and of course, the Internet.

In regard to the third item on that list one question that pops up from time to time is, “Just how big is the Internet anyway?” I’m sure if you haven’t actually had this discussion with anyone, you have probably wondered about it at least once in your life. So here then, presented for your perusal, are the latest figures from Pingdom, an Internet uptime monitoring firm in Sweden that is very good at keeping track of this sort of thing. The blog article can be found here, but the following are some of the highlights.

1.3 billion – The number of email users worldwide.
210 billion – The number of emails sent per day in 2008.
70% – The percentage of emails that are spam.

186,727,854 – The number of websites on the Internet in December 2008.
31.5 million – The number of websites added during 2008.

Domain names
77.5 million – .COM domain names at the end of 2008.
11.8 million – .NET domain names at the end of 2008.
7.2 million – .ORG domain names at the end of 2008.
174 million – The number of domain names across all top-level domains.

Internet users
1,463,632,361 – The number of Internet users worldwide.
248,241,969 – Internet users in North America.

133 million – The number of blogs on the Internet (as tracked by Technorati).
900,000 – The number of new blog posts in a day.

19.2 billion – Photos hosted by Facebook, Flickr, and Photobucket. (my note: This actually represents a small percentage of the images available when you consider these three only account for 3 out of 174 million web domains.)

12.7 billion – The number of online videos watched by American Internet users in a month.
34% – The increase in viewing of online video in USA compared to 2007.

Malicious software
1 million – The number of computer viruses in April 2008.
468% – The increase in malicious code compared to 2007.

With an estimated world population of 6,706,993,152 (according to the CIA) the above figure means roughly 22% of Humanity is connected to the World Wide Web which is 16% larger than a year ago, 1 in 5 of us don’t write letters much anymore, North America has only 17% of the Internet population, and yours truly constitutes a mere 0.000002% of the Blogosphere. How’s that for a little perspective?

But while these numbers remind me just how small a part of the whole I am, they also remind me of just how quickly our world is shrinking. (I’m going to do a little ‘old guy’ shtick here so be warned and bear with me.)

You see when I was a kid, long distance phone calls from England were still a really big thing. The whole family would gather round and wait almost breathlessly for our turn to say ‘Hi’ to Grandma and Grandpa. I’d get a letter from my penpal in Australia about every other month. When I did get a letter from him the information was already at least two weeks old. The encyclopedia set my parents bought me for high school cost over $1000 dollars and was somewhat out of date by the time I finished.

Now, well you know how it is; through Skype I call a number of people all over the world every day and gripe if the sound quality isn’t up to my 128bit 44.1kHz standard, Facebook’s status line tells me what my friends in Malawi were doing as little as 30 seconds ago, and about $50/year gives me access to the entire reference edition of Encyclopedia Britannica which is constantly updated month to month.

So, what’s my point? Well, the scriptures tell us that God separated the people at the tower of Babel because as one unified force they were getting ideas too big for them to handle. They began to think there was nothing they couldn’t do and were losing perspective as to where they fit into the grand scheme of things. They began to think of themselves as gods. So God confused their language making it harder for them to communicate and therefore harder for them to collaborate on the insanely big stuff, like skyscrapers.

Today technology is reversing what happened at Babel. Every year we grow closer to being a true world-wide community. Every year scientists, engineers and guys tinkering around in the garage (yes that still happens) build on each other’s work to create ever increasingly spectacular feats of technology, some of which has us once again infringing on God’s domain.

In his book ‘Unceasing Worship’ Harold Best points out that we are all worshiping all the time. It is the nature of our being to worship. The key point is who do we worship at this moment, the Creator or the creature. As I watch technology continue to progress I can fully appreciate the temptation to self-worship. We have accomplished a great deal in the lifetime of the human race, and it does indeed seem that there are no limits as to what we might accomplish in the future. But I would ask us all, my self included, to remember that for all our creativity we are only building on what God has done before us.

You see, it’s not about skyscrapers – it’s about how we think of ourselves, and our place in God’s creation. We have learned to do marvelous things with resources such as iron, oil and silicone; but we still have to go looking for them because we have not learned to make them. Only God can do that. We can clone a sheep named Dolly and engineer a tougher tomato by introducing animal genes to its DNA; but we still can’t create life out of lifelessness. Only God can do that. We can communicate ideas, and pack a million calculations into ever more infinitesimal periods of time; but we can’t stop time from rolling on or reverse it’s direction. Only God can do that.

And dispite all the advances in technology we have made, in one thing we have not advanced hardly at all. What has not changed is our propensity to use our creativity to find ever more inventive ways of hurting, oppressing, and killing each other. Despite our best efforts to the contrary greed, pride and ego remain the most prevalent motivations for our advancing technologies. We find we cannot escape the nature of our fallen existence as we continue to exert our superiority over the planet and each other. We cannot wash away the stain of what humanity has done with its creations over the millennia. We do not have within us the capacity to make right the burden of sin that we have created by how we treat each other and our planet.

Only God can do that.

The Chinese Gov’t Doesn’t Like Me!!!

Well, It would seem that folks surfing the Internet in the People’s Republic of China are not allowed to read the musings of yours truly.

But then that’s hardly surprising when you think about it. I mean, it’s not like they would want the Christians in China being encouraged, or exchange ideas about what the Bible is really saying, or learn something of church history. No we can’t have that now can we? If you want to know if your favorite URL is blocked in China check out The Great Firewall of China. Just enter the URL in the space provided and see if their test location can access your site from inside China.

Sarcasm aside, it actually serves to remind us that we are extremely privileged in this country. For all of our complaining about inept government, inconvenient bureaucracies, lengthy commutes and the lineup at Tim Hortons, the fact remains that we are the most fortunate people in the world.

We live in a country where we are free to vote for the worst candidate, make the wrong career choice, and over indulge our every desire. We can be complete and total idiots and the only consequence will be those of our own making. There’s no one telling us where to live, what to do for a living, or what to think. We can worship who we want; Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or no one at all. And it’s all because of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure these freedoms for us.

So I add my voice to the hundreds of others and ask you, when you see the poppy displays at Tim Hortons, or the veterans in the mall with the poppies and pins, please give generously, shake a hand, and say, “Thank You!”