The Most Pressing Issues About the Internet Aren’t Likely What You Expect

Paul O'Brien
4 min readFeb 16, 2023

Privacy, fake news, Twitter, security, my data being sold, Facebook monetizing you, addiction to screens, social media bullying, the Prince of Nigeria having money for you, and cryptocurrency being a boon or a threat…

The world is incredibly distracted by distinct issues that concern us, causing us to overlook what I hope to encourage you to think about as the overarching, serious issues of concern about the internet.

I’ve worked on the internet for close to 30 years and while I am an entrepreneur, and therefore and certainly open to being wrong, there is little in which I would say I’m 99% certain than that these are the most pressing issues:

  1. Governments attempting to control or regulate the internet.
  2. The pace of innovation accelerating beyond which it is capable for Capital markets and investors to properly understand and thus fund what needs to be done.
  3. Woefully inept and insufficient K — 12 education

Perhaps not what you thought I would list?

The internet is a virtual, limitless, borderless experience.

No government can actually protect, secure, or control any aspect of what happens there. Efforts to do so are not only futile, but they’re also wasteful, and they mislead people to believe that their government might in fact protect them, which is dangerous because it’s not true.

A virtual, limitless, borderless, environment does not care if you exist in Russia or China or the United States, or Canada. When everyone everywhere can do whatever they want, government is not the appropriate way to conceive of handling things that concern us. A government can’t enforce, pursue, or prosecute, violations that exist on the internet — not when the overwhelming majority of the world is not *that place* governed.

That’s not to say that I dismiss the fact that there are risks, crimes, and concerns we should have about the internet. It’s to say that we must all learn to be diligent, and innovative, and to protect ourselves, in that environment. We must look to innovation from entrepreneurs and technology to protect us and keep us safe, not to laws and enforcement.

A challenge in ensuring that innovation and entrepreneurship can keep us healthy and safe on the internet is the fact that investors, and capital markets, simply cannot grasp how it all works. That’s not a criticism of such smart and involved people, it’s a realistic grasp of the fact that no one can. So, the second biggest problem is that there’s a lot of innovation and a lot of technology professionals and entrepreneurs who can help and improve things but they struggle to simply teach wealth how this stuff works in order to get the help of that wealth to develop innovations.

The pace of change thanks to the internet is such that the capital community will never be able to keep up with understanding opportunities and their impacts. For example, why did they race at NFTs only to have those practically fade into obscurity as ChatGPT caught our attention? Because of FOMO (fear of missing out); not firsthand, experienced perspective by wealth into what Non-fungible Tokens are and might be.

If we can work together to better inform and educate the capital communities about how and why and where to deploy capital, we will improve society and the impact of the internet because society at large will be deploying capital to innovation more effectively, more meaningfully, and more efficiently, rather than chasing opportunities without a basis in understanding the technology.

This brings me to my third most pressing concern about the internet, which is that in educating investors, and one another, we must recognize that education for the future starts in our public-school systems.

It is inconceivable that our K — 12, standardized curriculum, and education community, can keep up with preparing young people to capably handle what the internet is and does.

That’s not a criticism of our educators, they are brilliant capable people. It’s a pragmatic observation of the fact that an educator and a standard curriculum cannot conceivably prepare people for something so substantially, aggressively, and quickly developing and changing.

As an example, why is “fake news” such an incredible concern in our 21st century?

News bias is not new. News media has been incredibly biased and fake, for centuries. The internet didn’t change that, and it didn’t create that.

But society has been led to perceive that it did.

That’s because our system of education can’t capably teach people how to safely and effectively consume news in a world that can’t be regulated, can’t be controlled, and can’t be validated. As a result, 30 plus years into the internet, suddenly people are freaking out when politicians claim that news on the internet is f****** with us. People should know well by now that the news media has always been misleading us, and that of course that’s also going to happen on the internet, and here’s what you do about it… and yet, people seem to believe the b******* notion that our government will save us and protect us from that happening.

Thus, education is one of the most pressing concerns about the internet. Education so that our Capital Community might capably fund the Innovation that needs to take place. Innovation that needs to take place because we need to keep our governments out of it, and we cannot expect our governments to do anything about the risks involved on the internet.

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Paul O'Brien

CEO of MediaTech Ventures, CMO to #VC, #Startup Advisor. I get you funded. Father, marketer, author, #Austin. @seobrien & @AccelerateTexas. https://seobrien.com