The Light Web

To my brilliant, millennial daughter and business partner, I’ve been the woman in the tin foil hat whenever I get a chance to speak about the chaos and missed potential of the internet. I like to say that we are using the internet like a child running with scissors and we should really move on now, to a mature, more productive way of using this remarkable tool. (Then she rolls her eyes and hopes I don’t keep going. But I will.)

You see, I’ve had this notion that if there is a “dark web”, then there is no reason someone can’t create “the light web”, an innovation that could give people a chance to use the internet at the level of it’s most positive potential. (The “dark web” is a place that's generally harder to get to and has some super sketchy, terrifying happenings. If you haven’t heard of it, Gaud Bless you.  Don’t go there. Moving on.)

Here’s the question I am posing: what if there was a portion of the web that was curated for qualities like good intention, trustworthiness, and astoundingly up-to-date information, basically, progress for all?

Maybe, in the mayhem of our era, it’s time to turn our backs on anyone who is ratcheting up the drama? One of the things I’ve learned from writing over a thousand articles about innovation is that it is time we all pull back on our impulses to click without consideration. Clicking on anything that catches our eye is giving some bad players wind in their sails and leaving some amazing innovations to wreck on the reefs.

Can we create a corner of the web that rewards qualities that have stood the test of time, like kindness, honesty, respect, good humor, and the rigorous intention it takes to offer something you have truly put in the time to master?

I can imagine a part of the web where one could find the most conscientious, trusted information sources and places where we would be proud to spend our money: businesses who are earnestly finding a way to have sustainable profits while also making the world a better place.

The Light Web

In the light web, we would start with a framework that could largely eliminate the ability for advertisers and content creators to appeal to our primitive impulses (fear, anger, ego, etc.). Instead, the foundations for an innovation in the internet landscape might be to very purposefully nurture our most helpful instincts (generosity, creativity, curiosity, perseverance, etc).

What if, when we shopped online or searched for information, we had a choice: we could stay in the scrum that is our current internet search, or we could drop into some new place on the web where organizations were vetted for their social responsibility, their trustworthiness.

You see, one of the many things I’ve learned from writing or editing over a thousand articles on insights and innovations for Ever Widening Circles is that every single click we make is being counted by someone who is keenly interested in what gets our attention. The state of the internet we have today is based almost solely on that one principle.

Every single click is a vote that says, “Yes, please. Definitely give me more of this!”

Bottom line: what we click on, we get more of, both personally and as a global internet collective. And I believe this is at the heart of our hyper-divisive era.

Our clicks are informing the unique algorithms that are serving us all our content, whether we’re on our favorite search engine, Facebook, or anywhere else on the web, and that is an utterly personal journey into an utterly personal version of “reality.”

There are probably over 7 Billion versions of “reality” now that most people have access to some part of the internet. And that might lead to some confusion, division, and fear.

This is why you may think some of your friends and family (the ones who voted the opposite way you did) have lost their marbles. Because every click they made, and every click you made—often out of pure curiosity—has led you both on a divergent train of thought and therefore, a vastly different worldview. Each one of our algorithms is as unique as we are and serving us an ever more divergent view of reality than everyone else.

Each of us is now staking our relationships and hopes on this narrow worldview of what is possible.

And this is all astoundingly limiting when we consider the potential of the internet to bring us together and be the ultimate multiplier for the best in human nature.

Here’s a possible future for all of us: The Light Web could be the first place to go—no matter your politics, culture or generation—if you want a better world for everyone.

There, you could search for everything from responsibly sourced chocolate to luggage made with a sustainable supply chain. You could buy your glasses, shoes, and socks from businesses that give a free pair to someone in need for every pair you buy. You can find an amazing place to send your old cell phone, and they will use it to save rainforests all over the planet. You can set your computer to be working in the background all the time on a project to help find planets outside our galaxy. You could find jewelry made by homeless teens or from unexploded landmines.  

And it would be a place where a search for information for a homework assignment could be unsupervised by parents (just say’in... nothing is impossible).

BTW: All those projects already exist, but even with the best intentions, they are getting lost in the chaos of our current internet equation.

Maybe you have seen this for yourself: there is a movement afoot that will soon be demanding a better internet. There are countless thought leaders taking up an almost radical commitment to “Social Responsibility” in business and there are many others who are simply nose-to-the-grindstone, solving the most vexing problems of our communities and the world. All the biggest players in the business world are developing something called there CSR wing (Corporate Social Responsibility) and this would all be very refreshing if we only knew about it and were easily directed to it!

Granted, we can be cynical and say some of those efforts are for show only. But I’ve spoken to many thought leaders with this mindset and there is no lack of courage or authentic commitment from them. They are making it happen.

The Light Web would be a start at making their efforts findable and supportable! Just imagine how that might change the next generation’s vision of what is possible.

So what if there was a portion of the internet—the light web—that we could count on to lead us forward?

It’s time to move on to this folks. We need some leaders in the digital world to step up.

It’s time for a new day that puts what we are going through now in the rearview mirror, and I am ill-equipped to start the journey alone. I’ll tell you what: I’ll be the representative for the “ordinary person”, since I still feel more like that person every day, and I’ll keep their interest at the forefront.

But we’ll need industry leaders with great vision, character and intention, and we’ll need people like my daughter, a Harvard grad who has that millennial zeal and savy to improve the course we are on.

I’m officially opening this concept for creative and well-meaning input and development.  Contact me if you have some thoughts on how we bring the internet to the next, socially responsible level.

I realize we won’t get it just right, but we can definitely make it better. Help me point to possibility and progress on an “Internet 2.0”, an innovation that could change everything.

If you are a student with fresh eyes, already a master in the digital world, or anything in between, it will take a strange and wonderful mix of people to champion this kind of journey.

My goal is to change the negative dialogue about our times. Maybe we can create a concrete place where people can see their best impulses validated. I believe in the past as a teacher, the present as a harbinger and the future as a landscape of possibility.

Join me. I’d love to hear your ideas!

Lynda Ulrich