On digital literacy and critical thinking and (one of the) fathers of the internet


Not sure what to call this post.

‘The other night I heard and saw one of the fathers of the internet?’ We shall see

[Can’t actually believe that it’s been a year since I last blogged? Lots of conversations around these days about perhaps going back to blogging, longer reads, away from Twitter…again…we shall see. I do enjoy longer form writing and I do quite deliberately not engage in some of the Twitter convos these days. I do like Twitter for links and staying in touch with colleagues around the world…it makes library land closer and i love the sharing].

Anyway back to Vint Cerf. I have been going to quite a few ANU talks after work these days- usually one a week on the way home from work, often an author/book launch. But last week it was the annual J G Crawford Oration at the ANU – Vinton G Cerf, vice president and Chief Internet Evangelist for Google .

Vint arrived in Australia that day, flew to Canberra, had a formal ANU lunch, went over to Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station and then presented the JG Crawford Oration – all in a day. He has since been to UNSW and is probably now back in the US.

Vint is known as one of the fathers of the internet having co-developed internet protocols TCP and IP with Bob Kahn.

His talk was partly historical with some great photos of early computing and internet, and then his current work developing interplanetary protocols for deep space- the interplanetary internet. [My personal feelings on the development of the interplanetary internet is can’t we get it right or better on earth, can’t we spend this money on more pressing concerns like climate change?]

His two slides on the unfinished internet…


these are my notes on some of his points from these slides…

the need for transparency

not to oversell or become overly dependent on AI,

computers were meant to give us time to do other things…

wants public to be sceptical

Vint stated that his frustration was that technology was used to harm, and his response to this was

  • find tech means to stop bad behaviour on the internet
  • develop global laws to enforce
  • and to call out bad behaviour – “don’t do that – it’s wrong” and he commented that this is increasing, norms arising now to call out bad behaviour.

The last part of the evening was 15 minutes in conversation with Professor Genevieve Bell, who is head of ANU’s 3A Institute – that’s Autonomy, Agency and Assurance. I have heard G Bell a few times over the years- the first time many years ago at NLA when Genevieve was with Intel working as an anthropologist. I think that increasingly the work that the 3A Institute was developed to do is so important … ” to build a new applied science around the management of artificial intelligence, data and technology and of their impact on humanity”, from https://cecs.anu.edu.au/3a-institute

Genevieve commented that over the formal lunch on that day she had detected a thread of anxiety about the future and asked Vint for two ways people could build a positive future.

His reply

  1. Be serious about digital literacy. Do not underestimate the fragility of digital content. The medium is not guaranteed. He asked us to think about our phones and all the pictures we take. He said that when he is asked about the best way to keep photos he says, print them out on good quality paper and they should last 100, 150 years.
  2. Critical thinking – activate and encourage critical thinking. Information overload was pre-internet. Had anyone ever read all the books published? Seek out trustable sources. Consume. Reject. Think. Seek.

Two pretty obvious spaces/opportunities for libraries – where libraries are and should be.

Oh, and of his work as Chief Internet Evangelist for Google, Vint works and travels for the 3.8 billion people that are not online. He evangelises (?) the internet as a means of increasing health and income outcomes. Making the internet useful!

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