The Real World vs. The Cyber World

The rapid rise of the web has created two parallel yet distinct worlds in the physical and digital realms, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt claims.

Schmidt took the stage at LeWeb 2011 on Wednesday and, after an extensive demonstration of Android Ice Cream Sandwich, decided to put on his philosophy cap and discuss some of the fundamental issues affecting the web.

One of the topics that piqued my interest was his argument that the proliferation of the web has created two separate worlds, governed by separate rules. The first is the “real world” — the physical realm that is bound by the rules of governments. The second is the “cyber world” — a new world with its own distinct culture and rules.

Because the two worlds are separate, Schmidt argues that the happenings in one world doesn’t always reflect what happens in the other. His example was the European financial crisis, an issue that is slowing down economic growth worldwide and has the unfortunate potential of plunging the real world into recession.

Schmidt claims that the financial crisis isn’t having the same effect on the cyber world, though. The cyber world is booming, Schmidt says, due to the web’s open nature and the growth of entrepreneurship and innovation in the tech sector over the last few years.

While Schmidt believes the two worlds are currently separate, he does claim that they will eventually merge and integrate.

“My conclusion, by the way, is that each of these two worlds merge in an equilibrium that improve each other,” Google’s Chairman said on stage.

From what I can gather, Schmidt is arguing that the cyber world has grown so fast and independent of the influence of world governments and the real world that it has developed a culture, identity and economy of its own. The result is that it’s partially insulated from what happens in the real world.

That won’t last, though. Governments are trying to influence and tax the web more and more. But while governments try to reign in the wild west that is the world wide web, the cyber world’s emphasis on openness and free speech will permeate throughout the real world. We’ve seen this phenomenon with the Egyptian and Tunsinian revolutions.

Schmidt is right: the real world and the cyber world are merging, and the end result will be a better society. But before that happens, there are going to be a lot more struggles, growing pains and revolutions.

  • Firdaus Haque

    The Govts of the world are trying their best to get a hold of the virtual world – like the IT minister of India recently wanted Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor content and screen content before being published. And it caused quite an uproar in the cyber world. 

  • Anonymous

    The so called cyber world is part of the so called real world. Just look at the legal actions Google is involved in. Google itself is trying to connect “real” and “cyber” identities in G+. You insult s/body – you infringe a copyright: in many cases you are found and held legally responsible. Online shops have to play according to rules. We all have just ONE life and we live it in ONE world.

    • http://www.mergelocal.com MIchael Wong

      @Detlef:disqus  I agree.  The fact that an executive of the biggest web presence in the world thinks that two worlds exists is a bit insane.  I remember the last time this message was reverberating around the tech community (right before our first collapse).  Financially there is only one world but their is a delusion that a second world exists (where $$ signs don’t matter) which gives rise to investments into companies with no clear business model – the insanity repeats itself.

  • kidlat020

    if there would ever be a “law” in the internet, it must be one where it should comply with its nature. otherwise that law is not fit to be in internet.

    Then let me ask you this: What is the nature of internet? The nature of internet is anonymity. And by this you can’t say you’re “the state” or “the FBI” or anything like that because its nature doesn’t work like that. The nature of internet is that all of us is anonymous. anonymous is not a lawyer, lest he should enforce his ideals to us anonymous. This is why for more than 50 years of internet’s existence there was never a “true law” in the net aside from your usual guidelines and generally accepted netiquette.

  • kidlat020

    cyber world and real world can never come together. it MAY, but we may never see it in our lifetime. There are so many problems with real world:

    1. speed. I can go to a “virtual europe” in just a click. in real life, never.
    2. language a barrier that may never be broken
    3. national borders and territories

    4. conflicting laws per nation
    5. international waters
    6. economy in general

    and so many more