Guldi seeks to find out the analogies that can be derived from the invention and adoption of roads during the 18th century to today’s invention and adoption of the internet. Guldi says that she has decided to major in British history. Her reason is that Britain is a classic example to use in the study of democracy and other concepts such as capitalism. Guldi starts by saying that, by the 18th century, the British government had started the building of roads. The building of these roads in Britain had a significant change in the lives of its citizens. The nature of social interactions changed. The approach that people had to the Royal Mail changed even at the local level such as in towns. Another area that had changed was the way the government and the nation conducted its businesses.
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Guldi says that the roads formed much of the debate that happened in the transport and infrastructure sector during the 18th century. Guldi argues that the invention of the road was started by some engineers who were inspired by Adam Smith to gain economically from what they had learned. The engineers lobbied for a very long time often doing a lot of paperwork. Their effort paid up when they were finally approved to build modern road systems.
These roads connected London to cities within their former colonies of Dublin and Wales. Guldi argues that these roads were the first modern roads built anywhere in the world. The moment the roads were constructed heralded a new dawn for London. Firstly, there was an increased number of people who were able to visit London. These people had no means to do so previously. The presence of crowds meant that London was becoming a breeding ground for political activism (CBC Radio One (USA), 2012).
Guldi then introduced the concept of road neutrality, which meant that the citizens would not pay for using the roads. This concept evolved from those old days when the citizens were forced to pay for these services. Modern-day roads and highways are free to use, and there is no question about payments.
It is this analogy that Guldi says exists between the old road networks and today’s internet system. She points out the current divergence of opinion between internet companies such as Google and Microsoft against the government on who should have control over broadband. Guldi argues that, in the next generations, the internet infrastructure will be able to transform how society operates radically. This is similar to what roads did to the previous generations.
Guldi asserts that the most heated debate and politics of technology revolve on who should pay for the technology, as well as who should provide these connections. However, she notes that technology will not necessarily solve the social problems of the world. To get to the level where technology will be important in the positive influencing of society, Guldi argues that the experts and the technocrats should be left to do the work (CBC Radio One (USA), 2012).
Another change that had come about with this invention was the different uses of the road. Traveling was now much easier. Travel theatres increased and trade thrived. Thirdly, there arose a division among groups on the use of roads. The middle class was slowly getting separated from the poor. Traditionally, travelers used to stop and seek guidance on their way from strangers who were mainly from the poor classes. However, roads brought about a new concept. Travelers who were mainly from the upper and middle classes would not stop to ask for direction; the idea of using guidebooks was increasingly becoming popular.
These subtle changes had some effect on the political awareness in the country. Guldi says that most political and religious groups begun during this time. Political activists used the same road traveling to various towns and urging those in the lower class and who were oppressed to rise and stand against the perceived oppression. On the other hand, the religious activists were able to travel using the roads from town to town as they spread the gospel of equity and urging the Britons to change to Christianity (CBC Radio One (USA), 2012).
The big debate was about who would use the newly built roads, as well as who would meet the cost by paying for these services. Guldi argues that the same questions that were asked about the roads are being asked and will continue to be used in the modern as of the internet. The questions are about who will build the internet, as well as who will have permission to use it. According to Guldi, the debate is likely to go on for the next ten years.
Guldi seeks to challenge the assumption her comparison is metaphorical arguing that the issues are indeed similar. According to Guldi, the invention of the roads gave rise to the concept of expert-guided democracy. Thus, the civil engineers, planners, and auditors, among other technocrats have largely shaped and decided for the world on matters to do with infrastructure within the public works. In the 21st century, Guldi gives an example of stadia, airports, and the high-speed rails as some of the public works that have come as a result of guided democracy from technocrats (CBC Radio One (USA), 2012).
CBC Radio One (USA). (2012). Jo Guldi on Roads and the Internet. Web.