The advantages of air travel are many and those of jet powered air travel many more, but the invention of the aeroplane has also brought about some uniformly negative consequences. The aeroplane has allowed a style of warfare to develop in which it is possible to destroy entire cities and slaughterer countless civilians with ease. As this happens, the aggressive party is vastly less at risk of direct retaliatory action when compared with the aggressive party in any previous form of warfare including naval warfare.
Air travel has also helped to spread infectious diseases more rapidly than that which was possible in previous epochs, it has enabled the generally unpopular phenomenon of mass immigration and has diluted the importance of international summits which can now be held throughout the year at great expense to tax payers in multiple countries and all without such grand summits accomplishing a single thing. Finally, by allowing more people than ever before to visit ancient monuments, the wear, tear and vandalism against such monuments stands to increase and increase with ever potential visit.
This is not to say that the evils of air travel outweigh the good. The good almost certainly outweighs the bad and what is more is that the aeroplane and the jet powered aeroplane in particular are crowing achievements of mankind’s ingenuity. Openly displaying regret about the invention of the aeroplane would render one fit to do little more than share a cell with Miss. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the local lunatic asylum.
But with all of this in mind, let us consider the following. What if the internet had been invented when the aeroplane was invented and what if the aeroplane was only invented when the internet became mainstream for ordinary people?
When the aeroplane was first invented it was at a turn of a 20th century in which western culture was not only vibrant but some would say reaching its peak before its major post-Second World War decline that accelerated ten-fold in the last two decades of the 20th century.
Had the internet been invented and at some level of maturity by 1914, perhaps war markers would have been more mild in their ambition and instead the world could have focused more heavily on conducting commerce, cultural exchange and direct personal communication via the (would be) world wide web.
As comparatively late as the 1930s, it was considered a rather monumental occasion when the great artist Maestro Willem Mengelberg and his Concertgebouw Orchestra travelled in a caravan of multiple cars from Amsterdam to Paris. When in Paris, a large film studio re-created the stage at the Concertgebouw and copiously filmed a performance of one of the great maestros in history. The expense in the currency of 2019 would have likely been in the millions.
Imagine therefore if the internet had existed as we know it in 2019 during the age of artistic giants like Mengelberg? One could have filmed Mengelberg with technical ease at his home concert hall in high quality sound and high definition video and within minutes send the performance around the world. The same would have held true for all of the artists of the day.
Of course, the aeroplane made it easier for artists to travel and perform before international audiences and Mengelberg certainly did so, but when one compares the amount of people exposed to various artistic performances online versus how many can view them in real life even with the benefit of the jet engine and it becomes clear that the internet has been a vastly more democratising process than even the safe and reliable jumbo jet.
Given that most large items are today transported via container ship as opposed to being air freighted, an early 20th century internet could have also revolutionised international commerce. Such economic inter-connectivity could have likely led to less bloodshed and a more cooperative and pragmatic atmosphere than that which transpired during the de-colonisation movements which dominated the middle portion of the 20th century. After all, a world that trades together should also find a way to politically work together in a manner that balances sovereignty with economic development without having to necessarily sacrifice one for the other.
Finally, it seems as though world leaders have become complacent owing to the fact that major global summits can now take place with logistical ease. In an age where travelling to meet a fellow world leader required often long journeys across the seas, meetings tended to produce more concrete results because of all the time and effort taken into actually making the visit to such a summit. In other words, when time was more valuable people were less inclined to waste their own and someone else’s time.
In their own unique ways, both the aeroplane and the internet have vastly enriched our modern world. That being said, if their respective arrivals on the world’s stage were swapped, mankind may have grown more pragmatic and more enriched than that which has transpired over the last century where technology continued to advance whilst the western world’s moral and ethical condition has declined all the while.