Nobel Prize Nomination: The Internet

MOLLY SCHOEMANN: I was more than a little skeptical upon learning of the Internet’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize. Really? The Internet? Was it nominated by the kind of person who thinks that a little gnome turns off the light in the refrigerator when you close the door? Did its nominators realize that the internet lacks not only a publicist and the ability to rent a limousine to take to the ceremony, but also a tuxedo size?

I also have to wonder exactly what new realm we are entering by nominating an inanimate object for such a prize. Where do we go from here? Should we nominate the Kindle for a prize in Literature? It’s certainly promoted the availability of books and other printed material. Can Diet Dr. Pepper be nominated for the chemistry prize? After all, it does taste just like regular Dr. Pepper. Now that non-sentient beings (besides Susan Lucci) can be expected to compete for prestigious awards, will that detract from the meaningfulness of the award for human participants? Or should they consider themselves lucky to share a nomination with something as popular as The Internet?

One important aspect to consider is intent. An inanimate object, no matter how useful it is, does not commit those useful acts intentionally. It is a tool, a resource created by actual beings to serve a specific purpose. You can argue that so was Mother Theresa, but I wouldn’t buy it. The Internet, lacking any kind of self-awareness or personality, is different from a scientist or a human rights activist, in that it did not promote peace on purpose. And this lack of intent, I believe, means that it cannot be held responsible for any actions it has performed, nor should it be rewarded for them. You may as well nominate the Fork for its work in helping to end world hunger. Certainly it may have played a role. But it was as a tool, designed and implemented by many others, who should themselves be thanked if anyone is.

JEFF MORROW: My colleague may be skeptical, but not skeptical enough to see this for what it really is. The internet? Nothing. This is just the continued love affair of the Swedes with internet inventor and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Al Gore.

Well played, Mr. Gore.

See you again in 2012, when they suddenly and inexplicably announce a Nobel Prize for Representing Tennessee’s Sixth Congressional District in the Mid-1980s.

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