Nero was a first-century emperor of Rome. He is rumored to have executed his mother and poisoned his brother. His friends report that Nero liked to roast Christians in his courtyard at night for the special glow they gave off.
Others say Nero was an arsonist, maybe the most famous fire-starter of all time. He is accused of setting fire to Rome, in the year of our Lord 64 AD, to make more room for real estate he wanted to build.
Not a nice guy, if these things are true. I’ll let historians continue to debate the nuances of this man’s life.
What we do know is Nero had a hobby: playing the lyre, a stringed instrument many modern day people confuse with a fiddle.
Nero loved to play the lyre. And he wanted to be adored for his musical prowess. Sometimes, Nero would make thousands of Roman soldiers watch quietly as he plucked through a tune. And then he would expect them to stand and cheer loudly, feigning love for the beautiful music leaving the ruler’s strings.
But what if Nero had the internet? What if he could post his latest lyre tune on YouTube for not only thousands to see, but millions? Maybe he would want to cover “Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones. No one has done a really cool lyre version of that song yet.
Would the real devotion of internet fans have calmed his despotism, saving the lives of countless Christians, and his own mother?
Come to think of it, Adolph Hitler, the notorious ruler of Germany in the early 20th century, only fell into the role as Der Fuhrer after he failed as an art student. What if Hitler could have sold and shared his paintings online? What if Adolph decided to devote himself to art? What would the world look like today?
Was Nero worse than Hitler? Am I forgetting Godwin’s Law, an internet truism saying the first person to state someone is worse than Hitler loses the argument? Am I saying that by providing an outlet for frustrated, creative types, the internet will relieve the world of all future totalitarian leaders?
If Nero had YouTube, he would still be alive to us today. In digital form. Even though he has been dead for nearly two-thousand years.
Imagine if we were to watch a 2,000-year-old video today of Nero jamming on his lyre and then expecting praise and acknowledgment. Now imagine 2,000 years from now, some future anthropologist combing the depths of this thing we call the internet. And she comes across your latest YouTube creation, or blog post, or social media picture. What is it that you are saying about our world today? Are you remembering that your internet audience is not just the people alive today, but the people alive forever?
The internet will outlive us. We should be creating for people today, and tomorrow, and forever.
Just like Nero on YouTube, imagine you are creating for people 2,000 years from now.
Dear People of the Future,
Here is me, a glimpse of your past.