I believe Shakespeare (you may have heard of him) said it best:
"There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy ... "
Where did I once utter that "travel", "seeking out a story first-hand", and "books written by people who actually know stuff" are bad things, or that the Internet obviates them (despite being able to deliver a reasonable facsimile of all of those, including video chat with first-hand observers)? In case you haven't seen it elsewhere, I've lived and worked in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania for over 10 years, plus travel for months on-end to hundreds of places, many of which you've probably never heard of in your blinker-modulated world.
I've worked in hot war zones, the most depraved ghettos and slums, and other Hell-holes most here could not possibly imagine in their worst nightmares. I've also been to parts of the planet only a handful have ever been (which is a relief from forums like this, I have to admit). Couch-bound potatoes disgusted by TV coverage of such places have nothing to complain about, just like the other self-appointed critics who have spent so much time complaining about how bad things are elsewhere that they can't contribute anything of substance to society. I'm not talking about anyone in particular, mind you.
I've been developing technology for decades, including both patented and open-source (long before it was even called that), in commercial, government, academic, and independent environments. When I attended college, I roomed with people whom others wouldn't because of their ethnicity. I can communicate with a majority of the people on the planet at enough of a very basic conversational level that I can keep myself (and maybe them) from starving, and I'm as curious as any crate stuffed with cats about what others think, say, and do (particularly why). I also won't let people who make misstatements or spread downright disinformation proceed without challenging such malarkey.
For example, the Internet can't be completely privatized by its very nature - to say so reveals a fundamental lack of understanding about how the protocols work. In full disclosure, that's one of the areas where I've done patented work that is in the public domain, as was virtually all of the work to develop the Internet by all involved. The moment someone tries to privatize the Internet, it's a simple matter to create another one ... or more, particularly with the advent of IPv6. You may not be aware, but, there are actually a number of parallel internetworks, each with its own separate IP address space. I'm not talking about VPN, I'm talking about completely separate, parallel internetworks that share no IP address space whatsoever. There are transport mechanisms for moving data between these, with it being one-directional in some cases. I'll leave it up to your imagination to figure out some examples of how this might be used.
If you think that the infrastructure is dominated by private ownership, you need to go shopping for broadband trunk capacity sometime (i.e., fiber optics). Nearly 90% of the fiber that was laid around the world upwards of 10 years ago during the Dot Bomb era is still dark and unused, and optical switches just keep getting faster and increasing the number of channels that can be simultaneously transceived down just a single fiber, all at decreasing cost. Anyone with a pittance in comparison to what corporations have in financial resources could duplicate the entire Internet backbone literally tomorrow. There are even so many options for the "last mile" that anyone who wanted to could establish an alternative to that portion currently provided by commercial entities, and that market is expanding exponentially every day, so competition is endemic to the situation.
I spent a whole separate career working on applications of technology completely outside the engineering world in support of observing and analyzing how civilian populations, economies, governments, and militaries behave on an ongoing basis (BTW, that order, starting with the populations, is in order of significance in the big scheme of things). Trying to make sense of any of those sectors without examining all of the others is a colossal waste of effort. However, guess what, if you organize the information so that you can explore most (but, not all) relationships between the various moving parts you can get a much better-informed idea of what's going on there. With a lot more work, sometimes the reasons (or at least the driving forces) for what's going on can be deduced.
Nowadays, work like that is highly facilitated as we have a good chunk of everything ever published available not just verbatim, but, indexed and commented on by domain experts so that you can search and find data points, relations, descriptors, etc., (even in foreign languages). It's still very crude at this point, but, as interaction (such as what we're doing here) and commerce move further on-line (often exclusively, in most cases for economic reasons, not because of Big Brother), more will be learned about how and why things are. The benefit will be improved understanding as exchanges are made with ever-improving information.
Despite all of the horrors of places like Syria today, the fact is that fewer people are dying each year from armed conflict, and that's been true since the end of WW-II. Part of the reason is that we know so much more about what's going on that it's very difficult for forces to be marshaled on the scale of entire nations that battled up through the first half of the 20th Century without being discovered long before they reach sufficient size and capability. Another reason is that militaries don't go to war in isolation, nations do, and that includes all four sectors I listed earlier, with the most important being the economies. Reserve material only gets you so far, and the most expensive of those is fuel, which economies can't afford to squirrel away very much of, especially when doing so causes shortages that make the cost to the civilian population rise precipitously. Virtually all such economic activity is pretty much visible to anyone who cares to look for it due to the connected nature of raw materials, baseline manufacturing commodities, finished components, and consumable goods across international boundaries.
In the 1980s, national economies crossed the threshold where they could no longer function without computing services, and part of that includes network technologies. So, even if we wanted to, we couldn't support the current world's population without computing and telecommunications at the levels used today. I'm sure if we searched long enough, we could either find a report that would tell us explicitly what the economic and social impact of losing the Internet would be, or at least the data needed to figure it out.
On the other hand, I imagine that if every printing press were to suddenly break down tomorrow, it would be noticeable, but, it wouldn't be catastrophic, except perhaps to those whose living depends directly on paper having ink squashed onto it. That's getting to be a vanishingly small number of people as efficiencies increase and demand decreases in terms of volume, if not quality. There will probably always be people who will pay a premium for certain printed materials, much as there has even been a resurgence of late in people who buy vinyl recordings, of all things. I'm sure there's somewhere (on the Internet!) where we can still buy buggy whips (of the highest quality, no doubt), but, it might be on sites that are at least peripherally associated with the porn industry - especially if printed catalogs for such products are no longer economically viable.
I would think that if every religious building suddenly became inaccessible, that might raise a lot more than eyebrows, but, economies would continue to run. We already know what happens when the electrical grid goes poof, just ask the five million in the Eastern U.S. who lost their load over the weekend, and the two million still waiting for theirs to return for upward of weeks. If medicine were to disappear, well, given our increasing population densities, that wouldn't be as much of a problem in a few months once the pandemics run their course. Universal education would be a loss in the developing world, but, we probably wouldn't even notice it here (kids might actually become smarter, especially if the electricity stays off!). If women were suddenly set back, that would not go over well, at least in Western societies and those in places like Indonesia, parts of Africa, etc., where matriarchal societies have existed for millennia, but, life would still go on, albeit with little in the way of bedroom entertainment. Abolition being reversed would probably not sit well with a certain guy on Pennsylvania Avenue who has nuclear weapons release authority. Finally, if the Industrial Revolution were to be reversed, I'd sure want to look up that buggy whip manufacturer before the parts started running out for repairing food production and distribution, water and sewage treatment, electrical grid, transportation, fuel production and distribution, manufacturing, and porn ... I mean entertainment systems, and they all started failing permanently.
To bring things back to the OP, Bill Gates was just interviewed by Charlie Rose, with the timing associated with the announcement of the Surface too close to be a coincidence. It was likely recorded upwards of a week ago, within a couple of days of the announcement, since this is the week the largest number of people take off in the U.S. for Summer vacation and to celebrate Independence Day (we're so glad to see so many others have chosen to follow our lead in various other experiments in Democracy ... eventually
). Gates chatted about the Surface, MS, the computing business in general, Apple's success (for which he actually exhibited some grudging admiration), and other things technological. He also spent about half the time talking about his Foundation's (the other
) work, which is interesting from the perspective of how utterly daunting the challenges are. Unfortunately, he never did mention Pi, Raspberry or otherwise, nor did he even talk about low-cost computers of any flavor. What a missed opportunity, Bill.
Happy Fourth of July, everyone ... and Independence Day for U.S. Hmmm, where's the exploding fireworks emoticon?