What are webcams? The word webcam is a compound word formed from two abbreviations, "web" from the World Wide Web and "cam" from camera. Webcams are cameras which are situated at various places and linked to the World Wide Web. They allow 24-hour viewing of a wide array of places and activities around the world. They can be as educational as they are fascinating, entertaining as they are eye-opening. Not everyone raves about this new technology, however. Some cite sinister implications in a technology which can unobtrusively spy on our goings-on without our permission. Others note that with rapid increases in telephotography and the science of acoustics, the days of privacy are numbered. Anyone can mount a webcam with a telephoto lens and microphone, aim it at his neighbors' living room or bedroom, and then broadcast one's "private" life to the whole world. A script for the next sci-fi film, or a current reality? Are these doomsayers overreacting, or is their charge legitimate?
On one side of the debate are those who point out that webcams offer more real advantages than supposed disadvantages. They cite numerous websites on which people can observe the world around them for educational or aesthetic purposes. Today one can watch urban scenes like city streets and squares or even haunted houses! Nature lovers can revel in the undetectable webcasting of bats, sharks, and penguins at various sites around the world. A huge collection of webcams can be found at www.earthcam.com. Another great collection can be viewed at www.discovery.com. Most educators, parents, and politicians would agree that these websites allow for a better understanding of both the human and natural environments in the world we all live in. Certainly, they would say, webcams provide an invaluable service and should not be restricted.
Others are not so sure. Every technology cuts both ways. Even fire can cook food as it can burn our flesh. Railroads gave us faster and more convenient transportation as they simultaneously signaled the death knell of many species of migratory animals as well as served up noise and air pollution. Nuclear energy gives millions heat, light, and power just as it creates unwanted radioactive side effects. Seemingly harmless technologies such as telecommunications also have their dark side.
Opponents of webcams note that the sleazy, commercial instinct of some people is unleashed with the offering of for-pay viewing of certain starlets or other celebrities' home lives, which most people prefer to think of as their "private" life. Perhaps not much longer. In some controversial cases, webcams have been mounted in public installations such as washrooms so that voyeurs may watch the intimate goings-on of anonymous people. Even more sinister is the capacity for the new technology to be used in both economic espionage and "good old" state-to-state spying. Webcams mounted surreptitiously in business offices or factories can reveal on-screen "secrets" from those unaware that they are being bugged. With microelectronics technology reducing the size of telecommunications devices, this is no paranoid fantasy any longer.
The human mind is as devious as the many progressive devices it produces. No matter what technology mankind develops in the future, we can be sure that it will offer an opportunity to exercise the dark side of our potential. On balance, we must move forward and allow these new technologies. Only by practicing them —— for good or bad —— can we realize our human potential. On balance, too, despite the horrific deadly or sinister potential in technology, the world offers a more productive, comfortable, and progressive environment today than in our previous low-tech centuries. At the end of the day, it is not our technology that we must learn to control so much as ourselves.
什么是 webcams（网络摄影机）? webcam 这个字是由两个缩写字组成的复合字，"web" 是全球网络的缩写，"cam" 则是摄影机的缩写。网络摄影机就是位于各地和全球网络联机的摄影机。它们能够让人24小时观看全世界许多不同的地方和活动。它们既具教育性又同时吸引人，有娱乐性并能让人大开眼界。然而，并非每个人对这项新科技都赞不绝口。有些人视这项科技为洪水猛兽，认为它能不经我们同意就悄悄监视我们的行动；其它人则指出随着远距离摄影术和音响科学的快速增长，拥有隐私的日子屈指可数。任何人都可利用电子摄影镜头和麦克风架设一台网络摄影机对准邻居的客厅或卧室，然后将某人的“隐秘”生活转播给全世界。这是下一部科幻电影的剧本，还是当今的现状呢？是这些杞人忧天的人反应过度，还是他们的指控确实有道理呢？
这项讨论的一方人马指出网络摄影机提供的实际益处多过假想的坏处。他们举出无数的网站，人们可上网去观察他们周遭的世界以达到教育或美学的目的。今天人们可以观看城市的风景，像是都市街道和广场甚或鬼屋！爱好自然的人可以在全球的网站上尽情欣赏悄悄从旁拍摄的蝙蝠、鲨鱼和企鹅等。在 www.earthcam.com 这个网站可以找到许多网络摄影机。另外在 www.discovery.com 网站上亦可看到不少网络摄影机。大部分的教育家、父母和政治人物都会同意，这些网站让我们更加了解我们大家所住的世界上的人类和自然环境。他们当然会说网络摄影机提供了珍贵的服务，所以不该受限制。