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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

living with networks

Whenever I hear that something is "on the internet", or to "buy it on the net", or search "the net", a little feeling of hopelessness creeps in. I guess the reason is that this view of the internet as an undifferentiated ocean out there, serves a role as a panacea. Or maybe the problem is the identification of the internet as a place, which to me seems to inevitably devalue our physical world. Now there have been video games and virtual reality games of varying degrees of simulation and imagination since when, the '80s?
This is the view of the internet as "cyberspace".

The problem is that to the extent that it makes sense that we exist in this space, we certainly have to change, and this change sometimes feels forceful, like its not recognized the level of discomfort resulting from these changes, and not dealt with in a delicate way.
Of course we can revisit the philosophical questions of life, and what it is, and of consciousness and what it is. And like all technologies, they can actually give new perspective on old philosophical questions. In the sense that one doesn't have to work as hard in "what if" statements.

I recently read Vannevar Bush's rather prescient article from 1945 Atlantic (available here, -- I found this thanks to John Jowett again). He describes the ways in which various technologies pushed forward will link us together, and make examining "the record" more powerful. It is somehow satisfying to see "the internet", or something like it, described at a much earlier date. It gives a new head space in which to think about it, not seeing its current incarnation as inevitable.

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