Most people seem to think the book will change. It is changing! I have been hearing that since the 1980s, and I remember reading an earth shattering book about that in 1996.
Universities are changing. Publishing is changing. Research is changing. Politics is changing. It’s all changing. Government is changing. TV is changing. Newspapers are changing. Radio is changing. The music business has changed. In fact, each of the short declarative sentences I wrote above should be changed – those things HAVE changed. To understand how, I resort to memory, but many people now have to do research.
Even the idea of citizenship is changing. We have citizen journalists, citizen scientists, and my favorite, citizen programmers. Some people consider themselves citizens of the planet. Who knows, maybe Facebook will become a country.
Not so crazy, really – the Internet already issues it’s own currency: bitcoins. Once we have a nongovernmental global currency, what’s next? If I say that I am a citizen of the planet, am I stating an allegiance that takes precedence over mere national allegiance?
What is Wikileaks? Who are the One Percent? Who is the enemy? And, by implication who are we? All I can say for certain is, whoever WE are, WE seem to live on the Internet.
I witnessed a car accident recently, and I was shocked by the sight of dazed onlookers who filmed the scene using their cell phones. Even news outlets regularly scour Youtube when they cannot find clips.
We used to worry that Big Brother would be watching us, but now we are are watching him. Police beatings and illegal searches end up on the Internet every day and right away. So do bus drivers using cell phones while driving, and sexist teachers. Careers are ruined, reputations are made. For good or for ill.
Celebrities cannot get arrested without having to deal with arrest footage and mugshoots for the rest of their lives. Any polician will tell you – the microphone is always on. Never forget. Saddam Hussein could not even be executed in private.
I am an older computer programmer. This new world was created on my watch. I did not plan it. I did not see it coming. I did not give it much thought other than to spend every waking moment learning each and every new thing. I was busy focusing on how to build the Internet, not the why, not on the culture, and not on the implications. I focused on short-term gains, and immediate benefits.
Did I build the Internet? No. Have I created new technologies? No. But, I was there in the 1980s, showing my employers how to use databases. I was there, when few people owned computers. I believed that everyone would have a computer one day. I showed my employers how to use email. I helped people buy domains and set up their first web sites. I saved people time and money, and trippled my earnings.
Can anybody remember when the Canadian postal union could paralyze the country by going on strike? Not any more. Can anyone remember when we used libraries and card catalogues? I can. Has anybody used a microfiche? I have. I can do more research, faster, from home than I used to be able to do at the public library in an afternoon. In fact, in the 1980s, I used to get paid by a writer to do research for her book.
Once upon a time, it was easy to tell stupid, uneducated people from well educated people, but today, access to information is considered a substitute for insight and understanding. What do you really need to know to google something? In the 1980s, if I was interested in something, I read whole books. Today, we bookmark pages.
Today, we second guess our doctors by citing research we could not replicate ourselves after years of effort. Citing science is not a substitute for actual science. Still, everybody is an instant expert. The fool cites the same sources as the expert, in the same confident tones. Everything can be learned in 21 days, no more, no less. I’m not calling you a fool, but I’m just saying . . .
I feel like the proverbial nerd, Steve Urkel, surveying the damage created by yet another mishap. Did I do that? Did I? I’m the guy holding the smoking mouse. My fingerprints can definitely be found at the scene. What a thought!
I have spent my adult life writing code. I have often observed that much of my time has been spent learning how to use technology, but little of my time is spent thinking about what can be done.
I wrote my first computer program at 17, in 1977. Five years later, I owned a ZX81, and there has been a personal computer in my life ever since. Before the world wide web, I used bulletin boards. I sent my first email almost thirty years ago, and I first learned LMAO in the late 1980s in a chatroom.
Back in the 1080s, my experience made me unique. I could share it with very few people. Today, you can’t have a coffee in public without overhearing a conversation about the Internet, or about computers in general.
So, what’s it all about? Are we smarter? Are we dumber? Are we more informed, or do we just have access to more data? We used to admire people who were well read, who had retained information, who could use what they knew to support an argument. I could be wrong, but it seems that we now admire people for what they can do, especially if they use technology.
More people have access to the classics, but be fewer people seem to have read them. Have you read any of these books? I recently had a discussion with a database expert who also happens to have read John Locke. I wanted to hug him. Of course, he is a little older then I am.
So, after decades of change, what does it mean? Where are we going? Who are we becoming? I’ll be thinking.
Is this THE future we have been imagining? I do not think so. Is it good? That depends, I’m sure.
This is key information. I am posting it for myself, and for anybody who is having a little trouble getting a Vagrant virtual image working.
If you get this error: “The box ‘base’ could not be found,” then read this short article.