Underestimating the internet

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Barrett Brown

I am the founder of the distributed think-tank Project PM and a regular inactive to Vanity Fair and Skeptical Inquirer. My work has also appeared in The Onion, National Lampoon, New York Press, D Magazine, Skeptic, McSweeney's, American Atheist, and a couple of newspapers in the U.S. and Mexico as well as a few policy journals. I'm the author of two books and serve as a consultant to various political entities and private clients.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar William Brafford
    Ignored
    says:

    It looks to me like Negroponte was much more prescient than Clifford Stoll, but he wasn’t entirely on the mark either:

    “Twenty years from now, [Negroponte] said, children who are used to finding out about other countries through the click of a mouse ‘are not going to know what nationalism is.'”

    Are kids really not going to care about national identity in seven years?

    The internet’s in an extremely early phase? Agreed. Its current state probably won’t have much to do with what it looks like a few decades from now? For sure. Why is this something worth making enemies over?Report

  2. Avatar Christopher Carr
    Ignored
    says:

    Didn’t Al Gore want to centrally manage and “plan” the Internet around 1995?Report

  3. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    I can buy this. I’m actually starting to believe that the League of Ordinary Gentlemen is not a stable entity but rather an incredibly dynamic and ever-shifting composite!Report

  4. Avatar ScrubAssChump
    Ignored
    says:

    We don’t even have the internet in England, yet. But my dad invented it.Report

  5. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I am still under the impression that we have no idea what the internet means.

    It allows nigh-instantaneous communication all over the world, it allows for all of that communication to be archived and retrievable, and we are making quantum leaps when it comes to storage capabilities (I remember wondering aloud why in the hell anybody would need a 100 gig drive… but now we can hold terabytes in our hands and we think “well, if I get a second one of these, I can back up the first”).

    Everything that anybody thinks can be put into storage to be retrieved by anybody else, instantaneously (see, and boggle, at wikipedia).

    As our tools learn to process even faster and hold even more, we’ll soon have to figure out how to ask questions.Report

  6. Avatar DensityDuck
    Ignored
    says:

    An entire article about the internet and not one mention of porn? Geez.Report

  7. Avatar Kevin Carson
    Ignored
    says:

    At least Stoll hadn’t seen the subsequent fifteen years. Reading someone like Andrew Keen, you’d get the idea he’s lived through them with his eyes closed.

    The popularity of the “Library of Babel” analogy is strong evidence that “intellectuals” are no more enlightened than Tea Partiers when it comes to regurgitating stuff “everybody knows” (in their social circle, anyway) without every stopping to examine it.

    The thing about the Library of Babel, though, was that it had no catalog! No search engines, no hyperlinks, no slashdot filtering, and no semantic tagging. The Internet does.

    As for Al Gore’s vision of the Internet, I think what he and the other “Information Superhighway” enthusiasts had in mind was something like the French Infotel: a parody of even Web 1.0 itself, with lots of static web pages (essentially brochures) put up by large institutions and lots of streaming walled-garden proprietary content for pay. Essentially cable TV with ten thousand channels.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Kevin Carson
      Ignored
      says:

      I left a comment here before, but it mysteriously disappeared for some reason. My point was that even if the Library of Babel did have a catalogue, the sheer size of the library and the limits of corporeality would make it effectively useless. Not only does the popularity of the analogy indicate a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the Internet but it also indicates a profound misunderstanding of the nature of information.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kevin Carson
      Ignored
      says:

      “Essentially cable TV with ten thousand channels.”

      Yeah; if you look at the early “services” like Prodigy or AOL, that’s pretty much what you have. Webpages that seem like monolithic artifacts, carved from wood at a cost of thousands of dollars. User interactivity? Well, we have a phone number you can call to get some brochures mailed, if you want. Or you could call our sales department. E-mail? Wha? Why would we give you access to our internal mail network?Report

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