Tuesday questions, Katachi edition

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.

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44 Responses

  1. dexter says:

    Without the internet I would never have had the joy of reading your columns.Report

  2. BlaiseP says:

    A thousand things and more. My personal refuges from the Bleak Wastelands

    Butdoesitfloat: from which I can explore the curated artists’ websites.
    Thisiscolossal: Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I met Maribou on the ‘tubes back in the early-to-mid 90’s.

    So I guess “my wife”.Report

    • It occurred to me as I was writing this that, without the Internet:

      I would not have met my best friend.
      I would not have visited her in New York City.
      I would not have fallen in love with it the second I stepped out of Grand Central Station.
      I would not have known in that instant that I had to live there.
      I would not have been there to meet the man who is now my husband.

      I would have a totally different life.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      Likewise, I met my husband on the internet back in in 1999 when I was 19. I would never have found him if not for the internet. He was my first date and second love, I can hardly believe it’s been 14 years.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Jaybird says:

      The internet has given me a million things but the most important is that I also met my wife on the internet. In 2003 it was still fairly taboo to visit a dating site. Sometimes I think about what if I hadn’t let my coworkers talk me into trying it, or what if she hadn’t thought I was interesting enough to send me a message. It makes me amazingly grateful.Report

  4. NewDealer says:

    I’ve made friends through the internet. I’ve been able to keep up with friends in far flung places through the Internet. Read more because of the Internet. Become a somewhat published writer (if pseudononoumsly) through the Internet. My dating life is probably better than it would be without the Internet.Report

  5. Kim says:

    What the Kardashians are doing? I haven’t the foggiest.Report

  6. Kim says:

    Oh, and as to the question:
    I would not have seen millions walk in freedom.
    I would not have seen ideas (both silly and grand)
    travel to the farthest reaches of the world.
    I would not have seen emergent behavior,
    self-organizing behavior.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

      Oh you are a precious old thing, arncha? I have seen millions walk into fields of fire out here, cleared for them by tyrants and criminals, to the point where entire industries have grown up around the vulnerabilities thus created. I have seen intelligent thought drowned out by thousands of yammering idiots, liars, single-issue johnnies, propaganda of every sort and the masks of brutishness everywhere. If Emergent Behaviour is what you’ve seen, the Herd Instinct is very ancient, the cruelty of the Facebook Bully, the degeneration of adults into the pettiness of an elementary school playground. It has all been seen before. Nothing new has Emerged.

      The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
      The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are full of passionate intensity.

      • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Oh, tish and tosh. Of course there is ill in all things.
        But have no fear, and walk in righteousness —
        we’ll mostly be dead soon anyway.

        I intend to savor this reality while I still am able to live in it.
        I’ve got my feet planted firmly against the buffeting winds
        of the next reality, of course, only natural to…Report

  7. BlaiseP says:

    For all its advantages, for all that it’s done to connect us to each other, the Net has also served to isolate us from each other in ways we might yet come to regret. Staring into the Void of our devices, we’re not evolving as fast as the technology.

    And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

    For every silver lining, there’s always a little dark cloud. The Net was designed by optimists, idealists who didn’t understand how naked we would become as the Net exposed us to other agencies we didn’t want to see us. We’ve made little aprons for ourselves but our eyes are now opened. And now there is no hiding.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

      That’s what happens when you introduce pictures into the mix.

      When it was just text, it was sooooo much better.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

        I remember when Netscape goobered up the implementation of the IMG tag. Everyone was furious with them. They hadn’t consulted anyone. Brought to you by the folks who gave us the blink tag.

        Things were never any better. There never were any Good Old Days.Report

  8. Kazzy says:

    I wouldn’t know any of the folks here without the LoOG. My relationship with my eventual wife likely would have proceeded the same without the net (we met in person and stayed in touch mostly via phone and text), but I know a number of friends who owe at least part of their relationship to what the internet could offer them in terms of staying connected. I am able to stay in touch with friends much better than before, and I’m not even a social media dynamo. This allowed me to find and invite my former colleague and her partner to our wedding.

    While I don’t doubt that the tools have influenced the content put out, they are still more avenues to content than content themselves. One can wield the internet in any number of ways, from perusing Tumblr sites of pointless memes to connecting with loved ones. It is all in what you make of it.

    Now, back to the cat videos!Report

  9. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Schlock Mercenary
    Dozens of authors I may never have found
    Musicians I may never have heard
    My best friend (after my wife).Report

  10. Tod Kelly says:

    “So that’s this week’s Question — what beautiful things in your life do you owe to the Information Age?”

    A pretty shocking amount, really. I almost said “pretty much everything except family and friends,” but then it hit me that since I’ve started writing here I actually have a lot of friends that I know from the inter-tubes.

    Without the internet and information technology, I would never have been able to create the business model for my company that I did, and would be working for The Man instead of retired. And my second career, writing, clearly never has a chance to happen thirty years ago.

    If I look at every one of the dozens and dozens of non-jazz musical artist I’ve listened to over the past month, I think there are three that I would have ever known about without the internet: Lyle Lovett, Arcade Fire and Pink Martini. (Pink Martini I would never have known about if it weren’t for the fact that they’re from PDX, and in my mind kind of count for this exercise since they’re so multi-genre and un-pigeon-holeable I don’t think they survive long enough for me to have discovered them in a pre-internet world.)

    Writers I have discovered thanks to the information age include Russell Saunders, Chuck Klosterman, Helen Oyeyemi, Jonathan Lethem, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alyssa Rosenberg, Colson Whitehead, Alan Weisman, Mark Haddon, Nick Harkaway, Wendy Moore, Naomi Alderman, Anthony Beevor, Charles C. Mann, and probably a hundred others.

    I loves me some Information Age.Report

  11. Chris says:

    I, like most of us I imagine, have thought about this a lot. The internet and I have a love hate relationship, and there are probably more times that I wish it wasn’t around then there are that I’m glad it’s here, but I do have to admit that there are too many people and pleasures for me to count that I owe to the internet.

    I imagine my life would be the same, but different, if I were using the World Book instead of Wikipedia to help my son with his homework; if in place of the Artchive I’d spend time in museums; if instead of reading old books from Project Gutenberg, I’d go to the local library. I’m pretty sure what I’d gain in each of those exchanges would at least cover what I’d lose. I can’t say that I’d miss it, then, except the talking to people outside of my little town.Report

  12. North says:

    I don’t know if it’s a factor of my own ability to just ignore stuff I don’t like or that my own tastes are crass but I don’t find the downsides of the information age even remotely comparable to the advantages. I mean sure, you see some gross pictures or occasionally get an icky story or meet an obnoxious troll but even the argument with the tools have some educational value.
    As to entertainment, I never particularly liked the old gatekeeper dominated entertainment media either. Those endless sitcoms with the canned laughter; Barf! Sure we have the Kardashians and Dance Moms (mediated by a hostess the husband and I refer to as Dance Cow~ we only see her when watching Project Runway) but we also have Project Runway and Game of Thrones and all the other exquisitely written stuff. Additionally we have so much more stuff tailored more to our individual tastes. In 1970’s you all listened to the same handful of mega artists because that was all there was. Now there are people who make things for free just for the joy of making it and millions of people can see them. Everyone can find entertainment that’s much more closely fitted to their individual tastes.

    And the talent it showcases; God(ess?)! The Talent!


  13. Maribou says:

    I love this question but I couldn’t begin to answer it. I came of age on the internet, really – found it in 1994 when I was still in high school, and spent at least 3 hours a day online every day thereafter that I wasn’t traveling, or otherwise consciously taking a break (I like to hermit up every so often) – so:

    My spouse, about 3/4 of my oldest friends, 3/4 of my newest friends (weirdly, only about 1/3 of the friends I’ve had for a middling amount of time 🙂 ), at least half of the books I’ve read, at least half of the music I love, at least half of the art I love, at least half of the pretty crafts I’ve made… most of the video games I’ve enjoyed (actually I think a lot of my favorite tabletop games are things we discovered on the net, too) … at least a third of the reason for my chosen career… yeah. “The internet” is so thoroughly admixed into my life that it’s pretty hard to imagine life without its benefices. Although, it would be easier (though still endless) to count up all the amazing wonderful things that would still be in my life without an internet :).Report

    • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:

      As an example –
      I’m pretty sure I would’ve gone to New Zealand eventually someday without the internet, because I’ve wanted to do that since I was four – and it would’ve been just as naturally beautiful and full of lovely people and I would’ve swooned over it endlessly. Perhaps I would’ve even been slightly more amazed without being able to preview things? I don’t really know that part for sure…

      I doubt it would’ve been affordable enough for me to go this earlly in my life, without the internet deal I got.
      I wouldn’t have been able to meet up with James K without the internet, ’cause I wouldn’t have known him.
      I wouldn’t have cared about WETA or seeing Mount Doom without the internet (I promise you that in a non-Internet world, there would never have BEEN an epic live action Lord of the Rings, let alone one that was mostly filmed in New Zealand).
      I’m actually reasonably sure that without the internet, my very good friend whom I spent a huge amount of time with, who lives in Auckland, would never have come to my workplace for her schooling in the first place. And she would still be in the country where she grew up, or else in the UK. Thus, I would never have met her AND I would never have been visiting her in NZ.
      I wouldn’t have had easy access to the umpteen NZ books and movies I read before I went, and have been reading afterward, which would’ve notably diminished my pleasure in it (I feel confident about that, because when I went to Toronto when I was *seven*, I loved seeing places I had only ever read about, and connecting up the places I was going to the places I had been).
      I wouldn’t have known about the AMAZING train journey that was my favorite touristy part of the whole trip without the internet (I know, there would’ve been other ways of finding out about it – but *I* wouldn’t have thought to use them). Which also means I wouldn’t have had the 2 moments of absolute sublimity during the bus trip down to Wellington, or met the very interesting older gentleman who was traveling to Hamilton to see his kids, because I wouldn’t have been on that bus.
      I suspect (but cannot prove) that at least half of the coffee shops I enjoyed and the public library and museum stuff that I loved, wouldn’t have been there without a causal chain that involved the internet.
      I would’ve found it incredibly hard to leave Jaybird for that long, without the Internet.

      And so on.

      See? It’s an unanswerable question for me – just that one example goes on and on and I’m still leaving stuff out :D.Report

  14. greginak says:

    I’ll add on to what other have said about keeping in touch with friends which i’m poor at. The toobz have helped me be slightly less bad at it. I’ve always been a science and especially an astronomy geek. Nowadays i can keep up with every new astronomy development including hearing directly from the scientists who did the research. If there is something i didn’t understand i can search through different web sites or go to good youtube sites until i can read or see a video that helps me understand the topic. I can really read as deeply as i care even if that is reading actual journal articles if i care to and can follow them. Simply an amazing time to live.Report

  15. Mike Schilling says:

    I wouldn’t know any of you. This would be a great loss.Report

  16. krogerfoot says:

    I’m sure fashionable people in New York City would point at my old square-toed Kenneth Coles and laugh their asses off.

    Well, thanks to the Internet I’ve learned something disturbing about the shoes that I’ve been strutting around in for the past few years.Report

  17. Michael Cain says:

    Peculiar as it sounds, the mere fact that the Internet exists is the source of a significant bit of happiness for me. In a childish sort of way…

    Starting in 1980, one of my responsibilities at the giant telecom/cable companies where I worked was technology intelligence — predicting where things were headed, what we could do with it, and what our competitors could do. I was (usually) a lone voice predicting the rise of increasingly powerful personal processing devices, the importance of data networks to interconnect those devices, and as time went on, everything-over-IP. 20 years ago next month, I distributed an internal white paper titled “The IP Telephone Company”; the last 20 years have, in terms of the underlying capabilities, played out pretty much as I outlined them — even the timing, which is the hardest part, was fairly accurate. Most of my work wasn’t popular with the business and marketing types, since it all predicted change-or-die scenarios. When I think about it, I always get a smug little smile, because I was right and all of them were wrong. I said it was childish.

    I didn’t get everything right, of course. I really underestimated how much quality early cell phone users were willing to sacrifice in order to have mobility (the 1970s landline telephone network had better voice quality than most of today’s cell networks). And I thought that IP multicast was going to be a really big deal. I wasn’t the only one; one-sixteenth of the entire IPv4 address space is reserved for multicast. Unfortunately, it’s still not available to the vast majority of end-users on the Internet.Report

  18. KatherineMW says:

    It’s hard to answer this because my adult life has all been during the Information Age. Things that I wouldn’t have without the Internet comprise a large section of my life:
    – Access to international news and opinions beyond cable TV, including some exceptional bloggers (Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Atlantic, in particular, is an amazing writer and has exposed me to viewpoints and experiences I wasn’t even aware existed). The knowledge that there are people beyond my family and friends who share my opinions, even when cable news doesn’t (Daniel Larison, Conor Friedersdorf, and everyone else doing wonderful work on the anti-war and anti-security-state front).
    – Vacations that I can plan almost entirely online (flights, trains, hotels; TripAdvisor). It’s at the point where the idea that people had to book their flights through a travel agent because there was no way of doing it themselves is a strange concept to me.
    – Three webcomics I love: The Order of the Stick (started out as a riff on D&D, became an intensely engaging story with strong plotlines, amazing and well-developed characters, and strong moral themes), Strong Female Protagonist (about a superhero; gets into many of the major issues I have with comic-book super heroism), and xkcd (deeply geeky in-jokes, very funny). I’d recommend all of them.
    – The simple ability to discuss politics and world events with people from all over the world and with a wide range of differing opinions.
    – Mindless Diversions, which got me to read The Sandman and gives me the chance to discuss two rather niche TV series I love – Fringe and Babylon 5 – with other people.
    – More or less everything academic I’ve ever done. The vast majority of research – academic journals, statistical data, etc. – is online.

    To get a sense of what the Internet is to my generation, think of what your life would be like if telephones – of any kind – and television simply ceased to exist.Report