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Examining Abstractness While Sipping Iced Tea in a Junk Floating Over the Edge of the World, December 1st, 1996 :: Ben Turner's Soapbox

 

the soapbox @ benturner.com
archived soapbox: December 1st, 1996
"Examining Abstractness While Sipping Iced Tea in a Junk Floating Over the Edge of the World" [permalink]
    keywords: Internet, World Wide Web, technology, online, virtual reality, Metaverse, information
    soapbox #: 61
    written: December 1st, 1996
    words: 970

"Examining Abstractness While Sipping Iced Tea in a Junk Floating Over the Edge of the World", an Essay

Got some time to waste this week? Got some money to spend at your local music chain? Then buy the ASAP issue of Forbes, which centers on technology and its impact on society and culture, and the Rollins Band CD, Weight. Play the CD and read the magazine at the same time, then come back and read this article. Brain food. I know you won't, but it's your loss.

I haven't finished reading the magazine, but my dad wrote an article in it. His name's Frederick Turner, and if you don't know his name by now, you're completely out of it. His article deals with a lot of what I'm going to touch upon in this week's essay. Anyway, the articles deal with technology's impact on our lives in the future. There are some prominent writers in this issue, like Michael Kinsley and Bill Gates. And for the most part, they're good articles with plenty of ideas, although some of the writers wouldn't know the 'Net (I mean really know the 'Net, that is, from actually using it) if it placed its big blue ribbon of anti-censorship on the backs of their expensive slacks.

My theory behind the 'Net, specifically the reasons for its success? I think it partly has to do with the fact that we've run out of frontiers we're ready to explore for. It's a shame that many people don't have the courage to explore the depths of the oceans, or send funds into NASA so we can colonize space sooner. It's spineless short-term thought which keeps these people from exciting the dreams of millions, possibly billions. It's genocide of the mind as people are restricted from ever imagining the sheer possibilities of exploring something before anyone else.

I can't imagine what it was like when the superior countries of the Imperialist Age found the New World, or when the colonies subscribed to Manifest Destiny, the colonization of the western side of the New World. It must have been great, finding a truly new land so close and so accessible for exploration. I'm not familiar with the literature of either time period, but I bet the possibilities for exploration fascinated the literary minds at that time to the point of overexertion. New lands! New technologies! More wealth! Exotic doodads to add to the living room to impress other socialites! Adventure! Danger! Retirement!

In this day and age where technology is teaching us how things work and why things work, we no longer really need to depend on myths and legends (although it is obvious we always will) so much as we did in the past. Some people are afraid we're running out of things to explore -- our imaginations are dying, in other words. Now although I disagree completely (we are merely going through a process of reconstruction and stabilization of what we've created with our technological advances), I do think our imaginations are suffering a bit.

You see, we have no frontier to explore on a concrete level. We can't race other wagons across open plains to claim a plot of land for future generations of our families to call their own. For the most part, we have no easily accessible frontiers to explore. There are the murky depths of the oceans, but we are limited by funding and public myopia. It was easier for monarchies to scrounge up the funding to pay for a journey for exploration. And space? Space! Hah! The public's worried about losing a dozen people or so when the population of the earth may be dying off by the millions in the future. They live in the now, not the future -- this is partly because they've never grown up in a world which had infinite boundaries either. We, the people of Earth, have restricted ourselves to this planet, even if we are not restricted by anything else. What keeps us from exploring is ourselves, not money or safety or technology.

Anyway, the new frontiers? They exist, although they're nowhere as grand -- they're basically what only the rich and recreational can explore first. The new frontiers are found in technology: cellular phones, video phones, and most notably, the Internet.

The Internet has developed just like a frontier so far, if you think about it. This makes the future of the Internet quite predictable, as far as generalizations go. There's already been the great Gold Rush as people heard of the opportunities on the 'Net. A lot of people came and they're getting used to living here (an alternate reality?). A lot of people who came for the money are leaving empty-handed as companies become super-saturated with talent. Soon the 'Net will settle down and it will become a legitimate part of society. Then real discussion can be made of the 'Net and its future. That's when we begin to see the true face of the electronic frontier we yearn to explore.

I will let you explore the implications of our new frontiers being virtual, intangible, and fake, as some people will bluntly put it. Will the 'Net help us appreciate reality more? Will it give us the focus to center in on colonizing other planets and space stations? I think it will do something good for us like that. I won't buy into the generic cynicism so common these days. I realize the long-term effects of the Internet. Tell me what you think about all this.

Hehe, I also have a growing human being metaphor for the 'Net, but perhaps I'll tell you that another time. For right now, just enjoy the 'Net before it's no longer the hot item. That time is coming soon, you know. Soon.


 
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