by Pip Morgan
“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” -Vladimir Lenin.
The internet is breaking, this news greeted my ears during the early days of last summer, the man speaking on the radio (the expert), was trying very hard to make the problem intelligible to the layman, explaining the momentary stammers and false starts. Interestingly this is the recent diagnosis that the internet received; at running the risk of over simplifying; it is ‘on the blip’.
All over the world there are anonymous administrators monitoring the waves, and giving it the occasional zap with the equivalent of a defibrillator when servers become overloaded.
What fascinated me, was the idea of something as intangible as the internet, breaking. (Does it have a physical manifestation?) And secondly it being talked about like a malfunction on a toaster.
the idea of something as intangible as the internet, breaking.
The radio program brought starkly to my attention the mind bending rise of the digital age, how in a very short decade the globe became locally accessible. The most far flung reaches mapped to such a degree it could be philosophically argued that a person trawling through Google Maps six hours a day is well travelled. And all of this, taken as mundane, I do not often sit and marvel at my phone. Let us try and inculcate a sense of wonder at our accomplishments, and finally come to rest on the question of what it all means.
It has long been my thinking that we as a species are too immature, not far up enough on the evolutionary ladder to be able to responsibly use our tools. What if we digitise everything? Invest human kinds journey into a technology in which we are unsure of its longevity. Will the historians of the future scratch their heads at this new dark age, a blank spot on the paper. Our existence seems to be underpinned by a poetic irony, and it is hard to stave off the wry smile at the possibility of the age of information being wiped clean.
Imagine Archaeologists digging up artefacts (an ipad) and wondering what kind of devilry powered it. We must not delude ourselves, this is not at the apex of human engineering, we have been here before, civilisations rise and fall, and their technologies still baffle us. Take the Baghdad battery for example, discovered in 1936 the watertight copper cylinders seem to be an ancient ancestor of the Duracell AA dating back at least 1700 years.
We should be ready to be confused, and to enquire with our minds and hearts instead of Google, and finally be willing to accept we are simply one of many pages of the human story.
I do not need to spell out what the majority of the internet is filled with. We live in an age where our technology has exceeded our ability to control its usage, to fix it when it goes wrong, and finally direct it for the betterment of human kind. However its fragility carries the same sentiment as our very own mortality.
we live in an age where our technology has exceeded our ability to control its usage
It doesn’t all spell catastrophe, our mastery of the earth is to be celebrated, yet let us weigh the costs, and mourn the old Gods as they exit centre stage.
We are headed ever closer to the point where our technology exceeds us, the ‘singularity’. Within the next ten years we may see the birth of A.I, there are already a handful of relatively unknown projects that have successfully beaten the Turing test, for instance a simulated thirteen year old boy named Eugene created in America.
The proliferating nature of the virtual world, an ever expanding, over worked Promethean creature that shambles forward weaving a superficial layer to laminate our lives. Have we made the future today? Will Google (Alphabet) succeed in bringing to fruition what ever project flickers in their eyes whenever asked about the future? Will Elon Musk manage to get a band of pioneers to volunteer for a trip colonise Mars? Will we ever stop to wonder about the implications of what we are doing?
All that can be said is that not too much time will tell.
Featured image by Scott White / Gizmodo