Consider the life led by those of us born in the late 1980’s. I was born in 1987. We grew up as kids in a mostly non-digital world. Yes – we played games – but we were in our teens by the time the Internet began to take off, widely diversifying our digital experiences from games to games and just about everything else.
The biggest change, however, wasn’t the Content Explosion of increased bandwidth and more processing power. It was the change from technology being a content-provider for a user to a content-receiver from a user. What the Internet first allowed us to do was to bring content out like never before, and what the devices we eventually had to use the Internet (such as my iPhone) allowed us to do was to become content projectors, not just content receivers.
That is a huge change in our relationship with technology! But wait – it gets better when you start thinking about what the Internet really is.
It isn’t immediately obvious, but give it a bit of thought and you’ll realise that the Internet is the collective human mind. Everything on the plains of the Internet came out of the head of a human being and through their hands into a computer, then through a whole bunch of code inside the computer, to be transmitted through global communications infrastructure (that the Internet physically travels through), only to have the process reversed step-by-step on the other end so you can act as consumer for the supplied content.
The Internet goes back and forth between its users.
What you have in the Internet, then, is a pathway into the individual minds of every connected human being on the planet: some receiving content, some projecting it, some (many, even most?) doing both. But all part of the same network, the Planetary Human Mind.
Noticing this, you start to realise how visceral the emotions related to technology have become: they have become part of us as a species. They are laid out on the Internet.
Ask any engineer and the most important thing, more important than food, is reliable wifi! I just finished reconfiguring my WordPress after a server provider migration, and some of the angst related to mistakes made in the process were akin to pain like no other. Why can’t I just see what I want to see on my screen?!
The State of the Internet, since it is the Planetary Human Mind, is the State of Connected Humanity: if the content itself that we run into or the software that this content plays upon is of low quality, we are pissed. The State of the Internet is poor, like weather is bad: and vice-versa.
So – perhaps we should start studying the weather of the Internet. That requires understanding the core component of the Internet, which I’ll delve into next.
At the Center of the Internet lies a point where the two directions of communication, reception and projection, meet.
This point is, of course, you yourself, as you are where content is ultimately received at, and you are where content is ultimately projected from. Whoever you are and whichever place you might be in. As a result, we can all be thought of as representing a singularity within the Universe of Content Singularities of the Internet.
While the state of the Internet lives on as a whole, it does not always move at each singularity, for we do not always stay connected. If we do not consume and we do not project content, indeed – if we are not connected – our singularity in the Internet does not move. It is frozen in Internet time, as our data signature (sum of things in and things out) has not changed.
You can think about your Internet singularity as the sum of all of your data and everything you have consumed online. The algorithms tracking your usage are constantly increasing the probabilities of different paths that your singularity might take next, forming your potential singularity. This is thought of as the realm of things that might happen to you online the next day, if we are dealing with a daily potential singularity prediction instead of, say, a weekly one.
For example, based on your online behaviour, held within your singularity, it might be pronounced as likely that you should react to an ad, targeted at you by an algorithm, and go online shopping tomorrow. The Force of the Ad’lgorithm pushed your singularity into a direction where online shopping was possible: all it takes is for you to react to the ad the next day, and your singularity path to new shoes has been made real!
There is always built-in potential within your singularity – you just don’t know exactly how your next day’s Internet usage will play out. Nothing new here – just an updated version of you can never know what the future will bring.
Driving the Singularity
Here is where you really have to think. If the world of today pretty much runs on the Internet, and we understand the Internet so well now that we’ve just handed you the keys to your own virtual car – the Singularity, your own holding of the Internet Plains – then perhaps it is good to take some driving lessons.
Driving the Singularity is just like driving a car. Sort of. The main thing is to not go too fast – to not try and cover too much virtual ground on the Internet Plains in too short a while.
But, so, here we go: You can accelerate content into the Internet by projecting it out. You can decelerate content out of the Internet by consuming it in. You can think about the content you’ve pulled into and what you’re pushing out of your Singularity by turning left and right as you go along. Like Tinder: left for bad, right for good.
If your Singularity is veering left, why do feel bad about the content in front of you – is it because you’re receiving it or because you’re projecting it? If you are veering right: what is the best part about the content – watching it or making it?
The point is very simple. If we all drive our Singularities like shit, then the Internet Plains will be a dangerous place. If we learn to drive them well, it’ll be nice – really nice. Perhaps we should pay more attention to how the global population is separated by technological usage and creation capacity.
The Final Point
To watch or to make happen – that is the question asked by many bearing chairs to events where points are made. Is one to sit on the chair and watch the stage or is one to sit on the chair whilst being on the stage? Or is one to forge the chair in the first place?
Think of the Internet as a stage. First, there are those who set up the stage by forging the chair (there is no stage without a chair). Then, there are those who are upon the stage, with chair or not (there must always be chair for audience). Finally, there are those who observe what is going on upon the stage.
Which group do you belong to? Which group do you have a chance to belong to?
Without the skills to act upon the stage – technical capabilities to set up a website or an eCommerce platform, for example – you are relegated to consumer and social media status within the Internet. With the skills of website and eCommerce, you open gateways to higher plains of adventure within the Internet and outside of it (where you go with all the money you’ve made). Knowing how to run an eCommerce website from a technical perspective is the first step to actually running an eCommerce website – just as a brick and mortar retailer has to know a lot about maintaining a retail store from a technical perspective.
The world is changing quickly, and we cannot expect everyone to keep up. We need to learn how to use the modern world, built around the Internet, at a broader scale. Ramping up significantly on technology education has to become a government priority within the next few years to make sure we do not formulate a technological elite that runs the Age of the Internet, an elite unchallenged due to lacking educational investment. Give the engineers scarcity to skyrocket the value of their skills, and I’m sure many will take hold of it.
There is no worse statistic in the European Union right now than that of youth unemployment. This includes Finland, where employment rates have gone up for everyone except those under 34 years of age. I fear that, as technical skill requirements keep going up in an ever-digitalising world, these numbers are bound to stay bad until significant educational investments into the workforce of the digital age is made. The spade in the field of yore has become the keyboard of the coffee shop laptop. A spade was much easier to use, in all honesty.
Hopefully this little piece of philosophy sparks some new thought on the world we live in, and the potential power we all have at our fingertips with modern technology in our faces all the time. We must learn to drive our Singularity, and we must learn to drive well! There is a lot to think about in understanding the human-technology relationship.
The Internet is us, and we are the Internet. Let’s start understanding what that really means for the future.
“Tärkeintä on se, että tiedät mitä tavoittelet maan pinnalla nyt hetkessä ja muutamalla pitemmällä aikajänteellä. Kun jalat ovat tavoitteiden myötä maassa, eivät Internetin kaikennäköisten sisältöjen tuulet pysty horjuttamaan henkistä tasapainoasi yhtä hyvin. Maailmanmelskeiden pahimmat tuulet on täysin hyväksyttävää sivuuttaa, jos niille ei ihan aidosti voi itse yhtikäs mitään. Nauti matkastasi ihmismieleen, Internetin tutkimusmatkalle.”