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Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Not exactly an iPhone ...

On a rainy Friday in Seychelles I get a call from Mexico informing me that the Chinese calendar will be bringing me a year of good luck starting on the 3rd of February, prompting me to share that possible reprieve with friends in the US, England, Germany, Italy and South Africa.

Yep. Within about 30 minutes eight countries were buzzing about my radar, and that was without going anywhere near facebook.

It never ceases to amaze me how this world of ours has gone so tiny, yet stays so bloody big. Yeah, sure I can conference call … for free … with a half dozen people in as many countries when effectively connected, and that’s wonderful, but getting up-close and personal with anyone off this rock? That’s not so simple, is it?

It wasn’t long ago the Internet and its wonders were beyond the scope, but within a few short years it’s more common in my world that peeps have it than don’t. Not only can we now communicate globally easily and far more cheaply than in the days it took a pricy phone call to reach out and touch someone, we now have Internet ON our phones. Just take a moment to imagine how shocked we would have been had we been told ten years ago this would be at our fingertips? And with a touch screen, yet!

Yes, we’ve seen HUGE changes, but at the same time so much stays the same.

Ease of communication has leapt and bounded, but transport? Not so much.

It was 40-some years ago James T. Kirk and Co. were stepping up for getting around of the dissolve/stick-together-somewhere-else sort, but the only real change in how we’re able to move about that’s happened over all those decades is the size of the planes that cram us in, then subject us to endless hours of torture.

Oh! You can now make calls from your own phone on some airliners and connect to the Internet, but that seems just rubbing it in if you ask me.

I’ve been waiting for that Beamy-uppy thingy ever since I moved halfway around the world from my roots and shoots, but in vain.

So, what is it with all the sticking-to-the-planes deal? I admit my lack of science-y expertise may be tricking me into thinking it should be an easier row to hoe, but since I was equally clueless on the WorldWideWeb, I’m in no mood to allow any excuses.

Look at it this way …

The first telephone … the precursor to our modern communication wonders … was patented in 1876. The first car … the beginning of travel that didn’t require draught animals … came along about 200 years EARLIER, and the first gasoline engine cranked over almost in sync with the phone.

An automobile powered by his own four-stroke cycle gasoline engine was built in Mannheim, Germany by Karl Benz in 1885, and granted a patent in January of the following year under the auspices of his major company, Benz & Cie., which was founded in 1883. It was an integral design, without the adaptation of other existing components, and included several new technological elements to create a new concept. He began to sell his production vehicles in 1888.
A photograph of the original Benz Patent-Motorwagen, first built in 1885 and awarded the patent for the concept

In 1879, Benz was granted a patent for his first engine, which had been designed in 1878. Many of his other inventions made the use of the internal combustion engine feasible for powering a vehicle.

I know there’s a huge difference between the internal combustion engine and the Star Trek transporter, but so is there between the gadget you see Alex G. Bell mouthing into in the photo above and instantaneous video calls around the planet.

“I signed aboard this ship to practice medicine, not to have my atoms scattered back and forth across space by this gadget.” ~ Dr. McCoy

Yeah, yeah … it’s a bit of a scary concept, but if Bones could get over it, anyone can.

So … get on the stick, folks. I hate flying, always get a fuckin’ cold when I’ve had to freeze my ass off for 12+ hours and ingest the breath of 250 other people who are as just as uncomfortable as I am, and I don’t like the food.

But …

If 2011 actually IS my year … me being a metal rabbit and this being the year of the rabbit and all … I’m not wasting any of the luck that may come my way on R&D for rapid-er transit.

Nope.

I’ll be keeping all that for health, wealth and wisdom for me and mine, thankyouverymuch. And if that puts my ass on planes, so be it.

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Is connectivity making people smarter?

I’m not talking about those with the inclination to investigate every innovation, develop platforms for interaction or keep track of what humanity is up to, although I do wonder what Julian Assange might have done with his smarts if the Internet didn’t exist and how many other brilliant minds might have gone to seed in the days before sitting around in your bedroom in smelly sweats for days on end allowed one to reach into the guts of power of all sorts.

No, I’m thinking about the reasonably bright lot for whom ease of access to information, one-click research and breakfasting on RSS feeds just might be growing brain cells or teaching the ones already there to shake hands more often.

Historically, availability of info has been proven to do just that, and along with the process of getting smarter shit happens, as this WSJ article illustrates:

As Gutenberg’s press spread through Europe, the Bible was translated into local languages, enabling direct encounters with the text; this was accompanied by a flood of contemporary literature, most of it mediocre. Vulgar versions of the Bible and distracting secular writings fueled religious unrest and civic confusion, leading to claims that the printing press, if not controlled, would lead to chaos and the dismemberment of European intellectual life.

These claims were, of course, correct. Print fueled the Protestant Reformation, which did indeed destroy the Church’s pan-European hold on intellectual life. What the 16th-century foes of print didn’t imagine—couldn’t imagine—was what followed: We built new norms around newly abundant and contemporary literature. Novels, newspapers, scientific journals, the separation of fiction and non-fiction, all of these innovations were created during the collapse of the scribal system, and all had the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, the intellectual range and output of society.

I started blogging back in 2003 on a professional site that eventually saw my posts getting over 100,000 hits a month. It was new to a lot of people then, all this Internet interaction, but the site was topic-specific … adoption … and many came to it looking for information tailored to their issues, questions and needs. Approaching what was to many a new way of gaining knowledge with an agenda encouraged participation, and a jump into one pool of info prompted leaps into others.

In pursuit of fodder, I joined a bunch of groups … Yahoo first, then Google offered forums for exchange, and the give-and-take was often lively after people overcame their original shyness.

Most new members announced themselves as such, apologizing in advance for any blunders as they tiptoed into discussions, but soon gained confidence not only with the technology, but also in their ability to convey meaning through writing their thoughts.

Unlike in the time when written material was often a one-side lecture and responses took days or weeks to lob the discussion ball back over the net, hot debates started happening in real time with only seconds passing between one point and the next.

People not only began to type faster, they learned to frame thoughts in ways that could be typed fast and understood. Without the benefit of vocal tone, eye contact and body language, words needed to be well chosen and presented if one had any hope of having meaning comprehended by the target audience.

Online groups led to social networking, and chatting and typing got even faster. People grew beyond the fear of putting thoughts in writing … an ‘engraving in stone’ idea that had some concerned for a while about the written word … and began to converse comfortably with their fingers.

The global scope gets people from widely-flung countries and cultures talking, an opportunity that serves to extend the range of thought at the same time it encourages us to consider people geographically distant to feel like neighbors chatting over the back fence. With online translators … as crap as they are … we can even communicate across language divides.

Sure, a lot of what goes back-and-forth is inconsequential bollocks … flirty bullshit, schmooze, schmaltz and preaching to the choir … but it is back-and-forth, active, so has more likelihood of developing into something of interest than sitting in front of the TV. For those who think inconsequential bollocks is what it’s all about ….

The decade the pessimists want to return us to is the 1980s, the last period before society had any significant digital freedoms. Despite frequent genuflection to European novels, we actually spent a lot more time watching “Diff’rent Strokes” than reading Proust, prior to the Internet’s spread. The Net, in fact, restores reading and writing as central activities in our culture.

On a personal level all this connectivity has made life on a tiny island vastly more interesting, and, yes, it has made me smarter. Friends from all over the world share ideas and information freely and easily, so my perspective is wider. I can read news from just about anywhere, from the Red Bluff Daily to Al Jazeera, and although I often feel the overload I can click from link to link to link and examine any issue. When I have a question about anything I can find an answer … or 1,000.

Sure, I can also watch Bullwinkle pull a rabbit out of a hat … oops, wrong hat … and read all the stupid shit that floats, but even that keeps my brain working.

There is no going back … I hope, although today’s news on the ramping up of what is rapidly evolving into a war has me worried that we’re sure to see serious attacks designed to rein in freedom of information.

Those of us with Internet access … even me with my fucking unreliable Kokonet connection … have grown accustomed the routine of getting a bit smarter, or at least better informed, every day, and as more people connect the world gets smaller and smarter, both through reference sources and personal contacts previously impossible.

For example, I have a facebook friend in Niger, so can not only Wiki the country for info, I can write to my pal with questions on day-to-day living, his take on politics and events and a weather report.

When news happens … the recent tragedy in Cambodia comes to mind … it’s not difficult to get a first-hand account from someone there.

The option we have now of removing or ignoring filters placed by those with an agenda we may not see makes it possible to get closer to the bottom of any issue of interest, and as we get better at learning how to use our ‘connections’ to plumb depths we expand the concept of our place in the world.

Of course, there is a downside …

It’s a lot harder to find an excuse to be stupid.

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