They came and went as they pleased. Even the most experienced of journalists, those that knew what to do when things got hot, were mostly just a burden. But one of them could have been. In his memoir, he describes a visit his second of three to Con Thien in September The visit lasted several hours. As his memoir makes clear, Laurence, after extensive exposure to the war, came to be thoroughly repulsed by it and driven to try to bring its horrible truth to the attention of the American people in whose name it was being fought. Yet reading his memoir, much to my surprise and consternation, touched off a firestorm inside of me, renewing my deep-seated however irrational resentment of journalists.
He could not stop his hands from shaking. A few hours. A few hours?! I spent hours at Con Thien. While I was there, my best friend Gerry Gaffney had his knee shattered by NVA artillery while crossing Death Valley, and it was over three years before I saw or heard from him again; my bunker companions Graves and Wallace were both wounded by shrapnel and spent six weeks in the hospital before being returned to the line. Another scout, Mike Bylinoski, was hit in the head by shrapnel and died on the medevac chopper.
And when I left Con Thien, I and the rest of my battalion did not repair to the air-conditioned bar of the Caravelle Hotel, there to drink gin and tonics and tell green reporters how tough it was at Con Thien; we merely took up new positions south of Quang Tri. Within five weeks, I would be fighting in the streets of Hue.
I would be wounded there by shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade. When he shares with me his sorrow at the death of his dear friend Sam Castan. His sadness at the disappearance of the dashing Sean Flynn and Dana Stone. Professional journalists all. There by choice. You should know that I did not set out to write this essay. An essay, yes, but not this essay. I must tell you also that it embarrasses me to say some of these things. No doubt I demean the professionalism and dedication of at least the better journalists who covered the war by disparaging their experiences, and I demean myself by belittling their genuine hardships and losses.
If I am to be honest, you should also bear in mind that whatever explanations and excuses I might offer for how and why it happened, I volunteered for the Marines and I volunteered for Vietnam, and I did therefore in fact choose to be in the circumstances in which I found myself, no less so than Just or Laurence. It was people like Ward Just and Jack Laurence who showed the war to be the disaster it was.
- Mississippi-Bilder. Erster Band. (German Edition).
- Join the Discussion.
- ruminations on college life Manual.
In consequence, we shall never again in my lifetime see genuine war correspondents genuinely going about the job of finding and reporting the news. All of this is even more remarkable when one considers just how little of the total news coverage from the Vietnam War was in any way negative. For every Ward Just or Jack Lawrence, there were many other journalists who questioned nothing. Moreover, even some of the most acclaimed journalists of the war deluded themselves—and their readers—into thinking they understood the experiences of ordinary soldiers and Marines.
He doubled up, face shaking with mirth at the madness of it all. The second interpretation seems not to have occurred to Just. What soldier or Marine in his right mind would willingly accept someone who could contribute nothing to the common defense while requiring protection and attention? Whose allegiance was not to the men around him, but to a camera and notebook. Who was, in the end—regardless of such worthy ideals and distant notions as upholding the traditions of a free press or keeping the American people informed—just excess baggage.
Just dead weight. This carping, of course, is the year-old kid talking again, the one who was armed to the teeth and scared down to the very marrow of his bones when he should have been sitting in sociology class or splitting a malt with Betty Lou. As you have long since surmised, it is not easy for me to write objectively or with detachment about journalists and the Vietnam War. At the same time, you should know that I have a higher opinion in my head of the better journalists who covered the Vietnam War than I do in my gut. For the best journalists at least, their ultimate loyalty was to the truth, as nearly and accurately as they could determine that truth, and that is as it should be.
If too few journalists in Vietnam could be included among the best, and if the entire system of information gathering and dissemination worked only very imperfectly during the Vietnam War, the coverage of our wars since , as I have already mentioned, has given us all too many reasons to look back upon coverage of the Vietnam War and wish for the good old days.
If, in retrospect, we realize that we can count the most disturbing images of the Vietnam War—the ones that made us feel like the war had been brought right into our living rooms—on one hand a burning Buddhist monk, a Viet Cong suspect getting his brains blown out, a naked girl running down a road , try to conjure a single searing image from Grenada or Panama or Iraq. Both books also offer unusually vivid representations of the war, ranging widely from Saigon streets to jungle trails, from politics to combat. I admired him at the time for making the effort to write about his experiences in Vietnam so honestly and so well that I never forgot his book.
But the books are also very different from each other. Just, who covered the war for The Washington Post from December to May , began working on his book immediately upon leaving Vietnam and published it the following year. Laurence did not first attempt to write his book until , and did not succeed in completing it until another 24 years had passed. It is only a brief snapshot of the war. Grid List. Order By: Top Matches. Kobo ebook.
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Must Love Dragons by Stephanie Rowe. Mass Market Paperback. Out of stock online Not available in stores. Featuring characters from "Date Me, Baby, One More Time," this new, fun, and witty paranormal romance is set in a world where Satan is the world's greatest lover and dragons can find love through online dating. If Ellie Locke dies, so does her sister, so when Ellie is murdered by a water god, it's a no-brainer to cheat death by accepting a deal from a stranger with the power to freeze time…until she discovers he has just set her up as a target for sociopathic serial….
Immortally Cursed Immortally Cursed 1 by S. Ward, 1 New York Times bestselling author "A hilarious underworld romp filled with mayhem, sass, and romance to die for. Noble is so ready to become the magical Guardian of the City of Boston…until she stumbles across the murder-in-process of the current Guardian. Her rescue attempt is a total fail,…. Only a deathbed promise would send Jaimi Hamilton to Rogue Valley for Christmas to track down her brothers, the nine Stockton cowboys who don't even know she exists.
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When a struggling mystery writer's accidental house swap sends her to the ranch of a sexy bull rider with a murderer on his tail, the sassy city girl finds herself in the middle of a high stakes romantic murder mystery where it's her own life and heart at risk. With the Internet, we are returning to this practice of shared community. Sure, with "the Net," I more easily and rapidly acquire information than in the old days.
I can more easily sustain connections with colleagues, friends and family. I no longer take long walks to the post office to mail manuscripts. I don't pound on typewriter keys all day, or use "white-out. And sometimes I find it easier to express complex or difficult feelings via email than in person or on the phone.
My values haven't altered. I have just as much data to organize. My energy level is just the same. My workload has probably increased. And colleagues want what they want from me even faster. But the way I think? I don't think any harder, faster, longer, or more effectively than I did before I bought my first computer in In fact, the rise of the Internet only reminds me of how little any of us have changed since the modern human brain evolved more than 35, years ago.
With the Internet, we just have a much louder megaphone with which to scream who we really are. Before the Internet, I made more trips to the library and more phone calls. I read more books and my point of view was narrower and less informed. I walked more, biked more, hiked more, and played more. I made love more often. The seductive online sages, scholars, and muses that joyfully take my curious mind where ever it needs to go, where ever it can imagine going, whenever it wants, are beguiling. All my beloved screens offer infinite, charming, playful, powerful, informative, social windows into global human experience.
The Internet, the online virtual universe, is my jungle gym and I swing from bar to bar: learning about: how writing can be either isolating or social; DIY Drones unmanned aerial vehicles at a Maker Faire; where to find a quantified self meetup; or how to make Sach moan sngo num pachok. I can use image search to look up hope or success or play. I can find a video on virtually anything; I learned how to safely open a young Thai coconut from this Internet of wonder.
As I stare out my window, at the unusually beautiful Seattle weather, I realize, I haven't been out to walk yet today — sweet Internet juices still dripping down my chin. I'll mind the clock now, so I can emerge back into the physical world. The Internet supports my thinking and the physical world supports that, as well as, rich sensing and feeling experiences.
It's no accident we're a culture increasingly obsessed with the Food Network and Farmer's Markets — they engage our senses and bring us together with others. How has the Internet changed my thinking? The more I've loved and known it, the clearer the contrast, the more intense the tension between a physical life and a virtual life.
The Internet stole my body, now a lifeless form hunched in front of a glowing screen. My senses dulled as my greedy mind became one with the global brain we call the Internet.
I am confident that I can find out about nearly anything online and also confident that in my time offline, I can be more fully alive. The only tool I've found for this balancing act is intention. The sense of contrast between my online and offline lives has turned me back toward prizing the pleasures of the physical world. I now move with more resolve between each of these worlds, choosing one, then the other — surrendering neither.
What struck me was the complete absence of technology. No telephone, e-mail, or other communication facilitators. Nothing could interrupt my thoughts. Technology could be accessed outside the offices whenever one wished, but it was not allowed to enter through the door at its own will. This protective belt was deliberately designed to make sure that scholars had time to think, and to think deeply.
In the meantime, the Center, like other institutions, has surrendered to technology. Today, people's minds are in a state of constant alert, waiting for the next e-mail, the next SMS, as if these will deliver the final, earth-shattering insight. I find it surprising that scholars in the "thinking profession" would so easily let their attention be controlled from the outside, minute by minute, just like letting a cell phone interrupt a good conversation.
Were messages to pop up on my screen every second, I would not be able to think straight. Maintaining the Center's spirit, I check my email only once a day, and keep my cell phone switched off unless I make a call. An hour or two without interruption are heaven for me. But the Internet can be used in an active rather than a reactive way, that is, not letting it determine how long we can think and when we have to stop. The question is, does an active use of the Internet change our way of thinking? I believe so. The Internet shifts our cognitive functions from searching for information inside the mind towards searching outside the mind.
It is not the first technology to do so. Consider the invention that changed human mental life more than anything else: writing, and subsequently, the printing press. Writing made analysis possible; with writing, one can compare texts, which is difficult in an oral tradition. But writing makes long-term memory less important than it once was, and schools have largely replaced the art of memorization by training in reading and writing.
Most of us can no longer memorize hour-long folktales and songs as in an oral tradition. The average modern mind has a poorly trained long-term memory, forgets rather quickly, and searches for information more in outside sources such as books instead inside memory. The Internet has amplified this trend of shifting knowledge from the inside to the outside, and taught us new strategies for finding what one wants using search machines.
This is not to say that before writing, the printing press, and the Internet, our minds did not have the ability to retrieve information from outside sources. But these sources were other people, and the skills were social, such as the art of persuasion and conversation. The Internet is essentially a huge storage room of information, and we are in the process of outsourcing information storage and retrieval from mind to computer, just as many of us have already outsourced the ability of doing mental arithmetic to the pocket calculator.
We may loose some skills in this process, such as the ability to concentrate over an extended period of time and storing large amounts of information in long-term memory, but the Internet is also teaching us new skills for accessing information. It is important to realize that mentality and technology are one extended system. The Internet is a kind of collective memory, to which our minds will adapt until a new technology eventually replaces it.
Then we will begin outsourcing other cognitive abilities, and hopefully, learn new ones. The Internet has not so much changed my thinking as it has expanded my preexisting artistic sensibility. Like many collagist, I cobble together quilts of disparate information that rely on uncanny juxtapositions to create new meaning. Cut and paste has always been the way I think. I used to spend days in bookstores and libraries searching for raw images and information to be reorganized and repurposed into my pictures. Now I sit in front of my computer and grab them out of the Internet hive mind that expands endlessly outwards, a giant, evolving global collage that participants edit to conform to their needs and sensibilities.
This process of hunting and capturing reduces me to a pair of hungry eyes and two thinking hands. My whole body is for later, for when I build my pictures analog-style. When the image is finally assembled, it sings in the chorus of a million authors. I am the conductor and through me, this collective hums. The electricity overwhelms me. I'm no longer a rugged individualist.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the apostles of the coming digital age predicted the obsolescence of unique art objects. They forgot that some once believed that the emergence of photography would render paintings useless. As we now know, the emergence of photography actually helped free artists from the need to describe the world realistically, and this helped revivify painting and jumpstart modernism. From then on, artists could do anything they wanted, and they did. Photography caused all hell to break loose, and that hell and some new ones are now fighting it out in an info-cloud.
Now I can do more than I ever thought I wanted. The Internet has given me a new paintbrush that I can use towards the making of singular things. In this landscape of endless copies, a real thing, made by a person, with its repository of the creator's time and it's tactility, scale and surface quality is almost startling in its strangeness. Growing up in the land of theme parks, I became aware at an early age that the unreal is the realist thing there is. Waterfalls without pumps and electricity? A sublime without LSD? Who are you kidding?
Experiencing all this made me want to make real things about my unreal world. Now I can capture banal elements of the shimmering digital mirage and fix them into place where they can become strange again. Oh real, tangible things, is my love for you proof of my own obsolescence? I'm filled with nostalgia for the dying objects of the old economy. Over the years, I would occasionally draw on top of handmade, unique photograms. Now, the kind of photo paper that can withstand my scribbling has become extinct. I've also sporadically used the front page of the New York Times as a backdrop for collage and paint interventions.
How long will it be before it too is no longer available? Still, vinyl refuses to die. Maybe there is hope. I used to be jealous of cultural forms that existed through an economy of copies. Books, newspapers, magazines, films and recordings offered a democratic way for consumers to pony up a tiny chunk of money that helped the author or enterprise survive and sometimes even prosper. Now copies are worth even less than the paper they're not printed on.
Despite the new economy, unique art objects seem to have maintained a semblance of monetary value. For the time being at least. While a few patrons have always supported a few artists, most art is still not worth much. In the future, I expect that we'll all be poor, but for the time being, value is now given to living humans doing real things, or real things made by living humans.
Well, all living humans except for poets. No one said the Internet was fair. I'm an information grazer. I've always felt comfortable with skidding across vast plains of data, connecting the dots wherever it feels right. The Internet mirrors the cross connectivity of my own mind — a mind, it should be noted, that has been hybridized by drugs and other consciousness altering activities. Aldous Huxley famously posited that to enable us to live, the brain and nervous system eliminates unessential information from the totality of our minds. Psychedelics, on the other hand, overwhelm our minds with the fullness of the world.
In other words, information overload is just another way of being psychedelic. I can live with this. All good art experiences are inherently psychoactive. Art modifies perception and offers either a window or a mirror. Sometimes, if we're lucky, it does it all at the same time. Huxley tells us that our minds are constantly editing down the world into manageable bits. The problem with the Internet is that the menu has gotten too big, too unwieldy and too full of lies and stupidity.
Who can apprehend or trust it? For instance, if I search for "naked lady" I come up with 16,, items in 0. Somewhere lies the perfect naked lady, but where is she? I get cranky and impatient.
- Die Getreideernte: Auf dem Bauernhof (German Edition).
- Brians Last Ride.
- Ms. Representation: Women writing women- Cinema express!
- Self Confidence for Women?
- ISO 9001:2008 for Small Businesses.
- Arguably: Selected Essays by Christopher Hitchens.
- The Atheists Way: Living Well Without Gods!
- My Life In The Ghost Of Planets: The Story Of A CBGB Almost-Was – A Single Notes Book.
- Self Confidence for Women.
- Donizetti: Vocal Collection for Low Voice.
I know she's there somewhere and I want her now. I've become habituated to getting everything right away. I'm the editor who thinks he's in control, but my fingers on a keyboard have a tough time finding a few trees in this haystack of needles. Wherever I settle, I always suspect a better choice is just around the corner.
It is now a staple of scientific fantasy, or nightmare, to envision that human minds will one day be uploaded onto a vast computer network like the Internet. While I am agnostic about whether we will ever break the neural code, allowing our inner lives to be read out as a series of bits, I notice that the prophesied upload is slowly occurring in my own case. For instance, the other day I recalled a famous passage from Adam Smith that I wanted to cite: something about an earthquake in China. But I have thousands of books spread throughout my house, and they are badly organized. I recently spent an hour looking for a title, and then another skimming its text, only to discover that it wasn't the book I had wanted in the first place.
Why not just type the words "adam smith china earthquake" into Google? Mission accomplished. Of course, more or less everyone has come to depend on the Internet in this way. Increasingly, however, I rely on Google to recall my own thoughts. Being lazy, I am prone to cannibalizing my work: something said in a lecture will get plowed into an op-ed; the op-ed will later be absorbed into a book; snippets from the book may get spoken in another lecture.
This process will occasionally leave me wondering just how and where and to what shameful extent I have plagiarized myself. Once again, the gates of memory swing not from my own medial temporal lobes but from a computer cluster far away, presumably where the rent is lower. This migration to the Internet now includes my emotional life. For instance, I occasionally engage in public debates and panel discussions where I am pitted against some over-, under-, or mis-educated antagonist.
Which view is closer to reality? In any case, it is the only one that will endure. Increasingly, I develop relationships with other scientists and writers that exist entirely online. Jerry Coyne and I just met for the first time in a taxi in Mexico. But this was after having traded hundreds of emails. Almost every sentence we have ever exchanged exists in my Sent Folder.
Our entire relationship is, therefore, searchable. I have many other friends and mentors who exist for me in this way, primarily as email correspondents. This has changed my sense of community profoundly. There are people I have never met who have a better understanding of what I will be thinking tomorrow than some of my closest friends do. And there are surprises to be had in reviewing this digital correspondence.
I recently did a search of my Sent Folder for the phrase "Barack Obama" and discovered that someone wrote to me in to say that he intended to give a copy of my first book to his dear friend, Barack Obama. Why didn't I remember this exchange? Because, at the time, I had no idea who Barack Obama was. Searching my bit stream, I am reminded not only of what I used to know, but of what I never properly understood.
I am by no means infatuated with computers. I do not belong to any social networking sites; I do not tweet yet ; and I do not post images to Flickr. But even in my case, an honest response to the Delphic admonition "know thyself" already requires an Internet search. When you're on a plane, watching the cars below; the blinking, moving workings of a city, it's easy to believe that everything is connected, just moving parts in the same system. If you're one of the individual drivers on the ground, driving your car from B to A, the perspective is, of course, different.
The individual driver feels very much like an individual, car to match your personality, on way to your chosen destination.
The driver never feels like a moving dot in a row of a very large number of other moving dots. The Internet sometimes makes me suspect that I'm that driver. Having the information from so many disparate systems merged often invisibly , is steering my behavior into all kinds of paths, which I can only hope are beneficial. The visible connectedness through the Web has changed, maybe not how I think, but has increased the number of people whose thoughts are in my head.
Good or bad, this new level of connectedness sometimes gives me the feeling that if I could only be picked up a few feet over ground, what I would see, is an ant hill. All the ants, looking so different and special up close, seem suspiciously alike from this height. This new tool for connections has made more ants available every time I need to carry a branch, just as there are more ants in the way when I want to get in with the picnic basket.
But, as a larger variety of thoughts and images pass by, as I can search a thought and see the number of people who have had the same thought before me — as more and more systems talk to each other and take care of all kinds of logistics, I do think that this level of connectedness pushed us — beneficially — towards both the original and the local. We can go original, either in creation or curation, and, if good, carve a new, little path in the anthill — or we can copy one of all the things out there and bring it home to our local group. Some ants manage to be original enough to benefit the whole anthill.
But other ants can copy and modify the good stuff and bring it home. And in this marching back and forth, trying to get things done, communicate, make sense of things, I see myself not looking to leaders, but to curators who can efficiently signal where to find the good stuff. What is made accessible to me through the Internet might not be changing how I think, but it does some of my thinking for me.
And above all, the Internet is changing how I see myself. As real world activity and connections continue to be what matters most to me, the Internet, with its ability to record my behavior, is making it clearer that I am, in thought and in action, the sum of the thoughts and actions of other people to a greater extent then I have realized. In order to be a scientist, one must first climb the body of the giant, i. Reading the published work of other scientists is therefore the most fundamental activity that we perform as academics. The Internet is changing not just the way we use the giant, but also how the giant grows with the accretion of new knowledge.
There are two ways in which scientists learn about relevant literature. One is to browse new publications, another is when they get cited by other papers. The former is more common in fast moving fields like medicine and physics, but the second is widespread in my own field of ecology, where the longevity of most research papers judged by the half-life of citation decay is in excess of a decade. The Internet has far-reaching consequences for both modes of knowledge acquisition. Reading new publications has been revolutionised by services that alert us via email whenever new papers are published in a defined topic area.
This means it's no longer necessary to spend time in the library looking though tables of contents TOC. Although this has obvious benefits in efficiency, there is a cost in terms of the breadth of articles we are likely to consume. In the old days, one would glance at all the titles and perhaps most of the abstracts in a particular journal issue. For example, the current issue of the journal Ecology contains articles on bacteria, plants, insects, fish and birds, covering a wide range of research topics, both theoretical and empirical.
Electronic TOC alerts mean that most researchers encounter only articles in their own area of specialism and are therefore much less likely to come across new and potentially transformative ideas. There is a paradox here: the Internet offers the potential to access the full spectrum of research papers, but actually results in a narrowing of focus.
The same phenomenon has been observed in online social networks, which are no more socially and ethnically heterogeneous than real ones. The Internet revolution has equally profound consequences for the second mode of knowledge acquisition. In the old days, I would read an article from start to finish and make a list of relevant citations to fetch from the library. Nowadays, the ubiquity of electronic articles in portable document format PDFs means I can get the cited article on screen in just a few clicks. There's no longer any need to move from my desk, or even to finish one article before going on to the next.
Often when reading a PDF, I simply scan the text in search of a key assertion or statement. This changes the very nature of scientific publications and the way they are used. Articles become known through citation for a single contribution to knowledge: either a new method or a surprising result, but never both. The changes to scientists' reading habits due to the Internet are similar to the distinction between grazing and browsing animals. Grazers like cattle consume grass in bulk during intensive feeding bouts.
Most grass is not especially nutritious and is regurgitated later as the animals sit reflectively and chew the cud. Bulk feeding and rumination means that cattle are large and ungainly creatures. By contrast, browsers like deer are much more picky in the plants they eat and select only the greenest shoots. This means that deer consume smaller quantities of food than cattle, but are constantly on the move and spend much less time at rest. Thus, the modern Internet-era scientist may be mentally nimble as the deer is physically nimble, but lacks time for cattle-like rumination.
The Internet has undoubtedly brought great benefits to us all. At the same time, the Internet make us more specialised and compartmentalised in the kinds of knowledge we access and absorb. This is a problem is an age where interdisciplinary solutions are required to solve the complex and sometimes conflicting problems of climate change, poverty, disease and biodiversity loss. In this setting, the role of informal fora for cross-disciplinary engagement becomes even more important.
Here it's harder to see the Internet as a solution because the chat room can never provide the chance encounters, nor replicate the convivial cosiness, of an old-fashioned low-tech coffee room. One look the 'most active search terms', called 'Google Zeitgeist', or the current 'TV ratings winners', or MTV's 'top ten musical artists' and I get the uncanny feeling of being surrounded by an alien race of humanoids. And what are they doing with these glorious resources? A highly intense love-hate relationship of an active mind towards the teeming lemming millions surrounding and suffocating him. Now enter: the Web.
Has the Internet changed my own thinking? Dramatically so. Long ago I stopped expecting 'the world as such' and 'society as a whole' to provide solutions for me on a silver plate. Being there during the very early days of computing and the Net, I cannot help but compare the vision, the hope and the theory with the reality we find ourselves in decades later. Clicking it you get: "Now! Find the best deals on hemorrhoids! Brockman's mail arrived Watching an unbelievably beautiful video of Hubble probing the edge of space: unfathomable But that's not an acceptable answer.
It is all too easy to look away and cling to our personal list of "fave cool stuff" while the seams are showing, the veneer is loose. The Internet brings the promise of connecting it all. Of course there are many positive counter examples. I cling to them daily. Telling and charming. In my sixth decade now, I always had a wholehearted passion for new horizons, searching out the newest tools possible. I got into synthesizers in the late sixties to create sounds no one had heard before, then into computer graphics in the seventies to make images no one had ever seen.
Last decade I spent cocooned, quietly thinking about approaches, solutions, ideas. There is much to say, which, however, the margin is not large enough to contain. The Net will not reach its true potential in my little lifetime. But it surely has influenced the thinking in my lifetime like nothing else ever has.
Ruminations: Life after Academia
It was and from his home in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley, he was connected via a terminal and a baud modem to Human Nets, a lively virtual community that explored the impact of technology on society. It opened a window for me into an unruly cyberworld that at first seemed to be, to paraphrase the words of computer music researcher and composer John Chowning, a "Socratean Abode.
Silly me. I should have known better. Science fiction writers were always the best social scientists and in describing the dystopian nature of the Net they were again right on target. This gradually dawned on me during the s, driven home with particular force by the Kevin Mitnick affair. By putting every human on the planet directly in contact with every other, the Net opened a Pandora's Box of nastiness. Indeed, while it was true that the Net skipped lightly across national boundaries, the demise of localism didn't automatically herald the arrival of a superior cyberworld.
It simply accentuated and accelerated both the good and the bad, in effect becoming a mirror for all the world's fantasies and foibles. Welcome to a bleak Bladerunner-esque world dominated by Russian, Ukrainian, Nigerian and American cyber-mobsters in which our every motion and movement is surveilled by a chorus of Big and Little Brothers. Not only have I been transformed into an Internet pessimist, but recently the Net has begun to feel downright spooky. Not to be anthropomorphic but doesn't the Net seem to have a mind of its own?
We've moved deeply into a world where it is leaching value from virtually every traditional institution in the name of some borg-like future. Will we all be assimilated, or have we been already? Stop me! That was The Matrix wasn't it? The more you give, the more you get. The more you share, the more they care. The more you dare, the more is there for you. Dare, care and share. The Internet has become the engine of gift economy and cooperation.
The simple insight that there is so much more knowledge, data and wisdom out there than I can ever attend in a lifetime, shows me that life is not about collecting information into a depot of books, theorems, rote memories or titles. Life is about sharing with others what you have. Use it, share it, pick it when you need it. There is plenty out there. In ecology, the waste of one organism is the food of another. Plants produce oxygen as a waste product — animals need it to live. We produce carbon dioxide as waste — and the plants enjoy it. To live is to be able to share your waste.
Human civilization seems to have been forgetting that through centuries of building and isolating waste depots and by exploiting limited resources. Now, we start learning that it is all about flows. Matter, energy, information, social links. They all flow through us. We share them with each other and all other inhabitants of this planet. The climate problem show us what happens if we ignore that renewable flows are the real stuff while depots and fortresses are illusions in the long run. The Internet makes us think in the right way: Pass it on, let it go, let it flow.
Thinking is renewed. Now we only need to change the way we act. Consciously, I still use the same scientific training that was drummed into me as an undergraduate and graduate student in theoretical chemistry, even when it comes to evaluating aspects of my daily life: Based on a certain preliminary amount of information, I develop a hypothesis and try to refine it so that it differs from any competing equally plausible hypotheses; I test the hypothesis; if it is proven true, I rest my case within the limits of that hypothesis, accepting that I may have solved only one piece of a puzzle; if it is proven false, I revise and repeat the procedure.
Maybe the Internet has given me more things to think about, but that doesn't fundamentally change the way I think. And, no, I'm not sidestepping the question, because until the Internet actually rewires my brain, it won't change my processing abilities. Of course, such rewiring may be in the offing, and quite possibly sooner than we expect, but that's not yet the case. Did I need to set up a symposium for an international congress?
Just a few emails and all was complete. Did I need an obscure reference or that last bit of data for the next day's powerpoint presentation while in an airport lounge, whether in Berlin or Beijing, Sydney or Saltzburg? Did I need a colleague's input on a tricky problem or to provide the same service myself?
Even when it came to forgetting a birthday or anniversary and needing to research and send a gift somewhere in the world? A close friend and colleague moves to Australia? No problem staying in touch anymore. But did all this change the way I think? It may have changed the way I work, because what changed were various limitations on the types of information that were accessible within certain logistical boundaries, but my actual thought processes didn't alter. My relationship with the Internet began to feel oppressive, overly demanding of my time and energy. The time saved and the efficiencies achieved began to backfire.
I no longer had the luxury of recharging my brain by observing nature during that walk to the library, or by reading a novel while at that airport lounge. Emails that supplanted telephone calls were sometimes misunderstood, because vocal modulations were missing.
The lit search I performed on the supposedly infinitely large data base failed to bring up that reference I needed and knew existed, because I read it a decade ago but didn't save it for my files because I figured I could always bring it up again. This Internet relationship was supposed to enable all of my needs to be met; how did it instead become the source of endless demands? How did it end up draining away so much time and energy? The Internet seemed to have given me a case of Attention Deficit Disorder, but did it really change the way I think, or just made it more difficult have the time to think?
Most likely the latter, because judicious use of the "off" button allowed a return to normalcy. Of course, maybe it is just this dogmatic approach that prevents the Internet from changing the way that I think.