Friday, June 27, 2014

What is the Next Internet?

What is the next Internet?

Pre-Internet Boom: The dawn of a fully connected human experience. We looked across the globe as if the other side perhaps knew a true answer that would make things fun again, real again, whole again. That's a lie. That's retrospect. It was a time of booming hope. Also a lie. Most people didn't know what the hell it was. Governments, as they always are, were slow to understand and quick to weaponize. We, the people, viewed our perceived limitless freedom as an inalienable right. Kind of like freedom. Were we right to see it that way? Were we naive to believe it was true? Obviously. But what else was there?

The doubleyou doubleyou doubleyou became cheaper and faster and finally, got cats, so everyone jumped on. We created sprawling. uncultivated displays of just how vulgar human beings could be. People joined message boards and ranted about whatever was on their mind. No one knew who they were. Trolls were born and died. The Internet gave rise to the brief generation. We TL;DRed our way through adolescence, only really gloming on to those things that were both succinct and sensational. The Internet was a meritocracy, and yes, good work was (and still is) recognized, but only after and far behind brevity. A new digital age made instant recognizability a skill to be learned. Brandliness became next to godliness.

Now we've gone back into our shells. We've tucked into our little social networks. We look over the wall from time to time and the trolls still roam the Earth, but they've had to adapt. They live on comments boards now, terrorizing our celebrity tabloids and poorly written local news. One of their last great sanctuaries, YouTube, provides food and shelter for today's modern troll. But here, on the inside, we roll up in a soft blanket made of posts and instagrams and tweets and know that we have police. There is no more wild, wild west of the Internet. Of course there are still overgrown wild places. But we let them be so that from time to time, we can venture out and imagine we are free once again. They were the Internet before. Now we've made safe houses. Now we've made towns. The cops patrol, and take peeks inside to make sure we're asleep and not doing what we shouldn't. And sometimes, of course, they need to make an example of someone, but for the most part, they leave us be, to decorate our little digital homes as we see fit.

But what are the trail blazers doing these days? The hackers, the phreakers, the flamers of old? What comes next? (And please don't say "wearables". I don't even care if that is the next thing. Of course it's wearable, it's a shirt. Just because it has an Internet connection doesn't make it more wearable.) What is the next thing that will revolutionize the global community. Because now that we have it (the global community, that is), it isn't going away. Hopefully what started at the Internet, or, really, what started at the first human language, will be a launch pad for a more human conversation. We need to start seeing each other as more alike than anyone ever imagined before. The idea of the other is strong and terrifying. Being completely unable to identify with another person makes them automatically dangerous to us. They feel the exact same way. The one common thing I learn about everyone I meet is that, for better or for worse, the longer I know them, the more I see myself in them. We can and will continue to be able to communicate with a broad and expanding audience. And as we do, we should also remember that we are their audience as well. Even though, as I type, I feel as though I am ranting off into space, this is just part of a conversation. This is just part of our grand discussion, the one that includes the whole world. All I'm doing is waiting for the whole world to answer. Where do we go from here?

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