posted Apr 22, 2001

Inescapably Connected: Life in the Wireless Age Technology & Sociology4/22/2001; 2:17:23 PM 'The network knows where we are. The network is there, all around us, a ghostly electromagnetic presence, pervasive and salient, a global infrastructure taking shape many times faster than the Interstate highway or the world's railroads. This is different from the radio-spectrum Babel that defined the 20th century: the broadcast era. We aren't expected merely to tune in and listen. This network is push and pull, give and take. It broadens our reach. If we lock our keys in the car, the network can unlock it for us from thousands of miles away -- just a few bytes through the ether.'From the last page of the article: 'We don't have to become neurons in the New World brain to feel that we're already gaining something. I have noticed that the mobile-gadget wielder develops the odd sensation of being entitled to all sort of facts. You get in the habit of knowing things, or at least of being able to find out. It's as if there's a permanent mental hotline to the information specialists at the public library. Can't quite identify Bob Dole's running mate in 1996 or that actor up on the screen or a science-fiction story encountered 10 years ago? You get a twitchy feeling that you ought to push a button and pop up the answer.'A couple of months ago, my wife and I lost internet connectivity for a week, while switching cable modem services. I am a computer scientist, my life revolves around computers. She's a zoologist, uses the Internet mostly to check e-mail. Quite different people.The interesting this is we both experienced what James Gleick described. We could live without e-mail. I could live without updating my weblog. (The lack of outlet for writing was a bit more difficult to deal with, but I managed.) I could live without browsing the web, or downloading patches, or all the other myriad of things I do on the Internet. What we both missed most was the ability to casually look things up on the Internet. We heard a medical term we wanted to look up and couldn't until later. We sometimes play along with Who Wants to be a Millionaire and try to find the answer to the questions in less then thirty seconds (practice for Phone-a-Friend... it's virtually impossible unless you get lucky with Google). I felt like a part of my memory was missing, but surprisingly, so did she, considering how much more "connected" you'd think I'd be.It's hard to believe, but the next hundred years really are going to make the last hundred look like a joyride, barring catastrophe...


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