Subjects — I
It’s what I always wanted — to be in touch with a community of ideas like this.…There’s something thrilling about the internet.…It almost doesn’t matter what anyone says. It’s more the thrill of knowing you’re in touch with people laterally, rather than through a filter of some kind.
The ides of surfing the net — I don’t know who called it that — it’s more like slogging through the net.
Information on the Internet is subject to the same rules and regulations as conversation at a bar.
We’ve now invented the ultimate tool for keeping the sads busy: the internet. But behind all the techno-babble about cyberspace and hyper-text and virtual worlds, behind all the promises of total immersion in a parallel universe, there’s a boring reality: a bunch of screeching modems, lost jobs, and boring computer-nerds getting all excited over a glorified telephone exchange. I’m sick of the spurious claims devotees make for the internet, and I’m particularly sick of the internerds.
Of the Internet:
It’s like the flu — it just spreads like crazy.
Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts…. A graphic representation of data abstracted from banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding into the distance….
— Neuromancer, p. 51, The Berkeley Publishing Group, 1984
The ’Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. It needs a name, and, to coin one at random, “memex” will do. A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory.
The owner of the memex, let us say, is interested in the origin and properties of the bow and arrow. Specifically he is studying why the short Turkish bow was apparently superior to the English long bow in the skirmishes of the Crusades. He has dozens of possibly pertinent books and articles in his memex. First he runs through an encyclopedia, finds an interesting but sketchy article, leaves it projected. Next, in a history, he finds another pertinent item, and ties the two together. Thus he goes, building a trail of many items. Occasionally he inserts a comment of his own, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item. When it becomes evident that the elastic properties of available materials had a great deal to do with the bow, he branches off on a side trail which takes him through textbooks on elasticity and tables of physical constants. He inserts a page of longhand analysis of his own. Thus he builds a trail of his interest through the maze of materials available to him.
And his trails do not fade.
— The Atlantic Monthly, “As We May Think”, July 1945
Just as we could have rode into the sunset, along came the Internet, and it tripled the significance of the PC.
The Internet is the most powerful stupidity amplifier ever invented. It’s like television without the television part.