Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Changing the Future

I read some interesting passages from the book ‘This will change everything.’ The work contains short essays from a host of famous and so-called visionary people. The people I recognized where Nicolas Taleb, Alan Alda and Brian Eno. It’s an eclectic mix of persons from different backgrounds and experiences. I like the piece by Nicolas Taleb which I commented about in the last blog entry. There are some articles that I liked but most were difficult to follow. There was one about brain health and seems to follow the point of view and line of work of the Amen Clinics. Some works were pretty visionary that I could not appreciate. Generally, most essays where thought provoking with new ideas and provide a glimpse of the future.

There is one article that I liked regarding the use of the Internet as one’s external memory. Most people now store all sort of things like photos and video that one’s mind has a helper to keep track of all these things. Similarly, one keeps a blog to remember past thoughts, pictures of places where one has been to; a virtual library of books read and even a site to store stuff. So one’s identity is kept in cyber space because it is much easier than keeping everything in mind or storing all this mental stuff off line. The Internet is now easily accessible so one often looks to the Internet to remember times past. Looks like a good sequel to Marcel Proust work ‘Remembrance of Things Past.’ Now one’s history is stored in the Internet to free one’s brain of memories and focus on more important work.

The writer cautions people who make the mistake of confusing storage to memory. But blogs and other such medium is not just storage and in fact serve as one’s other identity. An identity that can exist on its own and thrive independently of its creator (viral videos, for example). In a social network, people respond to this ethereal identity as if it was a different person. Close relatives write to this online identity, commenting on photos and videos and blog posts. Adverts this online presence earn money on its own, become famous and get linked or quoted in other sites like Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. Soon blogs are downloaded to e-readers or mobile phones to be enjoyed by other people without the knowledge of the blogger himself. So it does not become just a storage medium but an ethereal presence lurking in cyberspace; continuing to exit even if its creator has left earthly existence.

I can now understand the popularity of Second Life because the Internet is a second life where can live like a separate virtual being. It’s another country existing in some sort of mysterious twilight zone accessible only via computers. But now the gateway is increasing; aside from normal computers but also mobile phones or devices, iPads, television and special gizmo like Sony Dash. The doorway to this ethereal world is getting wider and wider. How does one live in this future where 2 distinct realities try to exist side by side? Such devices now merge one’s normal life and one’s cyber life. Suppose if the cyber life is suddenly not accessible due to some disaster like a hurricane or nuclear war. Can one still be able to function normally?

Movies like ‘Inception’ or the Matrix trilogy try to examine these dual worlds, where the actors try to determine what the real world is. Conflicts and even death occurs if one mistakes the ethereal world to be the real one. The result is insanity or some sort of mental breakdown. Perhaps it’s a future malady something like schizophrenia or bi polar disorder. On another note, I am reading William Gibson’s ‘Pattern Recognition’ and the actors interact regularly with the Internet. From most reviews, it a good book and the heroine is a ‘cool hunter’ someone who works in advertising, trying to look for the next best thing on the street or cyber space. It looks like a great story using today’s themes as background. One could get a glimpse of the future from science fiction writers like William Gibson.

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