EDGE question 2010: How is the internet changing the way you think?


Each year, John Brockman of Edge.org asks a question of a number of science, tech, and media personalities, and compiles the answers. This year's question: "How is the internet changing the way you think?" Lots of good, meaty responses that make for great reading, from interesting people whose work ideas have been blogged here on Boing Boing before: Kevin Kelly, Jaron Lanier, Linda Stone, George Dyson, Danny Hillis, Esther Dyson, Tim O'Reilly, Doug Rushkoff, Jesse Dylan, Richard Dawkins, Alan Alda, Brian Eno, and many more.

I'm far out-classed by the aforementioned thinkers. But here's a snip from my more modest contribution, "I DON'T TRUST ALGORITHM LIKE I TRUST INTUITION":

I travel regularly to places with bad connectivity. Small villages, marginalized communities, indigenous land in remote spots around the globe. Even when it costs me dearly, on a spendy satphone or in gold-plated roaming charges, my search-itch, my tweet twitch, my email toggle, those acquired instincts now persist.

The impulse to grab my iPhone or pivot to the laptop, is now automatic when I'm in a corner my own wetware can't get me out of. The instinct to reach online is so familiar now, I can't remember the daily routine of creative churn without it. The constant connectivity I enjoy back home means never reaching a dead end. There are no unknowable answers, no stupid questions. The most intimate or not-quite-formed thought is always seconds away from acknowledgement by the great "out there."

The shared mind that is the Internet is a comfort to me. I feel it most strongly when I'm in those far-away places, tweeting about tortillas or volcanoes or voudun kings, but only because in those places, so little else is familiar. But the comfort of connectivity is an important part of my life when I'm back on more familiar ground, and take it for granted.

Read the rest.

And here's the complete index of responses. (Image: Katinka Matson)


  1. “In 1828 … [t]he Faust legend obsessed artists and writers; in dozens of works they told the story of the modern predicament: in gaining the power of industry, the world was sacrificing it’s soul. It was not the new machines themselves they feared – there were not yet many – it was machine thinking.”

    – Jonathan Hale, The Old Way of Seeing

    1. Care to elaborate? I’m sure that quote could have a multitude of differing meanings, and the lack of any tone that you’re setting in the quoting makes it difficult to know exactly what it is you’re trying to say.

      I’ll take a stab at it, and assume you’re quoting someone who is speaking to what Xeni is describing in her contribution, and that the fear of machine thinking amongst artist and writers at the beginning of the industrial revolution is the strength/comfort/dependancy that Xeni refers to.

      My take on the short essay is that the internet isn’t some weakness and dependancy upon which all humanity is now cursed, but that it is merely a shift from the old to the new in terms of defining the meaning of knowledge and how knowledge is valued.

      Revisiting your quote, I would say that the fear was simply in regards to change, and that this so called “machine thinking” is actually the interface between a human being and the vast collective source that is the internet.

      Am I anywhere close to what you were saying?

    2. “We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.”

      -F. T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto – Or Why Faust is Terribly Overrated

      1. A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

        Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” vii

  2. “My computer tells me that in twenty-five years there will be no more computers.” –Edward Abbey (less than 25 years ago)

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