Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Time is the new dimension

Quotation from

By David Gelernter

With tremendous search engines and massive storage on the Cloud, space is no longer a problem . We no longer need cabinets, bookshelves or libraries that occupy physical space.

The scarce resource now is time. Instead of wondering how we place information in space, the old scarce resource, we now wonder how we organize time.

After all, we're mortal.

23. The Internet's future is not Web 2.0 or 200.0 but the post-Web, where time instead of space is the organizing principle -- instead of many stained-glass windows, instead of information laid out in space, like vegetables at a market -- the Net will be many streams of information flowing through time.

However, the current web culture consumes our scarce resource with immense information about 'now.' (I hardly understand why people enjoy twittering. For me, it is filling up your life with garbage.)

29. Nowness is one of the most important cultural phenomena of the modern age: the western world's attention shifted gradually from the deep but narrow domain of one family or village and its history to the (broader but shallower) domains of the larger community, the nation, the world. The cult of celebrity, the importance of opinion polls, the decline in the teaching and learning of history, the uniformity of opinions and attitudes in academia and other educated elites -- they are all part of one phenomenon.

However, no instrument is bad (or good) in itself; we can use it wisely.

31. But -- the Internet could be the most powerful device ever invented for understanding the past, and the texture of time. Once we understand the inherent bias in an instrument, we can correct it. The Internet has a large bias in favor of now. Using lifestreams (which arrange information in time instead of space), historians can assemble, argue about and gradually refine timelines of historical fact.

As well as the prejudice for nowness, the current web culture has the prejudice for our own prejudice. The Internet enhances our prejudice enormously in many people.

But again, we can use the Internet wisely, that is, we may stop our bounded rationality limit our potentiality.

34. The Internet today is, after all, a machine for reinforcing our prejudices. The wider the selection of information, the more finicky we can be about choosing just what we like and ignoring the rest. On the Net we have the satisfaction of reading only opinions we already agree with, only facts (or alleged facts) we already know. You might read ten stories about ten different topics in a traditional newspaper; on the net, many people spend that same amount of time reading ten stories about the same topic. But again, once we understand the inherent bias in an instrument, we can correct it. One of the hardest, most fascinating problems of this cyber-century is how to add "drift" to the net, so that your view sometimes wanders (as your mind wanders when you're tired) into places you hadn't planned to go. Touching the machine brings the original topic back. We need help overcoming rationality sometimes, and allowing our thoughts to wander and metamorphose as they do in sleep.


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