Humans are driven by metaphors. We can’t help it. “Internet access is like electricity,” we say, and that leads to a host of other mental images: standard plugs for a wealth of devices, warm light against a dark frozen landscape, the burdens of life made more bearable. The warring metaphor now is “the Internet is the new TV,” thoroughly managed, channelized, bent on entertainment, ad-driven, interactive only when it suits someone’s business plan. Both of these metaphors are limited and not quite right. That’s the way metaphors work.
But we are in fact ants on a wrinkle of history, trundling across a vast transforming landscape that we can’t see on our own.
We’re in an important moment at the beginning of the beginning of the Internet. The opportunities presented by a phase change in informational capacity?—?what’s possible with fiber optic lines?—?and inclusive, ubiquitous connectivity are dazzling: genuine presence in other peoples’ lives, an additional layer to existence that augments and deepens human capacity for compassion and connection, a rich addition to sight. Think avatars, holodecks, and interactivity across every surface, and then multiply.