David Gelernter contemplates the state of the Internet:
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. Nowness ignores all other moments but this.
But, [Gelernter] suggests, we can correct that bias.
We can turn the realtime stream into a “lifestream,” tended by historians, along which the past will crystallize into rich, digital deposits of knowledge. We will leap beyond Web 2.0 to "the post-Web," where all the views are long. It’s a pretty vision. I wish I could believe it.
There are times when human beings are able to correct the bias of a technology. There are other times when we make the bias of an instrument our own. Everything we've seen in the development of the Net over the past 20 years, and, indeed, in the development of mass media over the past 50 years, indicates that what we’re seeing today is an example of the latter phenomenon. We are choosing nowness over ripeness.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.