Today is the day I have chosen to write my column, and unfortunately it is also the day my internet connection has chosen to fail me. I am without a current newspaper or broadcasting website, and so cannot fully research my topic of choice! So instead of sharing an interesting bit of news with you (like how British activists convened in London this week to pin up nearly 23 kilometres of clothesline for the promotion of energy conservation) I am taking the opportunity to discuss Life Minus the Internet. Frightening.
In fact, I was talking about this very thing at work today – the way computers have made things so easy for us. My colleagues were reminiscing about the days of typewritten documents, and the constant need for white-out strips and retyping. What an annoyance! Even now, without my broadband connection, I don’t need to mess around with a typewriter and clack loudly on keys, trying desperately not to slip up and misspell something. But even if that were the case, I think the bigger issue is Information Access.
Remember a few years ago, when you needed to know something, anything, all the fuss necessary to find it out? Ask your friends. Ask your family. Go to the library. Find the relevant section. Find a relevant book. Nothing there? Probably out of luck then. Best to write your essay about something easily found on the bookshelves – how about butterflies?
Researchers today would be lost without the internet, I think. All those details that are so easily discovered by a simple Google search would instead be hidden behind a dig through the phone book, dozens of phone calls and potentially rude conversations. It seems so long winded – like having to plant the wheat, harvest the grain and grind the flour before making and eating bread. Romantic, but not practical. Not if you want to dedicate your life to some other interest. And that’s really what technology is all about, I guess. Basic machinery, computers, TV’s, DVD’s, the internet:it’s all there so that we don’t have to grind our own grain, or mail our own letters, or just lose track of what we really care about.
In summary, I want my internet back. Since I can’t email this article to the Editor, I’ll need to save it to disk, bring it into work with me tomorrow morning and email it from there. What a long, drawn out process for something so technically simple! I am reminded of the words of a famous Canadian (whom I would name but for the fact that I cannot look it up) who said, “The Medium is the Message”. I think that’s the point of modern technology, of computers and internet service and mobile phones. It’s not the keyboard that matters, or the screen, or even the arbitrary symbols that make up our alphabet. It’s the meaning. By using all these wonderful gadgets, I am able to move my thoughts through space and into your heads. And that is amazing. Bring on the future.