Friday, June 20, 2014
Has the Internet Changed Your Thinking?
Edge.org's 2010 annual question asks you whether the internet has changed your thinking. I decided to take a moment and ponder the question.
The internet came to play a part in my life, through dial-up connections and then early cable modems, in my late high school/early college days 15 years ago. And yet, the medium (or is it something more?) still feels novel to me, as if there are future world changing marvels around the corner in coming years. Why do I feel this way? I'm just going on what the past has brought; what could have stagnated as a collection of dull HTML text-centric pages has continued to evolve into much more. Some of the major innovations have included e-commerce (ebay, amazon), information organization (Google), streaming video (YouTube, Hulu, Netflix), file sharing (Napster, bit torrents), social networks (Facebook), encyclopedias (Wikipedia), blogs (Blogger,Technorati,TechCrunch), microblogs (Twitter), location based services (Google Maps, Foursquare, Yelp), and RSS feeds (Google Reader). The promise beckons of location aware, mobile enabled, recommendation based systems that could "do the thinking for us" as a set of algorithms, sensors, and keywords determine what information is brought to our attention.
The internet has changed my thinking in regards to what I feel capable of accomplishing personally. The bar has never been lower for the entrepreneur in terms of marketing and distribution tools. The paradigm has shifted from push media to pull. Consumers are now producers. The billions lost by print (and soon to be TV) media are being distributed amongst tens of thousands of bloggers and small web site owners. Your Uncle Joe advertises his sailing website to sell his self-published, print-on-demand/Kindle book, and he also makes money selling ad space. And this all happened in the last decade. A career under the umbrella of a lumbering organization is no longer a necessity for an army of freelance content creators, coders, and information brokers whom otherwise would never be able to connect to those willing to pay for their services.
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The internet has changed my thinking about artificial intelligence, as well, which I now view will become manifest as data-driven, personalized systems which influence the way we behave. Already, an online presence can enhance our lives immensely in how others interact with us. Information shared on Facebook connects one to acquaintances in new ways. Dating and other social sites, like Meetup.com and courchsurfing.org, connect people digitally so they can interact personally. As services mature, algorithms will get better at directing us towards people, events, goals, objects, and media driving us towards new experiences. Certain types of knowledge, in mathematical (Wolfram Alpha), factual (Wikipedia), and person-to-person (Yahoo Answers/Elance, real racing hack) form, will continue moving towards anytime, anywhere availability. The rising velocity of solutions, accessible by the educated worldwide, shrinks the globe and provides hope.