My Visit To
|November 7, 2000
This is the most exciting photo that I've ever taken in my life.
Yes, I know, it doesn't look like much. (In fact, technically speaking, it sucks.) But consider this: I took this photo while the plane was in the air. Before we had landed, I had transferred the photo to my computer, edited it, and dropped it into the web page you're looking at. Then, while we were cruising at 32,000 feet, I transferred the web page to my webserver. So not only am I writing this while I'm on the plane, there's a chance that you're reading this while I'm still on the plane!
If this doesn't seem as exciting to you as it does to me, it could be because you're not as interested in technology as I am, or it could be because I'm easily amused. But my guess is that, over the last 15 years, we've become so accustomed to the possibility of communicating anytime, anywhere, that the act of creating a web page and making it available to the entire world while you're flying from Chicago to Rome doesn't seem like that surprising a feat. Everybody has a cell phone, everybody uses them everywhere. Everybody uses their laptop computers on airplanes. Ho hum.
But to me, there's an enormous difference between being able to talk to your girlfriend while you're in an elevator and being able to see what people halfway around the world are doing, while they're doing it.
And to me, this is where we're going. We won't have to wait until we get home to bore our friends with slides from our summer vacations our friends can be bored watching us take our summer vacations while we're vacating! And the best part (from our friends' point of view, at any rate) is that if they get too bored, they can switch to somebody else's summer vacation with the click of a mouse. And so instead of watching you and Ethel lying out by the pool and sipping Mint Juleps, they can watch the latest Everest expedition unfold as it happens.
And since this is the Net and not just TV, they won't have to simply watch the expedition, they'll be able to interact with its members as well.
Yes, I know that it's quite a stretch to get from a bad photo taken through an airplane window to an interactive journey to the roof of the world. In fact, it's been incredibly awkward (and expensive) for me to create this one web page; I don't think that people are going to be using the same technology with which I've been struggling while they're climbing mountains.
I'm not suggesting that we're going to get there tomorrow. I'm just suggesting that this is the direction in which we're heading.
Some people are threatened by this kind of massive increase in our ability to communicate. They see a loss of privacy; they worry that as distance becomes less meaningful, the homogeneity of our experiences will increase exponentially.
But although I recognize that there is more than a little validity to these and other related concerns, I can't help but get excited by the prospect of a future in which all people become more familiar with each other; in which we learn that, despite our differences, we're not so different after all; in which other places seem a little less strange, so other people seem a little less like strangers.
For the last few years, convergence has been a hot technology buzzword. When most people talk about convergence, they're typically referring to a combination of the Internet and television, the creation of an interactive video experience. But to me, the real convergence is the extension of our minds through high-bandwidth electronic communication, a converging not of two different technologies but of technology and humanity.
In other words, I don't see convergence as the creation of better technology. I see convergence as the creation of better people.
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