Atanu Dey On India's Development

A Sunny Pleasure Dome with Caves of Ice

At the risk of being branded a Luddite, I maintain that the world wide web is the single most distracting thing ever invented by humans. The internet is immensely useful for practical matters of course but aside from its utilitarian functions, it is also capable of providing a device for pure play. It can be, in the hands of an appropriately interested and educated human, a virtually (sic) inexhaustible source of joy, the intellectual equivalent of Kubla Khan’s “miracle of rare device, a sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice.”

Ever since I have set eyes on the internet, I have been distracted by it. And I thank the gods for the distractions because at least a bit of the path to enlightenment can be illuminated by the faint glow of a CRT.

The web mimics and reflects into the virtual world the most salient feature of the real worl–which is that every tiny bit of the real world is connected to every other bit. The correspondence betweeen the image and the reality is continually gaining fidelity and the day may not be far off when it would be hard to distinguish the image from the reality.

It was John Muir, the environmentalist and ecologist, who used to say that he cannot write about nature. He said that when he starts to write about something, he finds it is connected to something else and that something else is connected to some other things and so on to infinity. So if he attempted to comprehensibly describe something however small, he would fail miserably.

I have the same pleasant complaint with the virtual universe as John Muir did with the universe when he noted that “when we try to pick anything out by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Connections. I am fascinated by connections. I used to sit glued to the TV watching James Burke’s BBC series called “Connections.” A journalist and historian of science, Burke is in a class all by himself. If you have an hour to spare for some delightful insights into the nature of innovation and the histroy of technology, listen to the man. And the miracle of it all is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home and at a time of your choosing, if you have an internet connection.

{to be continued.}

  • http://www.broadbandblog.in Abhishek

    Atanu, this would make sense to a MAJORITY of people if the Indian Telecom companies are allowed free for all in the market.

    At present with usurious curbs on download limits and at vast expense to access information online, I really wonder whether people would be able to make use of information available.

    Another burning issue is of Open Access- access controls have been put up for so called “premium content”- majorly. This needs to be addressed for disadvantaged communities.

    Though by all means I agree- Internet has truly become a part of my life.

  • http://pnarula.com Pankaj Narula

    Atanu

    Cann’t agree more with you. What facinates me is the possiblities. Right now we are limited by the input and output ways of computers. While interacting with computers connected to internet our brain gives signal via keyboard and send the signals back to brain via signals picked by eyes from CRT. Cut this middleman and interact directly with brain. Enter the fantasy – Feed by MT Anderson. I wrote about his some time back at

    http://pnarula.com/200501/feed-computers-were-all-outside-the-body/

  • Guru Gulab Khatri

    Hey does Internet Help or hurt some one with ADD like symptoms.
    I sometimes find that i’m off reading an article which is not why i started a query.
    This is one of the reasons i dont have a tv any more. If i did i wouldnt be able to get any work done.
    I find that i have to disconnect internet and shutdown my phone to do real work and studies.

  • http://ravikumar.blogdrive.com Ravi

    Atanu,
    Thanks for that online link to Connections..will check it out! As for the statement ” It can be, in the hands of an appropriately interested and educated human, a virtually (sic) inexhaustible source of joy”..cannot agree with you more!In particular, if you have Mozila Firefox browser and the ‘Stumble’ add-on, you can discover amazing sites using that nifty little program!
    Cheers!

  • Tim

    Thank you for the link, Atanu!

    I really enjoyed listening to Mr. Burke’s talk.
    I found another interview with him here, although it’s a little old (from 1999)

    http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/1999/Jun/hour2_062599.html

  • http://NoneYet Bigyan

    Couldn’t agree more with with you. Really WWW is by itself a great distraction. Learning to find useful and important things in WWW can by itself be a thing to learn.

    Interesting and funny things are to be found everywhere in the web which should have been a place to find useful and serious thaings. The WWW is distinctly divided into 2 parts : Useful and Entertaining.