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Friday, March 21, 2008

The Net of 2008

Just few years into the technology, it’s naturally still a wild web out there. Here’s some of the stuff you might be repeatedly doing in your browser in 2008:

Whenever you’re doing monotonous things repeatedly, there’s a chance the task can be automated. There are spam filters to keep you from deleting spam manually; some browsers allow you to set a minimum font size for webpages; there are page change detection services, and feed readers to alert you when something changes; the browser may allow you remember passwords for you; a faster internet connection can minimize load times; you may be allowed to log-in to a site using OpenID instead of registering anew. Sometimes, the current tools are still broken and only work in some contexts (for instance, spam filters don’t catch all spam, and OpenId is not supported on all websites).

The more monotonous the information task you’re doing, the more likely your children and grandchildren in the future will be wondering why you had to do this task. Just like today, you might be puzzled as to why former generations had to get up from their seat to switch to another station on the television set, or had to get out of their house to buy a book.

Our grandchildren may not understand what it means to “install a program.” They might also not understand why we had to visit a website to know if it was changed; perhaps they will already “know” through some way, and perhaps they don’t “visit” a “website.” They might not understand what we meant by “copyright” or why we separated “use” and “reuse.” Far into the future, when not only the word “book” but also the word “computer” lost its meaning, our children may not understand why we had to formulate a search query to find information. Perhaps, being part of an ocean of information that is all human and non-human knowledge, they will just “know” through some way even before the question has a chance to bubble up.

And perhaps we will be nostalgic and tell them that sometimes, the challenge of not knowing and not having added excitement to our lives, and that we better appreciated those information challenges we did succeed in. We might find ourselves looking back to spam, search engines, long loading times and installation troubles as something that made us happy. They will already know – not understand – but smile back at us nevertheless because after all, we’re their parents and grandparents.


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