I just finished Tyler (<3) Cowen‘s Create Your Own Economy, which can be described as a study in the benefits of autistic forms of thinking. Sherlock Holmes is Cowen’s prime example, though somehow I don’t think Robert Downey Jr. is going with that interpretation. Organization, filtering, retaining, and recalling massive amounts of data and sensory input are the great benefits of the autistic mind. Cowen sees autism as a condition that was waiting for the internet and didn’t even realize it. While it’s popular to write on how new technologies are hurting us, Cowen shows how the enormous tools for finding and organizing data on the internet lets us externalize a lot of tedious information and make way for other pursuits that interest us.
I used to have a bookmarks page with something like 50 websites that I would rotate through at a blitzkrieg pace, devouring news stories, looking at pictures, reading forums, etc. A lot of those sites were aggregators like Fark and Digg (and Drudge, ugh, I’m sorry). Then I discovered RSS and Google Reader. With that simple discovery, I no longer surf the web. My entire internet experience is filtered through the lens of Google: email, calendar, documents, and reader. It’s glorious. Yeah, PT uses WordPress instead of Blogger software, but that’s because WordPress is, you know, better.
Now, I know what you (not you, HIM, holding the signed copy of Rushkoff), are thinking: Google is a giant corporation controlling your experience of the internet. Wrong. Google is a company that makes money by giving me (and the rest of you, I suppose) tools that makes the internet more like how I actually want it. I chose to whom I subscribe on Reader. Furthermore, I don’t even read most of the stories. I can still surf the net any other way if I want to. Google doesn’t have a monopoly on readers (feedburner is a competitor, Safari and Firefox have built in readers) but I like their system best. What Google Reader lets me do is outsource filtering, ordering (chronologically), and filing (I can search Reader items) the parts of the internet I care about. Nor does it make me complacent. I’d say I add and delete about three sites a week. Which, of the 60 or so sites I follow, makes for 20% turn over a month.
Since it’s Friday and I know a bunch of you are at work twiddling your thumbs wishing for something to occupy your underutilized mind, I posit this question:
How do you actually experience the internet? Do you surf (old school, follow hyperlinks and putter around websites, surf)? Do you just click shared links on Facebook? Do you just use aggregators (Digg, Reddit, Fark)? Do you use an RSS reader? Think! Figure it out!
Bioethics is controversial.
No one endorses the ideas or concepts explored here, not even me.
You will develop a strong opinion about something you find here. I want to hear it. Philosophy is a conversation.
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