Archive for July, 2007

The Internet

Posted by Arlo on Jul 12, 2007 under Thought Objects

A group of us were talking the other night about that online site that was taking votes for the “New 7 Wonders of the World.”  Before looking at the list, we had fun brainstorming what should be on there.  Machu Picchu, Stonehenge, Teotihuacan?   The Hoover Dam, The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the Panama Canal?  My best idea was one that nobody really wanted to concede: The Internet.

When I think about it – and I think about it often – I’m amazed at how the Internet has changed the world.  Or at least my world.

For instance:

  • I handle almost all my finances online now.  My paycheck is direct deposited, our monthly expenses are paid automatically by our Alaska Airlines credit card (which is, in turn, paid off by our bank account – got to get those miles!)  There are exceptions, of course.  I still have to pay rent with a check, and people will probably still be using the ATM to grab theater money in 3007.  Even so, I’d estimate that 90% of my own wealth never manifests itself as anything more than numbers in databases.

  • The Internet has also brought the world closer.  E-mail, the ubiquitous and obvious tool, has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family the world over.  In recent years, new tools have sprung up and I find myself taking advantage of them more and more.   I remember how surreal video conferencing seemed when I first peered into my own living room from an Internet cafe in Peru; now it seems blase.  Oksana uses Skype to talk to her brother in Russia; the quality on both ends is better than any phone call, and ever since we bought a cordless Skype phone, we’re no longer tied to the computer’s clunky headset and microphone.  Even Internet Messaging, simple as it is, recently surprised me when a friend started a live chat message with me while I was at work… and he was standing in front of the Easter Island statues with his Blackberry.  (And later that week, he IM’d me from a bus in Santiago to ask me what a Spanish word meant, because, you know, it was easier than looking it up.)

  • The way in which the Internet impresses me most, though, is with its vast store of information.  I’m old enough to remember when a 26-book set of encyclopedias was the best way to get information for school.  Now to research and learn anything – anything! – all you need is a computer, a connection, and time.  Learning, learning, learning!  I use the Internet all the time to learn new things.  Photoshop tutorials, screenwriting advice, HDTV and next gen DVD formats.  Recipes, desktop publishing, video editing, astronomy, home design.  Want an answer to a question?  Want to learn something new?  It’s ALL RIGHT HERE, and it’s all FREE (and usually on Wikipedia.)

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