We are all bonded in a way to our machines, whether we want to or not. Really very few realize how much of our lives are dependent on the devices that surround us, most blissfully unaware of the technology that manipulates and controls their lives to a more than familiar extent. Surrounding us on a daily basis, is the technology of a society wiring itself together with bits of strung copper and silver. We really never stop to look at the mass amount of crap that is actually running our lives, the ATM machines, the pagers and cell phones, the computers, the banks, faxes and data bases. The average level of awareness concerning how one manipulates technology is decreasing while the actual implementation of that same technology is exponentially increasing at a proportional rate. One is forced to wonder what exactly would happen if the entire system was to crash completely in the space of a day or so...mass chaos? Well regulated entropy? Gee, lemme see here, everything falls apart and would we or would we not begin to behave ourselves. Probably not, I would think for some odd reason. Call it an observation of the human condition after being left inside of a repressive society for too long and then allowed free reign over the former oppressors. Much akin to the drug addict who having quit under duress is allowed one last hit. Like a heroin release from addict hell, the freedom to exact personal revenge hits the bloodstream in one savage blur and begins to take hold over what people would call their personal code of ethics. Morality in that event goes right out the window and then the really fun things like looting start happening. Case in point, Los Angeles and the much-touted riots.
Most of the technology that we do utilize on a regular basis has slowly crept up on us and become essentially indispensable to everything that we desire to do on a regular basis. Eat, entertain ourselves in whatever way we see fit, acquire wares and material apparatus to complicate otherwise simple lives now dominated by the specters of technology no one really understands. The ghosts in the system lurk behind corners, waiting there to produce things like Melissa, ILOVEYOU and the BSOD. Some of them have very human faces and are indeed rational living beings in the traditional sense. Others are nothing more interesting or complicated than a minor software glitch that causes an OS to fault under some seriously complex set of parameters. The problems are there, whether they are as obvious as the famed and somewhat annoyingly cloy sounding 'blue screen of death' on national television, (to paraphrase Neal Stephenson: 'THAT WAS STALE, BILL.') Or the fact that if you attempt an IPX connection between two boxes with which you hope to use Syndicate Wars and one of the systems for some reason refuses to recognize anything other than serial connections. Some of these bugs are not the fault of the coder or programmer, (depending on what they choose to call themselves,) but of the user who isn't doing something right. The former of the two examples rests in the hands of the rather fallible persons who wrote the program, the latter of the two was my fault and has since then been corrected.
How many people on AOL or any other ISP for that matter actually know what is going on in the net right now? Who knows what and how good are they at what they do? Do they know the browser they may be using might or might not pose a serious threat to the security of their entire network? Do they care? I am aware that these are indeed rhetorical questions that are probably not all that significant to anyone but the questions do remain. To scream into the night sky and shake your fists in rage at an entirely different sort of ether and ask why the world can't see with their own eyes what it is in front of them is essentially a moot point. The other day I was reading a USENET article in alt.hackers, (I mainly read this for the entertainment value, there is nothing better than laughing at people begging for help doing something that they ought to know how to do if they can post to a USENET group.) In this particular piece of erudite verse someone stated: "AOL is a good service, it let's you learn a lot of things and there's a lot of stuff to be hacked. As long as you are careful...and pay attention to the TOS you never get in trouble and none of the Guides can find you." Mind you this was a supposed 'hacker' that was saying this in front of god, USENET and the rest of the damn world. Not to bring too much of the personal crap into it, I have my roots in CompuServe. Also to add to that list Prodigy, (when the name meant more than nothing and didn't represent a failing service trying to hold onto less than one-fifth of the market share.) Back before the internet explosion took place and having a web page was a significant event. Just five short years ago now. I didn't own my own box yet but I had access to one, and I was already learning, so I guess that dates myself pretty good. The obscure dichotomy between what you should know and what you may actually know is a real and significant issue however, laid out almost in black and white and far less esoteric than some people might consider. Complexity of operation does not necessitate an enormous knowledge base to do so; tools to dumb the task down can be put in place to make it easy enough for any idiot with a mouse and a modem. Understanding of the operation and what goes on behind the scenes does have a critical part to play, therefore would it be safe to say that the young poster from earlier is a total goon? Another brainwashed child turned grown automaton in a sea of corporate driven mediocrity? Then again, perhaps they are a true individual who has found the niche that works for them in the same ocean. Another 'idiot' bumbling around the system, only the person's 'bumbling' may be intentional in appearance and execution only to them and completely random in appearance to the minders.
Much akin to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, (survival needs at the bottom and transcendence at the top.) Is all of the internet motivated by nothing more simple than the bottom of a bit of neo-classical philosophy, or does the philosophy behind it all run far deeper than any of us would really like to admit? Occasionally I am haunted by the idea that somewhere out in the waters in which I surf there lives the ghosts of souls so old that they defy any numerical values. Staring out into the ocean and away from all of the technology that dominates so much of what I am and represent there is a calmness that sets in after a few minutes, a simplification. So much of what I do involves what could easily be called the pinnacle of human technological achievement, and here I am bouncing down the face of a wave on a piece of shit used plank of fiberglass. Irony. (Just to let everyone know I suck really bad at surfing. Then again, people of my height and ethnic persuasion are not given to anything that requires a large amount of hand-eye coordination and balance. Annoying at times yes, but not enough that I do not continue to go back.) Everyone needs to bail out of it all every now and again.
Addiction comes to some that venture out from the commercial ideology instructing them to continue down the path of stagnant participation in a failed system of hypocrisy. They realize that for the first time in their lives they are well and truly free, and can choose to do what they please and when they want. Type, click and be gone. Like any self-reinforcing cycle, there is an entire gambit of problems and issues to be dealt with once it becomes more than a once-a-week casual habit. The life that was lead before becomes supplanted with the new one quite rapidly, and for some the realization that a change never comes until they're 48 and on IRC one day...trying to pick up on college women. What I find amazing is that there are people out there who are doing this very thing as you read this. Bizarre, that is the only word for it.
We plod around surrounded by technology of all sorts, nothing remains the same for very long and the face of the internet is changing a lot faster than some people want to admit or own up to. Our devices are rapidly coming to the point of almost total domination over what we see as reality, and in another decade all of my pondering and blasé ramshackle blathering is going to mean precious little. For the moment, I would hope that it means more than it appears to. What we choose to use and what to reject is fundamentally the most crucial part of anything here. This decision is more indicative of what and who we are than any other tangible quantity or quantitative measurement of the system as a whole. The internet reflects who and what our society is, I have said before that all of our hope, hate, loves and fear can be found here in so much HTML and script. Precious little substance contains an infinite amount of labor and individual passion drawing an incredible portrait of what and who we are. Trying to place it all into neatly divided categories and sections borders on the not only ludicrous but impossible as well. Try as we might to ensure that the chaos is regulated, life will do what it wants when it wants and that is the end to this means. Is the end justified? A question somewhat similar to the how many angels can dance on the head of a pin argument. When it is distilled down to its essence, meaning is ninety-percent perception and ten-percent intentional engineering on the part of the author. Anything else is detail and subterfuge. However, the details are occasionally the most critical part of any endeavor, for they are the part that allows the equation above to hold at least a small and insignificant bit of water. Anyone can paint a house but the time taken to detail each shutter and eve is reflected by the end product, which can be easily ruined by a giant asshole with a carton of eggs and a can of spray paint. What then is the point of trying to impart multiple levels of meaning to anything we do if the only part that is ever going to be seen is the raw end of what we have constructed again in our own image? I would hope that the point would be to give each individual a chance to assess and consider all parts of a given piece for nothing more than the sake of their selves. Just as there are levels to this essay, which I do not understand despite the fact that I am the author, the end that anyone else produces will possess more, less or the same amount of what is contained here. What you come away from with this site and this essay are all things that I can influence but not exercise total control over. This then makes the multi-level end far more important than the fact that this entire essay could have been distilled down to a few key points and left at that for anyone to read and make sense of on their own. Yes, this would most definitely cut down on my ability to rabble on incoherently like for pages at a time. However, the influence that I exercise over your opinions and perception would most certainly be lost in the crush to disseminate information as quickly and efficiently as possible. Justification of inefficiency is always difficult.
To bring closure to this at least to a small degree is difficult. The machines and technology that surround us constantly are influencing what we perceive as reality. The meaning that we retain and the ideas that we see as truth are ultimately left to the individual to find. In other words we don't just find a truth and call it that, we first examine it against parts (or the whole for that matter,) of the larger system of beliefs and experiences that most of us would call personality. That most of us never realize the influence other people's opinions and actions have on our own is somewhat scary, but society as a whole lacks the cohesiveness and strength necessary to deviate in such a dramatic manner. Dogmatic principles cannot just be bought and sold like so much useless dead technology, at least they should not be. Addiction to the finding and determination of the truth is a trivial concern, people tend not to constantly search out new ways to shatter and devalue what they find as acceptable at the moment. Personal comfort levels are achieved and settled into, not destroyed. Paradigms are rigidly enforced for the weaker individuals such that they have something concrete to cling to in order to facilitate a feeling of self worth and confidence in whatever causes it is that they feel it necessary to fight for. Alternatively, perhaps simply 'participate in' due to the vehicle of change being much easier to happily ride in than to drive. To what end this vehicle brings us to is as important if not more, than the means. Not to ignore the fact that knowledge and understanding of the changes taking place and the shape and implication of the means and their influence on the end is of at least critical importance.
The technology, machines and slow wiring of our society together into a single writhing mass of interconnected cable is the means to the end of which I have been alluding to for the last few paragraphs. We seek out new and better ways to connect ourselves to each other and to further the already fast and loose forced evolution style civilization that we live in. Trying to place a finger on the collective pulse of the internet is at a bare minimum almost impossible, too many influences are playing significant roles in what is and is not going on. Everyone has their own idea as to what the end product is going to look like, no one really knows but we'd all like to consider that we do. This includes myself. All of this rabid silliness has nothing to do with anything in the grand scheme of things from a certain point of view. Although it still retains the influence that it does and thereby plays a role in the end. Perhaps there is no end at all, indeed it may be stated that a continuous stream of means and small ends that bleed and run together can easily be called what we are headed toward. Nothing more complicated than a continual cycle of evolution and advance with no real clearly defined stopping point available. Technology does not as of yet possess the ability to retain any sort of humanly recognizable emotion; the only true feelings lurking inside the machines are the souls we assign to them through use and outside personal perception. Try as we might, the net is not going to suddenly up and go romping around in a blur of arms, claws, and teeth.
The devices in our lives surround us, for some the fact that we can relate easier to a machine than another more or less biological counterpart damns us to the roles of addicts and codependents seeking nothing else than the next fix. (Forgive the pun.) The role that the individual plays in getting there is more significant than any other part of the equation. No one forced me to develop the life that I lead now or the opinions that I hold of concerning the slim number of subjects that I do feel strongly about. There was no gun, no societally approved violence that induced the changes; I made the decision based upon what I felt as appropriate. The ideology that I have managed to cobble out for myself is my own, and may very well not work a damn bit when applied to someone else's life. You are what you are, and I am what I am. Can't really change that. A friend of mine once said in an e-mail: "You can paint a barn blue. But it is still going to be a barn and the chickens, cows, and stink of hay and bullshit is still going to live inside." Something like truth, at long last. We're nothing more than human in the end.