The Internet is: - NOT an information highway for cruising - NOT a library for reading - NOT a game board for playing - NOT a resort beach for surfing - NOT a medium for chatting - NOT a shopping center for buying The Internet is nothing like a newspaper, magazine, radio, CD, movie or TV.



THE INTERNET IS ALIVE!

The Internet is:

- NOT an information highway for cruising

- NOT a library for reading

- NOT a game board for playing

- NOT a resort beach for surfing

- NOT a medium for chatting

- NOT a shopping center for buying

The Internet is nothing like a newspaper, magazine, radio, CD, movie or TV. It can not be compared to anything we know from previous experience. It is a dynamic, thriving, chaotic, growing, learning organism. It has:

- A Skeleton

- A Circulatory System

- A Nervous System

- Organs

The whole system may be called:

- A Global Society

THE SKELETON The skeleton, which supports the Internet, does not consist of the physical "backbones," wires, cables modems, computers and other high-tech components. It is the broad overall system for the communication of ideas. The skeleton is mental.

Upon this skeleton is placed a circulatory system to give the system life, a nervous system to control its life, and various organs to make it a useful, living, expansive, global creature.

* The Internet is alive! It's all mental.

THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM Like humans, the Internet has pumps to keep it alive. But the Internet differs from humans in 2 ways:

Humans have 1 pump - the heart. The Internet has millions of pumps: Each Internet site is a pump.

The human pump PUSHES blood to bring oxygen to organs of the body. Each Internet pump PULLS people to it with ideas

* The Internet is alive! Ideas are its lifeblood.

THE NERVOUS SYSTEM The nervous system of the Internet is remarkably similar to the human nervous system, except that it works with people rather than neurons. The human nervous system consists of billions of neurons, each receiving signals from other neurons. When the sum of the signals at a neuron exceeds a certain threshold, it "votes" in favor of some action. It's like a town-hall meeting: majority rules.

The nervous system of the Internet is composed of people instead of neurons, each making choices with their browsers and other software. Here too, majority rules: user actions determine what happens on the Internet.

* The Internet is alive! People are its masters.

THE ORGANS Internet organs are intellectual, of course. Because the Internet is so young, it does not yet have a fully developed set of organs. Organ development is occurring in phases:

1 - Technological:-

This first phase started in the '60s when ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet, was developed by ARPA (Advanced Research Project Agency) in the Defense Department. This organ was a means for defense contractors, universities, laboratories and others involved in defense work to exchange ideas via a network that was secure. Because it was decentralized and did not have a central control point, parts of the network could be bombed without affecting the rest of the network. Research

In the '80s, ARPANET expanded into a full-blown research network connecting our universities and industrial laboratories. It was renamed the Internet. This research organ is still powerful today - though you may not realize it because of the excessive hype of business boosters.

2 - Business:

This organ began its development in the early '90s. But it did not grow much until 1995, when the Internet was privatized. Since then the business organ has been growing like Topsy.

3 - Social, Political, Cultural:

The Internet is not only for business. Already you find such things as cancer support groups, art shows, concerts, voting. Many organs that are now in development, will be just as important, and perhaps more important than the business organ.

* The Internet is alive! A network for learning.

THE GLOBAL SOCIETY Not only is the Internet a living organism, it is a living society comprised of living people. People on the Internet form networks to make choices and to learn.

1 - People Network

The Internet is not merely a living creature. It's a living society. Every aspect of its life is caused by people, not machines. The machines are there only to enhance relationships among people. Don't be distracted by robots. All of them are servants of people.

The Internet is not a highway for information, but a network for the flow of ideas, for learning. Everything is mental, not physical. Everything happens fast, because communication is instantaneous.

2 - Chaotic Idea Flow

Ideas flow through the Internet in unpredictable ways. Very unlike TV. On TV, the advertiser does not bother with ideas. He sends "information" one way - direct to you. On the Internet, all people may partake in the flow of ideas. As a result ideas on the Internet may:

BRUSH - One idea doesn't meet another idea, but brushes it slightly. They may warm each other as a result. Sometimes the brush enhances further development of one of the ideas.

MERGE - Two ideas, when brought together produce a bigger, richer idea. They feed on each other and mushroom into something better

COLLIDE - Ideas may come from opposite directions and bang into each other to produce sparks. The sparks may lead to brilliant breakthroughs.

Brush, merge, collide. These are only suggestions of the possibilities. Serendipity occurs in all places and at all times, making possibilities infinite. I visit a site and like its format. I copy it with a little modification, as my own. Someone else visits my site and makes further changes for her purpose. I send email to a colleague making a suggestion; he modifies it and uses it for a very different purpose. It's as though you're part of a never-ending brainstorming session.

3 - Personal Choice

People are individuals on the Internet. They are autonomous. They make choices. Something they can not do when watching TV. On the Internet a person may:

ACT - Initiate any type of action: go to any site, start his own site, send a message to anyone. On TV, only the advertiser may ACT

REACT - Respond to another's action: buy something, reply to a message. REACT is all a TV watcher can do

INTERACT - Be part of a to-and-fro exchange: a dialogue, a discussion, a transaction. This is one of the most important characteristics of the Internet, one that gives it power

Act, react, interact. They represent various aspects of the power of a person to be an individual. The Internet, unlike TV, awards each person with the gift of autonomy. And each person uses it. Each person has choice. The consumer, unlike the consumer of the Industrial Society, has power.

* The Internet is alive! It places power in people.

About the author: Paul -the soarING- Siegel is a provocative Internet speaker and author of HELPFULNESS MARKETNG, a book stressing learning, cooperation and community. Learn about it at http://www.learningfountain.com/helpfulnessmarketing.htm Subscribe to newsletter, LearningFOUNT; send blank email to: mailto:LearningFOUNT-subscribe@responsiblenetizen.org.

Author: Paul Siegel