Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

What Your Children are Doing on the Information Highway

Jerry Stratton, July 4, 2004

The “Indian Runner” is a legend among certain North American tribes. The runner is bringing a message across a long distance, but over the course of the story the messenger becomes the message. Some modern information theorists claim the opposite: that the message becomes the messenger. You’ve heard this as the medium is the message. If the medium is the message, what does the information highway mean for us? What is the message of the Internet?

What would your life be like without your car? No car, no bus, no airplane. At best, a bicycle or a public horse-carriage.

  • You would have a different job, or you would live in a different place: probably a company town, or the center of the city.
  • You would have different friends. You would no longer keep in touch with friends who moved across town. Of course, fewer of them would.
  • You would spend your leisure time completely differently. No more popping off to a beach or an amusement park a “mere” sixty miles away. You would stay home, and do whatever was available to you at home.

In short, your work life and home life would be completely changed. You would eat differently and love differently and fuck differently. You would have married a different person-- the girl next door--and your friends by necessity would be limited to those who lived within walking distance. We can barely imagine how different our lives would be without the motor vehicle.

Now imagine that your car could take you, instantly, to France, or Pakistan, or Berkeley, or Prague. That it could take you to the doorstep of any inhabitant of any country around the world.

You’ve just imagined the Internet. How do you think that will affect your life, and the lives of your children? We cannot imagine how our children’s lives will be changed by the infobahn. And they won’t be able to imagine what we did without it.

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