It struck me, as I looked around at the other occupants of the 7:09 from Horsham, that I had got the Internet completely wrong, explains Simon Hurst.
I have previously written about the Internet being so significant that it could be a stage in human evolution comparable to the development of opposable thumbs. In a Marxian revelation I realised that I’d got the whole idea upside down and actually humans are a stage in the evolution of the Internet. Judging by the situation on the 7:09, the vision in the Matrix of humans plugged in to a vast computer-driven system to provide energy is already upon us. Pretty much everyone on the 7:09 was connected to the Internet in some way or another – either being fed its content or disseminating existing content or, no doubt, in some cases creating new content.
The Internet has evolved to become indestructible and self-sustaining. Individuals, business and governments are now so dependent on the Internet that they can’t allow it to falter, investing heavily in not only making it increasingly resilient, but also more powerful and all-pervasive. The Internet has used the human race not just to create the entire industrial framework necessary to support a global computer network but also to carry out all the research and investigation required to imbue it with intelligence and memory. As the Internet grows stronger, the individual humans grow weaker, losing their ability to remember and act autonomously.
Imminent technological developments seem destined to continue this trend. You could see ‘augmented reality’ as bringing the power of the Internet to your every hour, helping you navigate the world and enhancing your ability to appreciate all aspects of life. You could also see it as the next stage in turning humans from semi-autonomous beings into mere agents of the Internet – not dissimilar to the recent characterisation of the cybermen in Dr Who. The collective consciousness of the Internet instructs you to visit particular restaurants and shops and even suggests what you buy when you get there.
Regrettably, if the end results of billions of years of evolution has been the Internet rather than humanity, it still probably doesn’t resolve all those timeless "why?" and "what’s it all for?" questions. Unless, of course, Douglas Adams was right all along and the earth is just a rather complex computer developed by pandimensional beings who bear an uncanny resemblance to mice.
So, the next time you place your Tescos order online (other supermarkets are available), ask yourself who really benefits – the supermarket, you or the Internet…
About Simon Hurst
Simon Hurst is the founder of technology training consultancy The Knowledge Base and is a past chairman of the ICAEW's IT Faculty.