I’ve been heads down writing â€” fairly obsessed with it, actually â€” trying to get a draft of my last chapter done before next week when I head out on two trips overseas with a day and a half in between.
It’s entirely possible that what I’m writing is wrong for a last chapter. That’s the problem with heads-down writing. I’m figuring that the one question the reader really wants answered at this point is: So, wiseguy, is the Internet making us stupid or not? I have addressed this in various forms throughout the book, mainly pointing out why it’s not a well-formed question. In this last chapter, I’m saying: Rather than trying to measure quantities about which we do not agree, let’s look at the new apparatus of knowledge. Is it an apparatus better suited to what smart people do?
That then leads me to acknowledge the falsity of technodeterminism, while still pointing to five properties of the Net anyone in our culture who spends time on the Net learns. They’re all very obvious, so I spend only a sentence or two on each:
Abundance. There is more available to us than we ever imagined back in the days of television and libraries.
Links. Ideas can be linked.
Permission-free. Even if you don’t know how to post, you know that much of what you see came from people like you. You also know that you can leave comments, leave ratings, and otherwise participate.
Public. There are certainly areas of the Net that are walled off. Nevertheless, the foundational experience of the Net is formed by what you can see. The Net is a vast public space within which exclusion of visitors or content is the exception.
Unresolved. The longer you spend on the Net, the more convinced you become that we are never all going to agree on anything.
I’m now going through each of them, talking about what they mean for knowledge.
I think I’ll have one more section to write after that, about improving the new apparatus of knowledge. But I’ll have to see.
Then I’ll have to see if what I’ve been writing is worth keeping. And what lyric did Arcade Fire just sing into my headphones? “I’m beginning to have my doubts, doubts about it.”