What is the Internet – This article is inspired by Andrew Blum’s Ted Talk titled – “What is the Internet, really?”
Below is an excerpt from the Ted websites with a bio on Blum –
“When a squirrel chewed through a cable and knocked him offline, journalist Andrew Blum started wondering what the Internet was really made of. So he set out to go see it – the underwater cables, secret switches and other physical bits that make up the net.”
We look at the internet as an amorphous blob of information. As we put more and more information out on the cloud, we get further and further disconnected from where our information is actually stored and what is going on.
However, as Blum discovered, the Internet is a series of cables that literally run around the World and under the sea.
This sparks the question as to whether or not there is value in connecting such a broad and expansive idea, like the Internet to its physical reality. Does it really matter? As long as I get a connection every time that I log into my computer, do I care where it really comes from or why it is working?
This author is going to say a resounding – Yes, it does not matter.
Here is why –
The Internet has been amazing at allowing us to connect to other parts of the World. However, it has also helped take away many one-on-one human interactions. We have a challenge in wrapping our arms around our daily lives. Understanding the physical structure of the Internet allows us to connect back to the physical reality.
It is like the telephone game that we used to play, where one person stood at one end of a tube with a cup to his or her ear and the other person stood at the other end. You could communicate with a tool but you had at least a loose understanding of the physical device that connected the two of you together. As a result, you knew how you could touch each other in reality.
This is closer to a real human connection.
The other reason is that we need more self reliance. The infrastructure of the Internet is supported by a handful of people. If those people disappeared or became unavailable, we would have no idea how to get it back up again. IT used to be that somebody in our household could do at least minor car repairs. If the sink broke, even if we knew we should call a plumber, there was some power in being able to fix it.
As life gets more and more computerized, people who can fix things will be become fewer and fewer. We will not have any real World skills and life will become a lot more confusing and complicated.
Blum’s project to find the physical Internet brings us at least a few steps closer to connecting to our physical reality.