The global computer network is the realm between the physical and the metaphysical?
Before the Web existed a bunch of metaphysical ideas were and still are generally accepted as being true.
The word metaphysical it not so easy to define but for the purposes of this article the following definition is suitable (after looking around it seems as if Wikipedia is again the best source, hmmm not sure) ‘a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world’.
This human definition is a bit ‘out there’ so let’s bring it in, physical refers to studying matter and the prefix meta meaning beyond, effectively this article is referring to things that are beyond matter. Metaphysics is ‘concerned with abstract thought or subjects, as existence, causality, or truth’.
OK, with that out of the way let’s start exploring what exactly those metaphysical ideas are. These ideas are quite simple; we have memories, these are sensory experiences stored in our minds that can be recalled at a later date but have no physical form; the abstract links between people, ideas, writing, videos, music (this list is endless), as things build in popularity it can be perceived that links exist between them holding them together; popularity is something we all want but it is an abstract idea that is near impossible to measure; travelling through time either into the past or into the future not with our bodies but with our minds.
The underlying argument of this article is that these metaphysical or abstract ideas are now actually real and in the realm of the physical (or at least in cyber space – something that exists but cannot be touched). Let’s take a look at each abstract idea in turn.
Human memories are now being recorded down at frequent intervals by the wide spread use of social media. Social media and in particular Facebook serves as a place where people can prove that all the things they did actually happened but not ranking the events. Photography has existed for a long time but with Facebook tagging it has now entered into a whole new realm. It is common to find yourself tagged in a photo, by somebody you never knew, at a party you had completely forgotten about. People no longer just take photos to keep in a dusty album in a dusty bookcase they are shared all over the internet as if those mental memories were taken directly from our heads. The emotions of these occasions can also be put into reality by leaving comments that express how you feel, and then can be read by other people at that same occasion and they too can express their feelings by commenting on your comment. It is as if the whole memory is relived through that one picture or set of pictures. Libraries have been around as proof of our memories and history but with the creation of the Web as a stepping stone onto Web 2.0 even the smallest of memories like tweets ‘going on holiday tomorrow, only one day left, hooray!’ is now in the history books. All the blogs, news sites, forums, social media platforms etc record down all details of whatever importance from the very big to the very small.
The next concept for me is by far the most interesting. Books, magazines, newspaper, TV etc worked in a similar way to the Web in the fact they pump out information. That information it can be argued was linked by abstract ropes that loosely held things together. For example, if a new hip hop group becomes popular in a small town in America, somebody writes a small piece about them in a magazine, somebody else reads this in the UK and begins to like them, another person takes their album over to France and plays it to their friend, they like it and so on. Eventually all these isolated incidences will be linked together (providing they are good enough) by maybe a prime time TV slot, or a major album release and a huge marketing campaign to back it. The links exist but cannot be seen, they are so important for the generation of concepts, art etc. Through web semantics all these links now exist for real and we can measure the popularity of a particular ‘thing’. I was reading a surf book the other day and the author gives a heads up to some female surfers, that bit of promotion is now out in the ethos and will in some way benefit those female surfers, either by an utterance by a person, they read it themselves or somebody else reads it and does further research on the girls spreading the measure further. It dawned on me that those abstract links are impossible to measure; however, if this text was added to the Web the search engine crawlers can find those names and tie them together with all the other people who had mentioned them. The links now become measurable. Due to the popularity of the Web most ‘things’ are added to it and not much is left out. Complex programs such as Future Predictions tie together all information that is relevant to each other (need I mentioned the multitude of search engine algorithms that try to measure the popularity of ‘things’ that people search for).
We are more popular than human
Future Predictions is a great piece of technology, it is another way in which the Web can turn the abstract into the real. By reading links it can predict what may possibly happen in the future, humans have always try to make educated guesses about the future but Future Predictions takes educated guesses to a whole new level. From simple guess work to grouping together all information ever uttered about a certain issue to see exactly the direction in which it might take in the future.
The Web can also look back using websites like The Wayback Machine (a very useful tool – full article to come regarding this – watch this space). You can look back in time to see how a website looked at any point up to 1996 (exceptions included). It’s like saying I wonder what this book looked like in its development stages in 1999 and with the click of a button you could see that book.
The final transformation of the abstract into the real is the concept of popularity. Everybody remembers the days of high school and the desperation to be the popular one. The adults always said that this is not real ife and not to worry about the popularity race. With so many people using Facebook and Twitter we can all see just how popular we are, with an actual running tally of how many friends you have. Facebook and twitter turned an abstract friend race into a real one. This is one of my main issues with Facebook especially, is that it focuses so much on the superficial side of life.
That is it for now, but this idea will continue to be developed into the future. For me the Web takes everything from our heads and makes them real, maybe the realm of cyber space is the reality which exists between physical (stone, metal, flesh) and metaphysical (emotions, memories, dreams). The next technology to watch is definitely Future Predictions but also Smartphone wallets. Companies will know your location due to the GPS TECNOLOGY and will be able to beam promotional offers into your Smartphone (you’re in an electronic shop and you receive an offer for a DVD player), it’s as if they can read your mind. Maybe that will be the final step of computer technology, complete and utter integration with the human mind.