I missed my weekly post last week, because I was at my Sacramento valley hideaway, which is not on the net, and I failed to write one in advance. I could have found wifi somewhere and sent one out, but I needed a computer break, and reaching the Stanford server (due to constant attempts to hack into it) now requires not only a user name and a password consisting of a series of random numbers generated by the server, but also a second password so lengthy and constrained, that people tend to tape it to their computer in order to remember it, which of course partly nullifies the whole attempt at security.
I spent my the time in the valley working outdoors at revitalizing a 1966 Chevrolet pick up and a 1975 Alfa Romero—ex kid-cars, perhaps destined to become grand-kid cars, assuming we aren’t all stuffed into robotic containers (my feelings are nicely expressed by a column by Della Ephron in today’s New York Times entitled "Less Sexy, Better for Sex", which is here.) I also thought about my interaction with the internet, which seems to be taking more and more of my time (although not nearly as much as that of many people I know).
As I hammered, filled, sanded, and sprayed, I could not help but realize how much I was enjoying the work (even though the temperature was sometimes well over 100 degrees). And also how much I did not miss my computer. The picture shows me celebrating one morning at Las Maracas, my favorite restaurant in Knights Landing, Ca. It was taken by Juan Barajas, one of the family that operates the restaurant. The meal on my plate was the first ever serving of “Mom’s Breakfast”, which I am encouraging them to put on the menu— a magnificent combination of biscuits, gravy, fried potatoes, eggs, bacon, and coffee—retro, probably unhealthy, but an excellent way to begin the day.
I did miss access to some of the information on the internet while sweating in the sun, but not social networking as now constituted. At my age, I am not looking to build a network of people I do not now know, nor sell myself or my wares. I still hang around Stanford, which gives me more than enough interaction with people who have the same interests as I do, and am fortunate in having more real (not cyber) friends than I can satisfyingly interact with. I enjoy writing posts to my blog, since it makes me think, and send notice of them to friends and connections at Facebook and Twitter, but I have made no efforts to widen my contacts, and find I would rather use my time for other purposes.
Clearly the internet will change over time, and it will be interesting to watch the process. As an example, There is an interesting article by Gordon Goldstein in the July/August issue of The Atlantic entitled “The End Of The Internet?”, which is here. He points out that the internet in its present global form, which is largely an activity underwritten by large businesses, is becoming increasingly bothersome to governments and citizens in other countries, as well as in the U.S. As you know, people world-wide are increasingly disturbed by such things as surveillance, hacking into “secure” data, general violation of privacy, ever increasing marketing, and material that is not consistent with their values.
In the article Goldstein discusses these pressures and possible new directions for the internet (or internets) which involve more regional and secure networks for various regions and nations. Something to think about, since many people are. Obviously such changes would result in more government regulation, less freedom, but perhaps also higher quality of information.
The internet already is serving separate cultures. Stanford students tend to text rather than write e-mail messages, and my older friends still seem to be stuck in e-mail, although they universally complain about the amount of “junk” they receive. Disagreeing interest groups (for instance liberals and conservatives or environmentalists and global warming non-believers) seem to like to communicate within the group, but not with each other. People with younger children have different interests in the trips, pets, and parties of those who don’t (and vice versa). And of course, there is the age phenomenon. Few of my friends in my age groups are active social networkers. They seem to want to use their time in other ways.
I am optimistic on the future of the increasingly digital world, although there are obviously lumps in the (driverless?) road ahead. Predictions of job loss among white collar workers due to digital automation are large, and lawyers, accountants, managers, and other highly educated and salaried folk are not going to be as quiet as factory workers when they lose their jobs to increasingly powerful and easier to use software. And I do think the fantasy of a peaceful, totally interconnected world population over a free universal system is somewhat like the 1960’s fantasy of a world of “make love, not war”. I also think that the internet desperately needs more quality control.
We are definitely not living in boring times.