The Internet is on Fire

Time. Countless philosophers and scientists discussed time. Cultures interpreted and re-interpreted it. Yet, I don’t think we have grasped its meaning or its nature.

Take a look at the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.”

The rabbit is running around in the story looking at his watch – for an important calendar date. He has contrasting frames of reference that is creating his tension! This rabbit needs to understand why he is tense.

I remember a quote I heard years ago that has lingered with me since,

“Time is what prevents everything from happening at once. Space is what prevents everything happening to me.” – John Wheeler.

What got me thinking about time? Well, it wasn’t time. I was thinking of the impact the internet has had on civilization and was just doing a thought experiment. What other human development has had as major an impact as the internet has had? The internet is accelerating change in civilization.

The invention of electrical alternating current by Nikola Tesla was a major development. Yes, that is comparable. The industrial revolution was also a major development. But both of these were developments in the revolution of labour. The steam engine and electric motors are of physical evolution, extensions of the human arms, leg and back, and the ability to do more work.

So, I kept going back, to the invention of the printing press, back, to the invention of the alphabet, back to cave painting until I got back to the harnessing of fire!

Controlling fire is the premiere development of the human species. It is the harnessing of fire that accelerated human brain evolution but it’s evolutionary effects were not just because of the physiological benefits of heat or protection from predators. It was the time that was afforded to early human ancestors. Fire extended dusk into the night.

It is theorized that the harnessing of fire introduced us to whole new sources of food that was not available to us before. Cooking as a form a pre-digestion provided extra calories and nutrients that were not previously present for the body nor for the brain which consumes 20% of caloric intake!

New skills were developed. Speaking developed as story-telling, singing, joking, playing. The brain developed new skills to fill the time that had expanded. Clans would gather around fires after eating and telling each other of the successes and knowledge gained during hunting and gathering.

And it’s this scenario that my thought experiments provoked by asking what development in history was comparable to the internet. The internet, an extension of the human brain, holds vast amounts of knowledge no brain nor clan itself can hold. It must be shared to remain active. Human memory has been externalized as the internet in the next step of human brain evolution.

This is why the internet is the modern equivalent of the harnessing of fire.