As near as I judge, most of the regulars here at the Crowd are old enough to remember a time about 15 years ago when the Internet was a curiosity, the new thing you could access from the computer in the corner of the living room. Using your dial-up 56K modem, you could access a mostly motley collection of mostly static, mostly unattractive academic, corporate and personal sites. The marvel was not in the richness of the experience, but in the fact that you could it all.
Flash forward today and we are increasingly living big chunks of our lives on the Internet. As I walked through the lobby of the health club this morning I saw half a dozen people, every single one looking at their iPad (4) or their smartphone (2). As recently as 2004, you could detect 1 wi-fi network from my living room; today, there are 19 in range. In 1995, we owned exactly 1 internet-capable device; today we own at least 25 and almost certainly more as I can no longer keep track of how many devices we own that either have an ethernet port or a wi-fi chip in them.
Despite the near-ubiquity and the necessity (if it’s not quite as essential as the water and electricity in my home, it’s darned close and WAY above the satellite service, the landline phone and cellular service), it remains a mostly solitary endeavor. We interact with the Internet in a mostly one-on-one way, just me and my screen. Because of this weird intmacy, I think we forget sometimes just how pervasive it has become.
Here’s a couple of graphics that put the Internet into a broader perspective:
I think my favorite stat is that in any given minute 2,000,000 of us are watching porn.
Pick your technology – writing, printing, electricity, modern plumbing, telephone, television, radio, CD-player, DVD-player, cellphone, penicillin, your favorite here – and none of them has had the adoption rate of the Internet. None of them – including electrification and plumbing because of the decades-long adoption curves – have been so wrenching – in ways good and bad – for society. None have been so unregulated both in terms of public policy and personal oversight.
I hope we like how it all turns out. Personally, I’m glad to be living in this era and I’m impatient for what comes next.