I've been writing a great deal about the Internet recently. It's a bit like writing about air. It's massive. Everybody knows about it. Everybody uses it. And there's not much left to tell.
The second book in my Internet trilogy, Upgraded, comes out on June 16th and the first chapter is titled: "You Cannot Write About The Internet". I'm not being self-deprecating, ironic or deliberately obtuse. I'm just stating the obvious. As soon as you've written about the "newest" Internet enabled activity, something else happens in cyberspace that renders it less cool, old hat or even obsolete. The books I write can only press the pause button and build observations upon the torrential rush of nano-second activity.
Upgraded makes the observation that right now we are experiencing a step change in our human development the size and impact of which we have not witnessed since our physiological make up adapted to the opposable thumb, over two million years ago.
Yes. The Internet is a once-in-two-million-years human upgrade.
The Internet facilitates our lives in a way our nearest ancestors could never have imagined. We can see everywhere. We can go anywhere. We can communicate when we are not communicating. We can be present when we are dead. We can find perfect lovers without ever meeting them. Two people (or more) can have sex without touching or seeing each other.
We are a different version of human than our most recent predecessors. We are a different species from our great-grandparents. We have left all other mammals so far behind that in evolutionary terms they will never ever catch up.
When I sent Upgraded to print back in April I knew that developments would continue apace.
In May a prototype of a "universal translator" appeared, much like the fictional Star Trek device. The Pilot, linked to Internet enabled smartphones, fits snugly into your ear. When one person speaks in a foreign language to you, the other hears it in their language. And vice versa. When the Pilot hits the stores in May 2017, it will simultaneously translate English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. The makers say that by Autumn 2017 they will have added German, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Slavic, East Asian and African languages. Now we can speak freely to just about anyone as our speech functions are significantly improved. Robots are still learning to walk.......
Later in May my attention was drawn to a Nielsen Survey looking at how many apps we use and how much time we spend using them. On average we use around 27 apps and that figure hasn't changed much over recent years. But we are spending much more time using them - almost 41 hours per month in total.
Apps are an extension of our bodies, stretching our legs, arms, eyes and ears around the world as fast as our fingers can swipe. They facilitate a functionality that no one dreamt was possible twenty-five years ago. We will use them more and more and more. They will become (maybe have already become) our sixth sense. We already have and use what robot developers have been searching for- our electronic central nervous system.
You might think that we have all become slaves to WhatsApp, Facebook or Tinder but that's not quite the story.
Consider this. At a conference in South Africa in February 2015 the Interactive Advertising Bureau observed that no two people have the same collection of mobile apps. The technology has morphed to our individual DNA, and activates and enhances our daily actions in a totally exclusive way.
It's not surprising that day-by-day we are upgrading ourselves at an unprecedented rate and to an unprecedented level. The Internet is the biggest human creation of all time and will continue to be so for a very long time.
Maybe for another two million years.