Friday, October 19, 2012

The need for "Feed"



Our freshmen class has just finished reading an eyebrow-raising book.

It's called Feed, by M.T. Anderson.  A work of science fiction (Gasp! Science fiction taught in the academy??), Feed tells the stories of two teenagers.  These teens live in a future where implanted devices allow constant connection to the Internet straight into their heads.  Then a hacker brings the whole Net down...and the kids are not alright.  They're in a hospital, disconnected from the Internet, lost without their feed.

As was obviously the intent of the author, this had me thinking about "Internet addiction."   Just how much do I "need feed?" Those times that I have been disconnected from the Net, whether it be because I forgot my smartphone at home or simply did not have access at my disposal, I believe that I felt the symptoms of withdrawal.  I felt like part of my brain was turned off.  Am I addicted?  Does "Internet addiction" truly exist?

I believe we may be oversimplifying the occurrence.  After all, we're addicted to oxygen, aren't we?  Perhaps our technology is not only being integrated within our selves, but it is also an extension of us.  We reach out and inhabit cyberspace, squatting on our blogs or Facebook walls, interacting through avatars in SecondLife or in online games.  All of this is still relatively new phenomena and not only are we yet to learn the full implications of it, we're still trying to adequately define it.  Just how much is an avatar representative of our identity?  More than one might think, I imagine, especially if the avatar's creator has invested a great deal of her/his self into it.  There we are again, inserting ourselves into cyberspace.

I should probably note just what I mean by "cyberspace." For that, I'll refer you to a piece by science fiction author, Rudy Rucker.  In it, Rucker details "four different kinds of cyberspace." For our purposes here, I'm going to be daring and call it a smooshed-up, mash-up, amalgamation of all four.  But Jon, how can you claim this to be part of the science fiction aspects that Rudy Rucker describes for cyberspace?  Because I'm looking ahead.

In an ironic reversal of the neo-Luddite's plaintive bleat that online life is "not real," I believe that we will soon be migrating to cyberspace in order to "get real." We will be able to better modify our existence and surroundings within that realm as we transfer into robot bodies in "meatspace." I know it sounds far out, but so did many things at one point. 

That's not the truly weird part, though.  As technological advancements proceed at a veloce pace, the more we migrate to inhabit cyberspace, the more information that piles upon itself, what are the chances that an entirely new form of life might arise from within the sea of information?  Yes, I know what I'm talking about is perilously close to the concept behind Ghost in the Shell, but the idea has always captivated me.  Just what will sprout forth from our digital primordial soup?


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