What is the Internet?

Think of an ecosystem where viruses hop from host to host at the speed of light. Where biological entities plugged into silicon machines manipulate data traffic to achieve their ends. Where information is collated and networked through the wisdom of the crowds. Akin to the surface of Io, centres of information storage are constantly upthrust only to be trampled upon. Where a Digg will give way to a Reddit. Where hierarchies of information clearly manifest themselves as data plays off information in an effort to encode itself with brevity. Where a product may be abstracted into a piece of digital information on a site. And where that piece of digital information is abstracted into user reviews. Where those user reviews are abstracted into histogram maps and aggregates and into ratings of the reviewers themselves. As the energy output of the planet increasingly goes into just pure computing. As computing algorithms battle for supremacy in high speed, microsecond trading, where arbitrages between exchanges are sliced away in microseconds, whether brokerages jostle to locate their terminals close to the exchanges to minimize latency. Where the currency is information, because really information is all that matters. How fast can information flow? At the speed of a Pheidippides? At the speed of a horse drawn carriage? A steamboat? An aeroplane? Or at the speed of photons streaming through a wavelength division multiplexed fibre optic cable? The Internet is a manifestation of the singular underlying principle that abstracting information about your environment into the shortest possible space is all that really matters.

The currency is information. And in such an ecosystem, parasites masquerading as information can thrive. They are viruses. Parasites that live off their hosts. The raw material of the Internet is pure computer power, as manifested in the online currency Bitcoin – that can only be generated through expending useless machine cycles. This raw computing power is then leveraged into controlling and compressing the flow of information. The point of the Internet is that information is brought to you. Physical distances do not matter in the same way. You can buy everything you need off Amazon, order food delivered home online, work remotely, Skype with your family and friends, get your news online. Think of it and you can or will be able to do it online. The bleeding edge of the Internet will relentlessly chip away at your need to physically move to access information and do work. It will battle against the primal human need for physical contact and intimacy. The question is if a Skype call can ever replace a face to face meeting? Recall research where touch was transferred over the Internet. Or virtual vacations in Total Recall. What happens when we can convey touch, smell and feeling over the Internet. When technology becomes all-encapsulating? Why, evolution will always take precedence. The survival of the fittest. And the fittest will those who can leverage the Internet into control of information to control their lives. Perhaps that will one day reduce (or enhance) us into fixed, high bandwidth bionic hybrids optimized for pure information processing, all physical needs left obsolete by the relentless push of technology to chip away at what is non-essential. Bringing it down to a single question. What is absolutely necessary for an entity to survive? Knowledge about its environment and the ability to change in response to that knowledge. And if our environment goes digital, then that knowledge must be knowledge about that digital environment, and the response is in algorithmic response to wrest control of that information flow.

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