Upswings of downtime tech

The pandemic has a led to increases in the sales of all forms of technology. Computers, video games, streaming services, etc. How we’re spending time at home – or away from people – is a new type of American experience.

The burgeoning at-home entertainment market (at least electronic) is only a handful of decades old. And yet, here we are, spending time online, binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy (or so I’m told…), and delving into new distractions.

When we’ve reached the other side, how difficult will it be to pull ourselves away from all of the technology that we’ve become so reliant on? Or, will we continue to adapt, coexisting physically and digitally?

A brief history of blogs

Believed to be the first blog, Justin Hall’s links.net began in 1994. For Hall, it was a chance to combine his love of the internet (then mostly a fledgling technology) and his other interests. His first draft had “links to HTML information, some stuff about [Hall’s] college, a photo of [him] and Oliver North, a sound clip of Jane’s Addiction’s lead singer saying ‘Well I’m on acid too, and I ain’t throwin’ shoes at you,’ and a list of [his] favorite web sites.”

The early adopters called their pages online journals or diaries, personal pages, and similar titles. In 1997, the term “weblog” was coined by Jorn Barger to describe these sites.

Early blogs were mostly for the technologically-savvy, requiring some knowledge of HTML and its requisite coding. Eventually, platforms begin cropping up, allowing ease-of-use for non-technical bloggers.

In 2003, both WordPress (where my site is hosted) and TypePad (who I’m familiar with for Seth Godin‘s using) were founded.

Over the past fifteen years, the prevalence and persistence of blogs has increased. Internet visibility is important not only to companies but also to individuals. Beyond the social media spectrum, where what you produce is comingled with everyone else’s content, your own website allows you the freedom to create what you will, with the security that, should you choose, it will only be your content seen.

Coding

There’s something that I keep hearing: coding is not only a good skill to have, but it could be one of the preeminent skills that will be needed over the coming decades. This has been repeated by the likes of Cal Newport, Seth Godin, and Tim Ferriss. 

But what are we looking at in the future of coding? What can we come up with? Another app for the smartphone?

My recent interests have been looking at machine learning and quantum computing. Quantum computers “promise  to power exciting advances in various fields, from materials science to pharmaceuticals research.” 

While the computer remains vital in everyday activity, the quantum computer promises a leap forward into something we may not even be able to imagine yet.

Digital tolerance

Oh, internet. The bastion of great thoughts and petty skirmishes. An open forum of unique ideas and rehashed biases.

How we interact with each other online, if only viewed through that lens, would indicate we aren’t a very hospitable race. Twitter, Facebook, and even the ‘gram can sometimes reveal the vilest and despicable thoughts that we, the engaged, can express.

People say, or type, things online that they would never say in person. Others express opinions that they may have shared with like-minded individuals, maybe two or three in their community, but now they enjoy a world-spanning platform. The like-minded respond to their opinions, reinforcing behavior that, again, would not be socially acceptable in person.

At the same time, we actively engage in digital fisticuffs, trying our best to pivot and outmaneuver our networked opponents. Because they have become our opponents. No opinion but ours is valid online, and we defend our little nook with extreme prejudice, with failure never an option.

And thus we devolve into warlike attitudes with those who would otherwise be someone we could actually connect with.

The internet was, and remains, a great idea. It is its execution that has been stymied somewhat by us, the users.

Trying to remain tolerant of others with different opinions is usually a difficult task. At the best of times, it makes us somewhat uncomfortable to have our opinions challenged. At the worst… Well, wars have been fought for less.

Remember that behind each screen is a living person, little different from you or me. Attacking with verbal violence and vitriol shouldn’t be your go-to response. And rather than a preemptive trolling, why not engage in preemptive understanding?

Cultivating the internet

With so much information on the web, it’s simply impossible to know what you may find. So we turn to cultivators: newsletters, aggregation sites, and web searches.

Since we can’t possibly do it ourselves, we allow trusted advisors to show us the information that we need. Google, Yahoo, Apple News… all provided singular locales to peruse top news stories. Other options include:

  • Setting up a Google alert to keep you informed when topics of interest show up in news items.
  • Getting emails from brands can provide you with information on sales and products, while some even offer daily news updates.
  • Magazines and newspapers also offer daily news (and other) email subscriptions.
  • Tech, finance, education, science, etc., all have their own numerous dedicated lists and newsletters.

The important thing is to not become overwhelmed in the reception of all this information, because then the cultivators just become part of the abundance problem.

Measuring the internet

The internet is teeming with more data, more information, more nooks, crannies, and rabbit holes than I can even fathom.

Literally, there is something for each and every person to spend the rest of their lives on, if they so chose.

One estimate points to the amount of data stored on servers at Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Facebook is approximately 1.2 exabytes.

zettabyte.png

More than 90% of the current data online has been created since 2016. Roughly 25 petabytes are added to the internet each day. The Library of Congress blog estimated that, in 2012, it had 10 TB worth of knowledge stored within its hallowed halls.

You would need more than 100,000 complete Libraries of Congress to store the amount of information held on the servers of the four big tech companies. 

Thanks to Google and Bing; smart people creating search engines and utilizing boolean operators, we’re able to delve into the vastness that is the internet. Then it’s just a matter of choosing where to spend your time.