Implications of Computers and Cyberspace on Our Collective Reality
Written by Barry Beck
Any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from
Computers and the Internet are increasingly the central nervous system
of our society and the heart of our worlds information, technology,
commerce, culture, art and entertainment. In a sense, the Internet is
becoming our planets collective mind in the form of co-mingled
It is possible to compare the importance of computer literacy with development
of language, conventional literacy (the alphabet, writing) and the printing
press on the human mind, memory, attention and paranormal abilities.
People, as a result of these earlier developments, have gained some
aptitudes and lost others. In pre-history and among many so-called primitive
tribes today, people were able to learn and remember in ways we no longer
needed after things were written down. Long texts such as the Bible,
mythologies, epics and genealogies were and are remembered very accurately
by non-literate cultures in ways we could not now and do not need to
remember. Today many decry the shortened attention span and lessened
spelling, reading and mathematics skills of young people, yet that younger
generation is often more attuned to computers and fast moving visual
data than their older counterparts. So might this not just be another
step in our evolution? Might we not (while losing some faculties of
the mind which the computer can track as pen and paper do for us now)
be releasing more potent parts of the mind, perhaps of a right-brained,
intuitional or psychic nature?
of cyberspace can be human minds combined with and expanded by the environment
of computer hardware, software, data and networks. (The original use
of the term was in a science fiction novel by William Gibson called
Neuromancer, which appeared in 1984. Broadly speaking, cyberspace refers
to the abstract space occupied by electronic information.) Does this
not allow for an extension of the human mind and permit it to search
out and find others of like mind (through Internet searches and web
sites for instance)?
On the downside, some have argued that the printing press had the most
influence on mankind because it facilitated the distribution of information
and thereby passed on knowledge from generation to generation easily.
Oral histories and story telling have become rare artforms. With the
advent of the computer, the Internet and virtual reality, we can only
speculate on the new abilities mankind will gain and those that will
be lost. Forms of communications such as e-mail may become so widespread,
that we may lose the ability and desire to pen beautiful prose in letters
of our own handwriting or express ourselves face to face. Will the almost
instantaneous distribution of information cause people to react rather
than reflect on events and problems? And if we can create a true virtual
reality of our own, would it become so real our mind would free itself
of its physicality?
cyberspace and virtual reality with other realities and other realms
of existence such as dreams, the space-time anomalies of quantum physics
and relativity, Tibetan concepts of after and between lives, mythological
and archetypal representations. Some would argue these have as valid
a claim on the word reality as does our three-dimensional
physical world in that the world we are presently experiencing as well
as the above perceptions as well as cyberspace, we are projections of
who we are at this moment. We create our own reality in all these realms
of existence. On the Internet, some people even project themselves as
a different person. Time and space are artificial constructs in all
realities. We form our experience though our thoughts, feelings, expectations
and focus. We are all cooperating to form this (3-D) reality from our
collective non-physical sources. We are multi-dimensional personalities
connected to a larger whole. Therefore, might not cyberspace as an extension
of the human mind have a valid claim on the term reality?
records, services are represented as binary digits on magnetized metal
disk. A computer only recognizes and understands two things: the digits
0 and 1 (zero and one) in the form of impulses
on charged metal. All our data, most information in our society, most
of our money exists as electrical signals on disk or tape; magnetic
orientations or impulses on ferromagnetic oxide coated metal (silicon
chips) representing binary digits (only zero and one). So perhaps binary
digits can be seen as a basic code or symbol such as an ancient alphabet
letter or DNA.
Many mystical traditions say that all answers to life and all information
(personal or universal) can be learned by contemplating a symbol or
code (anything: a cloud, rainbow, flower, navel, river, lotus, mandala,
another persons face, or the letter of an alphabet) if you stay
with it long enough and peel away layer after layer. There is also a
tradition that different letters of ancient alphabets (Hebrew, Arabic,
Sanskrit, Chinese, Greek, Runes, Hieroglyphics) have enormous meaning
beneath the immediate written surface. These meanings can only be discovered
symbolically and metaphorically and not through a logical, linear use
of language. For example, in Hebrew mystical tradition, such as the
Kaballa, it is believed the entire Bible can be understood and recreated
from the very first letter if you knew how to understand all beneath
the symbol. If you cannot, it can be understood from the first word.
If youre still missing the meaning, then the first sentence, paragraph,
chapter (or whole book, if youre really slow).
have access to all the information and knowledge in the world contained
in universities, libraries, books, literature, government agencies,
museums, research, newspapers, magazines. Also information for research,
business, travel, education, health, and shopping.
may have their own web site; in effect a resume where they can introduce
themselves to the world. One no longer needs a printing press or broadcast
tower to become a media mogul. More than any other media before, the
Internet is controlled by its audience; a kind of true anarchy exists
on the Net. And the idea of handicapped people being freed by the Web
(floating world - Ethernet) is something that may be closer.
by Barry Beck
Copyright © 1992 Barry Beck.
All Rights Reserved.
Not to be reprinted without the permission
of the author
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