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  •                                 NETFUTURE
    
                Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future
    
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    Issue #17      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates         April 25, 1996
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                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
    
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    
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    ####  Don't forget the $5000 SPIDER OR FLY? deadline: April 30, 1996  ####
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    CONTENTS:
    *** Arthur C. Clarke's Palador and Net consciousness (Jiri Baum)
          `An intellect more powerful than any other in the Universe'
    *** Speeding toward meaninglessness (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Why time-saving devices don't save time
    *** About this newsletter
    

    *** Arthur C. Clarke's Palador and Net consciousness

    From Jiri Baum (jiri@baum.com.au)

    Sue Barnes wrote in NETFUTURE #14, "As our communications technologies extend our sense into a united global embrace, the ecology of self dissolves. This is the final paradox of cyberspace."

    Her article reminded me of something that, half a century before her, Arthur C. Clarke wrote. I do not know if he ever expanded on the idea, but in his short story Rescue Party, he mentions "one of the strange beings from the system of Palador. It was nameless, like all its kind, for it possessed no identity of its own, being merely a mobile but still dependent cell in the consciousness of its race. Though it and its fellows had long been scattered over the galaxy in the exploration of countless worlds, some unknown link still bound them together as inexorably as the living cells in a human body.

    "When a creature of Palador spoke, the pronoun it used was always singular in the language of Palador."

    As in all science fiction, the first and perhaps most important question is, do we want it? Is this a desirable outcome for mankind? I do not know the answer to this question, and I fear that an answer is not really possible. But we must nevertheless try to answer it, or we shall be swept up by streams of time we do not understand.

    To leave on a brighter note, I close with something that I haven't yet heard of with respect to the Internet. I wonder if it'll emerge? "In moments of crisis, the single units comprising the Paladorian mind could link together in an organization no less close than that of any physical brain. At such moments they formed an intellect more powerful than any other in the Universe."

    Jiri Baum (jiri@baum.com.au)

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I would like to put Jiri Baum's question to any readers who are in a position to pursue the matter further. One of the prominent themes within the culture of the Net, showing up in varied forms, has to do with the expected emergence of some sort of mystical / collective / higher / global consciousness. I