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You're probably reading this on a screen, unless you're a barbarian and you printed it out for some bizarre reason. iPad, phone, laptop, desktop, kindle... it doesn't matter. It's a screen. These words are just a ghostly shadow, a mumbling idea that passes with a gesture...
You may not even know how you got here, not that you're anywhere. We use those words so casually -- visit a website... go to a page... join us... We want this experience to be as real as going to the corner coffee shop. We want it to be more real.
The little dots dance a complex cotillion and create the illusion of seeing things that aren't there while the vibrations of plastic or paper in your speakers make you think you're hearing things that aren't there.
You know the difference intellectually. Subconsciously, though, you choose to forget the difference. After all, the sights you see off the screen are no different -- just impulses travelling down your optic and cochlear nerves. But with the Internet, you can turn it off and go outside and play.
Or can you?
You take your phone with you and look at more dots on another screen. The little screen gives you continuity -- the conversation you started at your desk on Facebook follows you into the street. You can watch that video again and listen to the soft murmurings of your earbuds.
In one sense, it's easier to leave a place than to leave the dots and vibrations of the interconnected world of the Internet. The guy bugging you at the bar goes away, your friends on Twitter are still with you, including that guy who keeps hitting on you on Twitter. Your house can burn down, but your vacation pictures are still on Facebook -- the vacation you took with your Ex's family... the trip where you decided it was time to make her an "ex."
But unlike watching TV, we're all part of this illusion. Part of my consciousness is flowing back out through the many screens of my life. My thoughts become dots and vibrations for you to read on a screen.
I can complain until I'm blue in the face about iPad vs. Android, local storage vs. cloud computing or Facebook vs. the rest of social media. But, the Internet isn't about the tools, it's about expanding our consciousnesses. Maybe some things out there are like bifocals; there are tools I hate because I don't need them and they get in my way.
But as this grand experiment in information systems continues to evolve, it's not going to be about screens, dots and vibrations, operating systems or distribution networks.
It's about sharing ideas. And as inhuman as the system is, there's nothing more human than that.