There’s a relatively new collection of essays making its way around Washington circles asking a provocative question that, I’m sure, many have acted out in their own personal lives yet never really pondered what it meant — a book entitled, "Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?"
Gathered and compiled by editor John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org, the myriad scholarly contributors examine just how the Internet has altered the course of an individual’s thinking. "A new invention has emerged, a code for collective consciousness that requires a new way of thinking," Mr. Brockman writes. "The Internet is the infinite oscillation of our collective consciousness interacting with itself. It’s not about computers It’s about thinking."
Indeed, perhaps the single greatest invention of our time has changed the way we collect, process, analyze and share information; from the most meaningless such as a casserole recipe, to state secrets pilfered by rogue military personnel and scattered like ashes to the four winds. Not since the telegraph in the early 19th century has information moved so rapidly and efficiently.
But is the better question today, in these modern times, not just how the Internet has changed the way humans think, but rather how humans behave? Has this technological crowbar not only opened the minds of, say, the lowest of the Third World, but given them a rally point from which to begin a cause — something that, to Mr. Brockman’s point, empowers individuals to work toward a collective goal?
If today’s events in the Middle East are any indication, the answer is a resounding "YES." Following years of oppressive rule in Egypt, the nation’s youth found its collective voice and turned its anger and frustration toward the government into action. Social media was the galvanizing force there. Many credit the successful uprising as beginning soon after the death of Khaled Said, a 20-something businessman who caught the Egyptian police red-handed for corruption. He was later beaten to death. Yet his death led to the creation of a Facebook page entitled "We are all Khaled Said" that grew to more than a half-million followers by the first days of the revolution.
Information is the lifeblood of any fledgling movement. And the unvarnished accounts of direct eyewitnesses on the streets of these protests helped even the most timid of believers hundreds of miles away know their cause was just and worth pursuing.
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