It's really about the roses you forgot to stop and smell

I’ve been following all this Web 2.0 business for a while, and it scares me. It’s hard to explain in a few lines — (I really want to, but I also have to evaluate the charniak parser, and the brill tagger, write appositions…. ) – it’s not because we’re heading towards a second dot-com bubble(we might be, but I don’t really care about it). It’s because there’s WAY too much technology out and about. There’s not enough people(or people’s resources) to consume it, and not enough data for it to be useful. The searchable internet may have billions of pages, but how much of it is really useful? Your intelligent social network may connect you to so many people, but do you really want to talk to all these people? You may relish the ability to suck in So Much Information with the press of a single button, but how much of the data you consume useful? I’m not just complaining about the fact that the information age has retarded our lives instead of making it better; I’m worrying about the fact that we’re heading towards an overprocessed, overnetworked, overmanaged world where we’re doing very little useful work.

My other worry is about the frontronners of the new Web: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Amazon, News Corp. Each one is building their own Map framework, their own index of the world and its libraries, their own social network systems, their own information monarchy. It’s all about “convergent, ubiquituous, live-your-life-on-my-website technology”. Imagine the redundancy in effort; in intellectual advancement; the waste of precious human capability because each of these players(and countless other startups, opensource mashups, and random developers) are eying the same piece of meat: the whole of your life. Not just a part of it: the only way to really strike a profit is to make it really useful for you. And the only way to make this really useful, is to take over the whole of your life. What you read, hear, see. Who you communicate with and how. Which parties you go to, What you eat, where you go to shop. And how you travel to get to party, shop and eat. It’s ironic, but from how I look at it, the global optimal(both my convenience, and their profit) is for everyone to surrender entirely to one of these Big Brothers. I’m not advocating an eventual 1984 here, just pointing out that the only way we will really ever get to the Web we dream of is by letting exaclty one of these players to win; and that situation is identical to the BigBrotherness we all have nightmares about.

(I know a lot of this text above would look like mindless drivel unless you’ve been carefully following the way the WWW has been changing over the last year. I wish had the time to hyperlink, exemplify and write this out clearly; but I’m afraid I’m going to have to sacrifice quality of writing due to lack of time.)

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About the author:

Arnab Nandi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at The Ohio State University. You can read more about him here.


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