When nerds collide
(Fortune Magazine) -- I have seen the future, and it is run by nerds.
I have seen their campuses: big, cold collections of buildings near Palo Alto, towers of steel and glass sprouting from the earth like shiny teeth, with public spaces crisscrossed by macadam paths and festooned with playgrounds and volleyball nets, but no one is at those playgrounds, no one is gamboling at the nets, for they are analog nets, the real areas of recreation and wonderment being inside the silicon boxes that house the real Net that has captured their nerdish souls and soon will ours. And we will like it.
And yea, I have seen them moving as a flock, a herd of nerds emerging from one Tinkertoy building and swarming across the greensward into another, with nametags on their flat, be-sweatered bosoms and bad hair combed forward. And they were fiercely intelligent, these nerds, and spoke excitedly in a language none but they could understand about universal connectors and uninterrupted power sources and open code, and they looked not up to see the sky.
I have seen their robot dog, and was frightened. It was about a foot high and had the general affect of a cocker spaniel, except that it didn't piddle when it bumped into my leg like mine always did, and its feet were these weird circular flanges that flailed about, and even though it was simply an assemblage of metal and rubber, with no canine heart or soul, it was cute.
And I saw a world where we would come, as did the Chinese emperor, to value such beasts more than their animate counterparts, who are smelly and inconveniently die when you have come to love them, because these virtual entities are awesome, and capable of upgrading themselves based on our input until they know us better than our mothers, and need considerably less attention on weekends.
And I saw the leaders of the future, and they too were gangly, otherworldly nerds who communicated with profound weirdness, not in linear thoughts that went from one human being to another, but in enormous ideas that speak to something new in the post-human spirit, an assumption that one day we will all be one organism in constant feedback with itself, like ants in a farm or bees in a hive. And I listened to the nerds and realized that any vision but theirs was now beside the point.
And then I saw how far down the road we are already, unable to live without the constituents of our cool universe - from cellphones to BlackBerrys to Bluetooth appendages - that make it impossible for us to be alone with our thoughts and will in time eliminate the need for individual thought altogether. For I have seen what it is like to forget your electronics at home for a day, the growing hysteria at being out of touch, and the realization that I am now dependent on them entirely. And I felt the emptiness of my own mind and the craving to have it filled.
And I saw myself transformed into Human 2.0, a new creature with a common brain. The membrane between the one and the many will be broken by the way we live our daily lives, each of us driven by the illusion of choice, the one thing not chosen being whether to participate at all.
And I saw each of us begin our nerdish day with our radio station, which is now tied into the Big Pipe that is the Internet, as is that gizmotic meta-object, our cellphone. And I saw us in our offices, online, e-mailing and interconnecting, and plunging into virtual lives in virtual towns, spending actual money on real estate that exists only in the cybernetic ether.
And I saw us at night, in our homes before gigantic walls of video that can be touched to effect transactions, access data, join with others, express opinions and desires. And I saw the great computer that lies at the center of the web, processing while we sleep, taking in all that it has learned during the day and preparing its report for the nerds who will wake up the next morning eager to digest its implications and once again market the interconnected community to itself.
And this will be possible because every transaction we accomplish, every preference we articulate, will be captured, logged, and fed back into the system to make it more responsive to our needs going forward. And we will be together in this future. And we will never be alone. And we will be happy, one global nation, indivisible.
Unless, you know, we'd rather not.