Saturday, June 21, 2008


That very same Vanity Fair issue [July 2008] that had the Clinton article had what they billed as the "first ever oral history" of the Internet. Some 200 people were interviewed although far fewer was quoted in sound bites. One thing that particularly caught my attention is a build-in paradox: the internet was started by the Air Force as a reaction to Sputnik, i.e., because the US did not trust the USSR and was scared s-less. They envisioned a way to keep the honchos in touch with one another. [So if the Soviets decided to bomb us we could bomg them at the same time and thus cooperatively destroy large parts of the world -- my interpretation.]

The soon to be World Wide Web morphed in a number of ways -- this was an easy to read article but apparently far from comprehensive. I found it especially interesting because it emphasized contributions of individuals. I believe, and apparently so does V.F. that individuals make history and push the progress of technology [even of civilization].

The paradox came when I read statements by the man who dreamed up Pay Pal and the one who dreamed up eBay. Both young men said, I believed you could trust people. And they were right, essentially -- right enough to be very succeessful trusting people to pay up and to keep their end of a bargain. So it went from national distrust to individual trust. And then became even more individual with My Space and Face Book where people make themselves open to literally millions of other people. Yes, we've all read about hoaxes and problems but those are so few compared to the many using the Web to buy, sell, talk, become friends. [Picture above is Marc Andreesen, founder of Netscape, and his partner in the new Ning, Gina Bianchini].

I have been active about a year in a social network that swaps small things, often as small as letters and postcards. A paradox is that one purpose for participating is to receive snail mail, small items or just letters. A recent innovation on that site is a "wish list group" where members publish small wishes [craft items, notebooks, interesting teas, etc.] and other members, send items from those lists -- these are people all around the world who have never met, often never exchanged anything. They simply have generous impulses and know that sending a small item will make someone happy when the mail arrives. Are they all lost, lonely, needy people? No. Many may be stay at home moms or retirees who have a little too much time. But I believe the majority enjoy random acts of kindness both giving and getting. Some want to be in touch with another part of the world. Isn't that nice oil for the social machinery?

And this is a new phenomenon, only possible in the last ten years because of the continually changing internet possibilities. I find it amazing and really very nice.
The swap site's name is It's free to join. Go and check it out if you're curious.

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