The Instantaneous Nature of the Net

The beginnings of the Internet are pretty amazing — not just because the ideas were so revolutionary and probably outlandish for the time, but more so because of how far we have progressed since then. The reliability testing that had to be done for FTP, isolating each piece of the network to see which part or parts were failing, is akin to tearing through the walls in your house to see if a rat has chewed through one of your electric cables when a light isn’t working in your house. It is very much analog, tangible. Today, we would never think twice about whether a file sent over the Internet reached its destination. We drag the file to the browser, click “send,” and can 99.9999% of the time safely assume that the file will go to its intended recipient.

Much more interesting to me, however, is the idea of instantaneousness. Whenever we use the Internet, unless we’re stuck on a pesky 3G connection — where’s 5G at already? – there is a certain expectation that everything will load immediately. In communications, especially, this is important. Whether using iMessage, Facebook Messenger, or even e-mail, the message is received pretty much right after it’s sent. This is a far cry from when, back in the days of the ARPANET, e-mail was bundled and sent over FTP once a day. Truly, as technology progresses, we become more and more reliant on its capabilities. If e-mail were as slow or as unreliable today as it was back in those days, our society would function a whole lot differently.

We use e-mail for work, school, news, advertising. If, as back in the day, we had to call up each person individually to send across a message immediately, it would take hours out of the day, not to mention the very likely chance that at least a few people would be away form their (very stationary) phones. In the modern age, technology makes us much more productive. Some might say that we’re becoming lazy or losing our “real human interaction” by spending all of our time staring at a screen in lieu of a face-to-face conversation. But used effectively, these technologies can really drive us forward in our everyday lives. With specific regards to communication, given the efficiency of today’s systems and products, we need not spend too much time on the Internet and with our devices to get things done — certainly not nearly as much as we would have had to if trying to do the same things at the same scale back in the days of the ARPANET. For example, to reach a wide audience today is simply to post a tweet or send out a mass e-mail, whereas 40 years ago, that might have entailed calling individuals, or sending out many, many pieces of mail.

It will be interesting to watch, especially since we seemed to have reached almost real-time in our Internet communications, where future improvements will take place and how they will change the way which, and frequency with which, people will use the Internet.

One thought on “The Instantaneous Nature of the Net

  1. Excellent thoughts, Hari. I completely agree that the instantaneous nature of communication using today’s networked devices has made us more productive in many ways. As someone who lived before this age, I also find it has made certain things in my life less productive. Can you imagine what they are? Overall, I think that the overall impact is positive, but you might check with others you know from my generation.

    I also wanted to encourage you to think about how things might have worked 35 years ago when someone wanted to reach a large audience. Let’s say I wanted to have a party with 35 of my closest friends. How was yesteryear and today different in how you and I might announce and plan such an event? Is the difference all to the good? I’m not saying it isn’t. Just asking you to think about it.

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