Internet

 

As usual when there is a new form of information technology, some see it as unfortunate, as something that will damage the young people.

It’s very predictable, and it has happened throughout history….. when we went from a oral tradition to writing, when radio and cinema arrived, when we got TV, when we went from black-and-white TV to color (here in Norway, there was even a heated discussion in parlament concerning how color TV would damage people), and now it’s the same with the internet.

It’s good to take a sober look at this.

First, we see that some – perhaps those with a fear of the new – will have these opinions. It’s very predictable. It has happened thorughout history.

We also know that, in most cases, it won’t be as bad as some say, and it won’t be as good as some others say.

Also, it’s a tool. It all depends on how it’s used. A hammer can be very useful, and it can also be harmful. It just depends on how we use it.

We are adaptable. Our use of it changes, and the technology itself evolves. We see what works and doesn’t work, and we make adjustments.

And there is always a heightened facination with the new technology at first. I see that for myself. The use of and fascination with it reaches a saturation point, and the use becomes more moderate and appropriate to long term use.

Note: Yes, I know about “digital dementia” and that discussion. And I still find it helpful to see the bigger picture, and keep a sober view. There is an advantage and a drawback to any information technology. For instance, books allows us to be absorbed into a different world, and use our imagination to (re)create this world in our minds. At the same time, they are ridiculously linear, and makes us a slave of what the author wants us to imagine and feel. Books, movies and radio are forms of information technology where the recipient is expected to be quite passive in this sense. They are quite linear and authoritarian forms of information technology, and the information typically only goes one way – from the author to the recipient.

Even if it has its own drawbacks, the internet allows the user to be more active and intentional, and often create, share and participate more actively. That is a dramatic advantage of the internet over previous technologies. It levels the playing field for those with access to the internet, and dramatically lowers the threshold for contributing. Few could and can publish books, and even fewer can have their own traditional radio program. But anyone with access to the internet can have their own website, or blog, or podcast, or YouTube channel. Of course, many in the world do not have this access.

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Fascination with internet

 

The current fascination with the internet is very understandable, from a couple of different perspectives.

From an evolutionary perspective, a curiosity and fascination with what’s new and information is valuable for survival. It helps us familiarize ourselves with what’s new, and we gain information about the world. (The newness factor is rapidly falling away, but the info factor is still there and will continue to be there.)

From a larger perspective, it’s life (Earth, the Universe) familiarizing itself with itself, through us… it’s local eyes, ears, feelings and intellect. We are the universe experiencing and exploring itself, and bringing itself into awareness. (As it does through any sentient beings, part of this living planet and – most likely – other places in the universe.)

It’s common for the older generations to frown upon the “fads” of the younger generations, and that has happened with the internet too. But those days are already almost over, as those who grew up with the internet now are having their own children, and the internet has become an ordinary part of daily life for even the older ones. What’s new becomes ordinary, and we find a more balanced relationship with it. And it is quite amazing, this tool that connects people around the world (at least those more affluent…..) and allows us access to a great deal of information created by people around the world and throughout history.

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Mars

 

There are two Mars related stories in the news these days: The quite exciting landing of Curiosity on Mars a few days ago, and Elon Musk’s plan to bring people to Mars within 10-15 years.

I have been interested in astronomy and space exploration since I was a little boy, and this interest was fueled even more when I saw Cosmos by Carl Sagan at age ten or eleven. It brought me directly into a profound sense of awe of the universe and life itself, of us all – quite literally – made of star dust, the product of 13.4 billions years of evolution, and that these eyes, these ears, these thoughts, these feelings are the eyes, ears, thoughts and feelings of the universe. In the words of Carl Sagan:

And we, we who embody the local eyes and ears and thoughts and feelings of the cosmos, we have begun at least to wonder about our origins — star stuff contemplating the stars, organized collections of ten billion billion billion atoms, contemplating the evolution of nature, tracing that long path by which it arrived at consciousness here on the planet earth, and perhaps throughout the cosmos.

In my teens, I became interested in systems views and the Gaia theory, and it was quite clear that the Earth as a whole can be seen as a seamless living organism, where we as humans have specific roles and functions, as any other species and ecosystem does. What is our role? We are, clearly, an awareness organ for the Earth and the universe. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to bring itself into awareness. We are a way for the Earth and the universe to experience itself. Through us, the Earth and the universe develops technologies which allows for it to explore itself even further, in even smaller details (microscopes), even further out in space (telescopes, space travel). Through us, Earth is able to see itself from the outside, as one seamless whole, and that feeds back into and even transforms our human society and culture.

Perhaps most importantly in the long run – we may be a way for the Earth to reproduce. The Earth has already taken the first steps in this direction, through our space travel and ideas of Mars colonization and terraforming. It’s an universal impulse for life to wish to (a) survive and (b) reproduce, so why wouldn’t this also be the case for Earth as a whole? There are several mechanisms which may make this happen. It’s a natural consequence of our combination of (a) curiosity and passion for exploration, and (b) our current and future levels of technology. It makes sense. Having two – or more – planets with human colonies and Earth life (plants, animals, ecosystems) makes humanity and Earth life far more resilient. A large space object may crash into the Earth, wiping out civilization and large portions of life, or we may do it ourselves. So if we have a “backup” civilization and Earth life somewhere else, life can continue there and perhaps even support or re-seed life on Earth. In a longer perspective, we know that the sun will eventually engulf the Earth.

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Firefox 3 released

 

Firefox 3 is released! I have used it for a few weeks already, and am very happy with it. (Update: a day-and-a-half later, it has been downloaded over ten million times!)

Among these recommended extensions, I find a few especially useful: Ablock Plus, All-in-One Sidebar, Customize Google. DownloadHelper, Foreastfox, IE Tab, PDF Download, PicLens, Menu Editor, QuickNote.

Another benefit of Firefox is that this site actually looks good on it! (I noticed recently that the single page view is a little off with Internet Explorer – all lower case letters, the comment field is not in the right position, etc. I’ll look into it at some point.)

Open Source and Creative Commons

 

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I have used open source applications for some years now, and prefer them not only because they are free and often of very good quality, but also for how they are created and the philosophy behind them. My most recent switch is from InDesign to Scribus for layout type work.

Other applications I find especially helpful: Firefox browser, VLC Media Player, Inkscape (vector design) and sometimes Gimp (image editing), WordPress (including for this blog) and other content management systems, FileZilla for ftp (file transfer), and also Celestia (3D space simulation). I have also started to explore Blender which is 3D animation software.

I used Open Office for a while, but have now switched to Star Office which is part of the Google Pack. (See below.)

And some that are free and good quality, although not necessarily Open Source: Google (gmail, calendar, reader, documents, photos), Google Pack (Picasa, Google Earth, Star Office, SketchUp), Skype (online calling) and Stellarium (planetarium).

And then there is of course Creative Commons for music, art, text, video and more, including fonts. Here is a list of forty high quality fonts, many using a Creative Commons license.

See also these lists of Open Source applications from Open Source Living and WikiPedia, and a selection of Open Source applications for Windows and Mac.