Article first appeared in spark-online.com, June, 2000

 

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issue 9.0

a door, a mirror, a light, a way:
the world wide web

by richard ames hart

The World Wide Web has turned upside down the process of expanding human consciousness.

People meeting in carpenter sheds, discussing common human experiences, suddenly burst into light on the Internet.

I spent five years writing a 400-page book on verbal self-defense, printed a hundred copies, then sold them out of my San Francisco taxicab. Another year for the second edition. Another year for the third edition. Bookstores wouldn't touch it, and people kept buying it. I knew something was fishy.

The institutions have gatekeepers, and for the most part, the gatekeepers are sons-of-bitches. Even if a gatekeeper accepts a refereed article (which I wrote when I was a computer scientist), the article has its day in the sun for a few months, then gets archived. Even if a gatekeeper accepts a popular article (which I wrote for Creative Computing, which is no longer with us), the entire process of writing becomes dry, brittle and frozen by the printing press.

Articles and Books, and even E-mail, get frozen in the river of time, launched by a final «carriage return» then sent downstream. Other people pick up the carcasses of ideas floating past, argue about them, then launch rebuttals, almost dead before they hit the water.

Everything changes on the World Wide Web, which is like a lens magnifying intelligence. I work on a Daily Web Site, www.taxi1010.com, entitled "Non-escalating Verbal Self-Defense‚" its aim being to turn the tables on mean people by broadcasting (on demand, to the entire planet) the absurd things zombies say to vulnerable human beings, along with the most playful, powerful and intelligent responses anyone can muster, all because people all over the planet contribute daily. Already our website has an emotional IQ greater than any one person, and this is just the beginning.

Mean people are never, ever original, and that is their Achilles Heel. A researcher, such as myself, can write down sentences phony people say, sentences which have evolved to bypass the intellect, sentences such as, "Don't you people have anything better to do?‚" or "Why were you late?" and can do research on each and every one of them in search of responses befitting both royalty and the rogue on the street. For instance, no one would ever ask the Crown Prince of Norway, or the Thief of Baghdad, why he or she was late, and they shouldn't ask you.

If people with an imitation life do ask the Prince - or the thief - such a question, you can only assume they have each had a certain education‚ ....

The World Wide Web is like a theater company coming into town before the invention of the printing press: each performance plays to the strengths of its actors, reflects the hopes, dreams, and sensibilities of its audiences, and the production changes. Its ideas blossom and grow, its feelings live and communicate, its consciousness breathes.

 
 

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Illustration by Amoret Phillips / taxi1010.com