January 29, 2020

What is the Internet?

Amy Jardine

What is the Internet?, 2020

The internet is so big, so bewildering, that it seems beyond comprehension. The question, ‘what is the internet?’ could be answered in countless ways, none of them final. The internet is also driving humankind mad. This madness has arisen at a critical moment. As the climate crisis unfolds, humankind must act decisively to ensure our survival. Is global consensus possible? The turbulence of our online behaviour suggests it is not. This essay is a work of hope. A better understanding of the internet – and what it is doing to us – could help us understand how to achieve unity, and act decisively together. I looked for a metaphor that would explain the internet. I chose metaphor because it is an economical way to explain something mysterious or opaque (‘all the world’s a stage’, for example, is a neat explanation of the meaning of life itself). I considered metaphors from contemporary writers and thinkers: those who are facing the internet at this moment, in all its confusion and splendour. The answer I settled on was ‘the internet is our infant mind’. This metaphor paves the way for another question: will this mind mature in time to ensure our survival?