The Edge Question for 2010, asking the finest and most interesting minds on the planet…

“How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?”

Here’s my digest of what I found interesting from among the 150,000 (deliciously Twitter-unfriendly) words….

“I don’t think about the Internet anymore. I just use it.” ANDRIAN KREYE

“I notice that some radical social experiments which would have seemed Utopian to even the most idealistic anarchist 50 years ago are now working smoothly and without much fuss.” BRIAN ENO

“No control! What a crazy idea. But it works. No centralized system could ever keep pace.” RUDY RUCKER

“Starting with no money, no backers, and no affiliation with elite institutions, the Internet made it possible for us to succeed by making knowledge accessible and searchable to me and my editors and writers on a scale never previously available.” MICHAEL SHERMER

“I rely on Google to recall my own thoughts.” SAM HARRIS

” [the Internet] is useful now, but I expect it to become much more useful as I get older and my memory starts to become less reliable — moving more of the information that passes through my mind into that penumbral region. Indeed, I am reminded of the impact that eyeglasses had after their development in the late 13th century […] Eyeglasses doubled the useful working life of scribes and skilled craftsmen who were otherwise liable to suffer from farsightedness (presbyopia) from the age of around 40.” TOM STANDAGE

“The Internet has changed the way I think about our threats for societal collapse. When we learn of the empires that have tumbled before us, it is plausible to think that our civilization will adhere to the same path and eventually fall to a traditional malady — anything from epidemics to resource depletion. But the rapid advance of the Internet has thoroughly (and happily) changed my opinion about our customary existential threats. […] Almost by accident, we now command the capacity for self-quarantining, retaining knowledge, speeding information flow, reducing censorship, actualizing human capital, and saving energy resources.” DAVID EAGLEMAN

“The Internet increased the presence of maps in my thinking. It’s become easier to make maps, to change them, and also to work on them collaboratively and collectively and share them […] I have come to see the focus on location as a key dimension”. HANS ULRICH OBRIST

“Sometimes I feel as if the Internet has granted me clairvoyance: I can see things at a distance. I’m particularly struck by the ease of using videos” STEPHEN M. KOSSLYN

“The Internet has certainly demystified my sense of geography and travel. On Google Maps I’ve explored remote Antarctic valleys as well as Robert Smithson’s sculptural earthwork, ‘Spiral Jetty.'” DOUGLAS COUPLAND

“The dawning happened during a photo trip to the Everglades, I took my computer with me, not just the phone to tap on, or a dim lap-top, but the big screen [and found that] Our common nervous system had followed me into the sea of grass and I knew right then I would follow that blinking cable farther into the countryside. [further Internet access] spreading through rural areas will have equal impact, a portable civilization on the end of a tube of glass bringing the big city advantage to a more soothing setting.”

“The Internet delocalizes your community. You participate from where-ever you are. You don’t need to travel to see or give talks and there is less reason to go into the office.” LEE SMOLIN

“I have many other friends and mentors who exist for me in this way, primarily as email correspondents. This has changed my sense of community profoundly. There are people I have never met who have a better understanding of what I will be thinking tomorrow than some of my closest friends do.” SAM HARRIS

“Email lets you speak in real sentences when you want to and not when you don’t feel the need. [the cell phone] contrast[s] with the civilised, relaxed, entirely adequate form of communication that I so prefer: email.” AUBREY DE GREY

“I no longer answer the phone at home and I only answer my mobile phone in the case of fixed telephone appointments.” HANS ULRICH OBRIST

“Unless checked frequently, electronic text messaging may not [actually] be faster than the postal service of 18th Century London that had up to six deliveries per day and offered the possibility of a same-day receipt and response.” ROBERT R. PROVINE

“I began paying more attention to everything that the Internet seems to be eliminating. Books especially. But also nature. In short: the more it all expands into the virtual reality the more I feel a need to love and protect the actual reality.” JONAS MEKAS

“… as the Net provides free or cheap versions of things, ‘the authentic experience’ — the singular experience enjoyed without mediation — becomes more valuable. I notice that more attention is given by creators to the aspects of their work that can’t be duplicated. The ‘authentic’ has replaced the reproducible.” BRIAN ENO

“Someone watching me surf the Web, as I jump from one suggested link to another, would see a day-dream. Today, I was in a crowd of people who watched a barefoot man eat dirt, then the face of a boy who was singing began to melt, then Santa burned a Christmas tree, then I was floating inside mud house on the very tippy top of the world, then Celtic knots untied themselves, then a guy told me the formula for making clear glass, then I was watching myself, back in high school, riding a bicycle. And that was just the first few minutes of my day on the Web this morning. […] Perhaps we are tapping into our collective unconscious in a way watching the directed stream of TV, radio and newspapers could not. Maybe click-dreaming is a way for all of us to have the same dream, independent of what we click on. This waking dream we call the Internet also blurs the difference between my serious thoughts and my playful thoughts, or to put it more simply: I no longer can tell when I am working and when I am playing online.” KEVIN KELLY

“The Internet made me think towards a more expanded notion of curating. […] Curation has long since evolved. Just as art is no longer limited to traditional genres, curating is no longer confined to the gallery or museum but has expanded across all boundaries.” HANS ULRICH OBRIST

“Our association is looser than a team but closer than a cohort, and it’s not a club or a workgroup or an elite. I’ll call it a guild. Everyone in my guild runs their own operation, and none of us report to each other. All we do is keep close track of what each other is thinking and doing. […] I seldom see my guild members in person (except the one I’m married to). We seldom talk on the phone. Yet we interact weekly through the crude old Internet tools of email and links.” STEWART BRAND

“I vividly remember my first day of browsing — firing link after link after link, suspended in an endless elation as I surveyed possibility after possibility for twenty hours straight — something I still feel. Now my browsing operates out of two states of mind: the first is broad, rapid, intuitive scanning, where I feel free to click without goals, in order to maintain some kind of general scientific and cultural awareness without drowning in the endless sea. The second is a disciplined, focused exploration, where I am careful to ignore partisan pulls and ad hominem distractions, to dispense with my own sympathies or annoyance, to strip everything away except information about causation, and paths to potential falsification or critical tests. […] I attempt to pay special attention to anomalies in my favored theories, which are easier to identify now that I can scan more broadly.” JOHN TOOBY

“There is a saying that rock and roll brought down the Soviet Union; once the Soviet subconscious had been colonized the political collapse followed easily. The flood of utterly uncensored images of sexual pleasure that reaches every corner of the world is certainly shaking the thinking of young men and women in the conservative societies that I’ve worked in. Where the conflicting emotions that have been unleashed will lead, I cannot tell.” ALUN ANDERSON

“Today we are facing the emergence of the “cyber-lumpenprolitariat”, of people who are being sucked into the digital whirlwind of gossip sites, trashy video games, populist and xenophobic blogs, and endless poking on social networking sites. The intellectual elites, on the other hand, continue thriving in the new digital environment, exploiting superb online tools for scientific research and collaboration, streaming art house films via Netflix, swapping their favorite books via e-readers, reconnecting with musical treasures of the bygone eras via iTunes, and, above all, perusing materials in the giant online libraries like the one that Google could soon unveil.” EVGENY MOROZOV

“I worry that the Internet may impose a “survival of the focused,” in which individuals gifted with some natural capacity to stay on target or who are hopped up on enough stimulants forge ahead, while the rest of us flail helplessly in some web-based attentional vortex.” BRIAN KNUTSON

“How could people NOT use the Internet in muddled, frazzled, fractured ways when hardly anybody instructs anybody else about how to use the Net salubriously?” HOWARD RHEINGOLD

“the Internet gives me more time for such [focussed, creative] Internet-free thinking by eliminating second millennium style visits to libraries and stores. The Internet also lets me focus my thinking on the research frontier rather than on reinventing the wheel.” MAX TEGMARK

“the Internet simply enhances my ability to think in familiar ways, letting me work longer, more often, with better focus, free from the social tyranny of the library and the uncertainty of postmen.” TIMOTHY TAYLOR

“I am less likely to pursue new lines of thought before turning to the Internet” MIHALY CSIKSZENTMIHALYI

“The modern Internet has greatly increased the availability of information, both the valuable stuff and the flotsam. Using a conceptual compass a generalist can navigate the flotsam, to gain the depth of a specialist in many areas. The compass-driven generalist need no longer be dismissed as the Mississippi River, ‘a mile wide and a foot deep’.” PAUL W. EWALD

“The cartography of what may be termed the old world of ideas is well developed. Journals, prizes and endowed chairs give us landmarks to which we turn in the quest for designated thinkers [yet] the actual settlement of the frontier at times requires the commitment of individuals questing for personal freedom, and here the new world of the Internet shines. […] issues of academic freedom have me longing to settle among the noble homesteaders now gathering on the efficient frontier of the market place of ideas. My intellectual suitcases have been packed for months now, as I try to screw up the courage and proper ‘efficient frontier mentality’ to follow my own advice to the next generation: “Go virtual, young man.” ” ERIC WEINSTEIN

“Perhaps the most profound change in my thinking is how the new ease of information access has allowed me to synthesize broad new ideas drawing from fields of scholarship outside my own. […] a synthesis of such scope might well have been possible without the light-speed world library of the Internet, [but] I, for one, would never have attempted it.” LAURENCE C. SMITH

“I am personally amazed by how little has changed in the world of education [as a result of the Internet] , but, whether we like it or not, the change must happen and it will happen. It may take another decade or two, but education will never be the same.” HAIM HARARI

“The Internet opens the gates of education to anyone who can get her hands on a computer. This is not always a trivial task, but the mere feasibility re-defines the playing field. A motivated teen anywhere on the planet can walk through the world’s knowledge — from the Webs of Wikipedia to the curriculum of MIT’s Open CourseWare.” DAVID EAGLEMAN

“From now on, there are vanishingly few excuses for remaining ignorant of objective scientific facts, and ever thinner grounds for cultivating hatred through wilful failure to recognize our shared humanity.” TIMOTHY TAYLOR

“The Web has allowed the re-invention of the spoken word. Thanks to a massive expansion of low-cost bandwidth, the cost of online video distribution has fallen almost to zero. As a result, recorded talks and lectures are taking on new forms, and spreading across the Web like wildfire. […] Beyond that, there are numerous brilliant thinkers, researchers and inventors who would never contemplate writing a book. They too now have the opportunity to become one of the world’s teachers. Their efforts, conveyed vividly from their own mouths, will bring knowledge, understanding, passion and inspiration to millions.” CHRIS ANDERSON

“In the immediacy of this early 21st century moment the Internet revolution may look more radical than it actually is — it could merely introduce the real revolution.” GREGORY PAUL