So I’m playing around with my iPhone and I come across the latest app (okay probably not the latest but its now in the top 25 to be downloaded recently) which is Apple’s iBook. And so I poke around a bit more – download – Bob’s yer uncle – fill yer boots and all that and I come across three new books online on the Foundation Series. Damn – Gotta have those (if you haven’t read the Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov – GO GET IT! NOW!).  Next is syncing with my main home computer where I’m told, you can only sync up to 5 computers that are allowed to read this book.

BINGO – this is when it really starts to hit home that people are more disconnected from each other on the internet than at any time in history. The problem you see is that the internet is not free. Never has been. For every gigaquad of data that is stored out there someone is paying for it. And when they stop paying for it your identity goes with it.

For example – Try looking up historical stock prices for WorldCom (NYSE: WCOM). I’ll wait …. bum de dum de daa. Found it yet? No? Really? A major multi-billion dollar company vanished off the face of the planet. So what hope do you have?

What got me thinking about this was the fact that if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, no one would know that I downloaded these three books, nor that Isaac Asimov has been a huge influence in my life through the Foundation novels. When my Grandfather passed away, I got his entire library collection (or more to the point I was the only one that had ROOM for his library collection – we are talking like over 1000 books). And in going through all the books he had read and accumulated I found things out about him that I never knew growing up. I can, and have, passed those stories onto others and in doing so part of his legacy lives on. But who is going to know about me?

Sure I have my own library collection of several hundred paperback and hardcover books. As I progress through a digital age thou, I’m going to be forced to purchase and repurchase books, music, art, and other items of importance to myself, just like I had to rebuy VCR tapes in DVD format if I wanted to continue to watch those movies I really liked – never mind that some of them are no longer available. Same with my LP collection (oy – I can just see the 20-somethings now going “what the hell is an LP?”).

We think that the internet never forgets but in fact it has a rather unsettling short memory. Legacies do not exist in a medium which is essentially the ultimate expression of fascism. The same as there are no true democracies in the world there is no true open source application or net neutrality on the internet. Resources are finite albeit expanded greatly from what was available to us in the early 1980s. Individualism is a fallacy brought about through the appearance of social networking via open source and networked IP communications.

By definition, fascism “seeks to organize . . . according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy”. It does not value the individual which is exactly what we see as a consequence of the transference of real property to the virtual. The symbols and language of what the individual stands for are erased not based on socio-democratic principles but rather on the economic expeditiousness of those people footing the bill – be that government or corporations. With them go any possibility of their ideology being passed on to future generations who are caught up in the never-ending push and pull between consumerism and politic that only ever occurs in the ‘now’.

True power vests in those organizations which control the economy. So long as people keep buying their iPods and XBOXs and McDonald’s Happy Meals an internet based economy becomes one where fractured allegiances are every bit a mechanism of control as having everyone think and move and act the same way. While we no longer believe in the ‘Divine Right of Kings’, we have essentially given away our ability to establish legacy through the adoption of the divine right of self-determination. Somewhere there is a middle ground but it is likely going to not be self-evident until whole generations of people start to disappear.

The real question probably should be – are we even entitled to a legacy? If one looks at Darwin and the origin of species, legacy is passed on through mutation and fitness of survival. We don’t look back to the time when pigs, monkeys, and man all shared a common ancestor and say “gee, I wonder what my progenitors were doing back then?” Is all this life stuff really just about the continuation of existence? In which case, are we potentially then moving towards an ideology that is putting us back on the normal course of evolutionary development?

I don’t know. What I do know is that for most people I talk to they want to feel that they will leave behind some legacy of self. My fear however is that this will become less likely in an electronic age rather than more likely. Or maybe, just maybe, its the best of people that is kept and all those other silly distractions are what get left on those dusty old 5 ¼” floppies that we have floating around somewhere.

In the meantime – I still think I want to be able to hold a book in my hands, not just read it on my iPhone.

Kevin Feenan

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