Society advances, lives and dies, by the data layer.
When the data layer was grunts and gestures, we were barely beyond animals.
When the data layer developed to accomodate complex language, and oral traditions, we became spiritual creatures, hunters for meaning. We passed knowledge down through stories, so the important lessons could be remembered. But data was fragmented - the information would decay over time, decay when repeated over distance, and disappear when it fell into disuse.
When the data layer was written, we developed a new class of scholar, one who could take the knowledge and make it physical, concrete, something shared. This made ideas durable for the first time, tradable, shareable. An idea, such as a religion, could now be codified, shared across the world, standardized. Societies became bigger as the data later started becoming concrete.
When the data layer was printed, we could take that codification, that standardization, and make it deeper. Durability, shareability and tradability weren’t limited to the most sacred and important of things, we could share so many more things, and make sure they weren’t forgotten. More than that, we could make so many more copies, our ideas and communication, our information could reach the masses, if they sought it out.
When the data layer became digital, we became actively democratic. Not in the sense that everyone was allowed to help determine the direction of society, but in the sense that everyone was now able to contribute. Desktop publishing made printing something that could be done by anyone, rather than just done for anyone. The first web sites allowed distribution to take on the same characteristics. And with that increased ease, the data layer became even thicker, getting down to the minutiae of human life in different places around the globe.
When the data layer became ephemeral, mobile, everywhere, when the data layer became wireless and invisible, we took a step past being human. Nearly anywhere, we can access the sum total of human knowledge, intelligently sorted for us by algorithm, social network, feed and filter. Nearly anywhere, we can add to it, manipulate it, engage in discourse and disagreement and discontent or delight.
Back at the beginning, somewhere between grunts and words, we all decided that someone who could see anything, hear anything, create something from nothing, and speak directly to everyone at once, was more than human. As our data layer evolves, as our communication and interaction evolves, we are extending ourselves, and the definitions of ourselves.
When our data layer allows us to export and share feelings, thoughts, and personalities, as the original person to experience them does, we’ll actually achieve true empathy. When you can literally feel the experience of a person in another country, a person of another sex or race or orientation or gender identity, there will be no hiding from the fact that we’re all people, all equally human.
When our data layer allows us to share memories as easily as words, ‘downloading’ skill and expertise will be our barter, the same way labour using that skill and expertise is now.
When our data layer allows us to create and interact with copies of ourselves, to inhabit both sides of an argument, to have true objectivity, we will be able to understand our own minds better than ever before. Through that, we will be able to understand others with a new depth.
When our data layer allows us to explore the universe, without sending our physical bodies into harsh radiation over impossible distances, we’ll be able to have a true sense of scale. Not just seeing that our experience is a dot in the cosmos, but actually experiencing the scale at which the cosmos operate.
I love technology, I do. But people make the mistake that I’m passionate about technology, or the internet, or websites, or digital whatever.
I’m passionate about communication. About the tools we use to become more than animals trapped in their own brains. About the tools we use as scaffolding to build ideas and solutions.
About the data layer.
And that’s why I do the things I do.
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