We invented it then it took on a life of its own that we do not fully understand; World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee is studying how the internet works
The web is now a massive system of connected people and technology and we have to study it as one. It connects people as they make and follow hyperlinks to a degree that results in complex properties no one expected. It has something like 1011 web pages in it and there are a similar number of neurons in the brain. The brain is something very complicated we don’t understand – yet we rely on it. The web is very complicated too and, though we built it, we have no real data about the stability of the emergent systems that have cropped up on it.
We do know that the net cannot bake a good brownie or get rid of the fleas on your dog. Its an amzingly fast way to screen potential mates. Paypal makes being a pimp look respectable. Your employer thinks what you write on MySpace is their business. Google is a decent search tool, but needs to search the way people think and will require a dash of artficial intelligence before it reaches its potential. It spreads as much disinfo as it does info – any programmers out there that want to create the next YouTube or FaceBook need to come up with a truthiness systems for rating the veracity of web sites that can be displayed in the corner of your browser; users can click on the button for an explanation of the rating.
According to the results, the quicker a cultural item rockets to popularity, the quicker it dies. This pattern occurs because people believe that items that are adopted quickly will become fads, leading them to avoid these items, thus causing these items to die out.
My personal thanks to this phenomenon for killing off acid washed jeans and Britney as a popular baby name. On the other hand the first generation iPods and iPhones verged on deep suckiness in the quality and value department, but went on to become even more popular. Ripping music bought from a CD bought at a used CD store means buying singles can be had legally for 75 cents or less, yet people continue to buy downloads that costs more. Then, its an American tradition to have once loved a band that you’re now embarassed to admit you ever listened to. The wisdom of crowds might exist, but is comes and goes like a mysterious rash.
The figures I posted yesterday from that story about health-care expenses and bankruptcy might have been off a little off – explained here Healthcare and Bankruptcy,Even once you count for the changes in bankruptcy laws that made it more difficult for people to declare bankruptcy, medical costs are still a major factor in family financial hardships and bankruptcies.