Scrutable

My friend Jon Mandell has sent along a link to a story about the rapid rise of blogging in China. It is estimated that by the end of the year, exotic Cathay will be home to sixty million online scribes.

What is remarkable to me about the technological revolution of the last few years is the way that it enables us to ignore traditional barriers of scale. Just as we can, with Google Earth, take in the whole world from space, then in seconds swoop all the way down to our own rooftop, with tools like PubSub and Google we can survey the entire Earth-girdling ocean of human expression, and zoom in on any given drop.

It is easy to imagine that some emergent event, some critical mass, must be approaching as the worldwide interconnectedness of everyone with everyone else increases. In chemistry, solvents are used to provide a medium in which molecules may react; as the reagent concentration increases, the number of reactions per second does too. What we are doing here is putting an ever-increasing number of highly reactive molecules – people – into solution. And the Internet is the solvent.

This is, of course, an imperfect analogy. Perhaps a better choice might be Boyle’s Law, or nuclear fission.

I’d prefer not to dwell on that last one.

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