Sunday, March 01, 2015

The deep hills of the net

I know that one day I will head into the far, deep hills of the net where the old connections are. The time will come, and there will be little I can do about it - or want to. It is as sure as TCP is TCP. It will not be a case of being forced out, but simply an issue of perspective, like choosing between miles of traffic jam and a journey of a hundred tiny hotels.

I will pack light, not like the old Pharaohs who insisted on taking everything with them, but like Laurie Lee and his violin. In the hills, where the attention economy is still girded in seeds and signatures, it is enough to fall back on one’s own self again. Two things are essential - wisdom, and conviviality. Everything else can be found or invented along the way.

Sometimes I will be the simulated-me that is as close to myself as the hills can muster, a ragged reflection bouncing between nodes. Sometimes I will be a troll. Other times I will be nothing but a script, perhaps - an algorithmic ghost in the shell designed to extract only what is necessary. A bare minimum, stripped even of simple irrational decision-making. A route within a route. A switch controlled by the endless grid of switches it encounters. I will be free to choose my own form, even if it means a semi-permanent death. No two hills are alike.

The curse of the nomad is to be forced into either staying or going. Sometimes I will linger, and other times I will leave as soon as I check in. Unlike the solitary nomad, the online traveler can shatter and be in many places at once, or even in the same place multiple times. Identity is not a single registration, but the combination of presences all brought together in a single transient mind. Each avatar comes and goes, but none by itself is more than a single arm, a toe, a blade of digital hair. There is no "I" to be found online, only subsets of a single, holographic, re-assembly. "I" am merely exploding closer to become "we", the amalgamation we always knew we were.

We will travel and fade and shift and ossify. Some of us will leave trails, and some of us will be more obvious than others. But we will never be the same.

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