In 1973, just as I was starting work at Stanford Research Institute I had the good fortune to be one of the earliest users of what was then known as the ARPANET. Collaborative work at a distance was the goal of the experiment that led to the suitcase sized TI Silent 700 portable terminal with an acoustic coupler, and thermal printer on the back (no screen) sitting on my desk at home in Palo Alto. I was writing scenarios for the future of the State of Washington with the staff of Governor Dan Evans in Olympia. It was the beginning of the redistribution of my sense of identity.
In the 1980s I was also a participant in the WELL one of the first meaningful on-line communities. Nearly everyone who was part of the WELL had this sense of a very rich set of multiple perceptions constantly and instantly accessible. And not because the Deadheads were a large part of that community my sense of an aware distributed consciousness began to develop.
And finally with the coming of the modern Internet, the World Wide Web and the incredible explosion of knowledge access another level in transformation took hold. I am one of those people who used to read encyclopedias and almanacs. I just wanted to know more, actually, everything. I also make my living, researching, writing, speaking and consulting. Depth, breadth and richness of knowledge are what make it work in my passions and my profession. Before the Internet that was limited by the boundaries of my brain. Now there is a near infinite pool of accessible information that becomes my knowledge in a heartbeat measured in bits/sec. For those of us who wallow in the world of knowledge for pleasure and profit the Internet has become a vast extension of our potential selves.
The modern Internet has achieved much of what Ted Nelson articulated decades ago in his vision of the Xanadu project or Doug Englebart in his human augmentation vision at SRI. Nearly all useful knowledge is now accessible instantaneously from much of the world. Our effective personal memories are now vastly larger, essentially infinite. Our identity is embedded in what we know. And how I think is an expression of that identity. For me the Internet has led over time to that deep sense of collaboration, awareness and ubiquitous knowledge that means that my thought processes are not bound by the meat machine that is my brain, nor my locality nor my time.