How Has The Internet Changed The Way You Think?
Architect, Researcher, MIT; Founder, Materialecology
ONCE I WAS LOST, BUT NOW I AM FOUND, OR HOW TO NAVIGATE IN THE CHARTROOM OF MEMORY
'I, myself, alone, have more memories than all mankind since the world began', he said to me. And also:'‘My dreams are like other people’s waking hours'. And again, toward dawn: 'My memory, sir, is like a garbage heap.'— Funes, el Memorioso, Jorge Luis Borges
Funes, His Memory tells the evocative tale of Ireneo Funes, a Uruguayan boy who suffers an accident which leaves him hopelessly immobilized along with an acute form of Hypermnesia — a mental abnormality expressed in exceptionally precise memory. So vivid is Funes' memory that he can effortlessly distinguish any physical object at every distinct time of viewing. In his perpetual present images unfold their archaeology as infinite wells of detailed information: "He knew the forms of the clouds in the southern sky on the morning of April 30th, 1882". Funes' memories are intensely present as muscular and thermal sensations accompanying every visual record to have been recorded. He is able to reconstruct every event he had ever experienced. His recollections are so accurate that the time it takes to reconstruct an entire day's worth of events equals to the duration of that very day. In Funes' world perception makes no sense at all as there is simply no time or motive to perceive, reflect, or interpret.
As a consequence, Funes lacks the ability for detail suppression and any attempt to conceive of, or manage, his impressions — the very stuff of thought — is overridden with relentlessly literal recollections ("We, in a glance, perceive three wine glasses on the table; Funes saw all the shoots, clusters, and grapes of the vine".) Funes is not able to generalize, to deduce or to induce anything he experiences. Things are just what they are, scaled one to one. Cursed with meticulous memory, Funes escapes to live in remoteness and isolation — a "dark room" — where new images do not enter and where his motionless figure is absorbed in the contemplation of a sprig of Artemisia.
Over a century later, Hypermnesia appears to have been to Funes what the World Wide Web is today to the human race.
An inexhaustible anthology of every possible thing recorded at every conceivable location in any given time, the Internet is displacing the role of memory and it does so immaculately. Any imaginable detail about the many dimensions of any given experience is being either recorded or consumed as yet another fragment of reality. There is no time to think, it seems. Or perhaps, this is just a new kind of thinking. Is the Web yet another model of reality, or is reality becoming a model of the Web?
In his "On Exactitude in Science", Borges carries on with similar ideas concerning trace as he describes an empire in which the craft of cartography attained such precision that its map has emerged as large as the kingdom it depicts. Scale, or difference, was now replaced by repetition. A model within itself, such a map embodies the dissimilarity between reality and its representation. It becomes the territory itself and the origin loses authenticity; it achieves the state of being more real than real as there is no reality left to chart.
The Internet, no doubt, has become such a map of the world, both literally and symbolically, as it traces in an almost 1:1 ratio every event that has ever taken place. One cannot afford to get lost in a space so perfectly detailed and predictable. Physical navigation is completely solved as online maps offer even the most exuberant flâneur the knowledge of prediction. But there are also enormous mental implications to this.
As we are fed with the information required or desired to understand and perceive the world around us thus withers the very power of perception, and the ability to engage in abstract and critical thought atrophies. Models become the very reality that we are asked to model.
If one believes that the wetware source of intellectual production, whether in the arts or sciences, is guided by the ability to critically model reality, to scale information and to engage in abstract thought, where are we heading in the age of the Internet? Are we being victimized by our own inventions? The Internet may well be considered an oracle, the builder of composite and hybrid knowledge, but as it is today — is its present instantiation actually inhibiting the very cognitive nature of reflective and creative thought?
Funes is portrayed as an autistic savant, with the gift of memorizing anything and everything. This gift eventually drives him mad but Borges is said to have constructed Funes' image to suggest the "waste of miracle" and point at the vast and dormant potential we still encompass as humans. In letting the Internet think for us, as it were, are we encouraging the degeneration of our own mental capacities? Is the Internet making us obliviously somnolent?
Between the associative nature of memory and the referential eminence of the map lies a blueprint for the brain. In the ambience of future ubiquitous technologies looms the promise of an ecstasy of connectivity (or thus is the vision of new consciousness à la Gibson and Sterling). If such a view of augmented interactivity is even remotely accurate (as it must be), it is the absence of a cognate presence that defies the achievement of transforming the Internet to a new reality, a universally accessible medium for enhanced thinking. If the Internet can potentially become an alternative medium of human consciousness, how then can a cognate presence inspire the properties of infinite memory with the experiential and the reflective, all packaged for convenience and pleasure in a Mickey Mouse like antenna cap?
In Borges' tale, Funes cites a revealing line from the Latin Naturalis Historia. In the section entitled memory, it reads:
"ut nihil non iisdem verbis redderetur auditum"
So that, nothing that has been heard can be retold in the same words.
Senior Consultant (and former Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of New Scientist); Author, After the Ice: Life, Death, and Geopolitics in the New Arctic
IF YOU DON'T CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK, YOU RISK EXTINCTION
The Internet may not have changed how my brain works but if you take "thinking" to mean the interaction between what's in your brain, what's in other people's brains, and what's in the environment around you, then the Internet is changing everything. In my line of work, as a writer and journalist, "changing the way you think" is now more of an imperative than a possibility: if you don't change you risk extinction.
Powerful new technologies inevitably work a destructive fire on older ways. As advertising revenues vanish to the Internet, newspapers and magazines find they can no longer subsidize the information gathering operations that the public is unwilling to pay for directly. The job of print journalist is starting to look as quaint as that of chimney sweep. Many of the print newspapers and magazines that employ those journalists may not survive the Internet at all.
The book is likely set to vanish too. I imagine a late 21st century Wikipedia entry reading:
BOOK: A format for conveying information consisting of a single continuous piece of text, written on an isolated theme or telling a particular story, averaging around 100,000 words in length and authored by a single individual. Books were printed on paper between the mid-15th and early 21st century but more often delivered electronically after 2012. The book largely disappeared during the mid-21st entry as it became clear that it had only ever been a narrow instantiation, constrained by print technology, of texts and graphics of any form that could flow endlessly into others. Once free from the shackles of print technology, new story-telling modes flowered in an extraordinary burst of creativity in the early 21st century. Even before that the use of books to explain particular subjects (see textbook) had died very rapidly as it grew obvious that a single, isolated voice lacked authority, wisdom and breadth.
These changes and wonderful new creative opportunities, arrived or arriving, are the outward manifestation of a change in how we think as we shift away from information scarcity, low levels of interpersonal interaction and little feedback on the significance of what we say, to information abundance and high levels of interaction and feedback.
As a journalist I can remember when my most important possession was a notebook of "contacts". The information I wrested from them was refined with the help of a few close colleagues. That is the past. Thanks to the Internet, search engines and the millions of organizations, pressure groups and individuals who are producing free information, almost everything is already out there and available to everyone.
My work is not digging out information but providing the narrative thread that connects it. In the deluge of bits, it is the search for the bigger picture, the larger point that matters. You no longer find things out but find out what they mean. That new way of thinking is not so easy. Even the mighty US Department of Homeland Security could not connect the dots regarding a recent incident when different fragments of information about a young Nigerian radical surfaced. As a result, a plane full of passengers was very nearly blown from the sky.
To do that job well I don't think with just a few, close colleagues; I've delocalised my thought and spread it around the world electronically (Homeland Security might need to do the same). With the Internet my thoughts develop through sharing them with others who have a like interest; I've virtual friendships of ideas with scores of people who I will probably never meet and whose age, background and gender I do not even know. Their generosity is a delight. Anything I write is now soon modified. I don't think alone. Rather I steer a global conversation given form by the Web.
Neither magazines nor books, in solid, physical form, are good at capturing this flow, which is partly why their future is uncertain. The survivors among them may be those that exult in their physicality, in their existence as true objects. Physical beauty will flourish alongside a virtual world. I look forward to a rebirth for magazines with a touch, feel, look, and smell that will make them a pleasure to hold closely.
The word "pleasure" is a good one with which to switch direction. The Internet may be changing the way that I think in the cerebral sense but it may changing the way the world thinks in a far more physical way. The Internet is awash with sex. In a few hours, an innocent can see more of the pleasures and perversions of sex, in a greater number of close-up couplings, than a eighteenth century roué could experience in a lifetime devoted to illicit encounters. The Internet is the greatest sex education machine — or the greatest pornographer — that has ever existed. Having spent time teaching at a Muslim university, where the torrent of Internet sex was a hot topic, I would not underestimate its impact on traditional societies. There is a saying that rock and roll brought down the Soviet Union; once the Soviet subconscious had been colonized the political collapse followed easily. The flood of utterly uncensored images of sexual pleasure that reaches every corner of the world is certainly shaking the thinking of young men and women in the conservative societies that I've worked in. Where the conflicting emotions that have been unleashed will lead, I cannot tell.
Complex Network Scientist; Distinguished Professor and Director of Northeastern University's Center for Complex Network Research; Author, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else
MY SIXTH SENSE
For me the Internet is more than a search engine — it has become the subject of my research, a proxy of the many complex systems that we are surrounded with.
I even know when this transition started. It was December 1994.
Which was the time I decided to learn a bit about computers, given that my employer at that time was IBM. So lifted a book about computer science from the shelf of TJ Watson Research Center to keep my mind engaged during the holidays. It was my first encounter with networks. A few months later I submitted my first research paper on the subject and it was promptly rejected by four journals.
No one said it was wrong. The common answer was: why should we care about networks? While it never got published, it is still available — where else, but on the Internet — at the Los Alamos preprint archive, to be precise.
The Internet eventually rescued me, but it took four more years. In the meantime I have sent countless emails to search engines asking for data on the topology of the Web. All those requests must still be on their way to V4641 Sgr, the closest back hole to Earth, somewhere out there in the Milky Way. Finally, in 1998 a gifted postdoc, Hawoong Jeong told me that he knows how to build a search engine. And he did, providing us the WWW map that has finally legitimized my five years of persistence and serial failures: in 1999 it lead to my first publication on networks. It was about the structure of the www.
Today my work could not be possible without the Internet. I do not mean only the access to information: it has fundamentally changed the way I approach a research problem.
Much of my research consists of finding organizing principles — laws and mechanisms — that apply not to one, but to many complex systems. If these laws are indeed generic and universal, they should apply to our online world as well, from the Internet to online communities on the WWW. Thus, we often test our ideas on the Internet, rather in the cell or in economic systems, which are harder to monitor and measure.
Today the Internet is my sixth sense, as it has altered the way I approach a problem. But it has just as fundamentally changed what I think about. And that may by even more significant at the end.
Physicist, Perimeter Institute; Author, The Trouble With Physics
WE HAVE BECOME HUNTER GATHERERS OF IMAGES AND INFORMATION
The Internet hasn't, so far, changed how we think. But it has radically altered the contexts in which we think and work.
The Internet offers a vast realm for distraction but then so does reading and television. The Internet is an improvement on television in the same way that Jane Jacob's bustling neighborhood sidewalk is an improvement on the dullness of suburbia. The Internet requires an active engagement and as a result it is full of surprises. You don't watch the Internet, you search and link. What is important for thought about the Internet is not the content, it is the new activity of being a searcher, with the world's store of knowledge and images at your fingertips.
The miracle of the browser is that it can show you any image or text from that storehouse. We used to cultivate thought, now we have become hunter gatherers of images and information. This speeds things up a lot but it doesn't replace the hard work in the laboratory or notebook which prepares the mind for a flash of insight. But it nonetheless changes the social situation of that mind. Scholars used to be more tied to the past through texts in libraries than to their contemporaries. The Internet reverses that by making each of our minds a node in a continually evolving network of other minds.
The Internet is also itself a metaphor for the emerging paradigm of thought in which systems are conceived as networks of relationships. To the extent that a Web page can be defined only by what links to it and what it links to, it is analogous to one of Leibniz's monads. But Web pages still have content, and so are not purely relational. Imagine a virtual world abstracted from the Internet by deleting all the content so that all that remained was the links. This is an image of the universe according to relational theories of space and time, it is also an image of the neural network in the brain. The content corresponds to what is missing in those model, it corresponds to what physicists and computer scientists have yet to understand about the difference between a mathematical model and an animated world or conscious mind.
Perhaps when the Internet has been soldered into our glasses or teeth, with the screen replaced by a laser making images directly on our retinas, there will be deeper changes. But even in its present form the Internet has transformed how we scientists work.
The Internet flattens communities of thought. Blogs, email and Internet data bases put everyone in the community on the same footing. There is a premium on articulateness. You don't need a secretary to maintain a large and varied correspondence.
Since 1992 research papers in physics are posted on an Internet archive, arxiv.org, which has a daily distribution of just posted papers and complete search and cross reference capabilities. It is moderated rather then refereed; and the refereed journals now play no role in spreading information. This gives a feeling of engagement and responsibility, once you are a registered member of the community you don't have to ask anyone's permission to publish your scientific results.
The Internet delocalizes your community. You participate from where-ever you are. You don't need to travel to see or give talks and there is less reason to go into the office. Travel is no reason not to stay current reading the latest papers and blog postings.
It used to be that physics preprints were distributed by bulk mail among major research institutes and there was a big advantage to being at a major university in the United States; every one else was working with a handicap of being weeks to months behind. The increasing numbers and influence of scientists working in Asia and Latin America and the dominance of European science in some fields is a consequence of the Internet.
The Internet synchronizes the thinking of global scientific communities. Everyone gets the news about the new papers at the same time every day. Gossip spreads just as fast on blogs. Announcements of new experimental results are video-cast through the Internet as they happen.
The Internet also broadens communities of thought. Obscure thinkers that you had to be introduced to, who published highly original work sporadically and in hard to find places, now have Web pages and post their papers along side everyone else's. An it creates communities of diverse thinkers who would not otherwise have met, like the one we celebrate every year at this time when we answer the Edge Annual Question.
Artist & Writer; Author: Remainder, Men in Space
THE INTERNET REIFIES A LOGIC THAT WAS ALWAYS ALREADY THERE
'How has the Internet changed the way you think?' It hasn't.
Western culture has always been about networks: look at Clytemnestra's 'beacon telegraph' speech in the Oresteia, or the relay-system of oracles and crytpic signals Oedipus has to navigate. Look at Schreber's vision of wires and nerves, or Kafka and Rilke's visions of giant switchboards linking mortals to (and simultaneously denying them access to the source-code of) gods and angels. Or the writings of Heidegger, or Derrida: meshes, relays, endless transmission. The Internet reifies a logic that was always already there.
Journalist; Covers Silicon Valley for The New York Times; Author, What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry
WHO SAID IT WAS GOING TO GET BETTER?
It's been three decades since Les Earnest, then assistant director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, introduced me to the ARPAnet. It was 1979 and from his home in the hills overlooking Silicon Valley, he was connected via a terminal and a 2400 baud modem to Human Nets, a lively virtual community that explored the impact of technology on society.
It opened a window for me into an unruly cyberworld that at first seemed to be, to paraphrase the words of computer music researcher and composer John Chowning, a "Socratean Abode." Over the next decade-and-a-half I joined the camp of what I have since come to think of as "Internet Utopians." The Net seemed to offer this shining city-on-a-hill, free from the grit and foulness of the meat world. Ideologically this was a torch carried by Wired Magazine, and the ideal probably reached its zenith in John Perry Barlow's 1996 "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" essay.
Silly me. I should have known better. It would all be spelled out clearly in Brunner's Shockwave Rider; Gibson's Neuromancer; Stephenson's Snowcrash, Vinge's True Names; and even less-well-read classics like Barnes' The Mother of Storms. Science fiction writers were always the best social scientists and in describing the dystopian nature of the Net they were again right on target.
There would be nothing even vaguely utopian about the reality of the Internet, despite preachy "The Road Ahead" vision statements by — late to the Web — luminaries like Bill Gates. This gradually dawned on me during the 1990s, driven home with particular force by the Kevin Mitnick affair. By putting every human on the planet directly in contact with every other, the Net opened a Pandora's Box of nastiness.
Indeed, while it was true that the Net skipped lightly across national boundaries, the demise of localism didn't automatically herald the arrival of a superior cyberworld. It simply accentuated and accelerated both the good and the bad, in effect becoming a mirror for all the world's fantasies and foibles.
Welcome to a bleak Bladerunner-esque world dominated by Russian, Ukrainian, Nigerian and American cyber-mobsters in which our every motion and movement is surveilled by a chorus of Big and Little Brothers.
Not only have I been transformed into an Internet pessimist, but recently the Net has begun to feel downright spooky. Not to be anthropomorphic but doesn't the Net seem to have a mind of its own? We've moved deeply into a world where it is leaching value from virtually every traditional institution in the name of some borg-like future. Will we all be assimilated, or have we been already? Wait! Stop me! That was The Matrix wasn't it?
Neuroscientist; Chairman, The Reason Project; Author, Letter to a Christian Nation
THE UPLOAD HAS BEGUN
It is now a staple of scientific fantasy, or nightmare, to envision that human minds will one day be uploaded onto a vast computer network like the Internet. While I am agnostic about whether we will ever break the neural code, allowing our inner lives to be read out as a series of bits, I notice that the prophesied upload is slowly occurring in my own case. For instance, the other day I recalled a famous passage from Adam Smith that I wanted to cite: something about an earthquake in China. I briefly considered scouring my shelves in search of my copy of The Wealth of Nations. But I have thousands of books spread throughout my house, and they are badly organized. I recently spent an hour looking for a title, and then another skimming its text, only to discover that it wasn't the book I had wanted in the first place. And so it would have proved in the present case: for the passage I dimly remembered from Smith is to be found in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Why not just type the words "adam smith china earthquake" into Google? Mission accomplished.
Of course, more or less everyone has come to depend on the Internet in this way. Increasingly, however, I rely on Google to recall my own thoughts. Being lazy, I am prone to cannibalizing my work: something said in a lecture will get plowed into an op-ed; the op-ed will later be absorbed into a book; snippets from the book may get spoken in another lecture. This process will occasionally leave me wondering just how and where and to what shameful extent I have plagiarized myself. Once again, the gates of memory swing not from my own medial temporal lobes but from a computer cluster far away, presumably where the rent is lower.
This migration to the Internet now includes my emotional life. For instance, I occasionally engage in public debates and panel discussions where I am pitted against some over-, under-, or mis-educated antagonist. "How did it go?" will be the question posed by wife or mother at the end of the day. I now know that I cannot answer this question unless I watch the debate online — for my memory of what happened is often at odds with the later impression I form based upon seeing the exchange. Which view is closer to reality? I have learned to trust the YouTube version. In any case, it is the only one that will endure.
Increasingly, I develop relationships with other scientists and writers that exist entirely online. Jerry Coyne and I just met for the first time in a taxi in Mexico. But this was after having traded hundreds of emails. Almost every sentence we have ever exchanged exists in my Sent Folder. Our entire relationship is, therefore, searchable. I have many other friends and mentors who exist for me in this way, primarily as email correspondents. This has changed my sense of community profoundly. There are people I have never met who have a better understanding of what I will be thinking tomorrow than some of my closest friends do.
And there are surprises to be had in reviewing this digital correspondence. I recently did a search of my Sent Folder for the phrase "Barack Obama" and discovered that someone wrote to me in 2004 to say that he intended to give a copy of my first book to his dear friend, Barack Obama. Why didn't I remember this exchange? Because, at the time, I had no idea who Barack Obama was. Searching my bit stream, I am reminded not only of what I used to know, but of what I never properly understood.
I am by no means infatuated with computers. I do not belong to any social networking sites; I do not tweet (yet); and I do not post images to Flickr. But even in my case, an honest response to the Delphic admonition "know thyself" already requires an Internet search.
PETER H. DIAMANDIS, MD
Chairman/CEO, X PRIZE Foundation
In mid-2009 I made a 7-day, round-the-world trip business trip, from Los Angeles, to Singapore, India, United Arab Emirates and Spain. It was a lecture tour — all work. As I landed in each of the countries I tried an experiment and Twittered my landing, asking if any friends were "in country"… My twitter was automatically posted to my Face Book. In each case, in each country, my inquiry was answered with a "hey, I happen to be in town as well, let's meet for coffee…" Instant and very unexpected, gratification. Ask and you shall receive.
In a separate experiment, I was musing about the volume of gold that has been mined by human beings since the start of mining industry. I'm interested because I'm fascinated with idea of mining precious metals from Asteroids in the decades ahead. I had done some back of the envelope calculations that amazed me. I posted the following:
total gold ever mined on Earth is 161,000 tones. Equal to ~20 meters cubed... pls check my math!!
Within minutes I had 3 confirmations of the calculation as well as numbers for Platinum (~6 meters cubed), Rhodium (~3 m^3) and Palladium (~7 m^3). Ask and you shall receive.
How many times do I "wonder" about something and let it drop. I'm realizing that even complex questions can be answered (with enhancements!) with little more work than a digital prayer cast into the social-verse. The better and more intriguing my questions, the more compelling the answers I receive. Looking forward, I can imagine this holding true for requests of artwork, videos, manufactured goods and answers. The point is, that near instantaneous gratification is possible, and it's the quality of the incentive that is most important. Incentive's in this case being a chance encounter and an intriguing question… But in the future incentives being such things as cash, or who is asking the question, or the importance of the problem to be solved.
Philosopher; Professor, Oxford University; Director, Future of Humanity Institute; Editor, Human Enhancement
MOST STILL TO COME
Perhaps the two most important world events during my thirty-six years are the ending of the Cold War and the beginning of the Internet. Of those two, I think the latter is the more significant.
The Internet has impacted my thinking in several ways. It has put me in touch with people I would not otherwise have met and whose ideas I would never have encountered. It has served as a platform for disseminating my work, helping me get faster and more extensive feedback. And it is of course a powerful research tools, giving instantaneous access to an immense and up-to-date store of knowledge. Rarely do I need to send a research assistant to the library. It saves time and makes it possible to take into account a wider range of research.
I find it hard to imagine how I could have done what I have done without the Internet. On the other hand, people did remarkable things before the Internet; so it cannot be quite as indispensable as it has come to appear.
The Internet shapes my thinking not only instrumentally but also as a subject matter. It is a factor that must be considered when we think about how the world might change.
Some trends are fairly obvious. Virtual reality will become more technically sophisticated and will grow in importance as a medium of social interaction. A marriage between social networking sites and next-generation virtual reality could result in compelling applications. Another trend is towards social transparency. More and more information about more and more people is stored and made globally accessible and searchable. There is also—if not quite a trend, then at least a hope that the development of improved tools for collaborative information processing will help increase humanity’s effective level of wisdom and rationality.
The history of other wide-purpose technologies, such as writing, engines, electricity, and computers, teaches that it takes a long time—decades, even centuries—for their full range of applications to manifest. Had we evaluated their impact two decades after their initial deployment, we would have missed the ultimate extent of their ramifications. Expect that most of the Internet’s impact on the world—including perhaps on me personally—is still to come.
DAVID G. MYERS
Social psychologist, Hope College; Author A Quiet World: Living with Hearing Loss
THE INTERNET AS SOCIAL AMPLIFIER
I cut my eye teeth in social psychology with experiments on "group polarization" — the tendency for face-to-face discussion to amplify group members' preexisting opinions. Never then did I imagine the potential dangers, or the creative possibilities, of polarization in virtual groups.
Electronic communication and social networking enable Tea Partiers, global warming deniers, and conspiracy theorists to isolate themselves and find support for their shared ideas and suspicions. As the Internet connects the like-minded and pools their ideas, White supremacists may become more racist, Obama-despisers more hostile, and militia members more terror prone (thus limiting our power to halt terrorism by conquering a place). In the echo chambers of virtual worlds, as in real worlds, separation + conversation = polarization.
But the Internet-as-social-amplifier can instead work for good, by connecting those coping with challenges. Peacemakers, cancer survivors, and bereaved parents find strength and solace from kindred spirits.
By amplifying shared concerns and ideas, Internet-enhanced communication can also foster social entrepreneurship. An example: As a person with hearing loss, I advocate a simple technology that doubles the functionality of hearing aids, transforming them, with the button push, into wireless loudspeakers. After experiencing this "hearing loop" technology in countless British venues, from cathedrals to post office windows and taxi back seats, I helped introduce it to West Michigan, where it can now be found in several hundred venues, including Grand Rapids' convention center and all gate areas of its airport. Then, via a Website, hearing listservs, and e-mail I networked with fellow hearing advocates and, by feeding each other, our resolve gained strength.
Thanks to the collective efficacy of our virtual community, hearing aid compatible assistive listening has spread to other communities and states. New York City is installing it in 488 subway information booths. Leaders in the American Academy of Audiology and the Hearing Loss Association of America are discussing how to promote this inexpensive, wireless assistive listening. Several state hearing loss associations are recommending it. The hearing industry is now including the needed magnetic receiver in most hearing aids and cochlear implants. And new companies have begun manufacturing and marketing hearing loop systems. Voila!, a grassroots, Internet-fueled transformation in how America provides listening assistance is underway.
The moral: By linking and magnifying the inclinations of kindred-spirited people, the Internet can be very, very bad, but also very, very good.