I read, some time ago, a book by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, called The Light of Other Days, in which scientists learned how to create wormholes in space, ones big enough to send light and sound waves through. And with minuscule cameras, almost any place in the world, and at any time (for wormholes can penetrate any of the four traditional dimensions, including time), there was no place or time that was private. It changed the world, in astounding ways. Modesty and privacy went out the window. So did fraud, deception, lying. In the book, it became normal to see two people, of any sex, to copulate in a park, out in the open. Nudity, drugs, etc... all became normal, because none of it was forbidden any longer. It couldn't be. With the cheapness of a device that could create such a wormhole, children, adults, anyone, could go and see anything. It is surely the end of childhood, as Neil Postman talked about in his book (see my other blog entries). As you can see, this fundamentally would change the entire foundation of society. An amazing work from an amazing author.
So what have we now, in this reality, that is the same as this? Obviously, there are cameras everywhere. From webcams to cell phone cameras, There are holes that allow us to see into the personal lives of everyone around us. Even without cameras, the social websites allow us to see what is going on in people's lives, whether we want them to or not. Because of Facebook, it is easy to keep track of most of my friends, on a daily basis. Not that I want to, of course, but Facebook has changed the way that people look at their daily lives. There is no reason not to let people know that I put too much basil in my tomato soup, or that one of my friends changed the carpet in her house. I can be witness to the everyday lives of the people that subscribe to the social networking site. And it's amazing... I've always wondered, when the people go inside and shut their doors, what they do. I've always wanted to be a little fly and sit on people's shoulders, follow them throughout their day, participate in their daily lives. I think that's what I'd do if I were invisible (Clay Aiken song title not referenced). I'd see what people do in their own lives.
But the wondrous thing about the internet, about cell phone cameras...etc... is that, in some respects, people allow us to see inside of their own houses, inside their lives, and give us a glimpse of what life could be like, if we were someone else. What if I wasn't me, if I lived by myself, if I wasn't overweight, if I was sexy, if I had lots of money...etc... I could be this, or this, or even this. You see what I mean. And I think it's good, for people, to let others look at the reality of their lives, because it gives you options, if you work hard enough, that it could be your life, too. There are worlds far beyond your front door, and the Internet can, if only for a snapshot, let us see what those worlds are.