Virtues of virtuality

Virtual space is one big mountain of stuff and we just keep throwing stuff on it. It is the biggest pile of stuff in human history and nobody cleans up. At home you are forced to throw stuff away when it does not fit. You don’t buy a new house just because you have too many things, unless you are very rich. In virtual space we are all very rich people. When we have too much stuff we just buy more memory.

That is because virtual space is not really a space.

We are also collectors of every unimportant thing, like the character in the 19th century’s Russian novel by Nicolai Gogol « Dead souls », the landlord Plyushkin, who has a manic obsession for keeping every single piece of stuff he ever owned. When coming to Plyushkin’s house the main character is shocked and disgusted. Nobody is ever shocked or disgusted by our Inboxes. A user complained to me recently that the work flow gets slower with digital documents because there are no more piles on people’s desks urging them to respond. In virtual space we are all tidy workers because the boss never sees how much work is left lying around. Virtual stuff does not rot, does not smell, does not invade our lives. We do not need to sort it out because when you loose something, full-text search finds it for you. (I wish I could full-text search a lost sock this morning.)

That is because virtual stuff is not really stuff. It has no substance. It is just images and words – the fabric of dreams.

All of our computers together are just one giant brain dreaming of us, humans. The command « Sleep » should be called « Wake up ».

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