The internet has the potential to be the most democratic, revolutionizing tool Humanity has seen. It is kind of fulfilling this promise. But along the way it's become the world's toilet paper too.
I consider a characteristic of Humans not to have smart things, but to be smart themselves. And we need to improve to be considered smart. But most end-user web services are useless at helping us precisely because they fail to distinguish between Being and Knowing. While they are smart under the hood, they don't provide a way for the customer to Know and appreciate that, and with this knowledge improve themselves.
Take Facebook. Your News Feed scrolls down and down, infinitely, always showing more info. You do a lot of interactions with the platform every year. But there's actually little to learn from your feed and your account. For you at least. While Facebook sucks in your info and has amazing algorithms to choose what you may like or not, they don't make this choice, learnings or its mechanics visible to users. Facebook is giving some small steps, because now they actually present you with the highlights of your past once per year. So in reality Facebook is not toilet paper. It's double-sheet toilet paper.
On to Gmail. Dozens of thousands of emails back and forth, and what do they do with all that context? Ads. They could help me improve my writing. They could map my friends and tell me if I'm not contacting them enough. They could improve the success of my emails . But no. They get all the fun. Gmail serves as another support where we smear our communication history.
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, all of them have this same characteristic.. They are a medium to your shit, and then it's all flush down the toilet into obscure dirty pipes.
So, I've put together a list of similarities of toilet paper and most internet services:
- everyone uses both of them now; hard to believe as it is, in the past no one used either
- each individual piece of any of them is worth shit; each additional piece is still worth shit to you, no matter how many you put together
- for some people, putting together your used pieces and everyone else's functions as a fertilizer of their business. They pay you shit for it
- the real world is about tasty stuff, the version which ends in there is shit
- both are usually cheap to have
- you shout when there's an outage of either
- both are extremely long, but you also consume them pretty fast
- you use both to store stuff no one really has an interest in seeing
I do know this view is simplistic, in that it doesn't consider the main use of the mentioned platforms as "useful". Of course, sending emails and communicating with friends is very useful. My point is that while atomically and instantly useful to us, they do not allow an empowerment of the user through memory, logic and visualization.
What would the non-toilet paper internet look like?
- a reminder. With things you truly mentioned you wanted to do. Not ads of stuff other people want to sell you.
- an organizer. With neatly smart tied events for stuff you frequently do. Not a calendar filled with other people's spammy events.
- an assistant. That goes beyond reminders and organization, and that has an intuition. That knows the best flowers to send and when it's the right hour to ask you "when was the last time you called your grandma"?
- a shelve of the best selection of photo albums. Not a million pictures in a stupid grid.
- a story of your life. For yourself. Not to break down in segments for preying advertisers.
Disclosure: I do use these services and I also frequently advertise in them. Also, this very repository of texts is like toilet paper, though I force myself to review past texts and refer them in more up to date versions.
- Please drop everything and go read "Avogadro Corp" right away!