Sunday’s New York Times Magazine devoted itself to pondering and celebrating inventions. In the introduction, the magazine’s editor, Hugo Lindgren, explained, “Among the big questions raised by our exploration is whether our innovation-saturated culture is as magnificent as we like to think. How many of these new things actually improve our lives, as opposed to distracting us from more productive activities? “
He goes on to state “the great hope of our age—the Internet—has yet to boost our standard of living significantly. It has, however, boosted our capacity for distraction, procrastination, extended inquiries into trivia, locating the restaurant for every possible occasion and pornography.”
I don’t know if them’s fightin' words. But I often wonder what the people I’m reading and writing about feel about this incredible Internet.
I don’t know if you are like me in this regard, but I often marvel at what the Internet allows me to do and see and read and comment about and at other times, I’m mortified by all of those same “opportunities.” When you put together several bad Internet experiences into one day’s worth of activity, it is difficult to be full of wonder or appreciation.
But all grand inventions have the same range. Electricity used to power a CAT scan is the same electricity that works a tanning bed or the blow-up Santa Claus figurine on a lawn at Christmastime.
Through the Internet, you can see the innovations special report in the Times even if you have happened to have heard of it only just this second. Not many years ago, it would have been hard to have done that. even in New York. because you would have had to scrounge up a copy of yesterday’s paper from the trash chute, maybe. Now you can read the story in Timbuktu or Throg’s Neck, and you’ll be able to years from now.
The special magazine report carries a history of sorts about streaming video’s fascination with cat videos and notes that one YouTube video, “Surprised Kitty” has been viewed some 69 million times. Video sharing is our third most-favorite online activity, believe it or not. But don’t judge too harshly. The Times notes that Thomas Edison filmed cats fighting each other, wearing tiny, little boxing gloves, and that was back in 1894.