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Digital Universe: The Global Telecommunication Revolution by Peter B. Seel

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14

The Future of the Digital Universe

I like to think           (right now, please!) of a cybernetic forest filled with pines and electronics where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms.        (Richard Brautigan, 1967)1

When I was a university student in San Francisco in the 1970s, local writer and iconoclast Richard Brautigan (1935–84) was one of my favorite poets.2 As with many others excited by the promise of how digital technologies might augment human intelligence, I enjoyed the imagery in Brautigan's poem. Not only could humans peacefully coexist with computer technology, there might even be a symbiosis there, much as Licklider had described in 1960. Could Henry David Thoreau have gotten it wrong? Perhaps we were meant to live side by side with our machines, our computers, in virtual cybernetic forests (and not in literal ones such as Thoreau's Walden Woods), “watched over by machines of loving grace.” As I observe students stream out of classroom buildings on our campus and immediately turn on their mobile phones, I'm struck by the symbiosis we've developed recently with our portable computers. Ironically, their use in classrooms on our campus is largely prohibited due to disruption from ringing phones. When their phones are turned off in class, students now use their tablet or notebook computers to take notes or even confirm ...

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