Thursday, 11 October 2007

Amazing web powers

I have always been amazed by how rapidly an exponential growth can surpass our common sense intuitions. Let's imagine that a certain bacterium is able to reproduce once per hour, and that we start with a single bacterium in a laboratory flask. Say after one day, we observe that the bacteria fill up half of the flask. Our common sense would say that it will last another day for the bacteria to fill up the flask. But indeed we would have to wait only one hour. Or, most amazingly, how you just need to fold a piece of paper over itself 50 times to get to the Moon.

One of the properties of a network structure is the beautiful way in which it takes advantage of this fact. Each time we add a new node to a network, the absolute number of connections grows exponentially. If we take that as a measure of the value of a network, we may say that this value grows exponentially as we add nodes to it. If the value of my own connection depends on the value of the network, I just need to connect to it and wait for others to do the same. If I would have the only telephone in the world, it would be pretty much useless. But how useful is a telephone nowadays? The networked connection makes the huge difference here.

The internet might be the biggest human-made interconnected network in our world. As I started writing this blog, I wondered how would I get any reader because, how would anyone be able to find it in the first place? But it happened. At first I looked at those little red points on the world map trying to guess who was behind, and how did they learn about Die Murmeltierjahre. Then I started posting comments here and there, and then someone came over, and others followed, and someone liked me and put me on their link list, and so it began. The exponential growth started to unfold in its wonderful way.

Most important here is the human factor. Because it is people who sit behind the screens, it is you people who bring the whole system into life. When you read blogs, you get the opportunity to peek through little windows that very generous people decide to open into their lives.

I have been lucky enough to meet a couple of "buddy" bloggers, and it is kind of an experience. Because you've already read so much about those persons' lives that you know them already. Through the words they wrote, you've got a feeling about them. And when you get to meet them in person, you might still feel like you're meeting a stranger, because you didn't know the colour of her eyes or because you are surprised by the sound of his voice, but the way this person makes you feel is exactly the same feeling you get as you read. If you enjoy reading someone, you will enjoy a conversation as well. It is amazing to realize how much of ourselves we put in our blogs. And how much our blogs say about us.

I like the Net. Because it continues to allow me to meet, virtually or in person, with some extraordinary people, who make me laugh, who make me think, who let me see through their eyes even those things that are already so usual I wouldn't notice them anymore.

I like the Net because I feel as if it were a living organism. I like the Net because it puts the amazing power of exponential growth in our hands.


christina said...

Great post! Everything you said is so true. I LOVE the internet. :-)

Tonicito said...

Hey! Many thanks for visiting, Christina!
I think that the internet is really GREAT, too! There is so much that I wouldn't have learnt and so many people I would have missed without it...