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Computing & Technology > A New Philosophy

A New Philosophy

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a philosopher by the name of George Berkeley (1685-1753).  He concocted a theory of knowledge called immaterialism, later to be known also as subjective idealism. An immaterialist denies the existence of material substance and instead holds that objects are only ideas in the minds of perceivers.  As such, things do not exist without being perceived.
In Latin we would say esse est percipi:  to be is to be perceived.
Now three centuries removed from Berkeley, I propose a new theory of knowledge for our Age: Internetism.  In Latin that would be nisi internetum non entia which translates as UNLESS IT'S ON THE INTERNET IT DOES NOT EXIST.
Today events take place in Cyberspace.  It is a virtual environment, which is to say, a place removed from the material world.  We obtain information from the Infosphere.  We form virtual communities in the Blogosphere.  In these sub-units of Cyberspace there is no substance, yet there exists a unique, eerie physicality.
"In this silent world," wrote John Perry Barlow, "all conversation is typed.  To enter it, one forsakes both body and place and becomes a thing of words alone."
We live simultaneously in parallel worlds.  One is physical; the other, virtual.  The more time we spend in Cyberspace, the more real it becomes to us and the more it tends to replace the material world.
One no longer shops; one orders on-line.
One no longer visits; one interacts with unseen fellow travelers in Cyberspace.
One no longer speaks; one uses a keyboard.
The oxymoron of our Age is ... social media.  There was a time when, to be social, people actually got together.  They talked; they could see each other; they could even touch.  But today, in various so-called social media, interaction occurs in a virtual community, sight unseen.  Anonymity often masks reality.  It is immaterial.  George Berkeley would love it.

posted on Aug 9, 2013 11:42 AM ()


Yep, that's me! I'm always going sightseeing via Google Maps and their Streetview.
comment by troutbend on Aug 11, 2013 11:26 AM ()
I use the term, 'non-social media.' It is more succinct.
comment by jondude on Aug 10, 2013 4:12 PM ()
I find these agonizing theories immaterial to life. I have the best of both worlds, i.e., the knowledge I got from the education of the past, and the convenience of shopping on line, blogging, having instant communication with friends and the freedom of not hunting for pen/paper/stamp. I think today's computer-struck users are living half a life because they never learned to live without gadgets. They can't write/read cursive, they can't add without a machine, they better hope we don't have that massive electronic meltdown everyone is warned about.
comment by tealstar on Aug 10, 2013 8:23 AM ()
I plead guilty to internetism. I hasten to the computer right after I make
comment by elderjane on Aug 9, 2013 3:48 PM ()
You're right. I did all my back-to-school shopping online for the second year in a row. It's easier to find my size and there are no lines to wait in. And, if the retailer has no brick-and-mortar store in Florida, I save on sales tax. On the other hand, I do visit. You're the one who doesn't.
comment by miker on Aug 9, 2013 1:33 PM ()
I plead guilty to being a semi-hermit. [shrug]
reply by steeve on Aug 9, 2013 2:09 PM ()
Yeah, know what you mean. If someone now asked me if a tree falls in the forest without anyone around, does it make a sound, I'd say no.
comment by drmaus on Aug 9, 2013 1:28 PM ()
Sound, by definition, is something that's heard, right?
reply by steeve on Aug 9, 2013 2:08 PM ()
Do I still exist if I turn off my computer?
comment by nittineedles on Aug 9, 2013 12:18 PM ()
Only in a limited, farmgirl sort of way.
reply by steeve on Aug 9, 2013 12:30 PM ()

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