The power of the Internet

Rising in strength every year, thanks to the Internet. Well, it could happen.

As mentioned recently, I am watching the anime Hikaru no Go again. It is quite inspirational. My favorite is episode 15, where Hikaru learns about the International Go Server. (The real IGS is almost exactly the same as portrayed in the anime, although given the age of the anime, not to mention the manga it was based on, I am not sure which is the original – the real one or the one in the anime.)

Halfway through the episode, we get a rare glimpse of an American in America, talking to his mother on the phone. He explains that yes, the Asians are leading, but America is getting stronger because of the power of the Internet. (This was no doubt scripted at a time when Internet was more common in the US than in Japan – it is almost certainly the other way around now, with the class division in the US being far greater. I doubt there are people in Japan who don’t have Internet at home unless they have made a decision to live without it. Or even on their phones, for that matter.)

The IGS is indeed an amazing service, allowing people from all over the world to play against each other. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you should be able to find someone around your own level. As mentioned in my previous post, I can now connect on my Android tablet. I don’t actually play though, because I suck so dramatically at this game that I might well lose to a dog. Every dog has its day, after all. Also, for some reason the Android client does not recognize my account, so I can only log on as guest. Still, I can watch all kinds of matches, at any time of they day or night. I have even seen professional players there sometimes.


The Internet may have made Go players stronger, but what about the rest of us? The Internet has been called a “wonder of the world”, but that is too weak, I think. The Great Library of Alexandria was one of the ancient wonders of the world. Knowledge from several different civilizations were brought together, from all over the Middle East and even from Greece, for scholars to study. But compare it to today, when even a child can access the wisdom of not only every civilization now existing in the world, but many ancient ones as well. Knowledge far beyond what anyone could absorb in a lifetime. We might as well try to drink the Niagara Falls.

Even if you are not able to spend a penny beyond whatever the Internet access costs you (and I believe many public libraries let you use it for free), you could download hundreds of thousands of free books (although most of them are free because they are old so the copyright has expired). Actually I am pretty sure it is millions, but seriously, do you expect to have read 10 000 books by the time you exit this life? Well, it happens. I think I know a couple people like that, but then I know some pretty weird people. Now say 100 000 books. Let us estimate a literate lifespan of 80 years, how much would you need to read to get through 100 000 books? 1250 books per year. If we generously allow for a day off every four years, that’s 1250 / 365, or 3.4, almost three and a half books a day for 80 years. And there are several times that in just free books on the Internet.

Of course, the free books are probably not the ones you most want to read, although it happens. And some of them may be in foreign languages. Oh yes, you can learn foreign languages too. Some of them at least for free, and at a level decent enough to start conversing with native speakers – also on the Net, also for free. Failing that, there are various programs for translation, although they really struggle with languages that are far apart, like Chinese and English.

If you would rather increase your knowledge by listening, several universities have started posting lectures on the Internet. There are also many YouTube clips of a scientific nature, although I admit finding them can be a bit of a “needle in the haystack” experience. And there is TED, where popularizers of science throw out revolutionary new ideas for the world to consider.

I have sometimes thought that if a smaller country with its own language(s), such as my native Norway, really wanted to grow to amazing power, it would make its higher education available on the Net in the national language. Books, lectures, the whole thing, allowing any citizen fluid in the language to educate themselves further and further and further. These days, the most important capital of any nation is the minds of its people, after all. I imagine streets thronged with polymaths, caf├ęs frequented by towering intellects, parks where erudite sages take their walks. And then I come across the comment section of any except the most esoteric web sites. Oh well, it was a beautiful dream while it lasted! ^_^;

And with that, off to watch another episode of anime, brought to me by the amazing power of the Internet!

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