Friday, November 07, 2003

Round, Round, Round We Go

Can you imagine someone dictating a memo onto a tape and then mailing that tape overseas and waiting for it to be mailed back so they can listen to it, before continuing with their composition? Sound ridiculous? Why would anything so here-and-now and connected to the author involve such an extravagant interposition?

In a lot of ways, that scenario is actually pretty similar to what's going on as I'm writing these weblog posts. As I'm writing the post with my browser pointed at Blogger's editing page, I like to keep another window open showing my weblog's page, so I can see what I've written in a nicer rendered HTML than the small, cramped up text shown in the editing page.

So I type away for a bit, click on 'post and publish' -- at which point my text gets sent from my browser here in Australia to (I presume) some server in the US -- then I reload the rendered display of the post in the other browser window -- whereby the text of the post gets sent back from the US.

This round-the-world routine only takes a few seconds to complete, and I do it frequently, without giving it a thought. But imagine how ridiculous this scenario would have seemed to someone, say, 15 years ago! Who in their right mind would even think about doing that?!

A point that I think can be made is that small details can be significant -- in this case the insignificant cost and time of sending that data back and forth -- and that we tend to assume that only the large details count, with everything else being roughly in line with what we'd expect with the large details being as they are -- that large distances involve large times and costs.

One place where we are prone to making this mistake is when we consider our future. With any issue, such as transportation, health or technology, we assume that the details that aren't mentioned will stay the same as they are today.

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