The Internet is not just a new technological innovation; it is a new type of technological innovation; one that brings out the very essence of technology. Up to now, technological innovators have generally produced devices that served needs that were already recognized, and then discovered some unexpected side eﬀects. So Alexander Graham Bell thought the telephone would be useful for communication in business but would not be accepted into people’s homes, let alone intrude as they walked down the street. Likewise, Henry Ford thought of the automobile as giving people cheap reliable, individualized transportation, but he did not imagine it would destroy the inner cities and liberate adolescent sex. The Net is diﬀerent. It was originally intended for communication between scientists, but now that is a side eﬀect. We have come to realize that the Net is too gigantic and protean for us to think of it as a device for satisfying any speciﬁc need, and each new use it aﬀords is a surprise. If the essence of technology is
to make everything accessible and optimizable, then the Internet is the perfect technological device. It is the culmination of the same tendency to make everything as ﬂexible as possible that has led us to digitalize and interconnect as much of reality as we can.2 What the Web will allow us to do is literally unlimited. This pure ﬂexibility naturally leads people to vie for outrageous predictions as to what the Net will become. We are told that, given its new way of linking and accessing information, the Internet will bring a new era of economic prosperity, lead to the development of intelligent search engines that will deliver to us just the information we desire, solve the problems of mass education, put us in touch with all of actual reality, enable us to explore virtual worlds that enable us to have even more ﬂexible identities than we have in the real world and thereby add new dimensions of meaning to our lives.