And Now the Deluge

March 27, 2014

We’d all like to know how the information revolution eventually shakes out. I think we know. It ends in ordinariness, disappointment and advertising, as things always do. But right now we are mid-stream, and the currents are fast and furious.

The few times I can get my nose and eyes above the water-line, I notice two things. One is the medium, the internet. The promise of the Internet has always been its unprecedented multi-directional capacity. A public commons as big as the world is. This will never go away, but I’m beginning to suspect its importance will diminish with time. Certainly the dream of an elevated quality of public debate died a conspicuous death early in the process.

Now its mostly quantity we see. Information, at least for now has been economically discounted to the near-free, and we are getting what we pay for. In ocean-sized amounts. It is a thousand firehoses of near-trivia, each hose wildly trying to find your face. Now, where might this all end up? If the past is prologue, here’s where. It will somehow, some way get monetized. The useful portals will be fewer, the content a marketable mix of mid-quality reliability and palatability, and it will cost more than you want to pay. Somehow realistic alternatives will be missing. The great competitive marketplace of information has a history of not providing the option you want. Unlikely to change.

But meanwhile it’s buffet-table time. Pile up your plate and waddle back to your chair.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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