“Since 1982, Sun has maintained that the network is the computer.” Now 29 years later, Sun Microsystems is a part of Oracle Corporation, but their original vision statement means a lot more to me than it did 10 or 15 years ago.
To start, what network do you think Sun was intending? In a 2007 YouTube video, they refer to a “social revolution” that is “sweeping the world”.
Since you are reading this post, no doubt you have your own assessments of what has been continually building through the ensuing four years.
Of course, Sun also spoke at the time primarily from a posture of the need for networking services and getting everybody “on the network”.
More fundamentally, you could also ask what “computer” Sun was talking about?
If the “network” is the social network that, in its current form, is brought together with various tools of communication, coordination and production including Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs and other channels, then every human participating in social interaction might be seen as a part of “the computer”.
So without going too far into discussion of Douglas Adams’ “Earth computer”, aren’t we sort of computing the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything as we engage with each other, building meaning and stronger relationships in these new media?
We all sort out how we fit into the “social river”, and at least for me I notice how it increasingly shows up in how I look at other people when we are together in person as well.
In Trust Agents, which you may have already read, Chris Brogan and Julien Smith write about how our opportunities for social interaction with those physically around us (like neighbors and community members) may be limited because the only thing we really have in common might just be our location.
On the other hand, in the real “Earth computer” we strengthen bonds in our relationships with people around the world based on the strengths of our interests and our abilities to help each other.
I think of that like the strengthening or reenforcement of neural paths in the brain (not like I am an expert in neurology… just that I visualize it as similar).
The more we reinforce those connections, the quicker and more effectively we can solve problems together. So a change to Sun’s phrase could be “the network is the brain”… but that doesn’t sound as good.
And where our working together is for the sake of providing help through the building of closer relationships, then the problem the “computer” is working on is not only some collective social “life”, but a better life for each of us who engages in providing help to others.
What do you think?