Friday, July 6, 2012

Reflections on Next: The Future Just Happened, Part 1

Next: The Future Just Happened

I was 8 years old when I beat my Dad at chess for the first time. I wasn't very good in any sense of the word, but I had played enough on the internet to know what I was doing. I figured out that I could use bishops and rooks to control diagonal, vertical, and horizontal lines accordingly. It was a game of control. 

By the time I was 12, I could beat most of my friends' parents. I wasn't very good by internet standards, but I had played enough on the internet to know what I was doing.  I figured out how to use pawns to control the center of the board and flank your opponent. Sometimes, the best move was to strategically sacrifice a pawn in order to gain the upper hand in positioning. It was a game of flanking and positioning.

The first time I met people in person who could keep up with me was High School - even more so in College. I wasn't very good by professional chess standards, but I had played enough on the internet to know what I was doing. I figured out that a lot of people have trouble predicting knight moves, especially when you are strategically moving back towards your own King. As General MacArthur put it, "“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction." It was a game of trickery and deception.

There have been enough movies about child chess geniuses that I am not trying to raise my hand and be like "Hey! I was there, too! Just no where near as good!", but rather point out that I learned how to do something - even if it is just a game - via the internet. This is the underlying message in Next:  the internet is a great equalizer of generations and hierarchies. No longer is information and wisdom passed down from old to young, from boss to employee, and elite to commoner - but rather from those who want to teach it to those who want to learn about it. All of these age-old statuses no longer mattered and, because of that, hierarchies fell. 

I was 8 and I learned to play chess - not a huge accomplishment - but some people do amazing things. A 14 year old manipulated the stock market to make $800,000 and was only stopped because the SEC took issue with his age. His so-called crime was nothing different than what happens on Wall Street everyday. A 15 year old became the #1 legal adviser on Ask.com by replying to peoples' relatively simple questions with stuff that he picked up while watching CourtTV. When he finally came out and told people that he was 15, professional lawyers attacked him but the community ran to his defense. The internet served as the great equalizer. The only thing that mattered was what you could contribute to a community - nothing more. It happens every day on reddit




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