Japan: The other side of the chasm

From the perspective of global communication, one may say that the world today is divided into two groups: those who are connected to the Internet and those who are not. While the small but growing minority who are connected participate in an increasingly active and complex global net culture, the unconnected majority does not.

The “chasm” between these two worlds was the topic of a post last week by blogger essa at the Uncategorizable Blog. Essa asks: How does the world of Internet users look to someone who is not connected? In a post called “The other side of the chasm” (キャズムの向こう側), the following explanation is proposed:


I think it was in a book by Gould that it was written that the [form of] life which best represents the Earth, by any meaning, is not humankind, but rather bacteria. It was written in this book that, in terms of population size, or range of habitat, or abundance of varieties — by whichever standard a representation is selected — not even multicellular organisms are eligible, let alone humankind.


However, unicellular organisms cannot recognize multicellular organisms. When a unicellular organism sees a multicellular organism, what it sees is each cell [of the multicellular organism] individually. [The unicellular organism] probably thinks: “The contents of the cells are somewhat different, but there's no mistake that they are cells like us.” Unicellular organisms probably do not see the interactions between one cell and another, being aware only of the differences in contents of cells, while unable to differentiate between “they” and “we”.


If you read books about training dogs, it is always written that [one must]: “Make the dog aware that the dog owner is of a rank superior to that of the dog.” Dogs have an instinct for behaving in accordance with hierarchical relationships of their group, so if they are spoiled and come to think of themself as superior in rank, then an instinct to behave as if they were the leader comes into play. When this happens, they come to think that, in responding to situations, they must take every decision for the group. But of course, in human society, there is no instinct for leading the way to appropriate actions; apparently dogs get confused by this and [respond by] barking and biting.


As long as they [humans and dogs] live together, dogs do not notice the differences between humans and dogs, and only recognize smells and hierarchical relationships.


Ikeda Kiyohiko [Professor of Biology at Waseda University] claims that the development of life is not a change from an old system to a new system, but rather that in [such development] the old system is left the way it is, while a new system is constructed on top, at a different level.


Therefore, it is not everybody who crosses the chasm; rather, it would seem that there is a split between the portion of people who cross the chasm and construct a new order at the other side, and those who continue to live as they had been, indifferent [to the change].


The way that people on this side of the chasm see it, the people on the other side appear to be similar human beings undergoing metabolic change, members of a similar society, eating similar things, riding in similar vehicles, using similar money, ruled by a similar political system. Therefore, however they look at it, they see the same human beings.


However, the people who crossed the chasm are able to see a completely new, different level of system, and it is there that they are living.


When the popularization of the net among all of humankind passes a certain threshold, even while not every person unreasonably forces themself to cross the chasm, still even just with the early adapters there will be a considerable number of people. A sufficient complexity will take shape, and an ecosystem will begin to function.


The people who recognize this world, and those who do not, may each come to live in different worlds.

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