The Machines That Can Give You Questions

Back when Pablo Picasso was asked for commenting about computers, he said “But they are useless. They can only give you answers.” and in a sense he was right, because most computers at his time were used for one-off (and time-consuming) calculations and simulations. But there was another use of computers that was still in its infancy then and unknown: computer networking. But as technology improved, it became more and more powerful and pervasive.

The 1986 film Jumpin' Jack Flash starring Whoopi Goldberg (which I highly enjoyed and can recommend) exemplified the power of early computer communications, though they were still in their infancy. The early popular Internet around the late 90s, with the so-called “Web 1.0” was a hodgepodge of static web sites (often at GeoCities), lots of useless or incomplete information, search engines that were still not very good, and naturally, lots of fan pages of Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar (whom I can retrospectively tell was the Jennifer Lawrence of the time), and other contemporary trends such as Harry Potter or the Friends Television series

If you wanted an interactive many-to-many discussion, you had to use Usenet, or mailing lists, or Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or Slashdot, or whatever.

That has changed significantly, with the fact that the browser scripting language JavaScript matured, wikis (= world-editable sites, such as the Wikipedia), web forums and blogs became popular, and search engines (most notably Google Web Search) became better. Later on, we’ve seen the rise of web-based social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, which provide a more integrated experience.

That does not mean that all the old Internet mediums are dying - mailing lists , IRC, and even some Web 1.0 sites (including my own) are still alive and kicking, and people now are increasingly using Jabber/XMPP/GTalk/GChat.

Anyway, because computer networking allows humans to communicate with other humans, they can provide you with questions. Lots and lots of questions. So I think Pablo Picasso would have loved the Internet (and other means of online communications such as SMSes, phone calls, mobile phone calls, etc.) of 2013.