The Futurama effect

Sometimes there is a lot of stuff we take for granted. Being somewhat an Internet-based professional kinda takes all the magic out of this amazing connected world and the changes that have been happening among us. Imagine a guy being hibernated some twenty years ago and waking up today. Try to figure out the astonishment and the overwhelming sensation of a world that has taken a quantum leap since he’s been refrigerated. Try to explain to him stuff like the Internet, the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, social networks and the like: chances are you’re in for a lot of blank stares and puzzled looks.

This is what just happened to me.

See, while on vacation some neurons of yours truly had a somewhat funky connection, and I figured out that I really want to play piano again, something I dropped in my teenage years. I distinctly remember how it felt back in those days: I was a broke teenager living in a small town, relying on pocket money and pub jobs to earn my fun. Living in a small place meant little to no access to information, and being nearly penniless didn’t quite help. I had to travel 40 miles to get to an halfway decent sheet music store, I wasn’t in touch with other pianists, (vinyl) records were too expensive for a teenage and I was frantically videotaping anything that vaguely resembled classical music performances on our mere six national channels TV. I still remember staying up late to record the Bach Series from Glenn Gould, and I clearly recall saving a few pennies here and there to finally buy a copy of Schubert Impromptus. Later on, I got sucked into different hobbies and life in general, so I basically dropped my piano altogether.

Fast forward twenty years later. Here is a guy sailing towards his forties who has been fortunate enough to witness almost all the Internet stuff happening in his country, from SLIP and UUCP access to ADSL2 and beyond, from NCSA servers to IPTV, from Swish and Altavista to Google. I have been fortunate enough to work behind the scenes and somewhat help making all this happen: it’s a great ride, but with the downside of spoiling the magic. Gone are the times where I stared at my 386 receiving a ping response from the other side of the Atlantic. I got used to the Internet in small steps, and to the idea that information is at my fingertips, be it a phone number, travel directions or software being written cooperatively by a community of strangers living all around the world. All this happened gradually, and it just became part of my life: I’m just expecting to browse for information and finding it somewhat.

The teenage in me just woke up, though, and wants to play piano. He finds himself in front of a computer screen, and understands that instead of relying on a lousy local shop, his piano might be coming from 700km away. He doesn’t have to take the vendor’s word, as there are a plethora of forums and sites full of qualified reviews. He can even drop an email to a good friend in the UK and get some great advice. There might be no need to buy music sheet as  no less than 12.618 scores are available for free download. Want to learn from pros such as Horowitz, Richter, Pollini or Ashkenazy? YouTube has plenty of that. Piano lessons? No brainer, there are instructors from Europe, USA and Japan sharing material on the Net. Care to share some thought with people with similar interests? Go figure the sheer number of piano communities out there.

This is just overwhelming, and so different from what it used to be. It’s a weird sensation being exposed all at once to such an unexpected massive amount of valuable information, and it really made me wonder. Most of us just don’t realize how exciting these times are and how lucky are we to witness the quantum leap the world has been through in just a handful of years.

Sometimes it’s really good to stop for a moment. And think about it.