Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama, World Wide Web, the start of a new era

Today Barack Obama swears in as the 44th president of United States. In the past election, people in the United States voted for change. Change is thus happening. This inauguration might be the beginning of a new era.

To us who care the Web evolution, Obama's victory show how deep the Web have entered into our real life. We are now in a new page of history in which one who expects to win the real world must first conquer the virtual world. The speed of information transportation in the virtual world is exponentially greater than the same speed in the real world. Because of the continuous and consistent increase of the Web population, it becomes more and more impossible for one to conquer the real world by losing the virtual world. If Barack Obama has proved to us the power of this shallow Web 2.0, what could it be when the Web continuously evolves forward?

Virtual world is being the symbol of the coming new era. People will accept that virtual world is part of the real world. When we are online, we are not away from but still deeply involved in the same world of our daily life. Anything we interact with, we talk about, or we upload onto the virtual world is just another real-world activity. We are not in an imaginary land when we are online.

Moreover, this previous statement could be readdressed in a more dramatic way: isn't the real world nothing but another virtual world? Why do we have to limit the "real world" to only be the physical world? Isn't the world of mind as real as the physical one? If reading and writing are seen to be "natural" human skills and basic "real-world" human behaviors, aren't IM and blogging the same "natural" and "real"? An ancient Chinese philosopher, Zhangzi (Chinese: 庄子), once dreamed he became a butterfly. And the following is the story:

"Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi."

Philosophers have interpreted the story in many varied ways. But I would like to argue that isn't Zhangzi the same as the butterfly and vice versa? Only if we take seriously on this multi-world assumption, the so-called "real" world is just the primary virtual world we happen to take; and our physical body is only the primary shape of existence we happen to obtain. Now, with the invention of the World Wide Web, we start to be able to access these other virtual worlds that have already existed with us for long time but have been neglected by most of us for long time as well. This is thus the true meaning when I say of a new era!

Let us open our mind, as Obama has creatively opened his mind. Let us think of the Web using the full freedom of our mind. We then can see the beauty of this new era with our virtual eye, which is, actually, as native as the "real" eye to every one of us since our born.


Anonymous said...


Happy New Year!

Another great and insightful post to kick of the new year and new times.

This song should go with this post:
http://tinyurl.com/8u2jaj (Wake Up Everybody!).


Yihong Ding said...

Dear Kingsley,

Thank you for the kind words. Wish you as well as your company had a good new year too!

The song is fantastic. I will see whether I can tight it with the picture.

By the way, I am looking forward to joining the monthly semantic web meeting with you this year. But I need to first figure out a few schedule problems. :-)