Persistence: An Appreciation

Jerry —  October 17, 2010 — 6 Comments

Sometimes a secondary attribute is as important as the first, obvious attribute.

For example, with broadband connections, most everyone focuses on the speed. Ooooo: Megabits! Gigabits! Given a choice between a slower Net and a faster one, faster is definitely nicer, but the element we tend to slide past is that the connection is always available.

Remember the days of dialup, or even of expensive calls to BBSes through mysterious packet networks? Remember how long it would take to get connected and logged in? Those days are pretty much history.

Here I’d like to appreciate a different attribute of our infrastructure, the attribute that makes it different from — and better than — the phone system, the TV networks and other technologies that might seem similar.

That attribute of the Net is that we can leave things in it and they persist. They’re there when we come back, and while we’re away they’re available to others. “They” can be essays, songs, movies, code or other things.

You can’t leave anything in the phone or TV systems. Before I steal any more of my thunder, let me take you to the REXcast:

(And yep, I’ve stopped numbering the REXcasts.)



6 responses to Persistence: An Appreciation

  1. How about if next year Wikipedia does not find funding for its activity. Is the data protected against such possibility? Well perhaps it is. But my real question, as from a person living in a young democracy and, call it GDP driven, capitalism is your how is your idea protected against the vulnerabilities of communism. I’m 100% terrified to see how GDP driven capitalism works, OK. Maybe growth is not the most important thing, OK. But value needs to be assigned to things. People respect value. Value motivates. Value regulates. Community driven economy needs to be a part of our civilization and I personally contribute to it. But thinking of it as a replacement for the entire current economy is in my opinion a utopic vision. Just as communism was. Please notify me if you answer.

  2. Hi Bronek, thanks for your post. I’m not sure if you’re replying to the Persistence video here, the Future of Money video I tweeted about yesterday ( or both. I’m not saying that a community-driven, commons-based economy replaces capitalism, but rather that the lines are being redrawn actively, and won’t be in the same place in 2020. This is a good thing overall, because we’ve managed to shove the commons aside so well that it’s on the verge of collapse.

  3. I am commenting more or less on both and the broader picture the Future of Money video gives us. Why are commons on the verge? Because they are not really economically rational. They are rational for many reasons but not for earning money. And what doesn’t even pay for itself always has it hard to survive. We do not shove them anywhere – what we do is that we particularly do not find a so called “business solution” to make them sustainable. At least in many if not most cases.

  4. Bronek, recognition of the value of contributions to the commons, and subsequent rewards, already exists and works at small scale in pockets here and there. Often it removes the need to use money. What is exciting is that the internet may make it scale to the societal level in the coming decade.

  5. excellent presentation. If people only realized how much power we have in our hands, we could turn this whole mess around so quickly. Almost instantaneously. Your words here touch on some very important aspects of our information world. Keep up the good work.
    Emmett Miller (

  6. Weren’t books persistent? Indeed, is not the library a longstanding, well-funded (well, maybe not in Calif.), socially approved, marvelously effective and open-to-all exercise in making useful knowledge persistent and widely available? And hasn’t the Internet served as simply a massive privatization of this function, making individually-funded (e.g. $50/month for DSL) and corporate “information” a replacement for a low-cost commons that did not require special education or skills, whose workings remained relatively stable over time instead of constantly morphing and demanding “education” in new skills? Learn the Dewey Decimal System once and you’re a full-fledged library user; on the Net, there’s a new service or gizmo or tagging nomenclature or site or scheme to learn seemingly every week. And many of these are simply would-be fixes for the last scheme’s shortcomings. And instead of being able to walk away from the Net, to put it down and remain separate from it, as we could with the library, the Net demands that we weave our very consciousness into its workings, thinking its way, organizing our knowledge according to its indices and constraints, living through its ways and circuits, re-thinking ourselves as mere subsystems of the larger System. (“Identity management,” anyone?) There is constant anxiety about having it available to us 24/7, and may employ robots to pay attention when they are asleep, and so forth.
    The library is and always was a great tool, one that everyone can use; the Net is an all-encompassing system, a system that inscribes us all into its mechanisms. Think Bateson and his man-leash-dog “system.”

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