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Letter from the Editor



One of the small pleasures of spring is watching the nesting and mating rituals of our local birds. I like to sit on my back steps with a cup of coffee in the morning and watch as they gather twigs and grasses for nests. I like to listen to the sounds of the male birds calling out for mates. And I like to mess with them, using my Peterson Field Guide to Backyard Birds iPhone app. I'm perverse that way.

Yesterday morning, for example, a mockingbird was perched on my garage, singing at the top of his little bird lungs. I played the mockingbird song on my iPhone app and watched as he turned, startled, and began looking for his rival, obviously peeved that another bird was poaching his turf. (I also like to frighten squirrels with the screech of a red-tailed hawk, but that's another story.)

I bring this up because I've been reading about how the next wave of technology will bring us into a "post-Internet" era. That is, we will no longer choose to "get on" the Internet, because the Internet has gotten on us. The GPS systems in our phones and cars keep us "on the grid" whether we choose to go there or not. Every e-mail or text message we write is stored somewhere. Every financial transaction is tracked. Every website we visit is linked to a grid which monitors our interests, our purchases, our browsing habits. The Internet is onto us. The Internet is us.

This Net ubiquity is having unexpected side effects in countries where despots have long ruled by controlling the media and their citizenry's access to the outside world. When people have cell phones, they have the world in their hands — the ability to research, to learn the news from outside their borders, to read Twitter alerts and text messages, to organize efficiently, to avoid the authorities.

And think about how connected we are to the horrific events in Japan. Fewer and fewer of us are waiting to watch television reports. We're getting instant updates and videos via the Web. It's a tsunami of information, and it's changing the way we think and live.

I've read several stories recently about crooks who steal a car, then are unpleasantly surprised when the cops show up at their home, having tracked the car via its GPS. It seems thieves, like mockingbirds — like all of us — have some catching up to do.

Bruce VanWyngarden


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