Driving north from Minneapolis a few days ago, we took a brand-new spur off of a major highway that will eventually intersect the northernmost east–west Interstate Highway, connecting the Great Lakes and Intermountain regions of the United States.
The new highway is clean, slick, crack-less, smooth, stark and every bit the poster child of what a 21st Century highway should be.
In addition, the empty spaces between the asphalt and concrete superhighways have been seeded with prairie grasses. Some of those grasses are nearly extinct and while we pour all of our affection, attention and accusation on the bald eagles, timber wolves and passenger pigeons, the fact is that there are GRASSES, TREES, MOLDS and FUNGI that are becoming extinct as well. That’s what the Department of Natural Resources in this state has decided to do – restore bits and pieces of the ancient Great Plains.
Be that as it may, I was caught that day by a metaphor – a superhighway is what our First World likens its transmission of information to. In the writing world, ebooks are a sort of motel on that information superhighway – a place to stop, kick your shoes off and relax or learn something new. Downloadable off the fast-as-light database, ebooks are The Future and with the downfall of the brick and mortars (old-fashioned bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and Powell’s as well as libraries for those of you not “in the know”), ebooks are the ONLY way we will be reading in fifty years.
At least this is the expectation for those of us who live in First World, technologically
advanced dependent countries. So say the experts.
But even on the new, physical superhighways, there are dividers filled with prairie restoration projects and dirt and simple weeds and invasive garden escapees. There’s earthworms in that dirt and if I had a hankerin’ to, I could plant me some taters and corn on the cob in some of the bigger places between the asphalt and concrete modernities stretching from horizon to horizon. Up close enough, those interstices are little different from the raw prairie of the ancient world.
What’s the purpose of the weedy areas on an Interstate? Aside from the belief that You Can’t Pave Over Everything, the reason for those restored prairies is that you need to keep water, wind and waves from eroding the foundation on which the superhighway rests.
Those of us who live in Minnesota quip, “We have two seasons in Minnesota, Winter and Road Construction.” We all know that EVERY highway in the US has to be patched and repaired and that a highway – even a SUPERhighway can only be patched and repaired so many times before it has to be totally and completely ripped up and rebuilt from the ground up. You heard me – rebuilt from the ground up. The superhighway. Rebuilt. Ground up.
So when the Information Superhighway has to be rebuilt, from WHAT will it be rebuilt? From paper books, physically retrievable data and oral histories. From ledgers, account reports and year-end reviews filed in paper drawers. The Information Superhighway has already experienced blowouts and break ups – it’s already been patched and resurfaced. What I’ve never seen before is the plan for rebuilding the Information Superhighway FROM THE GROUND UP.
Are you ready for the Information Apocalypse?