By M.V.Ramakrishnan

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Cyberian Ocean

Today, when I start writing my first composition in this independent online column, my mind is naturally full of reflections on the intriguing electronic universe called Internet and the apparently endless manifestation of cyberspace.  Even if I come down from a cosmic level of contemplation and try to view the phenomenon in merely earthbound terms, I can visualize it only as the Great Cyberian Ocean across which I am somehow venturing to sail on this small and insignificant boat of mine.
     Mind you, I am not really a stranger to electronic communications, having acquired an e-mail identity and address several years ago in response to my children's forceful demands.  But being a senior citizen born well before the middle of the 20th century, I find it impossible to see through the mind-boggling mystery of the Internet --  although I am not quite unintelligent and had faced no serious difficulty in understanding the basic principles of atomic energy, space travel or genetic engineering when I was much younger.   
     And this happens to be so in spite of my own name being instantly recognized by the online search engines as a journalist writing a regular column called Musicscan in The Hindu, one of the most prestigious English-language newspapers in the world!   

Endless memory

     What truly mystifies me in this context is not the instant transmission of extremely massive data across the Internet,  but the amazing fact that there seems to be absolutely no limit to the amount of new information from world-wide sources which can be added to its awesome memory permanently without having to remove any of the voluminous information already stored in its formidable electronic brain.  

     Just imagine a million rivers pouring trillions of gallons of water every minute into the world's oceans, and not a drop of that unlimited liquid mass ever evaporating by natural causes!  How long and how large can the oceans grow without generating huge tidal waves and submerging the entire globe? 

     But the Great Cyberian Ocean doesn't seem to be restrained by any law of limitation.  It just keeps surging and swelling on and on and on somehow;  and yet we are all still undrowned and feel quite safe,  going about our usual business without a care in the world!   

Test of time
     The Internet's constantly expanding capacity for absorbing an endless flow of all kinds of useful and useless information is only one side of the profound mystery surrounding the whole new scientific concept of 'information technology'.  Its other side, of course,  is the inverse ratio of the spectacularly growing volume of information preserved and the rapidly shrinking space required for its storage.

      If this trend continues indefinitely and if there's an imbalance in the above ratio, a point of time may be reached when the online memory may well get overloaded and begin to malfunction, and the mystery will be over then.  But if the near future is a reliable reflection of the recent past, we who are alive today -- or at least the seniormost citizens among us, like myself --  may not face such a calamity in our lifetime.

      I therefore embark on this trans-Cyberian voyage confidently, expecting that my reflections will pass the test of time and will be floating around the world for a long time to come.  I do earnestly hope that sooner or later they will be retrieved, read and quoted by at least a single scholar doing research in social history, mainly for whose benefit I shall be writing this column.

     But who knows, a million other people in a hundred countries may also discover it in due course....  and if that happens, it will be another miracle of the modern world!

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