June 4, 2012: “My Internet” by Jonathan Lethem
This is an odd, very short story, from the point of view of someone who has developed an Internet within the Internet, one that is limited to 100 users, and has secretly developed another Internet within that, limited to just one. He speaks of a leader who foresaw the future and chose 100 elites to participate in the private Internet. The public Internet he finds confusing. But lately, he says, he’s “felt the urge for a deeper foray, the need for a more profound exclusion” and this has lead to the creation of his own Internet.
The irony, it seems to me, is that an Internet of one’s own is simply a return to the days before the Internet, when information wasn’t so easily shared and you only know what you know, not what everyone else knows.
Why this makes a short story that The New Yorker wanted to publish isn’t clear to me.
I wasn’t generally overwhelmed by the New Yorker’s selections for the Science fiction issue, but I actually do have a soft spot for this one, and that may have something to do with my professional interactions with the internet. In fact, I just now thought back to this story as I was reviewing a web site preparing for a call scheduled for about a half hour from now the the business development director of that site (they approached me as a potential supplier of content), and in evaluating the site, and its apparent injection of a “social media” culture into what should otherwise be a fairly serious venture, I noticed myself thinking back to this story and to the leader who created the limited 100-user internet and thinking that maybe he was on to something, and even to the narrator and his one person internet.
This very short story can seem quite trivial at first glance, but actually, it really does speak quite boldly to some very important aspects of our emerging culture (not just cyber, but even the way cyberspace and influence the 3D world. As to why the New Yorker published it, I can easily imagine one or more persons who are on or have contact with their web team seeing the story and saying “Oh yeah, we have to use that one!”
Thanks for your perspective, Marc. I see your point.