Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Playing With Your Selves

Most people, of all ages (although you could give reasons why it might be more true of the young—or the old), live fragments of different lives, of different selves, in their dreams. Not at all times nor in all dreams, but most of us recognize that moment in a dream when the situation and the characters around us seem to have nothing to do with our waking lives. Some of these other selves are revisited often; some never. A few of us have learned how to access these sleeping selves almost at will. For most of us, however, the experience is willy-nilly, and usually forgotten before we awaken to another turn of the wheel.

At least this is how it used to be. Now, almost all of us lead a swarm of digital lives at the click of a mouse button or the beck of a call from our screens (that permeable membrane to the world of the Net). Lives we choose; lives we alter; lives we control. The separate selves that make up this army—our own individual army—rarely interact with each other. They lead lives of noisy distraction, each in their own virtual world, shared with endless virtual strangers, friends, or enemies.

The whims of once-submerged dreams are loosed on the waking world. The sum of possible virtual lives dwarfs all recorded lives, both of blood and ink. The numbers of these synthetic souls are swelling to supernova proportions. We have all become, like Whitman, the containers of multitudes. Again and again and again, we engage the moment of a dream and make it virtually real. No wonder we’ve lost interest in the simple, single self of the waking world.


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