Are you both attracted and repelled by the internet at the very same time

Figure 4 The Internet is a nexus of knowledge, power and transcendence that evokes a classic sense of the holy, as boldly suggested in this ad from MCI WorldCom, Inc. (1999).

Taking a more optimistic view of these developments, Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip Dilbert, wrote a curious book recently that promotes the equation of God and the Internet. In the book, God's Debris: A Thought Experiment, Adams stages a lengthy conversation between a mysterious old man named Avatar and a package delivery man who delivers the old man a package then stays through the night, sitting by the fire, as Avatar spins metaphysical tales. Through Avatar, Adams speculates that the world as we know it began when God blew himself to bits, and that the span of cosmic history is the long process by which God's "debris" is reassembling itself. Every element of reality is a bit of God; human beings happen to be the bits through which God is recovering his consciousness. With every action that integrates the discrete elements of the world into a more complete harmony, God is further revived. Avatar explains, "Every economic activity helps. Whether you are programming computers, or growing food, or raising children, or cleaning garbage from the side of the road, you are contributing to the realization of God's consciousness."64

To do these things is to fulfill God's will. The old man's religion is a kind of Taoism of gaining a feel for this gathering harmony and learning to flow with it. Right now the flow is most intense in the building up of the Internet. This is the cutting edge of God's reviving consciousness. Avatar describes it in this way:

"As we speak, engineers are building the Internet to link every part of the world in much the same way as a fetus develops a central nervous system. Virtually no one questions the desirability of the Internet. It seems that humans are born with the instinct to create and embrace it. The instinct of beavers is to build dams; the instinct of humans is to build communication systems ...

"The need to build the Internet comes from something inside us, something programmed, something we can't resist ...

"Humanity is developing a sort of global eyesight as millions of video cameras on satellites, desktops, and street corners are connected to the Internet. In your lifetime it will be possible to see almost anything on the planet from any computer. And society's intelligence is merging over the Internet, creating, in effect, a global mind that can do vastly more than any individual mind. Eventually everything that is known by one person will be available to all. A decision can be made by the collective mind of humanity and instantly communicated to the body of society... "A billion years from now, if a visitor from another dimension observed humanity, he might perceive it to be one large entity with a consciousness and purpose, and not a collection of relatively uninteresting individuals." The delivery man then asks: "Are you saying we're evolving into God?" To which Avatar answers: "I'm saying we're the building blocks of God, in the early stages of reassembling."65

Through the voice of Avatar, Adams reprises the monadology of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a seventeenth-century theologian and mathematician, who claimed that reality is composed of elementary monads that are orchestrated in a harmonious manner known only to God, who is the ultimate unity of all monads. Adams differs from Leibniz in that he locates the origin of the monads in the spectacular suicide of God (the Big Bang), while Leibniz attributed it to a decree of God that set in motion a harmony of elements overseen by God. In theological terms, Adams is a pantheist (the cosmos is God), while Leibniz was a panentheist (the cosmos is part of God, but not all of God). Adams also innovates on mon-adology in featuring the Internet as its current stage of growth. Adams is not attempting to found a cult; he is simply dusting off and improvising a metaphysic that takes into account our nearly uninhibited celebration and growing dependence upon digital technology. He deserves credit for his honest attempt to make metaphysical sense of a way of life to which our society is overwhelmingly devoted.

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