Re-thinking my sublime dot com experience

I was thinking that I didn’t do a very good job in my presentation explaining how my experience of the dot com boom was sublime.  It was easy to describe the mythological aspect of doing business in the late nineties; the old rules that determined what you could accomplish, economically speaking, had disappeared (actually they were just hiding, waiting to reemerge with a vengeance).  We were not just running a publishing business, we were rewritng the rules, changing the world, and all of the other mythological cyberbole.

What made the experience sublime, however, was not just the awe we held for the technology, the same awe that created the mythology, it was the simultaneously held understanding and non-understanding.  That is an awkward way to state the feeling (there, I inoculated my post), but it describes the uneasy (and often terrifying) state we all felt we were in.  On one level, the mythology created a sense of complete understanding, we understood exactly what the technology of the Internet is doing to communication, economics, relationships, and communities.  Simultaneously, we did not understand how this was accomplished.  I am not talking about technical specifications or other aspects of electronics and schematics.  It was more of a nagging sense that it was not the cyberspace that had created the awe and end of economic rules; it was ourselves.  We were not cognitively aware that we were both buying into and propagating a mythology, but on some sub-conscious level we new that we were projecting other desires onto a technology.  Economic rules had not changed, we had chosen to reinvent them and unfortunately some rules defy reinvention. 

Back to the point, my experience was sublime (awe and terror) as a result of holding two contradictory beliefs, one conscious (the Internet will change everything) and one that simmered below cognitive awareness (the Internet was just a banal communication tool).  The source of the terror may have been unrecognizable and it may have manifested as a fear of losing other people’s money, but it was sublime nonetheless.

Bob   

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