Perceptually, beyond some low threshold, data becomes boundless to us. Cloud storage compounds this: we don’t even worry about HDs filling up anymore! Even when digital streams have clear beginnings and ends, I think we — humans — do a bad job at keeping those edges in view. In trying to reflect upon vast experiences or datasets captured entirely in bits with most standard interfaces, we run into the same wall as in trying to imagine infinity: we can’t.
I really love this essay by Craig Mod about the relationship between what is digital and what is physical—the infinite and the comparatively less infinite. He articulates some thoughts and feelings that, as a member of the first generation to really experience a childhood (or at least the latter portion of one) permeated by the internet, I have felt and struggled to express. Our culture’s shift toward a world of creating and consuming without “edges” is one that’s left us largely without the cues that we’re innately accustomed to.
I’m not one to propagate the idea that computers or the internet signifies the death of humankind—that as physical stuff continues to get replaced by digital counterparts, we will eventually lose the core of our being and fall into a dark, nature-less abyss. But progress does come at a cost, and with this progress, it seems like we might be dishing out some things, most notably a degree of permanence and accessibility. Those are things that we hold close to our hearts, and with good reason. They’re things that we’ve had since the beginning of recorded history—because without them, there would be no recorded history.