In 1999 David Bowie Predicted the Impact of the Internet

  1999 David Bowie on the Internet

In an interview with Jeremy Paxman of the BBC that took place in 1999, David Bowie predicted the impact of the Internet on society with new ways of expression, art, and communication.  Google was just a few months old, and YouTube, Facebook or Twitter were not even an idea (arrived several years later.)

    In the segment below you Bowie is talking about how the role of music has shifted from one of creating the excitement for rebellion to a more niche and fragmented role of quasi-co-creation with different communities.

    He says the Internet would take up the job of becoming an instrument of conversation, which music played in the past. His comments on fragmentation and dissolution of the old ways to make room for a new way of connecting artist with audience — the gray space in the middle — were on point.

    But he's not talking about how everyone would have a computer on their desk, his message is more about what they will do with it, “I think we're actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.” Behavior was the focus of his observation  an insight we can credit to his incredibly well-read mind.

    You can see the skepticism on the interviewer's face as Bowie goes progressively from talking about music and rebellion to the space in the middle between artist and audience. It's not “just a tool,” if you think about the possibilities, what we can say and do with it.

    Up until the '70s, says Bowie, as a society we had “known truths,” and “known lies,” and no duplicity or pluralism about the things we believed in. That started to break down rapidly in the '70s and the idea became that there are always two, three, four, five sides to every question.

    It was the backdrop for a medium such as the Internet to be created and show the fragmentation of society. The potential of what the Internet is going to do to society — both good and bad — is unimaginable… this is how Bowie pushes back on Paxman's comments.

    He gave the example of the President when the telephone was invented saying that in the future each town would have one, which to us today sounds preposterous. Utter BS, Bowie called it. “The actual context, and the state of content is going to be different,” now don't we all feel foolish to be repeating that very same thing ad nauseam well into 2018!

     Watch the segment to see how someone can be engaged, listening actively, and thinking critically during an interview.

    This segment, along with a Wired article inside Facebook's two years of hell (via Ben Thompson) actually gives me hope that we're at a general wake-up call on the current trajectory and its diminishing returns on attention and well being.

    As an independent voice, I continue to believe that meaningful exchanges matter, intelligent discourse is vital to well being and a productive society, that cohesion and support are the pillars to a thriving culture. If you are reading this blog, or forwarding articles to friends and colleagues, you appreciate the value of signal over noise.