Web Without a Weaver


This is not a “how to” book about the Internet. It will explain to you exactly what the Internet is (and what it is not). But it’s not going to tell you how to access the Internet, how to surf the web, how to design web pages or how to use the latest and greatest web software. There are already hundreds of books on the shelves that cover those topics. What makes Web Without a Weaver different is that it is the first book to explore the meaning of the Internet—how it is and will be affecting you and me and the world as we know it. It is meant to inform, entertain and infuse you with new ways of thinking about this new phenomenon. Read it a chapter at a time and let the information and ideas filter into your awareness. The Internet is changing your life whether or not you ever turn on a computer. This book will help you understand exactly how that is being done. Web Without a Weaver is, at its core, about the way in which technological change and social change mirror each other. This goes far beyond the superficial idea that as our tools become more powerful, we are able to do more of the same, better and faster. Tools are to a great degree the way we understand our identity. As our tools evolve, our concept of who we are evolves, and as our concept of who we are changes, how we behave with each other changes. Asking whether inventing new tools causes our self concept to change, or whether our changing self concept moves us to think of new tools, is like asking the proverbial which came first, the chicken or the egg. Whichever came first, they clearly can’t exist without each other.

When we did things by hand, with the strength of our bodies, we envisioned everything in terms of human bodies. An important advisor to a King would be called the King’s right hand. Even God was thought of as human shaped, the old man with a beard in the sky—rather like the King, only on a higher throne.

As we moved into the industrial age, we started to understand ourselves as mechanisms. Science brought us physics, chemistry and biology. We started to understand the whole universe as a mechanism, governed by rational, logical, knowable laws. Some proclaimed the death of God, but really it was only the death of Kings—and that particular way of thinking about God. We have moved into an age of the rule of law instead of divine right.

The late Twentieth Century has brought us computers. The computer has given us another whole new way to think of ourselves, as infinitely malleable programs. Suddenly our whole society is run by programming, whether that programming is called psychotherapy, marketing, propaganda or education.

The most profound changes however, in this era of profound change, are yet to come. Networks of computers are a phenomenon, a power and a tool, far beyond the computers that make them possible. As computer networks become an indispensable part of our lives, they will become an irresistible force for change. We will begin to understand ourselves and our society as a flowing, responsive, interconnected network. The computer network is a new mirror to see ourselves in, and as surely as eggs become chickens, our new vision will result in new ways to organize our affairs. This book provides a place to stand, to look out over the changes that our new collective vision and insight will bring about, and to peek over the horizon.

© 1997 Victor Grey