Ubiquity… Everywhere

ubiquity

When professor Janna Anderson gave me a copy of the third book in “The Future of the Internet” series with the title to the right, I quipped that it’s surely the first book in history to have ubiquity in the title.

I was wrong. A search of Amazon.com found a few predecessors, all by the same author.

Ubiquity is defined as “existing or being everywhere at the same time,” as in omnipresent.

The use of that word is obvious in the context of the internet. The “Future of the Internet” book, based on a third canvassing of experts and analysts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, forecasts that mobile devices will become the primary device for online access by 2020. However, the experts disagree about whether this will lead to better human relations or better home lives.

My cursory search found titles by author Mark Buchanan such as “Ubiquity: Why Catastrophes Happen,” “Ubiquity: The Physics of Complex Systems” and “Ubiquity: The Science of History… or Why the World Is Simpler Than We Think.”

The latter book starts with a story: “It was 11 a.m. on a fine summer morning in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914, when the driver of an automobile carrying two passengers made a wrong turn. The car was not supposed to leave the main street, and yet it did, pulling up into a narrow passageway with no escape. It was an unremarkable mistake, easy enough to make in the crowded, dusty streets. But this mistake, made on this day and by this driver, would disrupt hundreds of millions of lives and alter the course of world history.”

Disrupt hundreds of millions of lives?  Alter the course of world history?

The author is telling the story of the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Ferdinand, whose death at the hands of a teenage Serbian terrorist is credited with precipitating the start of The Great War, which ended five years later with 10 million dead. Alas, after 20 fitful years, Europe went to war again, this time named World War II, resulting in 30 million more deaths. The author concludes by noting, “In just three decades, the world had suffering two engulfing cataclysms.  Why?  Was it all due to a chauffeur’s mistake?”

While that is a dramatic query, history certainly is ubiquitous. Catastrophes are ubiquitous. And the internet is becoming ubiquitous. Perhaps ubiquity will become one of the “hot words” of the coming decade.

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