Yesterday, skulking around the Googleplex, I found a shelf of books and old sci-fi magazines. In one of the magazines from 1957 Arthur C Clarke outlined three possible ways that we could end up in space. He talks of space stations, of satellites et etcetera, but once again I am struck by the fact that nowhere does he talk of the Internet. He talks about a global Relay, but that would be used for radio and mostly, honestly, it seems for broadcasting TV. Overall, browsing through my sci-fi memory, I don’t remember the Internet figuring largely in any shape. There are computers, robots and AI in sci-fi, but no mention of a global computer network.

Maybe there is a reason. One interpretation would be to say that sci-fi has blind spots and that no-one (save for Paul Otlet) foresaw the net. There is an alternative interpretation though: as we progress and get artificial intelligence, robots and space stations the network will fade into the background. It will slowly disappear from our cognitive maps and becoming a necessary and enabling technology, like the integrated circuit or something similar. So maybe the reason there is not much mention of an internet in Star Wars or no UniWeb in Star Trek is for the same reason there is no discussion of electricity.

Are there any good examples of early sci-fi discussing the Internet?


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