View from Orbit

Just Say Wow

For over 500 years, humanity has known that we live on a spherical planet. And yet, old reflexes-of-the-mind die hard. At dusk, we still say "The sun went down," when we know that in reality, the sun did not "go down" at all -- the Earth turned around. Likewise, we still refer to the morning's light as the sun "coming up" when we know full well that our big ball, the Earth, simply rotated us around to face toward the Sun again. The unconscious belief in a flat Earth, continually reinforced by our uncritical repetition of yesterday's outdated phrases, warps our perceptions of who and where we are. We tend to forget that we live on a sphere, and settle comfortably into the primitive misconception that we live on a flat world. This is not trivial. Geometry is politics. The unspoken, unconscious belief in a flat Earth, according to Buckminster Fuller, is responsible for humanity's stupidest blunderings. As he wrote in his 1972 book Earth Inc.:

Space Vehicle Earth was so superbly well designed, equipped and supplied as to have been able to sustain human life aboard it for at least two million years -- despite humanity's comprehensive ignorance which permitted a fearfully opinionated assumption of an infinitely extensive planar World.

Humanity also spontaneously misassumed that its local pollution could be dispelled by the world's infinite extensiveness. Humanity also missassumed that an infinite succession of new and pleasing varieties of abundant, vital resources would be disclosed progressively as man exhausted first one and bespoiled another of the as-yet known valuable (vital) resources.
Not only did Fuller believe that our "flat-Earth" reflexes led to pollution, environmental degradation, and war, it also blinded us to the wealthy, life-enhancing possibilities offered to us by our world's roundness (for instance, a solar-energy grid wrapped around the Earth would be continually accumulating power, since half of it would always be facing the Sun.)

Fuller meticulously examined his vocabulary and expelled all inaccurate or incorrect phrases he found. In their place, he invented startling new terms. For example, instead of saying "upstairs" and "downstairs," , he used the words "outstairs" and "instairs." Instead of the words "sunset" and "sunrise," he coined the terms "sunclipse" and "sunsight" respectively. (Many more of these innovative terms can be found at the Bucky Fuller Glossary at Volant Turnpike). Fuller claimed that continued use of these phrases gave him a more comfortable worldview and helped him think and intuit more clearly.

Following in Bucky's footsteps, I propose we change the name of the World Wide Web to the World-Around-Web, for this simple reason: the Earth is not flat. By describing the world as "Wide," we continue to reinforce the primitive notion that we live on a flat plain, extending indefinitely into all directions. This is utterly inappropriate for the Internet, which has, for the first time in human history, united peoples of all localities into a common, non-local medium of communication. The sooner we begin to reorient our thinking and intuition to sphericial Spaceship Earth, the sooner the Internet will become a tool for comprehensive global problem solving.

Still WWW has a nice symmetry to it, that WAW lacks. I suggest then, to shorten the name, we call the Web simply the WOW. The "A" has been replaced by an iconic "O" that illustrates, in the most basic hieroglyphic, the roundness of our Earth.

What's more, this new name will shear off several redundant syllables when you're giving your online address to somebody verbally. Instead of having to say "double-you, double-you, double-you, dot, my domain, dot com...." you can simply say "wow.mydomain.com".

I urge all sysadmins to name their Web servers wow instead of www. I urge everybody else to start referring to the Web as the WOW whenever and wherever possible. If you support this movement, feel free to download any of the "bumperstickers" below and stick them on your webpages. Let's set the trend in motion.

Patrick Farley, July 4, 1996 c.e./Mendel 14, 26 A.T.
This essay is in the public domain. It may be distributed, translated or excerpted freely.
Wow transparent

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Just Say Wow

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Little Wow

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