Why We Chose the Internet as a Wonder

The Internet may be an unorthodox choice for one of the "New Wonders" of the world because it is not a place -- or even, really, a physical thing.

Sure, it may not stir the soul like an ancient stone pyramid piercing the first rays of a dusty, pink dawn, or give you chills on a moonlit night as hundreds of tons of water charge over a cliff.

But the six of us -- writers, scientists, philosophers and explorers -- took seriously our task of selecting the New Wonders of the World, wonders that shed -- or were seen in -- a new light.

Along with the nomination of the (ecologically and culturally disastrous) Three Gorges Dam in China, the Internet provoked some of the strongest feelings.

After all, in a narrow sense, we'd be anointing "technology," rather than the more traditional fields of architecture and geology.

The division went right down the middle -- the right side of the table lined up on the side of the Internet's powerful "wondrosity," the left side philosophically opposed a nomination that could not glisten in morning dew or host plankton.

Can Touch It, but It's Still a Wonder

We argued. We arm-wrestled. We horse-traded. We waxed just a tiny bit poetic. And in the end, we agreed on the Internet as a wonder.

True, the Internet is not tangible. It's a pattern: a vast collection of fiber optic cables, copper wires, and wireless signals that join up most of the world's millions of computers.

But these connections, simple enough to describe, have enabled vast changes in the ways we communicate, learn, think, and fall in love.

The magic of the Internet lies in its unprecedented capacity, its breathtaking democratic potential, its inherent one-worldism, its lickety-split currying of ideas and information.

These are the things that make the Internet truly dazzling, even revolutionary, and deserving of the moniker "Wonder."

One might liken the Internet -- and the document network it enables, the World Wide Web -- to the ancient Library at Alexandria, where Ptolemy wrote, where Euclid discovered geometry, where the knowledge of Socrates and Plato rested.

The library harnessed and fostered much of the knowledge of its day. Today, it is the Internet that promises to hold the sum of human knowledge in a single navigable form. As such, it is among the most transformative creations the world has ever known.

Holly Morris is the author of "Adventure Divas: Searching the Globe for Women Who Are Changing the World," out this month from Random House. She is creator, director and host of the PBS documentary series "Adventure Divas," and co-founder of Diva Tours (www.adventuredivas.com).

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