The ever-encroaching wireless web
I think it was Tom Friedman who first referred to the web of communications technologies currently encircling the globe as the “Evernet.” Always on and always growing, the net has many beneficial effects, especially in developing countries, as The Economist notes and Emergic and WorldChanging elaborate on.
Of course, some side effects advise caution. To paraphrase Friedman in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the result looks more like millions of Little Brothers than one Big Brother.
While that may be slightly less scary, I think there’s something to be said for leaving some parcels of land not only untouched by development, but untouched by the Evernet. The New York Times ran an editorial this morning about the “Frankenpine,” a cell phone tower disguised as a white pine tree in the Adirondacks. Setting any visual blight (or attempts to disguise it) aside, however, the whole point of going into a wilderness area is to be “off the grid” and unable to immediately call someone, even in the case of emergency. A concerted effort needs to be made to prevent this Evernet from reaching into every corner of the world.
Even left unchecked, though, there are some places where the net probably just won’t go. And there is always the option of choosing to leave whatever communication device you have at home when you go somewhere. But in the same way that it is exciting to think that you are 50 miles from the nearest passable road, it is exciting to think that it is physically impossible to immediately reach someone or be reached.
The Nature Conservancy and others already focus on the proximity of roads, but the proximity of the Evernet is looming just as large, if not larger, on many wilderness areas.