It's a Small Cyberworld After All
The Internet causes brain damage. I'm not sure how, and I'm not sure if it's reversible, but there's no question it's worse than anything a dippy little cell phone could do even if you glued it to your ear for the next four years and listened to Moviefone 24-hours a day. Okay, maybe it's not that bad, but it's close.ITEM: Appliance and car manufacturers are rushing to hook their products up to the 'net so your refrigerator can automatically order milk to be delivered when you get low and you can run your bath water while sitting in rush hour traffic.ITEM: The town of Halfway, Oregon has renamed itself Half.com.ITEM: Ultra-orthodox Jews have been banned from using the Internet by rabbis.ITEM: You can now get doctors to bid online for the honor of performing your next surgery.See? Being online is causing massive brain damage. How else do you explain this mania? Or the fact that people will buy stock in any Internet start-up with a name that begins in 'i', 'e', and sometimes 'y' when they openly admit to having no clue when, how, or if they'll ever show a penny in profit? Or that all this is happening when only an estimated 256 million people -- or about 4 percent of the world's population -- use the Web. It's simple: we've all gone nuts. Take Halfway, Oregon, a town which sits near the Idaho border and got its name because the average elected official's IQ is halfway between 0 and 100. They've agreed to change the name of the city to Half.com for the next year in order to publicize a company named -- say it with me -- Half.com, which holds online auctions. In return, the town's getting $75,000 and 22 computers for their schools. Considering you can buy a kick-ass system for less than a thousand bucks these days it sounds like Half.com -- the company, not the town -- got themselves a hell of a deal. If this catches on we can expect to see the river in South America renamed Amazon.com, East Bay Park, New York change to eBay, and Arkansas become known as Yahoo. Obviously if Half.com can buy a town then online auctions are officially Big Business. Not since the words "yard", "sale", and "Do you really think someone will pay for this cracked Charles and Diana commemorative floss holder" were put together have so many people paid so much for so little. It's gotten so you can put most anything out for bid, even surgery. Yes, in an epiphany which could only be caused by electromagnetic fields scrambling brain cells, www.medicineonline.com has started a website which lets you solicit bids for that cosmetic, foot, or corrective vision surgery you've been needing. I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly dying to be cut open by the lowest bidder -- dying, of course, being the imperative word.But that's me. Someone else -- say, a couple in Hungary who are planning a double sex change operation -- might be able to make good use of a service like this. It's true, there really is such a couple. I couldn't make this one up if my genitals depended on it. The gender confused pair originally intended to have the double operation performed last September but had to postpone it when their doctors argued over who would do the surgery. Had www.medicineonline.com been around then, not only could they have chosen the doctor themselves and been man and wife -- or wife and man depending on how you look at it -- but they could have found a doctor who wouldn't have cost them an arm and a leg. Or anything more private for that matter.Interestingly, Internet brain damage also occurs in people who don't use it. That may help explain why some leading ultra-orthodox rabbis recently banned their followers from using the Internet. Well, that and the fact that they think it offers easy access to obscene sites like www.no-yamulke.com, www.gillette.com, and www.the-other-nonkosher-whitemeat.com.It seems odd that that they're worried about their followers' will power. After all, anyone who can resist the smell of shrimp etouffee should be able to resist a simple porn site. But new research shows that porn sites are closer than you think. Lada Adamic, a Stanford University graduate student, recently figured out that any two web sites are only four mouse clicks apart, making the old six-degrees-of-separation theory as outdated as that carton of chunky style milk hiding in the back of your refrigerator. You know, the one an Internet-connected refrigerator would have thrown out by now.The six-degrees-of-separation theory, for those of you who just broke out in a cold sweat because you think I'm talking about geometry, is commonly known as the Kevin Bacon Game. This is a parlor game where you find your way from Kevin Bacon to any other actor using a maximum of six connections, hopefully without having to stop and watch Tremors to do it. But that's history. Thanks to the Internet the world is now much closer, which is why it only takes four clicks to get from one useless site to any other. Sure you need to know which links to click, but I'm sure after stumbling upon Danny's Unlit Closet Cam a few dozen times you'll get the hang of it.You have to admit, this is all pretty impressive proof of spreading Internet brain damage, and at the rate it's growing I'm sure we have many more fun things to look forward to in the coming years. For one, experts predict everything we own will be wired. They say it will all be interactive. They tell us we'll have a great life. But I, for one, am not convinced. After all, I haven't had an online session in weeks in which I don't find web sites that are down, hear from people who just got my email from last summer's vacation, get bumped offline, or run into some 70-year-old guy trying to convince me he's a cheerleader named Bambi. You know, maybe those orthodox rabbis have a good idea after all.