The Roomnet

The Boston Globe Connections column yesterday printed my essay on my experience away from the Internet, forced to actually connect with the other people in my presence to learn anything — and enjoying it. I coined a phrase to describe the collected brainpower in a room: the Roomnet.

Earlier this year, an archaeological dig took me to a rural part of the world with spotty Internet service. In this village, it came through cell towers, but the signal was weak and shared by hundreds of people. So functionally, I lived without the Internet. 

Researchers have written about how video games and the Internet have changed our brains. My time on the dig required a reboot of my pre-Internet brain. This earlier brain, I quickly realized, was not without resources: Lacking digital search engines, I still had the “Roomnet.” Just as the Internet is the collective intelligence (or lack thereof) of a few billion people, the Roomnet is the collective intelligence of everyone in a given room. 

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I love the illustration by Gracia Lam that accompanied the piece:

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