I love the fact that when an undersea fiberoptic cable that’s thousands of miles long and laid miles-deep on the floor of an ocean reaches its eventual destination, that cable is brought ashore by a dude in a wet suit. Like, the only difference between that and Spanish explorers arriving on the New World baring bags of rotting provisions is the wet suit. We’ve been speaking about the internet metaphysically — “the cloud” — for a while now, which is to be expected. With wireless everything, we don’t ever have to touch or see the internet’s guts, while at the same time we hear very often the internet referred to as this thing that is very powerful in a changing everything sort of way and, generally, only in conceptual terms. We tend to not think about English engineers and dudes in wet suits.
Writer Andrew Blum (read our Q+A here) would like to change that. Several years back, a squirrel chomped through his internet and he’s been fascinated its real-world existence ever since, culminating in his recent book Tubes. Here he tells a TED audience about meeting those undersea cables and the people that build and maintain them face-to-face. It serves well to remind viewers that that “cloud” is actually just a bunch of stuff underwater and buried underground by day laborers, and then tucked away in innocuous buildings.
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