I have a review of Mark Bowden’s new book Worm in the Wall Street Journal Today:
Even before the Internet became a household word, let alone a household tool, there were those who conceived of it as an actual place—an alternative reality of mystery, possibility and danger. Science-fiction novelist William Gibson dubbed computer networks “cyberspace” in a story written as far back in the dark ages as 1982. By 1984 he had penned the novel “Neuromancer,” in which characters used a brain-computer interface to travel through a virtual reality called “The Matrix.” And of course by 1999 the film “The Matrix” built on that metaphor to explore the notion of a complete computer alternative to reality where good guys and bad guys nonetheless battle to save the world.
The metaphor of “cyberspace” has a certain validity. There are ways in which the Internet, like the printing press before it, has expanded the bounds of our communal imagination, and there are ways in which the imagination can be usefully conceived of as a piece of mental real estate— a place of consequence, in fact, where adventures may occur that affect our actual lives. But in the end, the metaphor is only that—a metaphor. Dreams are only dreams, and the Internet is just a bunch of machines linked together.
You can read the whole thing here.