Frenchman Jules Allix, in the mid-nineteenth century, popularized a kind of organic Internet made out of snails.
Drawing upon the physician Franz Mesmer’s theory of “animal magnetism,” which postulated the existence of a universal magnetic force connecting living things, it was predicated upon the idea that any two snails that had copulated remained linked across great distances.
The technology—a telegraph-like device that used snails to purportedly send messages—was a failure, but the dream of instantaneous, wireless communication remained until humanity achieved it.
Rather than a tool, the Internet might best be seen as a living system. It is the fulfillment of a centuries-old human aspiration toward interconnectivity—albeit a disappointing one.
We need more effective metaphors for the Internet to help collectively ward off the vacuity of “content” and the addictiveness of the “attention economy.”
Is it like a postcoital-snail telegraph? Or like a Renaissance-era wheel device that allowed readers to browse multiple books at once? Or perhaps like a loom that weaves together souls?
First discovered the snail internet in Kyle Chayka New Yorker article on how the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines https://www.newyorker.com/culture/infinite-scroll/how-the-internet-turned-us-into-content-machines