It's Halloween season, so in addition to trying out a new creepy read ("House of Leaves"), I'm also enjoying an old favorite: H.P Lovecraft's "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath." It's the tale of dreamer Randolph Carter's epic journey across the world of dreams, full of ghouls, gugs, zoogs, night gaunts, unspeakable monster gods and of course house cats.
It's one of my favorite Lovecraft tales, so I've read it a couple of times before -- but like all great works of fiction, it speaks to you a little differently each time. So in 2012, I eased into the text with a head full of Stuff to Blow Your Mind science fodder.
So what was I to make of this little passage?
My mind instantly goes to the concept of interplanetary Internet and -- indeed -- differing Internets on differing worlds. It's a topic Julie and I pondered in our episode An Internet that Spans the Stars. We chatted about the speed of light delay and how this conceivably leads to the impossibility of a perfectly synchronized galactic Internet system.
Dream with me on this one. Off-world colonies essentially take Earth's Internet database with them. They may update it with regular data relays from the home world, but over time its easy to imagine the culture deviating somewhat. The world and its reflecting Internet become their own thing.
So what would it be like to skip from one planet's Internet to another?
What, if we dare imagine it, might it be like to skip from a human Internet to the Internet of an extraterrestrial civilization?
I think it might mirror Lovecraft's vision, in which each planet boasts its own outer layer of dream (Internet). To cross the void and explore new dream worlds is harrowing and potentially deadly exercise. Because, seriously, you do not want to see what goes on in the Subreddits of Vhoorl, the Cthulhian home world.
It's a concept Sci-fi author William Gibson touched on at the end of "Neuromancer" back in 1984. Here, the human character Case quizzes an all-powerful computer AI on its communications with a distant "other."
Anyway, I always find it fascinating to see how sufficiently advanced technology makes any fantasy a possible real-world future.