“It was a folly to get an e-Priest for solemnising the wedding…”

“Charged too much?”

“No, the system simply froze moments before the muhurtham!”

There is a dark underbelly to the diversity of content and services that the Internet has brought us, cautions Tim Wu in ‘The Master Switch: The rise and fall of information empires’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com). “While there were once distinct channels of telephony, television, radio, and film, all information forms are now destined to make their way increasingly along the master network that can support virtually any kind of data traffic. This tendency, once called ‘convergence,’ was universally thought a good thing, but its dangers have now revealed themselves as well.”

What we currently have is an awesome dependence on a single network, the author reminds. He emphasises, therefore, the vital need to preserve the network’s openness from imperial designs.

A bizarre scenario painted in the book is that we could undergo a consolidation by a domineering empire blissfully unaware. Dazzled by ever newer toys, faster connections, sharper graphics, and more ingenious applications, we might be sufficiently distracted from the consequences of centralised control, Wu foresees. “And just as our addiction to the benefits of the internal combustion engine led us to such demand for fossil fuels as we could no longer support, so, too, has our dependence on our mobile smart phones, touchpads, laptops, and other devices delivered us to a moment when our demand for bandwidth – the new black gold – is insatiable…”

A recommended study.