I always consider, the ‘World Wide Web or WWW as a collection of online information, stored on servers around the world, that are connected by the Internet. For accessing any of the information, you need to know the way and the path and the address of these servers, where the required information is stored. This address is usually called the ‘Uniform Resource Locator’ or URL of that information or of that server and is in the form of a text string, called a Hyperlink. I have no idea, from where, the researchers at the ‘European Laboratory for Particle Physics’ in Switzerland, got this idea for such a world wide network. But the fact remains that WWW has now become the most important source of information for people around the world.
I recently realized that another kind of web resides in the minds of all of us. Surprisingly the resemblance between WWW and this web inside our minds, is very striking. I prefer to call this web as ‘Inner web’. This web is very personal but it works exactly like WWW. It also has servers, where information is stored, a connecting media similar to internet and addresses like hyperlinks including hypertext links from one web site to another.
Let me carry out a little experiment. I shall sit down comfortably and let my mind wonder freely. There is a window in front of me and I can see traffic moving on the road. I see a bright red coloured car moving past the window. I instantly remember the show room from where I bought my car some two years back. The details that come to my mind are very vivid. I remember the negotiations for the price, the sales person and even the sweet meat box which they gave me along with the car. In fact, at that instant I am re-living that past experience. While I am still in the car show room, there is some reference to a music system. My mind reads the hypertext and instantly takes me to a music shop on Ferguson College Road. The time period is early Sixties, I am a college going young man and the shop has small wooden cabins which are made sound proof. I pay twenty five paise to the owner and ask him to play a tune which I like very much. ‘Colonel Bogey’ from The film ‘Bridge on the river Quai’. He puts the record on the player and the tune starts playing in my mind. My mind has already left the scene and I am suddenly a little boy practicing to play flute on the school ground for the school band. The tune is called New Delhi. The Band teacher then takes all of us to a restaurant named as ‘Jeevan’ on Tilak Road and the crisp Masala Dosa filled with bright yellow potato stuffing is in front of me. I can even now feel the aroma of that hot Dosa filling my nostrils. Suddenly before mind can recover, I am at the Changi airport in Singapore. I see a board which tells me that on way ahead there is a south Indian Restaurant. But I don’t go that way at all and just turn back.
All of us can try this and would be amazed at the speed and variety with which things appear in our minds one after another. This can go on and on till we get tired or fall asleep. But let us compare this little trip made by my mind with an experience with WWW. Suppose I open a browser like Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox on my computer. On my home page there are advertisements as well as news items. I click on something. I am on to a new web site which has no reference or relation to my home page. This can go on forever till I am bored of Browsing and decide to switch off the computer. Or I might see or remember something and decide to search that word or something with a search engine. It will lead me to some web site from which I can just go on and on till I am tired. When exactly same steps are followed by my mind, I call the thought process in my mind as ‘Random Browsing on the Inner Web’. But this kind of Random browsing need not be the case always. When we sit down and start thinking about a specific problem, our ‘Inner Web browsing’ , becomes more systematic. Let me give you an example.
Suppose I have to make a trip to Mumbai on next day morning by my car. As I think about it, my mind would invariably go to inner web sites storing experiences of past journeys made. Check the air pressure in tyres, check fuel level. Then information about the road, where to park. How to go about after reaching Mumbai. I would call this as organized Inner Web Browsing. We all do it continuously.
Another strange thing which I have noticed about this Inner Web is that about Ninety percent of information stored is about failures and unpleasant experiences. Only about ten percent Inner Web sites are about happy events or pleasant experiences. Going back to the example above I am sure to recollect any flat tyres, minor troubles on road, parking problems in Mumbai etc. Very few pleasant experiences would be available on my Inner Web. Another striking feature of inner web is the presence of a huge number of graphics. Majority of information is available in pictorial form.
We may think that the inner web exclusively consists of our own experiences. But actually information gathered from experiences of other people, information from what we might have read from books or seen on TV is also stored and is available readily.
But should we really allow our inner web browsers to run wildly and in random fashion. This exactly is the thing, that all our saints and poets have been trying to implant in our minds for hundreds of years. A well balanced and stable human mind should be able to control this wild browsing and restrict itself to only organized browsing. This probably would be only the first step towards being a better human being.