Look at a website. Any website. It probably looks like this:

The website has some pictures, it has some text. Maybe there’s an annoying video at the top which you close immediately. You know, a website.

The website is presented to you in a browser window. The window, much like a real window, is a portal through which you view the website.

Most of the time, but not always, a website is scaled to the width of the browser window. The website is taller than the window, so you can scroll it up and down to see the whole thing. You can also go through a website by following a link. Once you click a few links, you can click the back and forward button to move back and forth through the site (or do a neat little side-swipe gesture on your mobile device).

In this way, websites are three-dimensional. They have width (typically the window width), height (as long as you care to scroll), and depth (through various pages on the site). Some websites are broad and shallow, some are narrow and deep.

Browser windows are special, in that they’re not just one window, they are many windows organized by tabs.

Each tab is a new window with a new website. Each of those windows holds a new three-dimensional universe. Your browser is a tiny little multiverse of information.

I started thinking about this while at work, where I usually have several browser windows open with several tabs apiece.

And sometimes I’m on a video call with a colleague and they share their screen and I see their browser windows and all of their tabs over the video call 🤯.

So I’m listening to the video, writing a note over in Slack, and keeping track of an n-dimensional information-space while watching my colleague do the same thing over sci-fi-real-time video call.

The informational multiverse which knowledge workers inhabit on their regular, dumb, everyday laptops is too complex to be visualized. It’s impossible to draw a picture of 24 spatial dimensions, stacked together with asynchronous chat and real-time video, but our minds can navigate just fine. We don’t even have a map.

The futurists of today (and yesterday, and the day before) keep imagining that what we need, what we really need, is to strap on a VR helmet to have pretend meetings in cyberspace while trying not to barf.

The future is a dumb candy-colored world of floating Weebles bumbling into each other.

I am befuddled by this contradiction. Why is the imagined future so small and so old fashioned?

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