William Gibson Wired interview

In the old days, if you wanted to become insanely knowledgeable about something like that, you basically had to be insane — you had to travel around the world, finding other people who were sufficiently crazy to know everything there was to know about that. That would have been so hard to do, dependent on sheer luck, that it kept the numbers of those people down.

But now you can be a kid in a town in the backwoods of Brazil, and you can wake up one morning and say, “I want to know everything about stainless steel sports watches from the 1950s,” and if you really applied yourself, to the internet, at the end of the year you would have the equivalent of a master’s degree in this tiny pointless field. I’ve totally met lots of people who have the equivalent of that degree.

I never wanted to be a collector of anything; I just wanted to pointlessly know really a lot about one thing

My friend Doug Coupland recently tweeted something to the effect that he was once again trying to get into Facebook but he said, “It’s like Twitter but with mandatory homework.” That might be another good way to describe it. With Twitter you’re just there; everybody else is just there. And its appeal to me is the lack of structure and the lack of — there’s this kind of democratization that I think is absent with more structured forms of social media.

Now, last week, 30 years ago? What’s the difference? What does it matter? It’s all there on YouTube. And so I find myself discovering things like a decade late, or I discover things before very many people have found them. It’s atemporal. It’s just all over the long calendar, and that’s going to make things different. But that’s been going on for a long time.

Full interview