Dave suggests that the internet culture results in "A network a mile wide and nanometer deep".
I'd say that he's got a valid point, one that I won't dispute.
I will say that the internet makes it possible to lower the cost of keeping relationships that might otherwise get lost over time. I'm only now (at 42) starting to learn the value of keeping such friendships, and attempting to ween myself off of my hyperextended period of indifference.
I think that the tools are just that... tools. Like the atomic bomb, they do have some moral dimension of their own, but it is overwhelmingly up to the people and societies that decide how they are to be employed that bear the ultimate responsiblity. If we choose to bury ourselves in distractions, we'll get what we want. If we choose to do the other thing, and seek knowledge and growth, and nurturing of relationships, we'll get that as well.
The internet is a tool... not a silver bullet, which I believe is a view we can all share.
I'd like to mix in my interpretation of Ethan Johnson's "physical symbolism", like this:
Doc Searls has vision of the world as he wishes it to be. He consistently expresses and refines this view. The act of sharing and promoting the idea is a type of incantation, a type of magic for lack of a better term... the act of reciting and repeating this vision will eventually cause it to become manifest in reality. How quickly this happens, and how much of an actual difference it makes in the overall scheme of life, is best analyzed post facto (say 20 years from now).
We're all making incantations of what we'd like the world to be... its very important to be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
Thanks Dave, Doc and Ethan for the pointers, and the bits of wisdom.