The first attempt to transmit a simple message via the Internet was made in October of 1969 when the words ‘Log in’ totally overwhelmed and crashed the transmitting computer – itself being bigger than some sort of mega-glutton’s jumbo fridge freezer – with only the letters L and O having successfully been transmitted in this most monumental of tasks.
L.O. and behold… the Internet was born, and unstoppable has been its relentless progress since, completely transforming our way of life.
Werner Herzog’s at times chucklesome documentary charts the internet’s life-span to date, along with all of its pros, cons and the colossal impact that it’s had upon the human race.
Divided into ten fun, fact-filled segments, with Werner’s own unintentionally comical, forthright Germanic narration for company, LO and Behold, Reveries of a connected world (LO and Behold from this point onwards), salutes the early Internet pioneers – one of whom sums up the essence of the ‘net by way of an insanely complicated looking mathematical equation which could just as easily have been a shopping list in Arabic, to this ignorant, untrained eye.
Werner also sees fit to commiserate with those whose own ideas have been overlooked. Those often superior contributions that for one unfathomable reason or another, just never made the cut. A case of what might have been, tinged by more than a little bitterness and regret, it should be said.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Werner’s film is how human existence is not only enhanced by the benefits of the ‘net, but has become completely and utterly dependent upon it. Our entire functioning life system is now completely structured around computers and the Internet.
No great surprise there, but a sobering thought nonetheless, and it’s a set up whose collapse could genuinely end man-made ‘civilisation’ as we know it, in a heart beat – and how many of us today possess the requisite life skills and survival know-how to adapt back to the most simple basics of human existence?
On a similarly upbeat note, LO and behold investigates the very real phenomenon of Internet addiction, from those (predominantly male) that have become addicted to Internet pornography, to, in this instance, South Korean gamers who actually elect to don giant nappies (diapers) so as not to forfeit opportunities to attain high scores during marathon online gaming sessions.
And then there are those for whom the Internet and the soup of wifi signals within which we all (have to?) exist these days, has become the centre of their own particular neuroses, and the cause of many a self-diagnosed ailment. Whole communities are being established in remote American outposts far away from the offending transmission masts. Here these people are able to convalesce in peace.
All of this in addition to the dark viral effects of the ‘net, and the unscrupulous deeds of hackers, and one could be excused for shutting down their own personal ‘device(s)’ for good, reverting instead to a set up of abacus beads and carrier pigeons, but Werner’s film is nothing if not full of praise and admiration for the multitude of positives that computers and the ‘net have brought into our lives over the years, and the endless possibilities they offer for the future, capped perhaps only by our own imaginations – be that autonomous, self-driving vehicles, increasingly sophisticated robots and the ever expanding possibilities of Artificial Intelligence. Or perhaps the proposed flights of fancy, relating to establishing life on Mars, the possibility of ‘tweeting’ our thoughts to each other, or even the day arriving when the internet can actually dream about, and become master of, itself?
Quite a thought.
With the Internet of today increasingly geared to be a more personalised internet of ‘me’ – it’s left to Werner to point out that as with everything that man has the hand of influence in creating, the biggest threat to the Internet and the way of life that it’s now firmly established for each and every one of us, is unsurprisingly, man himself.