The world is becoming one great, big, giant webcam. Webcams are tiny TV cameras connected to the Internet that are shared with the whole wide world forming growing matrixes of electronic eyes. These digital Cyclopic eyeballs are everywhere; it is possible to fly around the whole planet from a desktop computer courtesy of webcams.
Some cameras point to a backyard in Arkansas or a wooden sign in Memphis. One appears to be a porch with a bare bulb. In the night views from China, some will be just plain black. They don’t blink. They just stare. They are like a single cone or rod in a worldwide retina.
Webcams are like a compound eye of an arthropod. These are the insects, spiders, lobsters and centipedes of the animal kingdom. These creatures, truly the rulers of our planet by their sheer numbers and diversity, see the world quite differently than we vertebrates.
They have a bunch of individual eye units called, ommatidium. These bundles of sight have lens, and visual cells arranged like looking down on top of a sliced pizza. The bundled nerves from the other ommatidia carry the impulses to their rudimentary nervous system/brain to make sight.
It is like the dots in a picture, the more dots the clearer the vision. Grasshoppers have fewer ommatidia than the bee. Because of the number of ommatidia, their special existence as God’s little critters is totally different because of the amount of granularity in their vision.
The honeybee sees flowers far off in its flight while the humble grasshopper lives a more simple terrestrial life guided only by a checkerboard blur. Did the number of eye units create the grasshopper and the bee or did the grasshopper and bee create the number of ommatidia?
The other question is, will it be possible that the number of Internet Web ommatidia permit the evolution of a new human creature? If an individual accesses all these diverse sights and sites, will they have a clearer view of the world and its inhabitants?
This enhanced patchwork vision of Mother Earth multiplied millions of times could permit more of us to see the wonder, even if it is a back porch in Arkansas. We could become like a bee and see more flowers and colors. The more spots would increase the ability to explore and discriminate better between friend and foe. We would be less likely to eat our own kind if we could see them more clearly.
So it is with the network of webcams. If we see more of the world through the millions of eyes, our vision may become clearer. With the more electronic-ommatidia we have, the blurs of misunderstanding may be cleared from our view of the other inhabitants on our blue marble.
Our personal vista will be bigger because we can see beyond the backstreets of our hometowns to Alexandria, Egypt, or Edmond, Okla. With the webcams in diverse places from north to south and east to west, the surface of the globe is covered. Every morning one can enjoy the sights in Central Park in New York City just like the person from the Bronx — even before there is twilight outside our window. Thanks to the webcam, we can wake up to the sunset in Moscow or enjoy the night in Osaka, Japan. Talk about no jetlag. Magically, our mountains look a lot like the ones in Iran, or some unpronounceable hamlet in Bavaria. If the world looks the same, just maybe we who look at it may not be so different either.
With this new worldwide retina we could be more like the bee and see the flowers, fly to points of interest, gather nutrients, share with others in the hive to make something sweet. We can see the colors both from the webcam and out of our own window. We could float like a butterfly; see like a bee.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for 30 years, and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.