In 1993, a small hi-tech company carried out an ambitious, if rather bizarre, communications experiment, taking a pioneering journey into a mythical virtual space where, two decades later, we would end up spending most of our waking hours.
Digithurst was founded at the height of Britain’s microcomputer boom, when Sinclair and Acorn were household names and Cambridge was merely phenomenal rather than a phenomenon. Shaped by a personal quest and the paranoia that gripped the East European diaspora at the end of the cold war, the company grew out of a back bedroom and built the first video in windows hardware, computer systems to sell German women new hairstyles and French men French letters, and created Britain’s first online newspaper.
The book describes how the Internet destroyed the EU’s plan for its own pan-European network, side-lined its media and telecoms industry, and created a social media which has become as corrosive as it is compelling.
Published in 1990, Three Journeys Into The Labyrinth consists of three fictional accounts of the same sequence of events. Most of us wouldn’t be able to experience the virtual world of the Internet for another two decades, so only belatedly have we discovered that unlimited access to information often obscures an underlying truth. As well as the danger posed by the increasing separation of the virtual from the physical, the book describes the impact of online communication on both collective and individual consciousness.
The content of Three Journeys Into The Labyrinth was fed into AI-based software, which searched the three stories for conceptually similar passages of text. This provided the basis for Fahrenbrink. One of the locations for the three stories, a deserted hotel in Germany, was used as a metaphor for the computer on which the software ran. The author is confined to the hotel and interrogated by key characters from the stories; again, a metaphor, but this time in respect of the computer instructions deconstructing the text. Fahrenbrink takes further the argument that online communication alters consciousness and suggests that it also challenges basic philosophical concepts, such as form and difference. The book predicts that, ultimately, only computers will be privy to any truth residing in the big data accumulating in networks.