The End of the Internet

Surfing the Web
Surfing the Web (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

“I thought you were surfing the internet?”

“I was. I finished it.”

Those lines come from an old commercial for DirecTV’s DSL service, suggesting that with their high-speed service, one might actually reach the “end of the Internet.” (See the spot here.)

It was a silly suggestion (geek comment: With DSL? As if!) even 10 years ago … but one I thought of the other day.

Ryan was happily surfing the web on his computer. Well, “surfing” is a bit of an exaggeration. Ryan tends to spend hours looking at box scores of various NHL games on NHL.com. Let’s just say when I check his web-surfing history, I don’t have too many concerns about the type of content he’s seeing:

Ryan's web surfing history
Ryan’s Web surfing history from a recent day.

Hey, memorizing entire NHL seasons takes time. And effort.

But I had no idea how much he’d actually memorized.

Ryan was sitting quietly at the computer when he suddenly blurted out, “Aww, I’ve seen this game before!”

There was some anger in his voice. Reflexively, I told him to simply pick a different game.

“I’ve seen them all!” he told me — meaning he’s looked at the box scores.

“What do you mean, all?” I asked.

“I’ve seen every game the last six seasons,” came the reply.

I had no idea. I know he has memorized the last two seasons, but I thought that was the extent of it. I sometimes probe to see how much he knows — quizzing him on what happened on certain dates, for example — but the answer somewhat scares me, part of the bittersweet attitude I have towards these remarkable abilities.

“Have you memorized every one of those games?” I asked.

He said he had. I took him at his word. I didn’t want to test him. Could he possibly know all six seasons the way he knows the last two — the date, location, final score, and records before and after of both teams for all 1,230 games? It’s a staggering amount of data that he has already committed to memory. Was there even room fro that much more?

But I had a more immediate concern. He was frustrated that he couldn’t find a game he wanted to study. I thought this might lead to a meltdown. I don’t know how many seasons NHL.com has complete data for. I thought there might be other sites where he could find old box scores. I don’t exactly want to encourage this activity, but at the same time, it makes him happy.

In a moment of panic, I told him there had to be more facts about that particular game he could memorize. He agreed. Ten minutes later, he emerged from his room to prove to me how much more he now knew — the sequence of goals, the shots on goal per period (shots on goal being the statistic that most interests him), plus a few other items.

That immediate crisis solved, I thought about his brain’s capacity for memorization. How far could he go? How far could this take him?

Might he actually memorize all the games he can find online?

Might he actually reach the end of the Internet?

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