FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Future Internet Where YOU are the Device

Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and futurists Ray Kurzweil and Esther Dyson envision a future Internet in which we are the devices and nodes, thanks to wireless implants. Never mind that such pervasive environments have been prediced for over a decade, but these thinkers profiled in Red Herring believe that such embedded controls will become the norm by 2016, with connection speeds of 100 megabits per second, a loss of distinction between types of media (everything is a mashup), and a blurring of the line between the real world and virtual reality.

Of course, with such power comes great responsibility, and future thinkers worry about the ability of government and business monopolies to control an Internet that's infinitely more powerful and influential than the one we have today -- and, by extension, control us. The technical structure of the Internet is also a worry, as it was never designed for this level of interactivity (though previous reports of the Internet's death have been greatly exaggerated).

Much of the success of such a future will be determined by how transparent the underlying technology becomes. As Om Malik points out, today's consumers suffer from "feature fatigue" when it comes to technology. After an initial attraction to feature-rich and complex devices, consumers often become overwhelmed, and either become dissatisfied with the device or simply make use of one or two key features.

Exciting? Unsettling? Both? How (and whether) we arrive at this future will be determined by whether it's a direction in which people really want to go. Recent history suggests that we embrace technology more or less unquestioningly (some of us more rapidly than others), but as it becomes more pervasive (invasive?), more of us will be asking critical questions, much like futurists are doing today.

Source: Emergic.org