Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Is this the future of the internet?

 According to the material in this course, it has been about twenty years since the internet was founded.  The internet and world wide web seem to have changed EVERYTHING since then.  We buy and sell online.  We meet friends and get news online.  We work in many cases by getting on the internet.  Then we play on the internet too.  Could this technology get any more pervasive?  Will the internet of 2033 be much different from the web today? 

Yes, obviously. 

The interfaces will be different, I think.  Today, many internet users don't connect through clunky teletype machines, large computers, or even small laptops, but through little, brittle smartphones.   I remember just five years ago working with a colleague who was developing a touchscreen and about ten years ago the research news pieces on haptic - touch-based - interfaces.  In the next five, ten, years, users will communicate their intent to the computer world without needing to use a keyboard.  They will wear their interfaces - in their gloves, for instance, or implanted in their heads to sense neural signals.  They will wear their interfaces as glasses, as in Google Glass and all the knock-offs and pirated versions that will develop. 

The availability will be different too.  Today, a lot of the world is not online but is rapidly getting on.  For instance, I live in Africa where it is very palpable how the available bandwidth is small but increasing from month to month.  In my newspaper today was a pullout advertising "swift networks" with a new unlimited speed plan - they don't really mean that, but at least they mean it will be fast - for only 50% more than the plans advertised at 1Mbps which actually deliver about 100kilobits per second.  A couple of companies invested in submarine cables to the coast of Lagos and in the past three years the news has covered the so-called last-mile challenge - that is, the difficulty in getting all that available bandwidth to the end user.  Hundreds of kilometers inland, in my land-locked home state, the government wants to lay fiber at least in a small part of the state capital.  My point is that there will be internet everywhere in twenty years, not just in the US and the wealthiest countries.  To not have reliable internet will be a mark of poverty, as it is a mark of poverty now to not have electricity (for the record, where I live we barely have electricity, we get maybe 10 hours a day on-and-off unpredictably every day), or to not have pipe-borne water (ditto, we have our own private water system - bore-hole, pumping machine, overhead storage.) 

The uses will be different, more democratized.  The elite first users came up with elite uses for the internet: research, geeky games, stock-market trading, bookselling.  The masses will come up with different uses.  I can imagine hysteria about the illuminati and the end of the world.  Incomprehensible doodling all day - already the users of the internet have degenerated from theses and paragraphs and correct spelling to " sup, aw u 2day gr8 tym i no der is."  Ah well, now they'll just scribble a line straight from their brains onto the doodoo wall.   On the other hand, the potential for craftspeople in the middle-of-nowhere to reach their markets in New York, or for a design from a teenager in Hawaii to be adopted by a multibillion yen company in Tokyo will remain, and will grow dramatically. 

Because location will become less important, the world will seem even more to be one uniform place.  Today we have multinational brands in Dubai, Paris, Johannesburg, Mumbai - the same hotel names, the same clothing lines, same sandwich shops.  By 2033, it will be sickening just how the same every city is.  It will take effort to find a place with character.  Maybe by this time, people will have so much material things that they'll finally stop chasing after material things.  Local, and by this I mean national governments will work hard to get their people some time off the internet to create local relationships, national cohesion and culture outside the global internet.  Please marry, they will say.  Please exercise.  In a few years, the most modern governments will finally cut down the workweek to four, then three days to encourage such perceived greater goods as the workplace efficiency being too high will produce more unemployment, more unhappiness, and - unless someone can come up with a large project to mop up human effort - more utterly useless goods. 

What sort of project might that be, the modern day great pyramids, like industrial automation in the 20th century or business-process automation in the last twenty years?  Would it be a space-travel, space-energy and stardrives program or a down-to-earth training/indoctrination/acculturation program utilizing software to help us learn everything from programming and kung-fu to languages and pottery?  Would it be a program to end death as we know it or a program of mass aggression?  Ha, I can't tell you that.  I don't exactly have a crystal ball.

The reference thing is irrelevant to this essay because I read a lot a lot a lot, so how can I say the ideas came from these two to five places? 
1. Coursera (Inside the Internet - this course)
2. Google Glass (a proposed product)
3. The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded (movies)
4. Technology news sources

Note: I wrote the above essay in November 2013 
for a massive open online course on
Internet History, Technology, and Security.  
This was the writing prompt:
Write an essay that imagines how the Internet will be different 20 years from now.  Justify your answer by connecting your ideas to the history of the Internet that we have learned in this class and through outside materials.  Your answer can focus on how technology will change or how people will change or how governments and policy will change or even how society might change.
--- For references:
Please enter your references here. Only use this space for references (i.e. don't continue your essay in this space). There is no specific citation format. While there is no minimum nor maximum required references, most essays will have somewhere between two and five references. If your references are web sites use the URL. If the references are papers include enough information to identify the source using APA format. Graders will not take points off for syntax errors in references, but they are welcome to suggest how the syntax of references can be improved.
Like my hard-working students, I earned this


Anonymous said...

Does this mean that we should take technology for what it is but still maintain our humane qualities?

t said...

I don't know. Is technology our servant or master?