[This was a response to a post on slashdot.org. It was never posted for some reason. Someone had asked what the Internet will be like in the future. Most replies were paranoid of companies' advertising or promising 2GHz chips or simplistic shit like that.]
When I read most of the replies, they rely mostly on fairly basic notions such as desktop computers and Internet appliances and hardlines. To me, such devices seem to be the last relics of the old world that soon we will replace. Some obsess far too much on commercialism and corporatism. Even after such a glorious age we've been a part of where we're empowered to influence the corporations and even bypass them. I don't know what to say that, when people are asked to describe the future of the Internet, all they can think of is how much advertising will permeate our existences online. About how companies will dominate us and know everything about us. Well, big deal. We hackers have been circumventing those techniques for years already. Not that it's a big issue yet -- most advertisers don't even know what to do with the data they gather online yet.
As for big business? Big business already has chinks in its armor; companies like IBM (back in the day), Microsoft, and the tobacco companies, etc. are acknowledged and treated as scum, rightfully so. My brother pointed this out to me, as sort of a followup to the big government/Big Brother reaction America had in the past.
Some have already said that they envision the Internet to be invisible. Well put. Wireless is going to be huge. We already have high-speed wireless DSL modems being developed. We already have fancy PDAs and cellphones that are advancing rapidly in tech. As devices miniaturize eventually to the point of implants and electronic air mites, Internet connectivity will become more free, ubiquitous, and transparent. You will be able to pluck information out of thin air wherever you are. If you need a hardline, we're already seeing things like what companies such as Media Fusion are trying to do, using the existing electricity infrastructure to allow bandwidth much faster than current home technologies like DSL and cable allow. (even though Media Fusion seems to be rather suspect, surely someone will carry the torch for that tech) With such a tech that uses an infrastructure already in place, other parts of the world can be wired up quickly and therefore your traveling for business or pleasure will be painless as far as getting a connection goes. The companies that provide such ubiquitous connectivity will make a fortune.
Some mention William Gibson in their vision of the future of the 'Net. I prefer to read Neal Stephenson over Gibson when it comes to looking at what the future of the Internet will bring us. Both of them probably wouldn't disagree. Gibson isn't the biggest technophile out there. Meanwhile, Stephenson has declared himself a hacker and has written books on the topic -- subject matter on the history of computing that only a hacker could appreciate.
I prefer Stephenson because the Metaverse in Stephenson's Snow Crash absolutely blew me away. That two worlds co-exist suggests that eventually there will be some sort of economic restructuring that will occur when people start maintaining jobs in the online world (a fully functional world with bars, businesses, sports, etc.) while others keep the sorts of jobs we have now. You'll have a whole new wave of companies that exist exclusively online to cater to the needs of people who need to stay in the online world for whatever reason: attending an online board meeting, finding a quiet cyber (loathe as I am to use the word) room while participating in an online tournament, etc. Why not have physical locations online? Everyone has their own domicile (would you pay for it? if yes, would hackers who've taken over an outlands region untouched and unaccessible by governments and corporations need to pay for theirs?), companies have their own online locations, etc.
Goes without saying that you'll have a global stock market (the NASDAQ is trying to create one, but we'll see how it manages to cooperate with other exchanges) that you can trade on anywhere, and as David Brin's The Transparent Society suggests, all objects and even ideas will begin having some sort of value being placed upon them. For instance, you already see /. posts being scored for their value. Imagine if this was linked to someone's unique identity and each post would affect his overall ranking: wise, flamebait, etc. Don't bother me with the privacy implications with this; it bores me to no end. (Copyright also bores me, as it seems obvious to me that things will change radically and that all the feuds occurring now will be meaningless in the future except to historians)
Pirate implants, pirate connections, pirate distribution scenes, underground cultures, all of that will thrive as the online world melds with the offline one. The types of implants you can get legally will take years to approve, but techheads will be getting them early on, I'm sure. Infrared vision, defensive implants, navigation and information systems, etc. etc. etc. Johnny Mnemonic stuff here!
With the online world will bring changes in the offline world. Since you can already see the blasé world that commercialism has wrought upon America (all those cities that look alike with their fast food joints littering both sides of the freeway), people will crave nostalgia and genuine living. Like in Stephenson's Diamond Age, you'll have people who will spend a pretty penny to secure a remotely located ranch or a Japanese-style restaurant, authentic to the 'T' because it reminds people how things used to be, and because it's important to have identity and, well, badass motherfucking style. The genuine article will be a sign of sophistication, as it is now, but to a greater degree.
Right now I still feel that the hacker community is vulnerable at the ISP level. Our access to the Net is controlled by companies that will wilt over and cough up our info at virtually anyone's request, so our safety's not exactly guaranteed. But with an omnipresent high-speed wireless pipe to the Net, hopefully we'll see pirate ISPs (costs for running ISPs should go down as tech gets better) and ISPs run by small networks of individuals who collaborate and cooperate together for their own security. Their every action won't be scrutinized because the people running the ISPs won't care. This is how we'll be able to remain safe and invisible from the companies that might try to limit our activities. Or who knows, maybe other countries will modernize to the point where we can move to them and bypass any sort of b.s. that U.S. Congress might conjure up. The air you breathe should be thought of as one big power outlet, free for all to plug into.
At any rate, I think it's a very exciting time now, but the future is just mind-boggling. What I have just described should happen very soon. The far future will just be unbelievable. Nanotech taking over manufacturing, leaving many people to enjoy the fruits of cheaper and more efficient products that take care of themselves and repair themselves as well, etc. I have little doubt that eventually I'll have the ability to upload myself completely online and discard my physical body. That'll perhaps be the pinnacle. What if we could convert ourselves to digital streams and transmit ourselves to other galaxies that way, then use a nanotech agent to recreate a body of flesh for us once we are there?
I guess all this will sound like a jumbled mess to the rest of you, but I hope I was at least able to convey a bit of what I'm thinking. It just seems like once I distill everything that's happening now to its finest, most pure essence, I get a world that's similar to the one above.
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