While nothing new, the rumors that people have figured out how to hack Diablo II, one of the huge hack and slash games that have succeeded online, inspired some thoughts about the future of the 'Net.
The trend is something I envision straight out of Snow Crash, the Metaverse of Neal Stephenson's imagination. In it, you can log in with headsets into certain locations and you'll have an avatar, or digital physical representation in the virtual reality of the Metaverse. People can make their own avatar characters, of varying rez's and definition, or use generic ones. The Metaverse has its own properties and laws and physics and for all intents and purposes it is treated like physical land would be in the normal world.
This world is, of course, made up of lots of software, and with that there will be plenty of bugs, brute force weaknesses, backdoors, oversights, and loopholes. The Metaverse of the future will be rife with crackers and codemonkeys who know little tricks to get a one-up on competition.
Lots of visionaries now are claiming how important privacy will be in the future, and I for one believe it. What we're looking at in the future is a world where people will be more accessible to everyone else on the planet than ever before, and this is bound to be an insecure network.
In the time spent learning how to do various things online, I've found that it will serve me well in the future -- it will be a necessity to keep abreast of the latest goings-on online. When we go virtual, 3D, whatever, the imperative will be to have the latest, most powerful, and fastest tools for using the Metaverse. A corollary can be found in the highly competitive and cutthroat multiplayer gaming experiments of the current day, in which there are plenty of college students and unemployed twenty-somethings who can devote hundreds of hours a month towards exploiting the 'Net and using it to their advantage. They will acquire software and knowhow that could possibly be used to hurt innocents and companies before they even get their feet on the ground. You're talking about peoples' info being shared online seamlessly and transparently in the future, meaning much more opportunity for it to be snooped.
The Metaverse will be extremely flexible just by its nature, so I presume the underlying infrastructure of it will be fairly simple, with a lot of emphasis being placed on encryption or whatever. People will find ways to bend physics and the online environment. It's really going to be spectacular.
And make no mistake about it: a physical virtual reality seems to be inevitable. While text input in many cases does make more sense than other sensory input, a 3D environment will allow the Internet to expand beyond our wildest dreams. Right now it seems very two-dimensional, with length (between points) and time (freshness of information) seeming to me to be the most important dimensions. We can do better than that.
I think it's important to begin arming yourself now. It will be important to defend yourself as easily as possible in this future. Gadgetry I think will be crucial. You can't rely on the companies providing the services to produce timely updates and secure environments to place your trust in. The hacker community's ability to arm itself through distribution and contribution will ensure its dominance for much time to come, in my opinion.
One-time pads and quantum encryption will be big buzzwords in the future, and I guess it's good we see shit like American Express's one-time use credit card numbers already. Consumers and casual users, not to mention cost-cutting businesses, will be easy targets to those who are going to crave for the fastest bandwidth links with the most sophisticated hax0ring tools.
So while the threats of massive credit card number theft and online order poltergeisting by mischievous script kiddies and personality and crime theft are ominous, I will still be tremendously excited to go through the transformation and expansion of the 'Net once it's released into two more dimensions for us to use our imaginations in. It is going to be an arms race, but it will be a fun one as long as you make sure you stay up to date.
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