Guessing games

Posted on 30/01/2013

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We can’t predict the future, but it’s never stopped us trying. Sometimes we even get it right (aside from the bit about jet packs…)

A while back, I found out about a thread on Quota inviting us to guess where the internet will be in 10 years. It doesn’t seem like a hugely long period of time (most of us can imagine where we’ll be), but with the online environment changing so quickly, it has never seemed harder.

Still, thought I’d give it a go:
What will the Internet look like in 2020?

By 2020 the web itself won’t change a huge amount: it will still be the same connection of fibre optic cables, server farms and satellites we have today. How we connect to it WILL be vastly different. Did i say connect? Sorry, I must be showing my age – we won’t have to connect any longer. 5G and wireless will ubiquitous and almost every object and system of significance will have become part of this massive feedback loop.

10 years ago the web was restricted to desk based machines, now to smaller mobile screens. 2020 is the time for it to get big again, only this time without the limits of a device or screen. Walls, windows and surfaces will become additions to our interactive world. Car windscreens will hold live, interactive transport maps and shop windows will promote live offers, who’s just bought what and demo catwalk shows. It will be the age of the transparent internet.

Information will appear not just through websites, apps and as scraped plain text (for ebooks), but as something projected onto glass and surfaces, audio fed into our headphones, video captured or synthesised before our eyes. To become even more a part of our lives, the web must blend in to what we do, and for this to happen it will have to be transparent (or at least semi opaque). We won’t want our vision or world impaired with screens everywhere so eventually we will make them so thin they will disappear.

The web will follow us everywhere. When we go running, our sports shirt will monitor our heart rate with in-built cardiogram; our shoes will continue to track our steps (à la Nike plus) and improve our technique and posture and we will connect all of this through one portable device, whether it’s primarily a phone, watch or music player. Or all three…

But we’ll also carry a headset, giving us real-time, (or even forecasts of information) to help us make judgements. Based on traffic flow, it will tell us when is safest to cross the road, how our run is going compared to earlier in the week (imagine being paced by a hologram of yourself…) and while we’re doing all of this we can read the news projected onto the lens of the headset. Big glasses are be in fashion now, and it might stay that way with these.

As well thinner, more transparent surfaces we will commonly employ gesture, motion, facial recognition, predictive behavioural and, of course, touch. Although using thoughts to control technology will be on the verge of breaking through, we will still be concerned about how invasive this could be, and our neurological impulses (thoughts) being intercepted by  unwanted parties.

Privacy will be vastly different. After several major corporate hacking scandals, and extreme interference by governments in people’s lives, we will finally appreciate the value of online privacy. Instead of it being a government supported program, we will sign up to protection companies who will encrypt and secure our data, selling it and exchanging it on our behalf to other companies who  wish to use it. We will be able to sell data around different elements of our lives – the more personal, the more valuable it will be (health data will come at a premium, but then so will healthcare; personal interest and information on web usage will be cheap as dirt). Where we can, we’ll exchange  and sell or else have to pay for what the old world once called media (news, video, etc.) Some people will even make a living our of cultivating their own behaviour and selling it on to be analysed by governments and companies. It will a form of less physically invasive medical experiments, putting your life and actions up for sale.

We will still forget how moulded our lives have been by technology and ask ourselves how we ever managed before the Internet.

Well that was fun! Any thoughts or comments, drop them below.

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