Since I’ve been in need of things to occupy my mind lately (and having written the starting pages of a novel I may or may not be continuing), here are some glimpses into my mind.
Privacy is one of those things that is simply going to stop existing. Maybe you’ll have private communication of some form, and maybe you’ll have privacy in your home, but you certainly won’t have it in public or on the internet.
This isn’t some malicious plot by the government or people interested in gathering datapoints whilst stealing your identity. It’s simply the logical outcome of what’s already happening. Cameras in public and private places, coupled with ultrabroadband internet connections means that a lot of stuff is going to end up on the web in some form.
The key is, I think, who controls the data, and who can access it. A most helpful piece of legislation would be that all cameras in public places must be publically accessable. That is to say, if it’s in public, the public must be able to see what it see. Could this be dangerous? Sure. It’d make the world a heck of a lot smaller. But the potential applications for good are also staggering, much like most technology. Imagine, for instance, Google Face Search. You want to know if your children are in a public place somewhere? Google’s face recognition software finds them, if possible, and tells you whether or not they’re safe.
The good thing is if this technology is ubiquitous, it can’t be targetted. It’s not like a camera installed in the home, which obviously watches a small subset of the population. But public cameras – public defined as broadly as needed – are going to become popular. There will (and I guarantee this) be cameras on and in cars one day. They will probably be webcast-capable, since your cars will be wireless capable as well.
Google is making everything searchable. Or that’s at least their defined goal. And I imagine that most of what we know as humans will eventually end up on the web somewhere, somehow. It’s already begun. You want to know something? Google it. Check Wikipedia. You don’t necessarily need to have a broad knowlege of anything except how to know, and how to search. As long as you’re near a computer – and you will be near a computer all the time in the future – you can find almost anything out. You just need to know the right question.
Some people are optimistic that this will bring a flowering of human exploration into whatever sphere they deep worthy. I, however, think search culture will bring about something of a stagnation of human knowlege: as everything becomes searchable, a broad insight into a lot of different things is lost. For instance, when I search for something on the web, I rarely look into what I’m not already looking for. My search generally leads me to the right place, and search is only getting better. However, when I read a book on something, no matter how narrow its focus, I always find out something about something else that I would not have found merely searching the web. The act of reading a book is simply different from the act of aquiring data.
This is way distant future, but imagine matter editation become feasible and you can instantly have whatever you want for minimal cost. Imagine, for a moment what that might do to the economy.
It would do exactly the same thing to the economy in real-world items that electronic distribution has done to music industry: it will make anything that can be duplicated cheaply essentially worthless.
And, like the RIAA today, there will be a large subset of resisting “intellectual property” owners attempting to place false barriers in the way of that replication. Because, after all, in order to expect people to pay, there must be some sort of un-met demand. And you can’t have unmet demand where people can simply copy what they want, when they want.
But then, it’s a lot easier to hide a pirated album than a pirated designer car.