Forwarded from another site


From: golden3000997
Date: Sat Feb 21, 2004 7:45 pm
Subject: Forwarded from another site

The future is now! It's a question of balance, no? Christine

Subj: [Dreamkeeper] Fwd: Brave new world
Date: 2/21/2004 10:14:53 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: --Shiva--
To: [email protected]


Brave new world

By David Stonehouse
February 21, 2004

Internet founding father Leonard Kleinrock possesses a distinctly Star Trekian-view of the network's future: lurking silently everywhere, ready to respond instantly to spoken orders and even taking holographic form.

"Right now, cyberspace lives behind a screen in your computer. I want it to come out in the physical world," he says from his office at the University of California, Los Angeles.

And what a world it would be: always connected, instantly available and ever-present. Its tentacles would reach out to sensors monitoring everything from the room we are in to the conditions in the atmosphere to the state of gridlock on the highways.

The omnipresent internet, much like the Starship Enterprise, would trigger actuators to open doors for you, fire on the lights and switch on displays embedded in the walls. It would speak and understand when spoken to, able to identify who you are and retrieve all your files in an instant, even if your office is halfway around the world.

Furthermore, the internet would not just be the lifeblood of these "smart spaces" - it will be crowded inconspicuously into our own personal space.

"It will be on my belt, in my fingernails, on my desk, in my shoes, in my eyeglasses, in the world that I enter," says Kleinrock, who laid the groundwork for the internet in the 1960s by outlining the principles of packet switching that underpin today's network.

He expects the first aspects of this futuristic vision to unfold within the next decade. And if all of this sounds a little too sci-fi, consider that virtually all of the technology to make it happen either exists or is under refinement.

The internet of the future will bear little resemblance to the one we now use. It will no longer just be something we use to send email, chat, look up information or buy a book. It will be much faster. Video will be a standard feature, not a drain on bandwidth. The net will empower once-ordinary devices with intelligence and be able to make some intelligent choices of its own. It will always be on and we'll be able to use it just about anywhere, using just about anything.

Smart sensors connected to the internet will allow us to keep tabs on everything from our homes to the world around us. As more of the world becomes interconnected, a future form of the internet will stitch everything together.

The internet we know today was designed as a communication tool for scientists and academics, not for global reach and certainly not for connecting virtually every device around us.

Accordingly, Princeton University scientist and Intel researcher Larry Peterson complained in June last year: "It has become impossible to go to the core of the internet and make radical changes to introduce the kind of new services we see people wanting to deploy." He was speaking at the public launch of PlanetLab, a project that seeks to overhaul the internet and which involves a consortium of more than 60 institutions around the world.

The PlanetLab network is designed to allow researchers to develop and test powerful new types of software running on many computers at once, treating the network as one large, widely distributed computer.

The ambitious effort aims to essentially create another layer to the existing internet. Researchers are experimenting with "smart nodes" - computers linked to traditional data routers on the network, which can divide tasks and communicate with one another. They hope to install 1000 such nodes worldwide by 2006.

PlanetLab, once fully developed, could yield such benefits as faster downloads and more powerful search engines. Someone watching an online video, for example, might receive it from many computers that work together to avoid congested parts of the internet. Software scanning the internet for malicious behaviour could catch problems before they could be detected by a single computer.

Also, in just a few years PlanetLab plans to introduce an internet that is resistant to viruses and worms, features vast amounts of archival space and allows you to call up your personal details on whatever computer you use wherever in the world you are.

These increased computing power and networking capabilities, some say, will ultimately trickle down to the consumer level, supporting the proliferation of internet-enabled appliances and gadgets in our homes.

Already, the future-gazers at companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Sears Sunbeam, Westinghouse and Bell Canada have joined forces in an organisation called the Internet Home Alliance, which is dedicated to networking your refrigerator, stove and other appliances so that the internet can become a backbone of domestic life.

So far, early efforts at net-connected appliances have been a hard sell - too cutting-edge, luxury objects for wealthy technology aficionados. Yes, internet-ready refrigerators on the market allow you to surf, send emails, take photos and shoot small video - even manage grocery lists. For example, LG has already begun selling an internet-enabled fridge in Australia. Theoretically, they will some day be capable of sending messages to the corner store when you run out of milk.

A sceptical response comes from Sean Carton, author of seven books about the internet, including The Dot.Bomb Survival Guide. Carton says he'd never want his refrigerator to shop for his food.

"We have all been going to the market to buy our food for thousands of years now and I think it is going to be a long time before people are ready to trust technology to take care of all that stuff for them," he says.

"What is much more likely is it will dial up the manufacturer and say, 'I have a problem - send a service technician over to fix me'. I think that seems to be a little bit more useful."

Still, proponents such as Derek Kuhn envision the internet coursing through our homes just as hydro-electric power does today. "It'll just become a utility, like electricity that flows into your house," he says.

Kuhn, chairman of the tech industry group Broadband Content Delivery Forum, says the potential for internet everywhere in the home is limitless - if a little hazy at the moment.

"Everybody has different kinds of niche interests and ideas. I don't think anybody knows how this is going to go yet. We always hear 'What is the killer application?' I don't think there is one," says Kuhn.

He talks about a microwave he spotted at the Consumer Electronics Show in early 2003 - wave the barcode of your frozen dinner in front of it and it sends the information over your home internet connection to find the perfect cooking times.

"Three minutes later, your pizza pockets are done - and not overdone or underdone," he says. "Now, you don't have to worry about whether you have a 700 - or a 1000-watt microwave - it knew all that stuff for you."

Kuhn is an avid reality TV fan. He envisions being able to watch Survivor while voting in real time for who is next to get the boot - thanks to a television connected to the internet. Foxtel is already planning such interactive features as part of its soon-to-be released digital TV services.

Super-high-speed internet access will soon be the norm as telecommunications companies bring fibre-optic cable into the home.

"Once you have glass into your house, there is absolutely no limit as to what the speed can be to your home. None," he says. "The technology exists today to have absolutely mind-blowing amounts of data on a single fibre-optic connection."

If consumer appliances with net connectivity still seem like a frill, then what could be really handy - and perhaps more of a public good - is the notion of a connected car, one that sends wireless messages to your local garage when its sensors detect any signs of trouble. At the garage, technicians can send a message back if you need to bring it in for a service. Connected cars in motion would form a network that could inform users about traffic flow, weather conditions and other topics.

In the always-connected future, small sensors will be everywhere, feeding the internet with information. Already, intelligent wireless sensors are at work in California monitoring conditions at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino - communicating with each other to ensure the correct moisture levels for its collection of rare plants. Others monitor the effects seismic waves have had on buildings in the Los Angeles area.

David Tennenhouse, director of research at Intel Research, imagines a day when high-tech "fingers" like this are everywhere around the globe, feeling for data.

Imagine calling up a search engine and asking for the weather conditions at the cottage and the network responding by fetching real-time conditions from sensors at your land by the lake.

"We need new sensors and actuators, new ways of connecting our computers to the physical world," Tennenhouse told a conference late last year on emerging technologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"Information technology has barely scratched the surface of where it can be used."

Jupiter Research's Michael Gartenberg would agree - he believes the internet will be so pervasive within the next two decades that it will strain the limits of imagination.

But Gartenberg, director of research for the emerging technologies market research firm, isn't so sure that people will want rooms talking to them as they enter. Instead, he envisions people wearing wristwatches encoded with their personal data and preferences "so when they go into a room the device signals that you are here and it then adjusts the lighting, the temperature and displays relevant information that is important to you".

"But," he says, "that won't just be limited to your home. That will follow you when you get into your car. That will follow you when you go to the airport."

At the airport, the displays showing arrivals and departures will disclose only the information that you want.

Just about any device could connect you to the internet's resources, Gartenberg says.

"We'll see screens that can do things like fold up in your pocket. When you need a 12-inch screen, you will be able to unwrap it," he says.

"Likewise, we will see digital books that look and feel like real paper but will be consistently connected and the concepts will change on that paper. Because it will be digitally encoded, it will carry around a library worth of books - but in one book."

The world around us will seem familiar, he says. But at the same time, it will be radically different.

There could even be sensors inside your body to help monitor your health.

Larry Smarr, founding director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and a champion of the wireless sensor-concept for keeping tabs on the world, doesn't see why not.

"A new car has probably 30 or 40 microprocessors and sensors inside it," Smarr told a journalist in early 2001. "Why is it that you think it's more appropriate to take better care of your own car than your own body?"

Talk like that sets off alarm bells among people concerned about privacy. But in a world where the internet is increasingly pervasive, would there be any such thing as privacy?

Kleinrock says we may as well forget about it.

"If you ask me, the privacy issue is over," he says. "We have lost it. It is almost impossible to retrieve, unless you want to retreat from the technology world that we live in today. Give up your credit cards, your cell phones, have no GPS device on you."

But given the choice between privacy and the conveniences of technology, he suspects most people would opt for convenience.


All sound just a little too far-fetched? Well, the future is already nipping at our heels. In January, Intel began touting WiMax - super fast wireless net access that will bring mega-broadband speed into homes without the expense and bother of fibre. Handy, too, for the wireless televisions, video players and other gadgets that emerged at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.


Click to subscribe to anthroposophy_tomorrow

February/March 2004

The Uncle Taz "Anthroposophy Tomorrow" Files

Anthroposophy & Anarchism

Anthroposophy & Scientology

Anthroposophical Morsels

Anthroposophy, Critics, and Controversy

Search this site powered by FreeFind