For a few weeks now (after meeting one of my friends for lunch), I have been thinking about the future of the Internet. As already mentioned, I see the Internet eventually becoming an approximation of all human knowledge. However, the issue is that even as the richness of the media around us increases and even as the capture methods improve, we still cannot massively capture and reproduce textures, fragrances, tastes and feelings and emotions in their contexts (video is a poor substitute). So, we must resort to crude methods such as the language to describe these. Furthermore, our storage methods are so basic that it would be impossible using today’s technology to store the vast volumes resulting from superior capture methods. Even though disk drives can store petabytes, our brains can store (albeit imperfectly) much more and collectively we can pass on from generation to generation concepts collectively known as culture, human spirit, ethnicity, religion, etc.
What is the future of the Internet? How will we be searching and analyzing the diverse information of the future? As my friend said, we certainly will not be getting a list of blue links based on keywords. Today, the Internet is used through a networked device which for most of us is our computer. As a result, there is little that can be done to radically increase the quality of the information interchange beyond what our networked device allows. Our computer is a bottleneck. To be sure, we continue to see significant improvements in user interfaces and human computer interactions. However, the keyboard is not an artifact in a museum of history yet. In fact, given the evolution from punch card to flash memory, one would think we would be beyond keyboards by now.
Our idea of the networked device must be changed completely. Instead of an appliance such as a computer, TV, or a phone, the Internet access device must be an interface between the human brain and the “network.” The network, in turn, must have the speed to transmit complex information between human minds and between humans and our collective storage mechanism. The collective storage mechanism must be capable of storing all our information captured and organized similarly to the brain. The capture method must be similar to our senses. The organization of stored information must be far better than what happens in the human brain. This will be the future Internet.
When will this type of evolution take place? In my opinion, not for 100 years. I suggest the Internet is here to stay roughly in its current form slowly improving over the next century. Issues such as privacy, borders between countries, laws, money, and especially the human destruction will hamper progress but I remain optimistic. Also, even if progress led us in the direction of interconnected minds, we’d still have the issue of preventing one or many from controlling such a powerful force. Finally, I had no idea that the brain consumed so much energy. According to Wikipedia (at the moment) “Although the brain represents only 2% of the body weight, it receives 15% of the cardiac output, 20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body glucose utilization. The energy consumption for the brain to simply survive is 0.1 Calories per minute, while this value can be as high as 1.5 Calories per minute during crossword puzzle-solving.” If this is really true, imagine the type of energy it would take to capture and store all human information.