Today’s post is full of rambling thoughts sparked off by my tendency to spend a lot of time daydreaming about the future. I guess it’s because of my love for history – I’ve always wondered what it was like to live in ancient Egypt or Rome. Or how about being a young gentleman in the 18th Century (from the monied class of course) swanning around Europe on the Grand Tour. Anyone from the 18th Century would get such a shock to be transported to 2010 to find mobile phones, plasma TVs, computers and the Internet.
And speaking of the Internet – ever wonder what it will look like in say 20 years’ time? I suppose the Internet is still technically quite young, still in its childhood really. Well, actually the Internet is now over 40 years old but you and I have only known it since around the early to mid 90s so it’s still a baby. But if you could design the Internet of the future, what experiences would you want it to provide? What capabilities would you give it? As I get older, I notice that I’m wanting to return to a quieter life: one I imagine was around in the 1950s. I don’t like crowded cities or large populations. I like wide open spaces. I hate telephones or mobile phones. I regret that we seem to have outsourced everything from making bread and coffee to the family dinners and entertainment.
So maybe I’m going to turn into a Howard Hughes reclusive personality (although I promise not to have those long, disgusting fingernails he apparently had) and eschew “civilisation”. And the only thing I’d have to keep me tied to the big bad world out there would be the Internet and so I’d want it to be in colourful, vibrant 3D, just like the Avatar movie. Better yet, interactive 3D. At the moment, I find the Internet a pretty lonely place. Sure you have social networks but it’s all flat, 2D. You search for content on your own, you post your stuff on Facebook and friends link up. Big deal.
Just imagine a 3D Internet though. I’d want to have my own avatar that could roam a virtual bookshop and meet up with other avatars to discuss the latest bestseller or walk up and down the aisles browsing bookshelves. Or an avatar that could go on the Grand Tour of 18th Century Europe, exploring in 3D the ancient ruins of Rome. With the future Internet, will we really need to travel for over 24 hours in a flying coffin (ie a plane) to experience another country? Of course, there is Second Life (which I love) and there are amazing computer games but what if the whole Internet was something completely different from what it is now.
What if, from our armchair, we could actually smell the flowers from the virtual florist shop or twig the lighting in another virtual shop so we could really examine a product or piece of jewellery. Or how about you can’t be bothered to travel to Boston or London or Sydney to hear the latest concert, so you attend virtually – you pick your desired seating position and your avatar attends with the avatars of other concert goers. And then you’re in your 40s and you think: damn, wish I’d been a pilot – you could choose a programme that gives you flying lessons, complete with 3D simulation. Or how about you’re going to buy a new car. You can hop onto the 3D internet and visit a car company site, climb into the model of car you’re interested in, look around, take it for a drive.
And the thing I often wonder about – will nanotechnology produce nanoscale machines that can be injected into the human body and turn one into the Internet itself? I’m not a geeky nerdy computer type, so no idea how or if this could work. But if possible, you could experience a 3D Internet world right in your very brain. And maybe this would allow us to speak to the Internet and ask it to recommend say a good book with a plot twist. Somehow (no idea how) the Internet will be able to direct your question to the right virtual bookshop because it will be intuitive.
I’m a little obsessed with Small Worlds right now – have you checked it out? It’s kind of like I imagine the 3D Internet might be like because it combines various content in the one place. Small Worlds was developed by a New Zealand company. You don’t need to download any software because it runs inside your browser. The website info says:
“SmallWorlds combines media, web content, and casual games into a highly accessible & compelling 3D world that integrates seamlessly with the rest of the web, bringing Virtual Worlds into the mainstream. SmallWorlds allows users to create and customize their own rooms and worlds, and fill them with a wide variety of items and activities for them and their friends to enjoy together. With their online friends and acquaintances, they can share experiences like playing games, watching YouTube videos, listening to their favorite bands, browsing through photo galleries, and so much more. SmallWorlds brings together the best aspects of online games, instant messaging, social networks and digital media, and wraps them into a persistent virtual world that is never more than a hyperlink away.”
It’s a virtual playground with a rich visual experience. I hang out in Rachel’s Tea Room with my exotically-named avatar. Here are some screenshots.
What do you imagine the Internet could be like in 20 years’ time?