If Mr. Cerf and about two dozen other pundits Red Herring interviewed about the future of the Internet are right, in 10 years’ time the barriers between our bodies and the Internet will blur as will those between the real world and virtual reality.
Automakers, for instance, might conceivably post their parts catalogs in the virtual world of Second Life, a pixilated 3D online blend of MySpace, eBay, and renaissance fair crossed with a Star Trek convention. Second Life participants—who own the rights to whatever intellectual property they create online—will make money both by using the catalog to design their own cars in cyberspace and by selling their online designs back to the manufacturers, says Danish economist and tech entrepreneur Nikolaj Nyholm.
Today’s devices will disappear. Electronics will instead be embedded in our environment, woven into our clothing, and written directly to our retinas from eyeglasses and contact lenses, predicts inventor, entrepreneur, author, and futurist Ray Kurzweil. “Devices will no longer be spokes on the Internet—they will be the nodes themselves,” he says.
Everything from the family fridge to the office coffee pot—as well as heating, cooling, and security systems—will be managed through the Internet, possibly using souped-up mobile phones doubling as universal remote controls, says Google’s Mr. Cerf. By 2016, he predicts the online population of 1 billion will treble, and a huge portion will be mobile. And by then, the Internet will become so pervasive that connecting to it will no longer be a conscious act.
Bandwidth access of 100 megabits per second or more will become the norm. “It is probably a safe bet that everyone will be able to have a full-motion, high-definition real-time link to anyone,” says Bram Cohen, creator of the popular peer-to-peer program BitTorrent. Once that happens, “the concept of who is online and who is offline will melt away,” says Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo’s director of media and desktop search.
So just how big will Internet business be? “My whole thesis is that information technologies are growing exponentially. Things that we can measure like price performance, capacity, and bandwidth are doubling every year so that’s actually a factor of a thousand in 10 years,” says Mr. Kurzweil. “So if the Internet is already very influential—if there is already a trillion dollars of e-commerce, already a very democratizing technology, then multiplying its size and scope by a factor of a thousand will be a very significant change.”
The article goes on to provide yet more keen insights in the what the web will look like, how it will transform our lives once again, developments to look out for and issues that may arise (such as Big Brother).