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The End of Cyberspace

Esther Dyson’s comments from a conversation with Vint Cerf, in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal Online:

The Internet will have become more ubiquitous but less visible. It will still exist as PCs and monitors, but it will also be all around us in other devices: everything from buses and luggage transmitting their locations so they can be tracked, to friends and children signaling their presence anytime you might want to reach them. Rather than being a separate virtual world, the Internet will encompass the physical world as well; most things will have Internet identities available remotely as well as a physical presence available only if you are nearby…. The Internet so far has existed mostly in cyberspace, linking computers fed data by humans and by other computers. The Internet of the future will be much more tightly linked to physical space. First of all, many of its future users will connect via cellphones, and the net will know more about their physical locations and their identities than it does about those who reach it by computer. Beyond that, as Vint writes, the Internet will link things in space (on Earth as well as in off-Earth «space»).

The Net of the future will know much more about the physical world and all the things in it … and of course that information will be available to human users. The big challenges in the future will be limiting distribution of that information (security, privacy, confidentiality, etc.) on the one hand and filtering it out on the other (not search, but data-mining, exception-reporting, spam filtering, friend recommendations, behavioral targeting and the like). The big questions are who controls the filtering: individuals, organizations or governments? Will it be done transparently?

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