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Future of the Internet

dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
edited June 2008 in Thought Leadership
This was a recent response to a question posed on LinkedIn about what we see as the future of the Internet.
Do you have any thoughts?
I believe one of the scenarios (in a future world faceted with scenarios) will be the transparency of the Internet in daily use. As usage becomes more ubiquitous, sitting down at a computer will be less prevalent.
Bill Gates put it on the line last month when he announced he was preparing Microsoft for voice interaction to the Internet and that he believed more searches would be done by voice than by typing in the next five years. Think of the implications of keyboard independence...
I believe you will also see a movement of conscious non-adopters who were called Luddites a century ago. These technology uninitiated and expatriates will be those who philosophically don`t believe in the surrender to technology on some fronts. Each advancement in technology has fostered them, but given the all-encompassing nature of the next 5-10 years (adoption rates should hit 90%+), these people will be much more prevelant in the next decade. Perhaps they will be my daughter`s generation of hippies.
eCommerce is experiencing a significant surge and will continue to do so in a down economy. This process of disintermediation via the Internet is going to change how retail is done today. Currently, Wal-Mart can still offer you many good deals in their stores, but a new class of price challenge eCommerce sites will challenge that leadership. Shopping, today considered a necessity, will become more of an experience (think Starbucks) wherein retailers (mostly small, local or at least seemingly so) will be all about creating the "third space" in their unique shopping environment. If you just want quantity of goods, go online. If you want true experience, come to our store. The ancillary businesses associated with eCommerce will also thrive in the next decade. We will see improved shipping and logistic services as well as an "increase" in postal mail usage (it still works!) even though that thought runs counter to email marketers ideas.
Another significant trend will be the migration of TV from broadcast to the Internet. Its unacceptable in our modern times to be bolted down to a television schedule. Just like the music industry, the television industry must adapt to this pending usage. They are already making shows available on-demand and this trend will continue until broadcast goes the way of HAM Radio. The ancillary businesss here will also thrive. Apple TV is leading the way here. Microsoft has been trying to penetrate this market for a decade but arrived painfully too early to the party.
One trend I`ll call right now - the return to the one parent in the workforce. The other parent will be at home with the kiddos and generating income part-time via an Internet interface. A report came out this past week stating that now over 75% of new mothers are breast feeding. A generation is rising that is valuing family SIGNIFICANTLY OVER money. As a product of the Reagan years and GenX, even I clearly see this trend. The rising generation of parents will be largely debt free, good savers, good income earners and family people. Prepare your marketing strategies.
Where I am most curious to see how things develop is in the Internet`s role in consumer commodities. We have already seen that nearly all real estate purchases are in some way Internet influenced. Will that filter down to steaks and potatoes?


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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    To the point of eCommerce.  I believe the opposite will be true as a result of any energy crisis.  eCommerce will actually thrive in this environment.  Consumers make the most immediate decisions based on their personal spending.  "Conceptual" spending like carbon miles or other such assessment is a secondary and beyond consideration.  The increase in shipping costs will be across the board and will likely be noticed first in retail establishments pushing consumers online.
    eCommerce will continue to greatly influence the consumer marketplace place with price competition and convenience.  You can see one concept in this arena in my blog post about disintermediation
    This said, however, I do believe we will see a significant shift in the types of local buying experiences.  I think we will see a resurgence in "Mom&Pop" type operations such as repair shops and single location restaurants; flea markets; and roadside stands.  I think we will see a decline in new corporate owned franchise restaurants and will likely see many close in the coming few years.  Craigslist has seen an explosion in usage as people begin to utilize the Internet for used goods and bartering.
    I do see an economic downturn.  It really is inevitable isn`t it?  Nothing goes straight up in economies.  The question is how significant the downturn will be.  Personally, I believe it will be in the magnitude of a "Depression", but we can not think in terms of a 1930s Depression.  Technology will be a terrific leveler in all of this.  I do believe in American innovation and I especially enjoy Amory Lovins discussion at TED concerning Winning the Oil Endgame.  I think this period will help us shake some addictions, clean up some bad practices, clear the debts, and change our outlook on the role of capitalism in our society.  It would be great if we are the generation to usher in the next Renaissance - we certainly have the tools - but its too early to make that call.  Our wisdom must catch up with our power.  When it does so, it will be extraordinary.
    Good morning!
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    Paula - first off, I absolutely agree with and personally subscribe to buying locally and creating local infrastructure over and above the direct cost benefits of a globalized food chain.  My belief, however, doesn`t offset the reality that consumers will go to the first pain first - direct expense - and many will make their purchasing decisions based on this pain especially in a down economy.  Manufactured goods, not necessarily food, will remain much more competitive in the global economy than in the local economy.  My overall point being that eCommerce will continue to thrive in the coming years.  The only real way to dilute that growth is to kill demand all together which I doubt will happen any time soon.
    To your second point, the communication and collaboration made possible by technology will certainly equal if not exceed the direct value of any physical resources during a modern Depression.  Understanding this collaborative potential and how to wield it effectively is the biggest challenge we face, however upon its exercise and eventual mastery we will see what I believe will be a new Renaissance of human ingenuity and advancement.  It could also lead to the destruction of society as we know it if this power is used for nefarious purposes, but no one ever wants to talk to me about that side of the equation
    Collaboration facilitated by the Internet is inherently a mental exercise.  To your discussion on the physical components of technology, energy and the other accoutrements of daily living, I would agree that urbanized communities are likely the future.  Humanity crossed a threshhold in the last decade in that more than 50% of human populations are living in urban versus rural areas.  This trend will continue.  Specialization of these communities to support their inhabitants will also continue to improve especially in the areas of energy and food production.  The precursors to this trend are already apparent in the surge in farmer`s markets, the local food movement, Silicon Valley entrepreneurship in solar technologies, the solar hot water roof initiative (2004-2006) sponsored by the US Government, the demand for highly fuel efficient vehicles and shorter commutes (as gas prices finally catch up with their real costs) and many other indicators abound to support this urbanization.
    To the benefit of collaboration over and above the physical resources, I base this belief in the strength of collaboration in the age-old idea that two heads are better than one and that dozens of heads on a problem result in a solution that is larger than any single one head could have ever created with any amount of time and knowledge.  To call it the "wisdom of crowds" in the old sense of the meaning would be incorrect, but more accurately the sum of the whole is larger than the sum of its parts.  I don`t believe any physical resource can achieve this success.
    The collaboration of minds focused on a problem has greatly impacted human history.  A particular period to note is the result of the Founding Fathers and what they were able to complete in just a few short years.  As our communities have become more spread out and individuals more insular, we have seen the rise of the super-individuals who have singularly led invention and ingenuity over the last couple of generations.  Collaboration has been limited to physically close collegiate and business efforts who may or may not have a true passion for achieving the desired result, but could just be looking to advance their careers or paychecks.  Today, however, we are beginning to see the emergence of the collaboration like-minded passionate individuals.  This level of collaboration is reminiscent of the days of the Founding and the periods of Renaissance.
    This emergence is the result of two things.  One, the tools afforded by the Internet.  Two, the global challenges we face.  In order to successfully utilize this technology, there must be substantial problems to be solved.  The last three decades have highlighted enormous global problems that heretofore were unrecognized or underaddressed in the history of humanity.  I`m inclined to agree with Viktor Frankl and others that with freedom comes responsibility.  Frankl suggested that since the US had a Statue of Liberty on the East coast, we should construct a Statue of Responsibility on the West coast to balance things out.  Freedom is only afforded at the cost of responsibility and this demand for responsibility is expanding rapidly. 
    A side effect of this emergence is the increase in intellectual property that is not dependent on traditional resources.  Let that sink in a minute as a counter to your limited resources statement.  Thermodynamics does not apply to human intellect and given the recent sale prices of digital and other intellectual property assets, I would heartily disagree with the precept that there is no "man-made capital".  Hagen (whom you linked to) takes the position that we can only survive via restricting consumption.  I take the opposite position that we will only survive if we can push through the ceilings of complexity associated with providing for our need for consumption.  To clarify, I am speaking specifically to basic needs such as food and energy.  I do not believe in a return to the primitive...
    Underground (re: non-taxed) economies already exist and are thriving.  The IRS is only now beginning to wrap their tentacles around the expenditures on the Internet and seeing the billions being exchanged in eBay and other trading spaces.  Craiglist has become an amazing underground economy facilitator that was traditionally reserved for the back pages of local newspapers.  Economic exchange without the burden of taxation is completely facilitated within cyberspace.  If the government survives in its current capacity, this unfetered exchange won`t be publically available for long.
    In all of this discourse, isn`t it interesting how quickly a conversation on the future of Internet usage can be expanded to the future of Humanity.  Something to consider...

    Excellent points Paula!!
    dnparker5/12/2008 8:02 AM
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    A book both of you might enjoy:

    Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web by David Weinberger
    Link to the book via my review:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R1G9YU8QLO ... r_rdp_perm

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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    We will always have a need for energy.  Technology is dependent on energy.  We will continue to create better and more efficient ways to produce energy because of that need.  Perhaps in your view I am an optimist, but I don`t believe we are going to revert to the stone age because of the loss of one source of energy.  That loss would be overcome.
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    skipshoeskipshoe subscriber Posts: 0
    Hi guys,
    I`m late to the game in this conversation, but I did want to float a few ideas on the future of the Internet.   I`m not much of prognosticator on the economy, although I did have the foresight to buy heavily into gold funds a few years back (egged on by my provervial rich uncle!).  However, I do have some thoughts on the way business and human consciousness are being affected by, as Craig calls it, the way people are using the Internet.
    1) The long-tail dynamics of the web economy is fundamentally changing the nature of business.  We are no longer driven to find the 20% of the market with 80% of the revenue.  Its no longer "Its not what you know, its who you know"... but quite the opposite.  These fundamental changes to standard business tenets are being adopted by humanity through the standard "crossing the chasm" curve of early adopters to early majority, etc.    However, it is leading to a re-conception of the world as a place where work can be done part-time, expertise is highly valued and spare cycles on machines and people can be shared to solve problems.   A number of the previous posts talked about this... and I wanted to agree whole-heartedly
    2) Although much of the hype of the Web has been about globalization, I think we`ll see a return to radical localization spurred on by the Internet.  Meetup.com is a great example of how the Web and local geography intersect.  My company specializes in creating virtual teams - but no matter how well we use the technology, the most satisfying meetings for our clients are the ones where we can sit down in person.    The Web extends everyones reach into their own communities - and I think social media technology will only accelerate that
    3) (for something totally off the wall) I like Darryl`s reference to the emergence of new structures within
    humanity.  Carl Jung proposed that there is a collective consciousness
    shared by all of humanity.  Recently, I wondered if such a
    consciousness was actually the collective realization of our limbic
    system, then could the WWW be a collective realization of our
    symbol-processing neo-cortex?
    Darryl`s Victor Fankl reference about the statue of responsibility is a key point.  Ghandi called one of the worldly blunders "Commerce without Morality".  These sorts of conversations are important for examining how we will behave ethically, morally and for the betterment of humanity as we find technology unlocking doors that we never imagined. 
    - Skip
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    AlijorAlijor subscriber Posts: 0
    What an interesting topic. I couldn`t resist this opportunity to share our take on the future of the internet.
    More and more purchasing decisions are being taken to the internet, from shoes to cars to even real estate, as you mentioned. If there`s a way to compare prices and quality, people will come and shop. We`ve taken this trend and applied it to one of the most expensive commodities available today: healthcare.
    Alijor.com is an online healthcare marketplace. We are not a directory, or a medical records service. We provide much more than just information, we provide the actual buying experience. We list providers from a variety of different specialties, and display their prices for various procedures, appointments, and consultations. Our goal is to make healthcare more transparent, and help patients identify what their health should cost them.
    Some people are appalled by this concept - they claim that you simply can`t turn healthcare into a marketplace - that you can`t put a price on your health. We submit that wherever someone is making money, a marketplace exists. We intend to make that marketplace fair - and perhaps even more enjoyable - for everyone.
    I`d love to hear your thoughts.
    Kristy Williams
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    Computer?  Computer?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19BWJQ8kjrw
    dnparker5/13/2008 5:43 PM
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    EveLopezEveLopez subscriber Posts: 0
    When I saw this post, I immediately thought of what the book "The Search" had to say about the future. My educated guess is that the future of internet and ecommerce will depend heavily on mobile use (as indicated by some of the comments on fuel/packaging issues of shipping from web purchases), as well as what will surely become a thirst for an even quicker pace of receiving goods. Right now, the internet gives us information within seconds; within the next 5-10 years, I think consumers will demand their purchases within seconds as well. Voice recognition will almost certainly play a huge role.
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member

    To that end, a computer is a physical reflection of human mind---we think a certain way, so we create a machine that also thinks in that way. We wouldn`t understand the machine if it weren`t similar to how our own mind and brain functions.

    That brings up another topic in the future of the Internet - Artificial Intelligence.  Any Kurzweil fans out there?  He believes the Internet is the precursor (in at least technology) to the first thinking systems.  But you want to talk about energy drain.  These systems would be massive energy hogs.
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    skipshoeskipshoe subscriber Posts: 0
    Two points, one on AI and intelligent machines and another on changing face of communities and governance.
    On Kurzweil - I`ve heard Ray speak at the World Future Society conference and he has some very interesting ideas about "the singularity" - or the point of convergence at which machines become more intelligence than humans.  I also studied AI as part of my grad school work, especially natural language processing and neural networks - and no doubt that machines are becoming more intelligent.  However, there is an interesting counter-point which I first encountered in Ken Wilber`s Boomeritis (which led me to study Integral Theory in general).  In that book, the protagonist tries to download his consciousness into silicon.   The premise is that computers can be made to perform more "intelligent-like" tasks, but we can`t embue them with true consciousness, which emerges from natural entities like humans.  At best, they are "artifacts" of human creation - a creation of human minds (per Craig`s comment).
    I`m not sure where I stand on that one.... still mulling. 
    Point 2 - On the future of urban centers, suburban center and collar communities, I think there is a mirrored set of structural changes in governance that will occur.  We`re already experimenting with ideas of alternative forms of corporate governance which are based on inter-locking rings/circles of accountability.  This allows for continued accountability but with more emergent properties that harness the creative power of potentially distributed, decentralized teams.  Check out www.holacracyone.org for more on this concept.  I`ve been to a couple of seminars on this - and wrote a blog post about one of the practices. 
    I would expect that corporate groups will continue to morph in this kind of direction since the top-down, silo`d approach just isn`t using resources as effectively as it could.   These old structures are great for command and control, but Internet-based life has gotten way to chaotic for such structures to be effective any longer.
    my two cents.
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    Hey Paula,
    Do you have any articles / books / data on the hunter/gatherer culture v. agrian culture.  Your comments are intriguing and I`d like to learn more on that perspective. 
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    I`ve always liked Jared Diamond.  What an interesting article.
    I checked out your blog too.  I have some more reading to do there.  I`m also pretty heavy into the local food movement here in my area.  I started iMatthews.com this year as a way to help our community connect online.  I started gardening 3 years ago at my suburban home. 


    Back to reading more...
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    skipshoeskipshoe subscriber Posts: 0
    Wow! How did I stumble upon this bunch?! I love the points you guys are making. 
    Regarding Craig & Paula`s points of (a) new technologies extending our capacity and (b) our desperate need to re-conceive how we operate in this world towards more sustainable environment, I say "Both-And"!
    On consciousness and AI, I love the concept that these tools we build are just extensions of our butts, eyes, ears, hands, etc. and brains!  For me, that helps explain why it might be impossible for AI systems to ever become "conscious".  Ken Wilber is actually pretty lucid on this stuff but its really tricky.  Every indidivual`s outside must have an inside.  The inside is consciousness.  And that applies to a human, a mouse, a virus, molecules down to the smallest particles.  It seems that consciousness does unfold in layers. An adult`s consciousness differs from a child`s. 
    If computers/WWW/etc.  are an extension of humans and their collective, then the consciousness resides inside the humans who operate them... and there is no "natural center" except inside us. However, like a careening crane on a high building - things can go terribly awry when that was never our intention.
    Which brings me to my concluding thought on this post... we have a responsibility to approach our business and work on the Internet with our full, present awareness.  Too often, new technologies run ahead of our ability to develop morals and responsible behavior.   A 12 year old girl blasts a video taken on her cell phone of a school-yard beating to YouTube ... and the beaten boy hangs himself on Saturday.  
    The stakes are too high for us not to do this with our highest conscious presence.
    BTW - many thanks for setting me on a quest to read Victor Frankl this summer with my son (Darryl I think?)
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    dnparkerdnparker subscriber Posts: 9 Member
    Paula - alternatives?  I know in discussions the need of the solution must be clearly expressed, but we are here and you`ve illustrated the causes of our modern effect.  What now?  How can/will the Internet influence the future of humanity?  When will our wisdom catch up with our power?  What will that society look like?  Are we headed for "A Brave New World" (Huxley)?
    Craig - my 1964 suburban tri-level home was built from a design created in the 1950s.  You know why it was designed this way?  Television.  The architect wanted to meet the need of the consumer in providing a space for the television noise that still allowed space for traditional family interaction.  My design also required at least a 1/2 acre and typically was built on lots of 1 - 2 acres because of the common practice of home gardening at the time. 
    Our culture - architecture, arts, athletics (that`s just the a`s) -  is absolutely going to adjust based on the distribution an availability of information.  I believe one of the more exciting fields emerging from this rapid sharing of information is the Philosophy of Information.  Deeper study of this and other complex systems would be the only thing to pull me back to academia.  This study of Information will give us the ability to enter into the next Renaissance.
    Skip & Craig - I wonder if consciousness is being compared to spontaneity.  I believe a computer program loaded with data and programmed with a set of interpretative tools can make spontaneous and even insightful suggestions.  The bigger question is the heart - the emotions.  The pit in your gut when you know the guy sitting across from you is about to get fired or the jubilation because he was really an a**hole.  The expression of empathy or joy doesn`t follow a logical programmatic path.  Psychologists are working on that though, so this type of emotional response may ultimately be encapsulated as well.
    The future of the Internet is in our hands.  We are its parents, its first generation nurturers.  We have a toolset of incalculable power to harness human thought and activity.  Rather than asking "What will it become?" perhaps we should be asking "What shall we create?" 
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    skipshoeskipshoe subscriber Posts: 0
    To riff on Darryl`s question... What shall we create... and how will it be used?
    And one very sad, Internet-based story that helps explain why our work as entrepreneurs on the Internet must constantly be challenging ourselves and our peers to stay several steps ahead of that which we create.  http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/05/15/int ... index.html
    How do a soccer mom and some teenagers turn into pathological, brutal bullies that led to this suicide?  Unlike using car safetybelts, avoiding drunk driving or reducing second-hand smoke - we haven`t had time to fully absorb the positive & negative potential of our new technologies. 
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