The Supreme Court of the United States appears to have decided on online file-sharing and who will have control over billions of dollars. Don’t you get a swell of confidence from the fact that a decision on the most high-tech of questions was reached by nine people who have no idea what the Internet is or how computers work?
They aren’t even sufficiently connected to realize how lost they are in a computer-driven world. The technology they’re trying to make decisions has fundamentally altered the decision-making process.
Take into account how significant decisions will be made in the future. Today, we have elected officials who plot the nation’s course and try to persuade us to pay for it. If they decide that a war is in the country’s best interests, they will go to any length, legal or not, moral or not, ethical or not, to get our approval because we must supply the funds. Everyone in a ‘Netocracy would be able to choose whether or not they want to fight with someone, and if they don’t, they will cast a negative vote. NO WAR! If a majority of voters believe the war is a bad idea. What a concept: people making their own decisions about whether or not their country will be involved in a global conflict. Also, you can’t have a war if most of a nation’s people want to fight it but not enough want to pay for it.
Consider the many laws enacted by special interests for their narrow goals, usually forcing others to accept regulation of otherwise popular activities. The drug war is supported by politicians who believe they are acting in the best interests of their constituents. Restrictions on private property, money, information access, and so on are all examples. The average person will not support spending money on regulation unless he or she is directly affected, which puts him in the minority. Minorities can pass legislation by scaring politicians into doing their bidding. Politicians lose power if they cannot control or at least influence their constituents.
Before all of this can happen, some advancements in computer technology will be required. The vast mainframes used by large corporations, scientists, and government agencies to manipulate vast amounts of data and control megalithic organizations are thought to be the highest use of computers by most people. That isn’t the case at all.
The computer’s ultimate purpose will serve as an extension of the human mind—a virtual mentor who is always available to answer your questions and assist you with your homework. The majority of the information available globally is irrelevant to the average person. It’s usually too complicated, obscure, or abstract to remember because most of us don’t have the time to analyze and apply it. Calculating orbital velocities, South American rainfall patterns, or the tensile strength of Ponderosa pine lumber isn’t something the average Joe needs to do. But we’ve all had those moments when we needed a unique piece of information for a project or to satisfy our curiosity. Mainframe computers, linked to other mainframes and equipped with massive mass storage devices, will be the repository of all the world’s accumulated knowledge, regurgitating it on demand to our personal data terminal. We’ll be able to put it together with other bits and pieces to solve whatever problem we’re working on right now. The first step in this process is to use the Internet.
Before this dream can come true, we believe three significant advancements are required:
- Techniques for voice recognition are being perfected. First, however, we need to get away from the keyboard.
- The creation of a portable monitoring screen that is both thin and flat. Something small enough to fit in your pocket.
- Mass storage that is monolithic (solid). Compared to solid-state devices’ electronic speed, current mass storage devices, such as hard, floppy, and optical disk drives, or magnetic tapes, are electro-mechanical and thus extremely slow. In addition, they are delicate and prone to wear, making them
All of these are in the process of being researched and developed.
Smaller, lighter, and longer-lasting power supplies will be required, but we see this as evolutionary rather than revolutionary. When these things happen, anyone will be able to carry in their pocket all of the world’s libraries, universities, and TV talk show hosts, ready to provide whatever information is required instantly. Consider this: our educational system is supposed to teach people how to find information, correlate it, manipulate it, and combine it with other information to conclude. The current educational system becomes obsolete when you have this much power. All you need to do is want to know something and know how to get to it; the computer will take care of the rest.
We now rely on news gatherers to keep us informed about what’s going on. But unfortunately, the infrastructure required to support them is extremely costly, and because only large, influential organizations can afford it, their clout is enormous.
Instead, imagine a world where you could speak to a live person at the scene of any event anywhere without going through a reporter, anchor, or editor. The radio and television networks, wire services, magazines, and newspapers go off with a bang. When you combine this technology with advanced virtual reality, you can go almost anywhere and see nearly anything from any location. Indeed, it wouldn’t have the same impact and atmosphere as being there in person, but we’ve grown accustomed to watching drama, comedy, education, and sports on television. We have travelogues, how-to programs, and a whole slew of other activities that our forefathers could only partake in if they were on-site and had the money to pay for.
Whether we like it or not, the computer has significantly impacted the way we think, act, interact, and solve problems. There’s no turning back now. We could never survive without technology, and allowing inept, albeit well-intentioned, politicians or jurists to make or interpret laws on topics they do not know will not be pretty. But hopefully, we’ll be able to make it.