Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

March 20, 2011

SXSW 2011: The Internet Is Over

Filed under: Frank Remarks — Frank Fiore @ 12:49 PM

Oliver Burkeman went to Texas to the South by Southwest festival of film, music and technology, in search of the next big idea. After three days he found it: the boundary between ‘real life’ and ‘online’ has disappeared.

The vaguely intimidating twentysomethings who prowl the corridors of the Austin Convention Centre, juggling coffee cups, iPad 2s and the festival’s 330-page schedule of events, are no longer content with transforming that part of your life you spend at your computer, or even on your smartphone. This is not just grandiosity on their part. Rather – and this is a technological point, but also a philosophical one – they herald the final disappearance of the boundary between “life online” and “real life”, between the physical and the virtual. It thus requires only a small (and hopefully permissible) amount of journalistic hyperbole to suggest that the days of “the internet” as an identifiably separate thing may be behind us.

The prognostication of this event was not un-foretold. Xerox technologist, Mark Weiser, spoke of this in 1988. He coined the term “ubiquitous computing“, referring to the point at which devices and systems would become so numerous and pervasive that “technology recedes into the background of our lives”.

Burkerman uses Web 3.0 as proof of the blur between online and real life.

If Web 2.0 was the moment when the collaborative promise of the internet seemed finally to be realised – with ordinary users creating instead of just consuming, on sites from Flickr to Facebook to Wikipedia – Web 3.0 is the moment they forget they’re doing it. When the GPS system in your phone or iPad can relay your location to any site or device you like, when Facebook uses facial recognition on photographs posted there, when your financial transactions are tracked, and when the location of your car can influence a constantly changing, sensor-driven congestion-charging scheme, all in real time, something has qualitatively changed. You’re still creating the web, but without the conscious need to do so.

Tim O’Reilly, a computer book publisher legendary among geeks has said, “Motion and location sensors tell where we are, what we’re looking at, and how fast we’re moving . . . Increasingly, the web is the world – everything and everyone in the world casts an ‘information shadow’, an aura of data, which when captured and processed intelligently, offers extraordinary opportunity and mind bending implications.”

So if the Internet as we know is over, are we ready for the always on, all inclusive interactive experience that pints to what is said to be the next generation of computing? The removing of the human being from the process?

I was in a Home Depot a few years ago looking at the washers and dryers and I saw a sign promoting a new line that said “The washer talks to the dryer and dyer talks to the washer.”

I wondered – just what are they talking about behind my back?



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