I think it is high time for an update on how far we have progressed towards the initial vision of this website, that is towards an epoch-marking fusion of advanced technology and human communication that would make a new internationalism possible at last. The vision was of a society, around the year 2025, that had achieved an enlightened world peace, in which cultures and regions had become more important than countries and advanced technology, though still amazing, had become utterly commonplace. Wrist-watch computers that can project holographic presentations of any knowledge shared by mankind, vehicles that move silently, causing no pollution, shared virtual reality experiences as an entertaining fusion of films, theatre and reality TV are all just over the horizon. We can’t quite envision them clearly as of yet, but suggestive echoes of such a possible future are already reaching us now.
I feel that it may be easier to evaluate the ‘small picture’, my on experience of life on Earth right now, than the ‘big picture’ of life as a whole, as it is so hard to obtain clear and unbiased information, even on a supposedly free internet. From what I can make out, it is a situation of progress interrupted. Whilst a truly millennial culture is encompassing the globe as never before, helped by new sharing and communicative technologies to do so, national identities that will need to greatly soften to facilitate a truly international phase have tended to harden. War and revolution have scoured the near East, the sheer horror of which gripping headlines and news media generally, making it hard to effectively see if this is a process of freeing these essential areas from generations of shackles, or just chaotic turbulence with no real direction. The middle and near East being an essential area of prophecy, it remains to be seen if the much-vaunted ‘Arab Spring’ will bring the rational organisation of such lands that they so sorely need. Viewed faithfully, though, peace, freedom and an authentic integration with the rest of the world can be the only ultimate results of this progressive process, whatever conflicts emerge in the shorter term.
Meanwhile, technology has spread across the world like wildfire and the so-called ‘Web 2’ of personal interaction, the interaction that this site holds to be indicative of true and lasting freedom from centralised and impersonal authority, seems to have taken hold across societies and across national boundaries like never before. Thanks not only to email, but now to social networking sites like Facebook and Mixy, amongst others, instant and shared interaction is possible at any time. The onus of such communication being formalised has been overcome through microblogging sites such as Twitter, which allow for frank and personal exchanges without the delay of formulating an in-depth response. That is, they facilitate nearly direct communication, a true extension of one’s social sphere into virtual space, space that is very quickly being discovered, though is wrongly thought of as being created. Such space has its own boundaries and continents, not only in the technologies facilitating it.
One of the greatest movements of our time and one that will make certain advances feasible, even inevitable, is the rise and spread of visual sharing. Digital cameras (or scanned analogue images, to be complete) and the internet to spread them on allow for the sharing of experiences in a way harder to accomplish with words. A picture in a sense really does contain a thousand words, though of course these are all words to apply to it, but it brings the scene directly to the viewer. As higher bandwidth has become possible, a more visual internet has come too, with ever-increasing resolution, which despite the marketing fluff associated with this, means for a more lifelike presentation and so a more satisfying one. Photos are not the end of this, as high-definition video and beyond makes its appearance, something that previously was only possible with expensive cameras, can now be accomplished with smart-phones, which have become media-creation devices as much as ones to experience the internet on.
The next phase, though, will presumably take many generations of technology to accomplish. It will involve entering the internet, perhaps in the guise of an avatar, to interact personally with other people from around the world, almost as if you were really with them, not only in real-world environments, but in ultra-realistic simulations created by the finest artists. You will scuba^dive in seas filled with imaginary fish, walk in gardens filled with trees that cycle through their seasons whilst you watch, travel together with others virtually, yet with all the smells, sounds and sensations of the places, almost like magic. Almost, as it will be a flowering of technology that facilitates it, not an active imagination alone, something which has restricted such experiences to the few all through history.
Just to give some pointers as to what technologies may help bring this about over the next few years or even decades, we have the move to ever-greater resolutions in video, from HD to full HD, then to the data-intensive 4k and 8k varieties, along with ever-advancing screens on which to view them. This, along with glasses-free 3D, will make for a more lifelike and immersive experience. New generations of camera will capture full 3D representations of things, allowing not just for a visual stereo playback, but truly holographic presentations. Ultra high-bandwidth internet will be able to support various people entering such simulations in a kind of lifelike video conference together. It will indeed be something like the Star Trek Holodeck or ‘virtual reality’, yet without the big drama associated with those presentations. In fact, it will be an everyday thing, like meeting a friend for a coffee after work.It won’t even be radically different in any essential way. But it will be the way society of the future interacts, spending its vastly increased free time and economic resources. It may not really be different, but it will be more enlightened, overcoming the differences that separate people in the most time-tested way of all, through natural, warm and unforced communication.