The Internet Ten Years From Now
During the 1440's, in Strasbourg, Germany, an enterprise was underway that changed the world profoundly. Johannes Gutenberg had modernized the printing press- an invention that made the circulation of ideas easier, faster, and more efficient. The world hasn't been the same since. My generation may be witnessing the next step. The internet has gone from dial-up to wireless, from desktop to phone and beyond. It has already changed the way people live and interact, and is still growing in terms of how many people use it, how much information is sent and received on it, and what it can do. So how different will the internet, and consequently the world, be in just a decade?
The internet has been mobilizing, and that will continue. From the desk to the cellphone, and from dial-up to wireless, the internet's growth has accelerated the exchange of information to a matter of seconds, across the vast distances. This acceleration hasn't met its full potential yet. For example, today, while news, entertainment, and communication are increasingly sought via the internet, there are still university students in America buying textbooks in physical form, and toting them around everyday. In ten years, these students will be an anomaly.
The internet's capacity to save physical space and resources should align perfectly with the growing need for sustainability, a shift in commercial focus toward local markets, and environmental causes in general. Habitats will be saved as the demand for paper, among other things, decreases. The expansion of wireless and satellite networks may save land once used for storage and physical infrastructure such as land-lines and warehouses. The number of websites is staggering already, though, so a more organized form of local prioritization will likely crop up, with each region maintaining its own version, or lagoon, of the net to both make it easier for local consumers as well as being more efficient, manageable, and profitable for that region- much like an area code.
Exceptional growth and change, and the necessary regulation that comes with it, are almost inevitable over the next ten years. The internet will help restore the environment, local economies, the global economy, all while being carried in our pockets. People, information, products, and media will be just finger-swipes away, all the time. The exchange of information may even move beyond Earth and expand to the moon and Mars(as NASA is already beginning to do), perhaps providing a better understanding of life and the universe as we know it. Most importantly, the accelerated circulation of ideas that has been integral to the progress of society will perhaps spur a renaissance of invention, innovation, and social interaction. Much like the Gutenberg's printing press, the motor for this rebirth that may revolutionize the world, is the internet, and the time, now.