Sunday, May 04, 2008

2013 - Return of the Wild West

I foresee the greatest changes in our society during the next five years occurring not as the result of any great new technological breakthrough, but rather as the result of the logical progression of current technology.

In the next five years the speed and ease of web publishing will economically shift information providers to primarily online distribution, rendering newspapers obsolete. This shift will threaten traditional notions of copyright and intellectual property. To cope with these changes the television, radio, and music industries will undergo radical changes.

Virtually all information of any kind will be online, and people will simply never look for information if it is not online. Libraries will move their collection into full text online documents and then shut their doors. Handheld book like electronic PDF readers will become the norm. For people who still prefer paper there will be a cheap printing and binding service (online order of course) that prints PDFs as hardcover or paperback books, and then mails them to customers.

Employers will all “google”, “facebook”, etc their employees first, and these results will highly influence their choices. Your online reputation will become more important than your credit score, and may cause you to be turned down for a job or refused for apartment rentals.

This will cause search engine optimization to intensify. Organizations will spring up to both protect your reputation, and damage the reputations of others. General lawlessness will prevail upon the web. Search engine optimization packages and intelligent personal data crawling agents will become like guns in the Wild West. There will be shootouts through the streets of the net, with nations, companies, and individuals vying for control of valuable online real estate in the forms of domain names, search results for query words, and “true” semantic information.

The victor will be determined by who possess the most technical skills, or who hires the most talented coders. These shootouts will pollute the web with false information that will leave the technical have-nots and the poor swimming in a sea of falsehood. Trust propagation algorithms will only be as effective (and trustworthy) as the coder who wrote them. The gap between the rich and the poor will increase. Everyone will have a voice, but some will shout louder than others and no one will know who or what to trust.

The problem might even get bad enough that someone will solve it.

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