Spirit Magazine, December 2007Brendan Coffey’s latest article in Spirit Magazine (Ground Floor, p. 61, December 2007 issue) might be the most fascinating thing I’ve read this year (2007, not 2008 for those of you late to find this). Maybe my attention-deficit-disorder RSS reading and similar approach to mainstream media has gotten the best of me, but I was completely unaware the Internet as we know it will someday give way to an entirely new conduit for our lives, electronic and otherwise.

If you’re kind of lost, like I was reading the article, here’s a summary:

The National Science Foundation awarded a $2.5 million contract to BBN Technologies in May to lay the groundwork for a replacement for the Internet as we know it today. What we use, basically the rudimentary network of academia computers established in the 1960s as ARPAnet with trillions of dollars of add-ons, is becoming obsolete in its functionality and performance. The key driving factors behind the computing thinkers of the world and the federal government includes several factors. One of which is that the cost of identity theft from credit card phishing exceeds the estimated value of drug trafficking in the U.S. (Frankly, I vote we put more money to fighting drug trafficking, but that’s just one dumb guy’s vote.) Interestingly enough, in the age of streaming video and audio, poor quality is singled out as a reason as well. Another factor giving cause to the infrastructure re-thinking is the monsters behind the 34 spam emails I received in the last hour alone.

The NSF believes the best way to rebuild the Internet is to start from scratch since the current web was designed with 1950s-thinking and was never built to run the way it does. They’re calling the new project GENI – Global Environment for Network Innovations – which, according to the article will take $350 million over 10-15 years and 1 million beta testers before we’ll see anything.

Our new Internet will supposedly be available everywhere … wirelessly. Telephone, television, etc., will all stream over it (or so I gather) and information will find direct pathways to end users instead of routing through servers and ISPs. One big-brother-ish suggestion in the article (which is treated as such) is that each human being would basically possess a unique IP address and our Internet will come with us wherever we go. (Please let it be on a device. Implants give me the heebie-jeebies.) One allusion in the piece, however, is to a networked pacemaker than will notify your doctor when you need attention. That critical information would be prioritized and sent over this new Internet directly to your doctor as opposed to funneled into a data stream to fight the bandwidth war with the teenagers sitting next to you watching YouTube videos at Panera Bread.

Apparently, BBN’s Kristin Rauschenbach is in charge of formulating all this jazz. She’s supervising the initial construction of GENI’s physical network and it is her new test lab project. Man, I hope she’s smart.

If you’re flying on Southwest Airlines this month, you should read the whole thing. Coffey is a strong writer and my summary certainly can’t do it complete justice. And a tip of the cap to Southwest Airlines again. I love their blog. I dig their airline. And their free magazine is now more to me than a cumbersome carrying case for four Sudoku puzzles.

The big question for me is whether or not this thing will even happen. Will the corporations benefiting from the current Internet structure (hardware manufacturers, network solutions providers, etc.) be accommodating to the new way of life or lobby to cut funding to protect their livelihoods. Yes, they will likely profit from making the new equipment, but will the new hardware alienate some component of the current stuff, pissing off some sector of business? Will entities such as phone, cable, satellite service and radio providers no longer be needed? I’ll have “Telecommunications Lobby” for 1,000, Alex.

The future is intriguing and exciting. It is also frightening to think that our world will one day be ruled by technology, even more so than it is now. Technological advancements certainly can make life easier, but it can also complicate things … privacy for one.

There are hundreds more questions to be answered before we can trade in our Internet for a new model. Does this make Robert Scoble and the semantic web folks crap their pants? Will we need microchip implants in our brains? Will the new Internet give us some strange new cancer? Never mind our personal health, will it be environmentally friendly?

These are my initial questions. What are yours?

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Philoctetes Roundtable: The Future Of Technology
  2. Lifestrea.ms Is Attempting To Build The Future Of Life Online
  3. The Future Of The Internet Is Your Desktop
  4. News.com Talk: “The Future Of The Internet And How To Stop It”
  5. NSF FIND Working Meeting

IMAGE: Spirit Magazine cover, December 2007. From Spiritmag.com

[tags]Internet, future, GENI project, GENI, BBN Technologies, ARPAnet, technology, privacy[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog and signature Explore events. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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  • http://nickhuhn.com Nick Huhn

    I find this all very cool and very fascinating, and I eagerly await the digital future that is probably closer than we think. But if we ever get to the ‘singularity’ inflection point, I’m moving to Costa Rica to start a B&B for technophobe expats.

  • http://www.makeaninformedvote.com Robert Eilers

    Can you say One World Government? Like you said this sounds very exciting but there will be so many questions that come from this.

    I keep thinking back to the book Fahrenheit 451. Wall sized tv screens, ear pieces for constant contact to the phone, radio and tv. Then there is the book of Revelations where you’ll have to take the mark to do any type of transactions.

    It’s all there. You have to wonder how far can we take technology before we hit a wall. What more can we possibly do?

    Scary and exciting all at once.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Nick — I’m in halves!

    Robert — Great points. The future it always a bit frightening. Fortunately, our recent move toward community indicates we’ll all have a say-so in what develops. Or at least I hope so.

    Thanks for chiming in, man. Haven’t see you in a while.

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