Last week I spent an evening at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View attending the IEEE’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of ARPANET. The event featured a panel with three prominent names:
- Dr. Lew Terman, 2008 IEEE President and CEO
- Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google
- Howard Charney, Senior Vice President, Office of the President, Cisco
While delving into some of ARPANET’s history, the panel explored the future of the Internet. And I left with a few stray ideas worth noting:
Cerf kicked things off by telling the story of ARPANET, and then cast his eyes forward: “We are going to see billions and billions of devices on the ‘Net.” He talked about his own house, which is now packed with various sensors monitoring every room for things like temperature and energy use.
“All my devices pick up all the data in my house and report to the server. I get a whole year’s worth of data, as apposed to anecdotal information.” And that lets him adjust the central air and heat for maximum efficiency.
But here’s why that matters: “Now we have a chance to learn the consequences of our decisions,” Cerf said. “Can we use that information to moderate demand?”
Cerf also gave an update on the Interplanetary Internet project. The organization has established three nodes in outer space, including one on the International Space Station. By early next year, Cerf said, the Internet will officially be in outer space.
I missed most of Terman’s remarks, unfortunately. He was followed by Charney, who I met here for the first time. Charney’s themes were about what’s going to happen, but also about some of the challenges we need to over come.
“We’re going to talk about many, becoming many, becoming many,” Charney said. By that, he was referring to the point when a whole new wave of devices are connected to the Internet. (echoing Cerf here). That’s also loosely known as the “network effect,” the point when something becomes interesting, useful or innovative because so many things are part of the network.
But first, in the short term, there are issues that must be faced or the Internet will become something that causes more divisions. For instance, Charney noted that in 2005, the entire country of Liberia shared the equivalent of one broadband connection in Europe.
“Never bet against technology,” Charney said. “You will lose.”
So what’s next? Charney’s list includes:
- Computer-aided telepathy by 2020. You’ll be able to play pinball ball just by thinking about it.
- What comes after smartphones? Holograms of high quality and high fidelity.
- Quantum entanglement.
The last one, frankly, I didn’t fully grasp. Cerf also mentioned it and tried to explain it to me earlier in the evening. But it’s going to take awhile for my small brain to catch up with theirs.