Imagine a world, perhaps as soon as 15-20 years from today, in which the Internet, Telecommunications, and Cybernetic Research industries have converged. This is “Super-Convergence”: convergence across industries that will unleash forms of communication that are unimaginable in today’s terms. Here’s a brief vision of this future:
The Internet will have evolved from a majority text-based information and storage medium to a multimedia-rich collection of virtual worlds, inhabited by communities of real and virtual people that prefer to live alternate virtual lives. Interacting with virtual avatars in three-dimensional worlds will not be uncommon; whilst robotic artificial intelligence will transcend the physical world into this virtual world as well.
Telecommunications networks, both fixed and mobile, will have evolved to such an extent that radio access bandwidth is no longer a constraint; multiple forms of devices and terminals will remain permanently connected through the Internet to these virtual alternate realities. Mobile phones as we know them today will cease to exist, as the miniaturisation of technology and advances in nano- and atomic-level research will mean that the speech, audio and video functionalities of phones become integrated directly into the human body.
Cybernetic Research will have advanced to such an extent that neural interfaces between communications chipsets and the human central nervous system will become commonplace. Advanced communications chipsets will be able to interface directly to the brain by converting telecommunications IP signals to neural signals that the question of “What is real?” will become definitive. A cyborg super-race of humans that communicate simply through thoughts will emerge, simultaneously co-existing in a physical world and a virtual communications world.
“Thinking beyond the 21st Century…”
In the super-converged world of the future, communications will know no physical boundaries. What does that mean, exactly? It means that, in future, wherever your location may be in the world, is of no consequence to how you choose to communicate. The convergence of the Internet, Telecommunications and Cybernetics industries will establish a globally connected virtual communications grid to which everyone, or at least those who choose to be, will be neurally connected. This will have a profound impact on multiple vertical industries that exist today – transportation, entertainment, travel and financial, to name a few. Extrapolating this scenario further, and particularly considering the advances still to be made in areas such as nano-technology, DNA research and cloning – the world beyond the 21st Century is going to be fundamentally different to that of today.
Three areas that form the subject of many science-fiction movies – Time Travel, Teleportation and even Immortality – won’t be just fiction beyond the 21st Century.
Think about the advances being made in data storage technology: even in today’s primitive world, it is possible to store Gigabytes of multimedia information on a card smaller than a fingernail. In less than 10 years from now, we’ll be talking about the number of Terabytes or Exabytes that can be stored on cards even smaller than fingernails. So just imagine the amount of data storage space available to a super-converged network 50 to 100 years from now! There will be so much storage available in fact, that it is not unrealistic to believe that every moment of every person’s life can be stored for future virtual playback. It will be possible to go back in time and re-live your most favourite memories, or someone else’s memories, for that matter. In a globally-connected virtual world, with every passing moment continually being recorded and stored, there will be no escaping the past. This will be the basic premise of travelling back in time in future.
Teleportation can and will be achieved. Remember, when the human brain is neurally connected to an alternate reality, it will believe it exists in this reality. That reality can be anything – an ideal world where peace reigns, or another planet, or simply a mirror image of the current physical world that we all happen to incidentally inhabit today. So, with this in mind (no pun intended), a virtual user can travel to a destination as fast as an IP packet can route itself there. But here’s the crunch – taking the advances made in physical DNA cloning and applying it 100 years into the future, it might be possible then for a human conscience to ‘download’ into a temporary human cloned host of yourself at separate physical locations, as a re-entry point back to the physical world. The basics of teleportation?
Finally, breakthroughs in teleportation would lead logically to breakthroughs in Immortality. This of course raises all kinds of moral and religious debates, but thinking about it technically, the separation of one’s conscience from one’s physical being for eternal storage in a virtual world might not be impossible 100 years from now. Imagine the day of realisation that one’s human state is simply a carrier for one’s digital virtual state (much like a physical CD or DVD is simply a carrier for a digital music track). It’s simply a matter of time before the human race figures out a way to rip a human conscience and memories into a universal online storage network for eternity… and ultimate immortality?