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The Internet: Stop Underestimating It

Published: Friday, April 23, 2010

Updated: Saturday, April 24, 2010 16:04

Homer Simpson once asked, "They have the internet on computers now?"

Within a few years, nobody will question if something is connected to the internet, because it will already be connected. I don't mean your phone; I'm talking about your shoes and your doorknobs.

"We're going to get to the point before too long where every soda can and every cereal box is going to be able to have a CPU, a screen, and a camera on board it. And a wi-fi connector so that it can be connected to the internet," says Jesse Schell, of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

"[Furby] has more technology in it than it took to put a man on the moon... and people are throwing them away." Schell says this trend of disposable technology won't fade anytime fast.

Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine explains that everything that we have on the internet took less than 5,000 days (about 14 years) to create.

That may not seem like a long time, but Kelly states that if you think of the internet as one machine it has lasted longer than any other machine constructed by humans, with zero down time.


We're getting used to a world with the internet on netbooks, phones, and iPads. But it isn't going to stop with these devices!

The last time you stayed in a hotel I bet the door had a computer chip in it. Why should you program your washing machine when a chip in your shirt could automatically signal the washer what to do when you throw it in?

Why should you write out a grocery list when your refrigerator can scan everything inside of it and print one out for you?

Why should anyone consider your review of a book when the eye tracking sensors in your Kindle show that you haven't read the whole thing?

People watch Minority Report and think that it would be cool to have a computer like that. The good news for them is that it's not going to take until 2054 to get one—the hand motion control part, not the predicting the future.

A couple of guys at MIT introduced a similar system that they built for under a hundred bucks a few weeks ago. Another MIT student, Pranav Mistry, has a system called SixthSense that takes it to the next level. Why would you need a device when a projector necklace can turn any surface into one?

Kelly says we thought the internet would be "TV, only better." It's not, and what it becomes will not be "the web, only better."

 "You have no idea what books your grandparents read or where they went on a daily basis, but these sensors that we're going to have… are going to be tracking and watching what we're doing forever," says Schell. "Our grandchildren will know every book that we read, that legacy will be there and be remembered. And you start thinking, since all this stuff is being watched and measured and judged, maybe I should change my behavior and be a little better than I would've been."

Overly reliant?

Despite most people using it on a daily basis, the internet is not "big." Not compared to what it will become.

Some try to avoid putting their life online. "I don't want to be too reliant on it!" they say.

Where is it going?

Kevin Kelly puts it like this: Writing is a technology. "What if we took writing away? Could we operate? No."

There is still some debate over whether or not the print newspaper industry will be able to survive in the future. If you are still divided, you're missing it completely says Gary Vaynerchuck, author of Crush It! The internet won't stop at newspapers; it will take out radio and television as well.

It's coming whether any of us like it or not.

Microsoft's Prediction of 2019


Patrick Reddick writes The Eclecticist blog for The Cube. He is on Twitter @pmreddick.

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