It started in the 1940s with the idea of “memex”, which is short for “memory” and “index”. In its conception, a memex is a device, “mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility” that provides “enlarged intimate supplement to one's memory”. Do you recognize this description in any of the technologies available to us today? Do you use it?
Some may recognize the World Wide Web, others the internet and my guess is that many may simply answer “Google”. It may well be one of those technologies that gradually disappeared in front of our eyes – it has integrated into our everyday life so profoundly that we do not even see it anymore and it had a profound effect on our society—the way we access information, the way we learn, the way we spend out leisure time, the way we interact with each other, the way we don’t interact with each other, the way our languages evolve and so on. Quickly count the number of people that are using phrases like ‘lol’ and ‘omg’ in face-to-face conversation and you may see what I mean. The conception of the memex 70 years ago brought about a deep social change.
It is 2015 and there may well be a whole set of technologies that are weaving themselves into the fabric of our daily lives. So much so that in 10–20 years from now or even earlier we may not even see them anymore. Ubiquitous computing is one such example – it stands for information technology that is integrated with everyday objects and activities and is more commonly known under its marketing name “The Internet of Things”.
The internet practically created another reality and even enabled concepts like e-democracy, e-residency where you can legally be an e-resident of another country without physically being present there. The technology came a long way from initially providing the information space for documents that can be accessed from anywhere where there is a gateway to the internet. Connecting your watch or your toaster to the internet may seem like a frivolous thing but what happens when you connect every watch, every toaster …? The World Wide Web was originally designed to address the information overload in science and it also brought us tons of funny cat pictures and videos, Facebook, Periscope and global workforce, something I just can’t see as imagined by the initial authors. It also simplified identity theft, fraud, redefined the notion of privacy and enabled cyber warfare.
And again we are on the verge of the-next-big-thing. Unmanned vehicles (also known as drones) have already become a mainstream technology, the connected car is a year or so away and the driverless car following a few years later. The fabric of our lives is being rewoven in front of our eyes again, this time much faster than before. What type of social change will be brought about this time? What kind of networks will we be building for it?
Author: Marko Tišler