Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Killer Apps in the Gigabit Age

Big-Picture Responses: Part 2

A range of input by some responses covered ground not related to the themes highlighted above.

‘Information underload’ problems will be solved

Warren Yoder, executive director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, wrote, “There is now a significant information underload (as opposed to an overload.) We can’t get our stuff to do what we want. We can’t discover the people who could help us when we need the help. We can’t get situated intelligence to refine our questions in a way that would relieve our situated ignorance. Our need-to-control reach is steadily outpacing our information grasp, and the gap is the greatest it has been since the beginning of the information age. The gap is felt as an ache that shiny cannot touch. What the killer app will be, I have no idea. Can we link our 3D printers to our brainwave scanners and produce a built environment for our deepest desires? Not by 2025. But a gap this big will call forth remarkable applications.”

The first war of nation states against corporations

Judith Perrolle on the future of killer apps

Judith Perrolle, a professor at Northeastern University, based in Boston, wrote, “Texting and tweeting will be replaced by 3D video ‘face-to-face’ communications that are not limited to two participants. People will regain the use of their thumbs for other purposes, as they experience the electronic co-presence of their family, friends, co-workers, boss, merchants, advertisers, spammers, stalkers, and government surveillance personnel. Dissident groups will experiment with coded text messages in the scenery and musical backgrounds. The Internet of Things will take an ugly turn as hackers, cyber security swat teams, advertisers, and terrorists run amok through citizens’ and nations’ refrigerators, heating systems, power grids, and pacemakers. A sub-specialty of lawyers will arise to deal with Internet-connected objects’ product liability, in turn giving rise to laws absolving manufacturers of fault. Problems with rogue nanobots and genetically engineered diseases will dwarf concerns about the Internet. The monopolization of the world’s food and fresh water resources by a small group of countries will lead to the first war of nation states against corporations. Renewable energy resources will be nearly universal; sustainable manufacturing and lifestyles will be the norm.”

‘Precognition’ apps might emerge to help people make better choices

Annette Liska, director of design at a research/design firm, said, “Connectivity can be understood in different ways: that which is mediated by technology; that which is not; and a hybrid of the two. The best apps of the future will likely be a hybrid. One interesting area of cognitive research is pre-cognition, or things that lead to our responses or decisions before we act on them, even in the space of a nanosecond. A tool that intelligently and graciously recognizes our likely choices and behaviors (without overloading with information), then allows us to modify our choices based on a predictive outcome of those choices could play a key role in self-awareness, self-development, empathy, creativity, and our fundamental desire to a) feel connection to others and b) to be wise more than impulsive. The feedback loop will likely be visual in nature. This tool will likely use sensors and be implanted, but only turned on when desired (full immersion in technology is, for the most part, not a healthy or desirable quality of being human). This concept speaks nothing of the potential for misuse or addictiveness.”

New forms of addiction and theft … and people will ‘redefine what a “thought” is

Karen Landis, user experience team leader for, a department store, wrote, “Implants and wearables will replace tools we carry or purchase. Technology will be biological in the sense that those who can afford it will ‘receive’ it as children. It will be part of our body and our minds will not function well without it. We will be dependent on it. There will probably be new forms of addiction and theft. It will also redefine what a ‘thought’ is, as we won’t ‘think’ unassisted.”

‘The operating system will be integrated into the human body’

Anita Salem, a design research consultant, responded, “The operating system will be integrated into the human body. I predict killer apps that control objects through thought, drug implants, virus detectors, stimulants and narcotics, super powers (X-ray vision, super hearing, self-emitting light), instant communications, virtual reality games, privacy and identity hiding tools, virtual pornography, robotic pets, robotic personal helpers, virtual wars, forced sterilizations, or birth control.”

‘Personal pico power’ will arise

Rui Correia, the founding director of Netday Namibia, a nonprofit supporting information and communications technologies for education and development, predicted, “Wearable communication technologies—an effective convergence of the computer and the communication device, with significant attention to the use of personal pico power—the cost-effective personal use of renewable power generation to support such technologies.”

‘Big data will become user friendly’

Mary Joyce, an Internet researcher and digital activism consultant, commented, “Big data will become user friendly. Users will be able to track their health, social networks, and productivity using the data collected about them, though they’ll likely be forced to buy it back or pay to access it. Companies that currently monetize social and productivity infrastructure in the cloud will monetize the data they have created about their users, but as retail consumer goods, not as business intelligence.”

Turning to the power grid to open avenues for Internet connectivity

Lillie Coney, a legislative director specializing in technology policy for a member of the US House of Representatives, commented, “There are two challenges: universal access to high-speed broadband and applications that are easier to access and use. Internet access should be treated like a utility. Municipalities should construct them and the Federal government should cover areas outside of large metropolitan areas. Moving across the country or world while using or accessing communication media should be seamless. Bandwidth and infrastructure are the challenge to high-speed digital communication systems. The largest potential high-speed bandwidth carrier already in place is the electric utility grid. Solving the problem of using it to send communication is not simple, but if solved would open up many avenues for broadband high-speed access for rural and some urban areas. It would also add value to electric utility infrastructure upgrades that are underway. This would create a new wave of innovation and a new class of technologies. The digital information age runs on power so another important step that must be overcome is energy retention. Storing power for indefinite periods would reduce dependence on a range of energy sources and allow greater reliance on renewable sources. A lot of power is lost because it cannot be stored so the architecture is to generate much more than is needed. Battery technology is much further behind than the innovation of new devices. Solve the battery problem and you can solve access, reliability, and stability issues with digital technology. One early indication of how digital technology is changing people or society is to ask ‘How well can young people engage with others in person? How comfortable are they in speaking publicly? How well can they articulate their feelings or beliefs to others event those they know very well?’”

‘Mind control’ might be the killer app

Mikey O’Connor, an elected representative to the GNSO Council, representing the ISP and connectivity provider constituency at ICANN, commented, “There will always be applications (new and old) that consume more bandwidth. Some of those will be completely nifty. But ‘distinctive, and uniquely compelling’ is a high bar. I have two words for you. Are you listening? Mind control. That’s the ticket—solve that one and you’ve got the world by the tail. It may be that it’s already been solved, but there will be loads of opportunity in making it ever more effective.”

‘Supplying the very data that will be controlling’ the future

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Unfortunately, I have to respond in the affirmative, which does not bode well for the citizens attempting to maintain/establish those controls they seek for their ‘private’ life. In the next 12 years the ignorant, uninformed, and uneducated will continue to view the so-called ‘apps’ as life benefits/enhancements. Little do they realize that by submitting to the interminable ‘rules’ these ‘apps’ contain, they are supplying the very data that will be controlling them into the future.”

Interfaces will change—‘air becomes our desktop’

Ken Elmore, audience research and development strategist, wrote, “By 2025 I can see physical devices, like tablets and phones, replaced by virtual floating displays produced by wearable media such as watches or headgear. The air becomes our desktop.”

‘It will be a social taboo to not be connected’

Pamela Wright on the future of killer apps

Pamela Wright, the chief innovation officer for the US National Archives, wrote, “Products like Google Glass will improve to the point where people will consider these kinds of wearable tools as necessary as wearing items such as shoes. It will be something of a social taboo to not be connected. Having to hold up something as clunky as a smart phone to take a picture will be unimaginable for the next generation.

When work takes place in alternate environments we could reach a tipping point

An anonymous survey participant responded, “Immersive environments will become even more compelling, and people will begin spending more and more of their time in these environments. A tipping point will be when a significant portion of our population begins not just to play in these environments but to work in them. As that happens, the need to interact with actual reality begins to diminish, which will have major impacts on its own. By 2025, we’ll see that start to happen.”

Look for innovation in data storage and information processing

Oscar Gandy, an emeritus professor at the Annenberg School, University of Pennsylvania, wrote, “While it seems likely/necessary for increased bandwidth for transmission, problems of storage will arise, so we should expect more innovation in the area of information processing that reduces the need for bandwidth for many routine operations.”

Diversification of apps is more likely

Niels Ole Finnemann, a professor and director of Netlab DigHumLab in Denmark, replied, “The main developmental trend will be diversification. We will see many new apps, which will popular in their area. An area of exception from this is entertainment, where some global players may create global events supported by new apps, as for instance related to the Olympics. Focus will increasingly be on the supportive role rather than the IT centric focus of today.”

A culture ‘primed to be sold and sold out’

A self-employed software designer and policy researcher wrote, “My answer depends what you mean by ‘apps’—a term that annoys me no end. Yes, I expect that a significant proportion of software development will continue to be indiscriminately resource-intensive, and increasingly so, without considering the economic or environmental costs, let alone the built-in exclusions. ‘New, distinctive, and uniquely compelling’—whatever. Each new thing builds on what came before it, whether we’re talking about Apple products, surgical tools, Angry Birds, Google Maps, or electric cars. Those adjectives describe not the products but how the products are marketed. You have developed a culture that has been primed to be sold to and sold out, and a ruling private industry that is phenomenally gifted at making the most of that and at continuing to perpetuate that. So, sure, Americans will likely think that they are encountering new, distinctive, uniquely compelling technologies that they can’t resist and must have and that they must convince all of their friends to buy.”

Restructure communities as ‘peer-to-peer collaborations’

Marcus Cake on the future of killer apps

Marcus Cake, a network society content architect and strategist with, wrote, “Bandwidth is almost irrelevant. There is enough to achieve singularity or the ‘shift’ to the next stage of economic development. Bandwidth speeds up the status quo and exacerbates its flaws. Bandwidth may actually empower the status quo. The killer app between now and 2025 is to restructure society into peer-to-peer networks. The community (or crowd) has been building the foundation for distributed prosperity for decades—the first three elements data (Internet 30 years), information (World Wide Web 15 years), community (social networks 10 years)—the next three elements to be distributed are collaboration, knowledge, and wisdom. These will be achieved in less than five years with wisdom networks. In the Information Age, our technology allows point-to-point communication. Reach increased from near to far. Speed increased to instant. Our society developed tools based on point-to-point communication that included hierarchies and centralized knowledge and decision-making. The Internet has sped up the status quo with negligible productivity benefit. These tools don’t scale and are failing to deliver global prosperity, productivity, or equality. If we restructure communities from point-to-point communication and its centralized form in the physical world to peer-to-peer collaboration and distributed contribution over the Internet, then it solves huge problems resulting from Information Age structures and delivers a new era of productivity, growth, and distributed prosperity. Wisdom networks are an elective singularity and reshape the status quo using the peer-to-peer structure of the Internet and achieving a rapid jump in productivity, potential output (18.2% to 55%), productive work time (28% to 50-75%), and usher in the new era of prosperity. This is the overdue third revolution in economic development. I predict that distributed prosperity will be enabled in less than two years with less than thirty networks and 900 people and it will transform the world within five years. Citizens will demand societies are organized like Facebook.”

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