In the next ten years, we will see a realization of the initial promise of the Internet, some of which is beginning to show as driving forces today. Pull technology will replace push completely. This will take care of security and relevance for individuals and corporations thus eliminating waste of resources and bandwidth, both of which are already in scarce supply. Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents will pull information for us on the basis of parameters we establish and control. They will deliver it to the social networks that exist inside our own data network. Web 3.0 is the true era of conversation, where the real dialogue begins.
This will be the first of a series of reflections about the future of computing, social networks and email at work. Some of my reflections are inspired by the work of The Institute of the Future and its map of the decade, as presented in Get There Early. Others on visits with John Naisbitt in Megatrends.
Consider what is at the root of all this -- language, markup language to be exact. The new generation of browsers will be smart clients, working online and offline to facilitate the connections of your AI agent with someone else's AI agent. Today, people like me do it. Information and connection brokers who know a lot of people and have an uncanny ability to match them for business opportunities.
Some implications (in no particular order):
1. Dealing with data -- we spend a lot of time filling out forms when joining networks, finding information about others we'd like to connect with, and keeping all those networks up to date. This is time consuming and inefficient; your data is as good as its maintenance. At corporate level, this means leasing lists, cleaning up lists, appending information, etc. Entire businesses exist and thrive on this model. Then there's the issue of security, and the way in which the information was obtained. Tomorrow, gathering and processing information will occur on the basis of parameters that you define. Open standards will allow browsers to be smart clients thanks to a common markup language. Programmed AI agents will determine what is good for you and pull it into your Internet.
2. Growth of networks -- the current model is just not sustainable. How many hours in a day are you willing to donate to a social network so that you can just barely keep up with its functions? We're talking about personalizing the mass media on such networks. This is still Web 2.0, a stage in which everyone is trying to figure out terminology and rules of the game. We need to make our Internet smaller, not bigger, yet more relevant to us. The social network lives inside your data network. Tailored to your needs and universal key to all your connections and relationships. Yet it's behind a wall, impenetrable from unwanted pitches and spam. Your own, guild-like private club.
3. End of selling as pitches and the beginning of the true era of conversation -- Artificial Intelligence (AI) agents as service that determines what is good for you given your specs, essentially just pull. Sales as push has nowhere to go. The technology will be there to keep out what we don't want. There will be people determined to create artificial personalities that will try to trick your agent and entice it to let them through your personal Internet/network walls. This is where the true meaning of authenticity in authentication will come in. When you're ready to make a purchase, your personal AI agent will query open networks according to set parameters and will make contact with the agent connected with the right resources. With more information, we need more automation of the smart kind.
4. Opt-in email -- imagine how happy you'd be with your in box(es) if all the email you receive is wanted, from people you know. How many hours do you spend each day filtering, deleting, going through spam? How much productivity do companies give up just to keep up? All because of email you don't want nor need. Email is push technology, interactive marketing is based on push technology. What if email were based on pull technology instead? We would put it under the permission marketing category. To have real exchanges, real conversation pull technology is the only way to go. Think about a whole network of encrypted email servers that talk to each other. This is where the action will be, operating systems will be less important.
5. Dealing with bandwidth -- this is a problem we have as human beings, we have only so much attention and time. And a lot of it is being wasted in dealing with the onslaught of stuff that has nothing to do with what we are working on or we need, etc. This is also a problem that the networks we rely on are wrestling with. Sure, one solution is to make the pipes and data storage bigger. How long before we run out of space? Is that data secure? Is it encrypted? Is it replicated so it can be retrieved in emergency situations? How about fail over, have you thought of that? The solution is not greater capacity. It's not even virtualization. The solution is less data that is more relevant. Then we pay only for what we want and not for the junk we receive. Think about mobile phones in the US -- we pay for spam (data and calls) as well. Why? Push technology.
Maybe you've read or heard about Firefox 3.0. What this browser has under the hood is more support for microformats. This type of technology allows you to tag in a way that shows the relationship to the content it tags. I see these implications making a change in customer relationships, and all kinds of business models all the way to the root of how we work.
We will look at Web 2.0 as window dressing. The real dialogue is with Web 3.0. Then we will have reason to talk about "the Internets". I mention encryption and security. This is what needs to be in place for all of it to work. Take a look at these presentations by Dan Frankowski, intern at Google, on You Are what You Say: Privacy Risks of Public Mentions, and Oren Etzioni, University of Washington, on All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Google [tip of the hat to Nick Carr].
My point of view is the conversation, I came to it from a humanistic angle, observing the dynamics of how we work and understanding the signs and symbols we use as reference points. If this is to happen, it will be by humans and through human intelligence. The machines alone don't do a thing. The reason why this has not happened is that there hasn't been a compelling (as in cash-rich) enough argument for it. There will be, we are tired of spam, your customers are tired of push, the systems are filled and rendered inefficient because of it. Too much noise, not enough signal. Basta! It's time to turn a new leaf.
I'm really interested in your take. I will pick up the threads of this conversation to examine current trends as insights to action in the coming weeks.