The Future History of the Internet
'The Future Chronicles' is an investigation into the past and future of the internet.
All images courtesy of HYPERBAUM and 'the Future Chronicles'.
In today's extra edition of Terraform, we're thrilled to share an excerpt of a fascinating forthcoming project: 'The Future Chronicles', a journalistic journey through time. Through a series of fictional articles, each issue explores the history of a new topic, from the past into the future. Each article, a selection of which appear here in abridged form, covers a milestone in history and takes place in its defining moment.
The first issue examines the history (and future history) of the internet—traveling through twenty articles from 1964 to 2096. You'll experience the remarkable transformation of a technophobic society to a virtual one, and beyond. If you enjoy the version below, consider supporting the Kickstarter to ensure the Future Chronicles become a reality. -The Eds.
It is loud. A vast number of keystrokes merge with the rattling sound of printers and the whirring of machines. This creates a background noise that gives the impression of standing in some kind of futuristic beehive. In the middle of the hall people are bustling about their paper-roll cluttered desks, intently tapping keys on their typewriters.
Between them, seemingly unnoticed, other machines are performing undisclosed duties. Once in a while, a clerk in a white shirt moves between the rows of tables, to carry a stack of paper from one end of the room to the other; or to push a button on one of the mysterious contraptions. The whole picture is framed by the cabinet-sized computers; hung together on the walls that immediately catch the viewer's eyes with the sudden gyrating motions of the sizable magnetic tapes mounted on their front…
"Since the end of January there is a very special model on the market", Martin, a 19-year-old hacker, raves about the 'Macintosh'. This is a new home computer by Apple Computers that is currently promoted in a dramatic commercial by director Ridley Scott. The advertisement envisions George Orwell's 1984 but with IBM as the dictator and Apple in the role of the rebel; saving humanity from a woeful dystopian future of uniformity.
This is how Apple CEO Steve Jobs plans to make the old vision of the Homebrew Computer Club come true: by finally taking away this deeply grounded fear that many people still possess regarding the computer.
In contrast to all the other home computer models before, you can use the Macintosh without requiring a familiarity of the language of computers. Instead the user can use his hand to roll a tiny electronic box—they call it a 'mouse'—over his desk. The movement of this mouse will then resonate with the movement of a pointer on the screen. There you can find digital worksheets overlapping each other just like the paper stacks on our desks. They are called 'windows'. By pushing a button on the mouse it is possible to rearrange them on the screen. This Technology makes it very simple to switch between different programs which allow the user to create and edit text-files, spreadsheets and even graphics…
As of late, search engines are rolling over new railway tracks that change direction on daily basis. Just enter a keyword and you are ready to start the journey. We sit at the browser window and watch the information landscape rushing by. Here and there settlers have already seized portions of the land. Some of the properties show nothing but a construction sign, others have already turned into scaffolds. The facades of the few finished buildings are adorned with space images and flashing graphics. Department stores sprout from the ground; the products displayed in table frames scarcely resemble the shops in the old world. In this new world, shaped by technology, shopping is but a mouse click away. Yet upon returning from your journey you find your appetite far from satisfied, as if you haven't had anything but chips for dinner: you feel bloated but still hungry.
It sounds like a hallucinatory drug trip: just put on your glasses and you will see things that are not there at all. But it is just simple technology; what formerly was just plain glass is now a tiny display and a camera inside the spectacle frame records the surroundings. All the data is continuously analyzed so that our glasses can enrich our view of the world with extra information and detail. Virtuality and reality blend together…
I've been living with George and his family for several years now. I enjoy being able to show my gratitude to the Sanders for letting me be a part of their lives whenever the opportunity arises.
The rest of the family usually awakens a little later than us, so George and I often have some time alone with each other during our morning coffee. It is there that I keep him up to date with the latest and most relevant news. One of his workmates had a good time last night, and the recordings his spectacles made from the shopping cart chase are delighting his coworkers. Speaking of spectacles, I inform George that a new version of his own pair has been announced and they will even be shipped with the new OS preinstalled. Also, Calvin & Hobbes just released their new winter collection and I recommend George purchase a nice blue sweater-vest that would compliment his eyes. He blinks and immediately places his order…
The new market of machine-to-machine communication has deeply altered our world and has laid the foundations for countless new companies. One of the big winners in this sector is undoubtedly IOTy: It's hard to imagine our everyday life without the products of this technological giant. It is staggering to think that this revolutionary multi-billion dollar company first saw the light of day nearly ten years ago, when it was just another small fish in a big pond.
I visit IOTy founder and CEO Stephany Jourdan in its London headquarters and talk to her about the rapid growth of this new market, and about the rise of her company.
From the outside the IOTy building looks like it sprung out of the mind of a future-obsessed surrealist. White stones are huddled in smooth curves against expansive glass panels that are bordered with glimmering steel frames. The entrance looks like a shimmering gateway into another world, and is flanked by two robots in white livery.
One of the robots immediately heads towards me and extends a stylized hand towards me; I briefly clasp it with my own, where I wear my PC. The ring on my little finger flashes as the system sets the access permissions.
Without taking further notice of the endearing little tin man, I head towards the gate that automatically opens for me. I enter the strange building…
But as knowledge and property could be transferred the threat of identity theft became a very real possibility; thus we took to our biometrics. The Smartphone would scan our fingerprints and later the glasses scanned the pattern of our irises. However, the increasing interconnection with all kinds of electronic devices eventually pressured us to start inhabiting the net on our own.
The wallet goes into the trash, and the personal chip disappears into the arm. Now everybody knows us. Doors open for us as if by magic and we leave stores as well as countries without waiting in line. Light, music and temperature adjust to our preferences when we enter the room. Even if our virtual spectacles are set on the nightstand, our bed knows who we are and wakes us at the perfect time in our sleep cycle for our first appointment.
But there is also the government. Omniscient and ubiquitous, it knows where we are at every given moment. The amount of happiness that our new digital identity brings us may very well depend on the country we currently live in…
No wonder that the number of pets people own is constantly shrinking these days, since now there is a creature that makes a far superior companion to our former housepets. The personal daemon accompanies its master wherever she goes. Not only does it accept you just how you are but it also understands you even better than you do yourself. Its whole existence is geared towards making your life easier. It is intelligent, always at your side, a discussion partner and mentor all in one.
At the end of the day, the daemon is nothing but a highly sophisticated computer program that runs on a special quantum computer, built for especially this purpose.
According to the Many-Worlds theory, the daemon would be some kind of a supernatural creature, constantly treading the boundaries between different realities. This theory, although it is the most commonly accepted explanation for quantum mechanics, still has not been proven but it definitely fits the strange feeling of talking to one of these creatures. For most people it is a quite disturbing experience to begin with: these creatures appear to be far too intelligent and real to be dismissed as mere software…
If a visitor steps into the halls of the New York Stock Exchange, he will be welcomed by nothing but a yawning emptiness. Although the stock prices keep rising to dizzying heights, we don't need bankers and brokers anymore.
The world's biggest gambling casino from now on lives completely in the net. This migration may very well become the pinnacle of the largest economic disruption since the industrial revolution…
A Caribbean beach. Towering waves break into glistening white foam. Your feet are sinking into the trampled sand in an alley of coco palms. Hummingbirds are chirping their courtship songs. The rising sun peaks over the coastal rocks and is reflected by the sea.
A suburban ghetto. Firemen cover a burning house in white foam. Your feet are tripping on the leftover sand from a closed sports facility through an alley of weeping willows. Children are screaming from one of the houses. The fire peeks through a broken mural and the light shines upon the morning drew.
The same walk, but as different as it gets—thanks to Altered Reality…
Robert Meyer works at the most dangerous places in the world. Whatever the calamity, Meyer will be there. A flooding, an earthquake or a bombing… it doesn't make a difference: Meyer stands by the victims' sides.
Undeterred, he fights his way through terrible devastation, hauls debris out of the way with superhuman strength and carries the injured to safety.
He knows no fear, he is unbelievably strong, invulnerable and, yes, paraplegic.
Robert Meyer is one of the so-called Mindworkers. He works at the European Ministry of Internal Affairs and controls one of their new emergency-robots from the headquarters of the Technical Emergency Service in Bonn using just the tiny electrical currents of his thoughts…
It seems that Gaia 2.0 will finally allow the dreams of the posthumanists to come true. The developers state that they are now capable of executing the mind upload: They want to transmit all the information of a human brain into their simulation, with all its memories and emotions. The resulting personality would be free of the restrictions placed upon a biological body, becoming effectively immortal and capable of processing information with many times the speed of a 'traditional' human being. A super intelligent creature arisen from the ultimate marriage of man and machine: A new species that…