Visionaries Multimedia

One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets:
Betsy Book shares her thoughts on the networked future

This page contains one of a set of 24 transcripts including remarks made by interview participants at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit at Stanford Research Institute in May 2006. Each person was asked a series of five questions regarding the future; only the most "telling" responses were transferred from the recordings into these transcripts, thus, some of these interviews will include five question-answer sets, some will have four or fewer. 

To jump to another interviewee's set of answers, click on the person's name below.

Bridget Agabra
Betsy Book
Corey Bridges
Iveta Brigis
Jamais Cascio
Helen Cheng
Esther Dyson
Doug Engelbart
Randy Farmer
Guy Garnett
Will Harvey
Daniel James
Raph Koster
Mike Liebhold
Julian Lombardi
Bob Moore
Jerry Paffendorf
Marty Poulin
Robert Scoble
John Smart
David Smith
Sibley Verbeck
Malcolm Williamson
Ethan Zuckerman

  >> Return to Metaverse interviews lead page for links to recordings of these comments

descriptionBetsy Bookis the director of product management at Makena Technologies, creators of the virtual world There. She previously developed co-branded web sites for iVillage, served as the VP of product development for the e-commerce site Flooz.com, and managed large-scale moderation and reporting programs for entertainment industry clients such as AOL, MTV, Showtime, Country Music Television, and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. In 2003, she launched Virtual Worlds Review, a web-based guide to social virtual worlds.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? The dark side of allowing people to come together online and meet others outside of their backgrounds is that all of the same technology can be used to harass people, to grief people, to threaten people. And in the most extreme cases actually threaten people in real life. So, I guess my fear is that the more data we put about ourselves online, and our real locations, that can be used for purposes that can be scary sometimes.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? My wish is to stay in the current state of networked technologies, which is that they continue to allow people to form communities of people who are not necessarily located in the same geographical space. There are so many wonderful and interesting things about networked technologies, but that – to me – is what it's really all about It's about connecting people from different backgrounds and ensuring that they have a space to come together and form friendships that last a lifetime.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? I think right now things like cell phones are doing a much better job at helping enable communication between people. Before I gave someone a computer with an internet connection I'd probably want to hook them up with a cell phone. Of course, all of the sort of internet-enabled technologies are sort of migrating to the cell phone as well. There are some countries where they have sort of skipped over the whole computer-screen-enabled networked technologies and they're doing it all over the phone because that's ended up what's been most affordable.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? I would hope there would be some way to breach the language barriers. Within specific languages we now have the technology to meet and interact with each other, but there is still a significant barrier even within the worlds we have today that revolves around language. There are all sorts of other barriers such as cultural, but I think if we can start with language and we can solve that problem – it’s the first good place to start. That is a long-term project, certainly beyond 10 years.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? There's a lot of fear and stigma surrounding virtual worlds and video games. There's certainly a lot of concern about what is this doing to our children, what is this doing to teens, and I would actually urge them to educate themselves a little better about exactly what teens are doing in these spaces because they might actually find that there's a lot of positive stuff going on. There are horror stories you hear. These technologies are actually extremely beneficial to that age group, and so I would caution any policymaker about being too quick to impose too many restrictions without learning all about all of the details involved.

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