Visionaries Multimedia

One of five networked-future questions:
What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies?

Participants in the Metaverse Roadmap Summit at Stanford Research Institute in May 2006 were asked a series of five questions regarding the future. This page reflects some of the answers to just one of the five questions. We include only the most telling responses out of more than 100 answers, so every participant is not included on every page.

Each page includes brief biographies, brief quotes and links to audio files. The pulled quotes included on the page are short snippets of longer responses. To get each person's complete remarks in answer to the questions on which he or she provided a response, please click on the accompanying link to listen to or to save each audio file, or you can navigate to the Metaverse 2006 transcript page, which carries a print version of each person's remarks on the questions. On this page, we collect the most telling responses to this particular question, sharing the comments of 18 of the 24 people interviewed.

 Betsy Book

"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."

Betsy Book is 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.

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Corey Bridges

"I'd hate for there to just be this continuation of only big companies like Microsoft and Google sort of setting policy by what they do, and the companies they acquire, the places they decide to explore."

Corey Bridges is co-founder, executive producer and marketing director, the Multiverse Network. He previously worked at Zone Labs, Netflix, Netscape, Borland, and The Discovery Channel. The Multiverse Network is a company aiming to become the world's leading network of massively multi-player online games (MMOGs) and 3D virtual worlds. Bridges specializes in market creation and growth for new products and has built and launched a number of technology platforms. He has collaborated with tech expert John Dvorak on multiple books.

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Jamais Cascio

"I fear we'll end up in this kind of tiered environment where organizations that have a primary and, frankly, legal requirement to maximize their shareholder income take steps that serve the short-term maximization of income while reducing the ability for … people to innovate online."

Jamais Cascio, the founder of Open the Future, writes about the intersection of emerging technologies and cultural transformation. In 2003, he co-founded WorldChanging.com. Cascio has spoken about future possibilities around the world, at venues including FuturShow3000 in Bologna, Italy, and the TED 2006 conference. After several years at scenario planning pioneer Global Business Network, he went on to craft scenarios on topics including energy, nuclear proliferation, and sustainable development.

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Helen Cheng

"I'm afraid of the tendency for people to get too involved in games and online worlds. I've seen a lot of people who will displace their normal lifestyle in order to participate in something that's happening in the game."

Helen Cheng, assistant product manager for Seriosity, develops enterprise software based on principles of interactive game design. Cheng's accomplishments include leading a 200-plus-member guild in the online game World of Warcraft, building applications within and for virtual worlds, and contributing to Wired magazine. When she isn't writing, designing or powergaming she also works as a project director for the Accelerating Studies Foundation, and she helped plan the Metaverse Roadmap Summit. She previously worked at Electronic Arts and MTV Networks.

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Esther Dyson"The issue is people misusing technology, but the point of it is what people do with it – not the technology. That's sort of like saying do I have huge hopes for the future of electricity, well, yes, I hope people use electricity to run factories and light homes and not to power computers being used by terrorists to destroy people. The technology is only the instrument of the people using it."

Esther Dyson is editor at large for CNET Networks, where she is responsible for the monthly newsletter Release 1.0 and PC Forum, the high-tech market's leading annual executive conference. Dyson focuses on emerging technologies, emerging companies and emerging markets. From 1998 to 2000, she was founding chairman of ICANN (the organization responsible for overseeing the Domain Name System). A variety of government officials worldwide turn to her for advice on Internet policy issues. She is a former chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Randy Farmer

"My biggest fear is that the human equation will be lost in the technological discussion. Sometimes it's easier to talk about the technical problems because they seem to be solvable; then the human problems, the political problems, get swept under the rug."

F. Randall (Randy) Farmer is community strategic analyst for Yahoo! Inc., developing and supporting online communities, focusing on next-generation identity/privacy, reputation and groups technologies and open APIs. For more than 30 years, he has been designing, building and managing online social media systems and related platform technologies. He co-created one of the first message boards, the first graphical virtual worlds with avatars and virtual currencies, the first online information marketplace, the first fully distributed virtual world platform, the first no-plug-in web session platform, and Yahoo! 360°.

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Guy Garnett

"(My fear is) that somebody will 'own' it. I think it's really crucial that these technologies are owned by humanity, not by governments, not by corporations. That's the best way to assure that they are … being driven by human needs."

Guy Garnett is the director of the Cultural Computing Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where an interdisciplinary group is studying the forthcoming change in social, political, and economic dynamics due to the arrival of synthetic worlds on the 3D internet.

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Will Harvey

"The very medium we work on in creating things like the metaverse gets cheaper and faster every year by enormous leaps and bounds, and that means the types of things we can do every year make astoundingly fast progress. So it would be hard for me to even cite a worry."

Will Harvey, founder and CEO of IMVU, is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and game programmer. He began in the video game industry when he was just 15 and still in high school. His latest work is with IMVU, an instant-messaging company. He is also the founders of There, Inc., an MMOG company. He studied computer science at Stanford University.

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Daniel James

"(I fear) the old order and the large corporations and big government and all these established power structures managing to maintain their hold on power … these old powers are going to try to hold onto things, and they may do very very scary things to do that."

Daniel James is founder and CEO of Three Rings, a San Francisco developer and operator of massively multi-player online games for the mass-market, casual audience. PUZZLE PIRATES and BANG! HOWDY are popular Three Rings titles. Prior to his work with Three Rings, he consulted on game design, toiled for many years on Middle-earth Online, and co-founded two profitable UK internet startups, Avalon and Sense Internet.

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Raph Koster

"One of the real risks in the networked environment is the lessened friction of connecting with people. People will choose to hang out with people they already know … Biology teaches us homogenous cultures are not a good thing – they're very vulnerable."

Raph Koster is a MMORPG designer and the former chief creative officer for Sony Online Entertainment. He joined Origin in 1995 as part of the original Ultima Online team. He also worked with Ultima Online: The Second Age, and served as lead designer for Ultima Online Live (the ongoing service for this online RPG) until 1999. He writes and speaks frequently on online game and community issues, and maintains a popular online website. He wrote the book "A Theory of Fun for Game Design," published in 2004.

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Mike Liebhold

"(I fear) the kind of intrusive regulation that our national security agencies and the Chinese government are injecting into our open network – very pervasive surveillance at all levels … On the other hand, the continued growth of digital crime and malware on the network are irritating."

Mike Liebhold is senior researcher at the Institute for the Future,focusing on the implications and technologies of a geospatial web. He previously worked on semantic web frameworks at Intel Labs; as a senior scientist at Apple, where he led an investigation of cartographic and location-based hypermedia.; as CTO for Times Mirror publishing; and as a senior consulting architect at Netscape. He was also a principal investigator for a National Science Foundation project to bring Internet2 broadband IP networks to 70 rural, low-income communities in the US.

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Julian Lombardi

"The ease of forming social groups online can lead to essentially a closing in of the world rather than an expansion of the world … When the populace is not educated in a broad sense, then democracy does not work very well."

Julian Lombardi, is a director of information technology at Duke University and one of six principal architects of the Croquet Project (along with Alan Kay, David P. Reed, Andreas Raab, David A. Smith, and Mark McCahill). He is a computer scientist known for his work in user interface design and in the design of computer systems that support collaboration between large numbers of users. He began developing computer-supported collaboration systems involving self-optimizing massively multi-user online 3D environments in the mid-1990s.

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Bob Moore

"I'm worried that people won't leave their houses. I'm worried that people will no longer travel and no longer venture out into the real world because they are so engrossed in the virtual world … I think we can expect to see people spending all of their waking hours there, at least some people."

Bob Moore is a sociologist in the Computing Science Laboratory at PARC and a member of the PlayOn project team. He specializes in the micro-analysis of social interaction and practice in virtual worlds and in real life. In the area of online game research, he examines the mechanics of avatar-mediated interaction as well as shared player practices through screen-capture-video analysis and virtual ethnography. He has conducted video-based ethnographies in a variety of settings including massively multi-player online games, copy shops, and survey research call centers.

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Marty Poulin

"What I really fear is that we'll slow down … progress with either our commercial interests sort of working with the political interests to say "we need these particular laws" and not realizing their impact and how they're going to slow down the progress."

Marty Poulin is senior programmer for SCE-RT Sony CEA and the former chief of technology development for Playnet. He has worked on vehicle design and manufacturing for the disabled and is co-coordinator for the World Interfacing group of IGDA's Artificial Intelligence Interface Standards Committee (ASIIC). He is currently working with a team of other programmers to support and extend Sony's SCE-RT online technology supporting numerous titles on the PS2/PSP/PS3 platforms including direct support of SOCOM2/3 and First Party NextGen titles.

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Robert Scoble

"Technology can be used to cut down the weird ones and pick on the minorities in a new way. You're seeing governments doing that. China does that … When powerful people don't like to see change in a society, they use tools to find them and stop that kind of advocacy."

Robert Scoble is a technical evangelist for Microsoft and the author of the popular blog, Scobleizer. Scoble has long been known as a prominent advocate of both RSS technology and the Tablet PC. He previously worked as sales support manager at NEC Mobile Solutions and as director of marketing for UserLand Software.

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David Smith

"These things that we are creating are extraordinarily powerful. Biotech, computer technologies, personal nukes – it's all happening. It's all going to be available. I actually think that as we mature socially … once we sort of balance the scales a bit, these risks will be mitigated to a large degree."

David Smith, the principal architect currently developing Open Croquet is also CTO, for 3Dsolve. He's been focused for 20 years on interactive 3D and using 3D as a basis for new user environments and entertainment. He created "The Colony," the very first 3D interactive game and precursor to today's "first-person shooters" like Quake. He co-founded Red Storm Entertainment with Tom Clancy, and Timeline Computer Entertainment with Michael Crichton. Croquet is the culmination of his work on 3D architectures for complex peer-to-peer environments.

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Malcolm Williamson

"(I fear) commercialism, and basically anything that takes away from the ability for people to feel that they can freely and equally gain access to the internet … free and open access is what's needed to make it a social equalizer."

Malcolm Williamson is a geospatial and visualization researcher with the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas. Since 1993 he has pursued research in geo-spatial applications and development and scientific visualization. He works closely with the EAST Initiative to develop new approaches in geospatial and visualization education, leading a team that supports 10,000+ students in approximately 240 schools.

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Ethan Zuckerman

"I don't have a whole lot of fears. I don't particularly want a positive future in which we're all locked in, staring at our boxes, but … as long as it's a tool that we use in a larger, full and complicated life, I don't have a lot of worries."

Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, specializes in ICT development. His work covers telecom policy, free and open-source software, and participatory media technologies. He is a co-founder of Global Voices (www.globalvoicesonine.org), a community of citizen journalists. He works with the Open Society Institute's Information Program. He founded Geekcorps, a volunteer group that sent tech experts to work with ICT companies in the developing world. He is also the former CTO of Tripod.com.

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