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One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Esther Dyson 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 Randy Farmer Jerry Paffendorf
Betsy Book Guy Garnett Marty Poulin
Corey Bridges Will Harvey Robert Scoble
Iveta Brigis Daniel James John Smart
Jamais Cascio Raph Koster David Smith
Helen Cheng Mike Liebhold Sibley Verbeck
Esther Dyson Julian Lombardi Malcolm Williamson
Doug Engelbart Bob Moore Ethan Zuckerman

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

Dyson HeadshotEsther 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.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? You have to put that in context. I have fervent hopes for the future of humanity, but not for networked technologies in particular. I really think the question is what humanity wants to do for itself, and then networked technologies can be very useful in doing those things.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? Again I think the issue is people misusing technology, but I think 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.

What will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? The thing that’s going to influence most people’s lives is communication technology one way or another. Whether it’s the internet or cell phones, their ability to stay in touch with the people they want to stay in touch with. And they’re going to have to learn to filter stuff out rather than define things.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? I think the big thing that’s happening is the rollout of the internet – which started a long time ago – is going to continue, with cell phones, to places where people don’t and won’t have computers for quite a while. There’s not something new coming along that’s not seen now. It’s a continuation and a much broader uptake of basically the internet through computers and cell phones. The other big thing that’s going to make a difference is that a lot more things are going to be part of the internet – they’re going to be hooked in, they’ll have sensors. The internet was originally this thing apart that had no knowledge of the real world and now the internet is going to be much more connected to actual things happening. The real shift is a change in the balance of power that’s created by individuals’ ability to know stuff and to tell other people, and that really erodes the power of big institutions – whether it’s big media, big government, big business – and it gives each individual more power, not that much more power over other people but at least more power over their own lives.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? Stay out of it. Focus on good education for people.

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