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One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Randy Farmer shares his 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

Farmer Headshot 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°.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? My biggest fear is that the human equation will be lost in the technological discussion. That sometimes it’s easier to talk about the technical problems because they seem to be solvable, and then the human problems, the political problems get swept under the rug.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? What I have dedicated my career to, and that is the improvement of relationships between men. I see the current computing environment – internet being a really good example – is a great way to facilitate communications between people: to resolve issues, to perform commerce, and to generally do good works.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? When computing becomes a part of your everyday interaction. When your cell phone device becomes more PDAish and now you have access to everything… There are so many interesting challenges … technology is out-advancing policy changes, and I expect that to continue. People are trying to catch up … There are now signs on store counters saying “no cell phone conversations” and what they’re talking about is when people walk up to buy something we have to retrain people that it is rude to the person trying to take your cash is that it’s rude. I think the biggest changes that are coming are SOCIAL as a result of technology, because we all have information with us and not just communications.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? (We need) a revision to the intellectual property code. In the United States specifically there have been ongoing extensions to copyright which have made it really difficult for people to remix things that have in effect dropped from the public domain. So I’d urge them to go to EFF.org and read (Lawrence) Lessig’s papers on the issues associated with that. And likewise software patent reform. The current regime will discourage the creation of software to advance human causes.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? The ubiquitous distribution of technology in the West and in some places in the East like Taiwan and Japan. Technology has really rapidly deployed – mobile technology, specifically. America is actually behind some Asian countries in technological deployment, but there are lots of countries and lots of areas where they’re much further behind. Rich communications tools specifically, like cell phones in broad deployment, could have a fundamental effect on improving freedom across the world.

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