Elon University

One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Mike Liebhold 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

Liebhold HeadshotMike 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.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? There are dual fears. On one side, there’s 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.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? I am looking forward to a world where digital data is layered across the physical world, so that every object, every place, every thing will have all of its information and associated media available in place as we move through the world. The static internet has done wonders for providing a library for humanity; it’s now time to build a digital atlas for humanity, so wherever we are we can have detailed information about that place and then later on that can be used as a platform to build new proactive contextual computing.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? In my field I really think about pervasive information available with mobile devices, but you can’t underestimate the impact of nanomaterials – programmable nanomaterials are also going to have a huge impact. (These are) molecules that can be operated under computer instruction, so that the molecules can behave just like software elements, so you can program matter to assemble itself in different forms at a molecular level. Dramatic new materials for every imaginable application – the integration of human intelligence with programmable matter could mean abundant power, cheap solar power, clean-filtered drinking water, durable materials and lighter materials, light-scale infrastructure that can be deployed easily a renovation of our cities. That’s on the materials side. It has powerful medical applications. Custom pharmaceuticals can be made on the spot.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? The first is to invest heavily in education – to really continue the innovation online and in digital technologies and digital medium to get really gifted, talented, and creative people. The U.S. is falling way behind on developing the talent it’s going to take to continue innovating on the network. The other thing is as much as possible Congress and the FCC and everyone should preserve network neutrality to let an open-ecosystem of services develop, and to avoid consolidating power vertically. Really, essentially the network operators are moving up into the service area and constricting the ability to provide open, new, creative, entrepreneurial network services.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? In about 10 years we’re going to have massive computer resources available to everyone. The shortage of computing cycles is going to diminish. It’s not only an improvement in microscale computing but the emergence of nanoscale computing, biological computing, and the development of something I call metacomputer – that’s really network computers like the SETI@home screensaver or the Google grid. It’s also called cluster computing, grid computing – where all the computing on the network is harnessed to single tasks. All of this computing power is going to require a new kind of computer programming – parallel, concurrent, multithreaded programming – and we don’t have the skills and I think it’s going to take us about 10 years to master the programming and development skills to utilize the enormous computing power that we’re going to have available.

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