Elon University

One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Jerry Paffendorf 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 AgabraRandy FarmerJerry Paffendorf
Betsy BookGuy GarnettMarty Poulin
Corey BridgesWill HarveyRobert Scoble
Iveta BrigisDaniel JamesJohn Smart
Jamais CascioRaph KosterDavid Smith
Helen ChengMike LiebholdSibley Verbeck
Esther DysonJulian LombardiMalcolm Williamson
Doug EngelbartBob MooreEthan Zuckerman

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

Paffendorf HeadshotJerry Paffendorf is research director for the Acceleration Studies Foundation. Forward-looking writer, consultant, and project designer. Research interests include digital worlds, reality video games, the metaverse, mirror worlds, public authorship, searchable cities, and the emergence of mapspace.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? I’m still bullish on Google Earth stuff. I love the book David Gelernter wrote in the ’90s called “Mirror Worlds.” He has this idea of “topsight” in there – that the world’s just way to complex for us to understand through textual information or vocal – people talking to each other about stuff. We need ways to visualize the systems of the world, how they interact. Really the only way to do that is to have these living, digital maps of the planet. I think we’re going to find out an awful lot about ourselves and the way the world really works and we can track changes in the world visually, see where the information is coming from, where people are going, how changes in one place affect changes in another. I think that kind of added transparency that comes from being able to see and search geographically and over time and to record our history (is important). Extending off that idea, a lifelog – our lives are going to become more recorded … Your whole life (will be) tracked and Googleable and you can see what you do over time … Increased personal and spatial transparency is going to be a big thing for people … Democracy can be such guesswork. Things are global now. It’s so hard to tell what the impacts of a thing are when you actually do it if you don’t have a way to actually trace its effects … we can’t be very empirical about our choices until we can visualize their impacts. Lifelogs and a more transparent planet through advanced Google Earth-style technology.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? In the virtual world space I think a lot about three-dimensional cameras, scanners. I don’t know a lot about them, but the ability to point a camera at something and paint that scene in three dimensions … You imagine taking a photograph of something and instead of just having a picture you actually have a technology that can infer distances, and imagine taking a photograph and then few seconds later turning that into a gamespace, so you can walk around in it and navigate in it. Right now they have a model if you want to recreate the world in a virtual world, the builder needs to stretch out these rectangular, rectilinear shapes to recreate the way something looks. It’s a very time-consuming process. I imagine that will continue for a long while, but the ability to literally point a camera or a device at a scene, sweep it across and paint that entire thing in three dimensions is something that we’re not even thinking about right now but 10 years from now people will be excited about that idea. Really easy ways to virtualize the world really quickly.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? Looking at this from the perspective of Google Earth – or a transparent map of the planet where we have good satellite imagery and we can kind of turn the planet Earth into a virtual world – I think that’s probably an important international policy thing. I know some people are kind of hesitant, some countries are kind of reacting against Google for having photographs of potentially sensitive things that are visible from outer space, but I see right now that – as far as virtual worlds and metaverse stuff goes – one of the most immediately useful things to people or one of the most significant things that will have an impact on the way we view and navigate and understand the world will be this mirror-world element, where we track the real world geographically correct in real time. (We need to) make sure that countries are willing to collaborate to kind of share information across borders … It’s a really deep policy thing that I don’t fully understand all of the issues around, but I think that it’s really important that people have access to view what’s actually happening on the planet spatially.

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