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One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: Robert Scoble 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

Scoble HeadshotRobert 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.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? The usual fears were, “My ideas are going to be used against me.” So you’re already – online you go through a self-censoring process because you know it’s going to end up on search engines like Google and MSN and Yahoo. So you don’t share. If you’re doing anything weird or different from society, you’re very careful about sharing that because it’s so easy now for technology to find the people who stand out. The people who say they’re using drugs – hey, do a search, who’s saying they’re using dope today, find their IP address and find their address and let’s go raid their house. So 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. They pick on the weird ones and the guys who are out there advocating for change. When powerful people don’t like to see change in a society, they use tools to find them and stop that kind of advocacy.

What is your most fervent hope for the future of networked technologies? I hope that people can connect with each other in new ways and get over their differences, get over the social differences that are out there. My wife is Iranian, and their society believes different things from my society here. The only way we’re ever going to bridge that in a peaceful way is to connect with each other and find some common ground where we can discuss things openly in a transparent way. Otherwise we’re just going to resort to what we’re doing in Iraq – shooting each other, and that’s not the kind of future I want for my son.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when people are putting things inside their skin. I met a guy at a conference last week who has RFID tags in his hands. That seems very bizarre behavior today … Now he can go up to his car and unlock his car with his hand. He doesn’t have to look for his keys or look for a badge or anything like that. Now what other kinds of experiences could he build in his house so as he’s walking through his kitchen and his kitchen could sense he’s there and he’s different from his wife and from his kid. And his wife and his kid could have separate RFID tags and identities … Just having RFID chips like that on us or in us and what’s that going allow us to do. Or you can go further I read Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near.” He thinks that people are going to further augment their bodies with wearable devices and also implantable devices that actually do something for us. At the Pop Tech conference last year there was a guy who had no arms … doctors have now built him prosthetics that hook into his nerves and his muscles so he can open a mechanical hand and he can feel things, grasp things … If you can do that already today, what can you do tomorrow to augment the physical behaviors of human beings? Can you make a brain surgeon even more steady? …I can’t predict where that’s going. You can paint a general picture when you think about the future. You know things are going to come, but you don’t know the exact implementation, you don’t know how it’s going to be implemented and you don’t know if it’s going to be low enough cost to go mass-market. Another one is robotics. Look at the Sony and Honda robotic guys that today cost $150,000 to $300,000 to build, but just do fantastic things. They can walk, run, hold things, walk up stairs, dance, move, behave (like a) humanoid. Where is that going – what will that mean to society? I don’t know. It’s going to be a fascinating thing to watch in the next 15 years.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? Keep as few rules on (the internet) as possible, because rules impede commerce, impede exploration, impede human ideas. The network, really for me is a way to share ideas, and argue ideas, and discuss ideas, and image ideas. In Second Life (the synthetic, multiperson, online world) I can build a world and my world might be different from the world you are comfortable living in, and if you try to put rules on my world, that will impede my exploration of what the future might be.

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