Elon University

One of 24 Metaverse Summit question-answer sets: David Smith 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

Smith HeadshotDavid Smith, the principal architect currently developing Open Croquet, is also CTO, for 3Dsolve. He’s been focused for 20 years on interactive 3D and using 3D as a basis for new user environments and entertainment. He created “The Colony,” the very first 3D interactive game and precursor to today’s “first-person shooters” like Quake. He co-founded Red Storm Entertainment with Tom Clancy, and Timeline Computer Entertainment with Michael Crichton. Croquet is the culmination of his work on 3D architectures for complex peer-to-peer environments.

What is your greatest fear for the future of networked technologies? I don’t have any particular fears per se. There’s the standard fear that in the future everyone will be given a button they can press that will destroy the world – everyone will have their own. That’s probably not too far from the truth as these things that we are doing, these things that we are creating are extraordinarily powerful. Biotech, computer technologies, personal nukes – it’s all happening. It’s all going to be available. I actually think that as we mature socially … once we sort of balance the scales a bit, these risks will be mitigated to a large degree.

What technology will have the greatest impact on our everyday lives the next 10 years? Massive collaboration, and not just centralized but very decentralized collaboration using various media types we haven’t even imagined yet. Right now we have very narrow bandwidth between users, between people. The scope of that bandwidth is going to grow dramatically to be an absolutely huge amount of information being exchanged between users dynamically as part of their everyday life. In fact, you’ll never not be connected. It’s sort of like having your cell phone always connected to all of your friends all the time … Imaging that’s much bigger and its always there so I’m always in touch with the 10 most important people to me at any given instance – it’s not like I have to do anything, they’re just there as part of the clothing I wear.

What do you think policymakers should do to ensure a positive future for networked technologies? Clearly the net got to where it was because of its total openness and because it really is a dumb network with intelligent edges. That was the whole idea around it when it was created – it wasn’t an accident. And the scalability it has had and will continue to have is a direct result of those early decisions. It’s a system that is very hard to break – basically impossible to break. It’s a system that continues to evolve in really interesting and valuable ways and it’s precisely because of a lack of control and oversight that that’s been achieved. By trying to control it, by trying to direct it, they’ll basically be killing the system that’s probably responsible for the greatest source of innovation in the last 20 years.

Looking out more than 10 years, what development will have the greatest impact on society? Obviously, the biotech revolution – we’re just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg on that one. That will permeate everything in ways that we can’t even imagine at this point. Computer technologies, I think, in particular the technologies that allow for rich, deep collaboration are really interesting. Re-imagining the computer as a communication device – which is happening right now. Cell phones are computers that are used for communication – unfortunately those two pieces of the cell phone are sort of independent; they don’t really work together really well; but once they do, I think that’s going to be a sort of interesting revolution in its own right. So fostering communication and collaboration with computers is a central task, central aspect of transformation in the future.

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