The astonishing advent of the internet is still in full expansion mode. It was reported today by BBC News that transfer speeds of 23 Terabytes per second have now been achieved in the lab. That is reported to be sufficient to transfer the entire Library of Congress in ten seconds. Laying the fiber network which carries our present internet was expensive, but the fibers are now in place and the data flowing through them can be speeded up. Of course this access is still limited, but most of this fiber network has been laid in the last ten years and now goes to all major populated areas. In the not distant future, say another ten years, the fiber will even go to most of the small towns throughout the world. With the proven past record of internet usage it should be relatively easy to secure the funding for the required upgrades. Those wonderful technical improvements combined with public access wifi-like transmitters attached to the terminals of these networks will in the not distant future give ready access to much of what we now value and soon it will be much, much more – everywhere.
I wrote a couple of years ago, that everything that can be digitized will be digitized, and everything that can be digitized will find itself onto the internet, and everything on the internet will eventually be free to access and therefore worthless. Thus, it would appear that most of what we presently value in the world will soon be free. Much of it already is, such as Google Books, which currently has free access to most out-of-copyright materials. The end user won’t even need a particularly powerful computer to receive all of this plenty, because most of the desired material will be pre-computed even before it is transmitted. All that will be needed will be the screen, the sound outputs, some minimal electronics to make those few things work and some modest amount of electrical power. With some ambient light screens the power consumption is already minuscule, as is seen with the Kindle. Even a current small laptop consumes little power and can be operated and recharged with a portable solar cell, and that may be more power than is going to be needed for full access. Probably, future devices will retain a lot of computing power by today’s standards simply because it will be so cheap to include the chips.
The house of the future will shrink in physical size because there will be no need for the space. Who needs a library with books when everything is online? What need is there for a large kitchen when most complex food is already prepared at the deli, or simply mass-produced ready to microwave? Who needs a huge living room when they never have guests visiting? Why have extra bedrooms when each family has few children? Why have a garage with a car and full of repair tools when the cars rarely break down and when they require special diagnostic tools to even know what needs to be done? Besides, fewer people need a car, when most people are moving into cities and don’t need to actually possess a car or much of anything as personal property, because their needs are taken care of by the city.
Will a warm place with a comfortable bed and chair and super speed internet connection make nearly everything else we presently own into useless junk? I must admit, having just moved to a new house, that almost everything I own is worthless, in this new reality, and that I have large flocks of albatrosses smothering me. Run away!
There is the possibility of travel and it can’t be digitized. I took a month-long Euro-rail trip with my spouse throughout Europe living totally on a modest sized backpack each and a credit card. That proved to me that it is possible to have a fine time with very little physical personal baggage, and simply shift all those things onto society at large. But, travel is terrible for the ecology of the world, because it consumes so very much limited one-time-use natural resources like oil. The travel industry is probably a short-lived phenomenon of our fabulously oil-rich society and travel will soon be done electronically. My post World Heritage Sites by country with links is the path to the future of travel. With it you can travel to a thousand of the most tourist valued places on Earth and for no travel expenses or ecological impact whatsoever.
Over the coming few years much of our current physical society will be transferred into being a totally digital one. Much of this transition has already occurred, and we are still in mid-flow of that transition, but those individuals who figure a way to make all of the energy-consuming physical parts of our reality into digital ones will become the new heroes.
Think of how to digitize everything you do, and market it, and become rich.