Re-engineering the Internet Gene Pool: Chapter Two

By 1stFive Archives
Cover image for  article: Re-engineering the Internet Gene Pool: Chapter Two

The Internet itself is more than an invention or innovation; it is a transformational catalyst that is differentiating the 21st century from all of history before it.

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The Internet itself is more than an invention or innovation; it is a transformational catalyst that is differentiating the 21st century from all of history before it.

The advances we are experiencing within our lifetimes border on incomprehensible for many of us. But for Internet Pioneers (born 1991-1995 and the first generation to grow up with the Internet), they are expected. On the near-term horizon are ubiquitous WiFi…cloud storage with unlimited memory…4G and Ultra-5G connectivity with exponentially increased Internet speed… mobile devices that are elegant extensions of home communications centers…organization of content from millions of sources into personalized and curated resource centers...collaboration, communication and even voting through social networks… handheld remote controls and keyboards replaced by motion and voice detection…wireless global communications and instant translation that further disrupt traditional boundaries and bring the world together into new social and political systems…chips literally being embedded in our bodies for control, monitoring, tracking and communications…our brains learning to discern, process and communicate digital signals…our bodies becoming our own personal energy sources…medical advances that could extend the lives of many for decades. The list of technological advances that are already developed or in development could go on and on. Technological advances are a day-to-day reality with which Internet Pioneers have grown up and which they have come not only to expect, but to rely on.

"Today, we anticipate continuous technical progress and the social repercussions that follow. But the future will be far more surprising than most people realize, because few observers have truly internalized the implications that the rate of change itself is accelerating."

Ray Kurzweil, Inventor

We're living in the midst of a transformational period comparable to the development of the Industrial Age in the mid-to-late 1800s and early 1900s. The impact of the Internet is as transformational as that of the wheel, sea navigation, the printing press, the steam engine, electricity and the automobile.

Transformational periods share a common pattern. They begin with a single break-through invention or technological advance––such as electricity and the Internet––which then leads to a period of massive innovation. This period of massive innovation has two stages: the first being a stage of jaw-dropping invention, disruption and evaluation; and the second stage being a period of application, implementation, advancement, infrastructure development, and monetization.

We saw explosive technological inventions in the first stage of the Internet Transformation between 1993 and 2010. The introduction of the iPad in 2009 marks the beginning of a transition into this second stage: application. Internet-based "apps" are in the early stages of contributing to the arts, business, education, science, social rights and families as well as to every other aspect of society you can imagine. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of the application of Internet-based technology.

As we move further into the application stage of the Internet Transformation, get ready for innovation to shift into high gear. Internet-based businesses have been advancing at high speed for the past two decades, but the rate of advance can and will accelerate. The advances and applications coming soon will far transcend those we have witnessed to date.

Because Internet Pioneers are the first generation to reach college age having grown up with the Internet, they are the key influencers and implementers of this shift.

As they gain influence and power over the next two decades, Internet Pioneers will become the most important contributors to the Internet gene pool. Internet Pioneers will be prepared and experienced to exploit the cloud, social networking, mobility and super-fast connectivity. They will innovate at ever-increasing speed––giving the marketplace a heavy and sustained course of steroids.

Internet Pioneers are the first generation whose full adult lives and careers will exist in a world of cloud networks with unlimited storage. Medicine and biological computing will be dramatically impacted, as human bodies will be wirelessly connected to networks via chips and implants embedded in their bodies, just as pacemakers are already connected through phone lines and WiFi. Communications, already instant and global, will foster new societal structures built not around geographic borders, but around cultural, religious, ethnic, political, social and educational patterns and preferences.

Education will transcend the classroom as the fundamental concept and context of education is radically restructured to an Internet-based curriculum. The typical printed newspaper page will be relegated to museums and libraries within just a few decades. Virtual real-time travel will make science fiction time-and-space-travel a cyber-reality. News, information and entertainment dissemination will be progressively more responsive to individual demands for anywhere, anytime, anyway. The automobile is already well on its way to becoming a computer on wheels. Soon all cars will have fully embedded Internet and mobile connectivity, giving the driver and each individual passenger independent online access and a complete communications, information and entertainment center.

Most of these advances will become a reality not only in the lifetimes of Internet Pioneers, but also within the lifetimes of many of their analog predecessors. To pre-Internet generations, the Internet is life-altering as it sweeps away businesses and business models, lifestyles and societal norms. Internet Pioneers view these advances as a normal progression, consistent with all they have experienced throughout their lives. They are prepared and preparing to ride the wave.

Sky Dayton, who founded EarthLink at the age of 23, believes "It's not content that's at the core of new media; it's communications. Being connected to a network of friends is the killer app." Mobile phones and tablets are being used for video conferences, school classrooms, for downloading and watching satellite television, blogging, taking and uploading photos, storing and listening to music, as charge cards, and most importantly for social connectivity with defined and discreet groups of friends, colleagues and family… and with the world.

Internet-connected mobile devices are enabling users to access the Internet every waking (and even some sleeping) moment of their lives. The Internet is and will continue to be integral to the functioning of social media and mobility. It is at the core of almost every aspect of society we can imagine in the future, and mobility is accelerating its role and relevance. There are nearly six billion mobile phone subscriptions among the seven billion people currently on earth. For nearly four billion of these people, their current mobile phones are the first they've owned. Their phones are changing their lives and collapsing the concept that communication is restricted by time, location or economic status.

Mobile connectedness is not just enabling instant global communications.

"Mobile fragments everything. Instead of destination websites with curated content, the Internet is overloaded with distinct pieces of individual content that don't live anywhere––updates, photos, comments, check-ins––floating around in cyberspace. Mobile enables the creation of far more of these random comments, photos, etc. There is a crazy amount of information and content being created every minute and this content is being aggregated in millions of different ways."

Paul Adams, Social Media Guru

Content is just particles of communications to be discovered and shared, and what you discover and share will help define who you are and what you're interested in having others share with you. Today hundreds of companies are developing programs to help individuals and organizations in recognizing, curating, storing and sharing the millions of fractional pieces of content that are floating in cyberspace.

Thousands of venture- and equity-funded companies are introducing––literally every day––new tools, programs, services, content, offers, and opportunities across a spectrum of Internet-based businesses. This economic ecosystem is the first ever that is consumer-led. The autocratic and often monopolistic rule that governments, corporations and institutions have had on society and economies throughout history is collapsing. The Internet is proving to be far more powerful.

Innovation and connectivity are advancing at accelerated rates, transforming almost every aspect of relationships, society, culture, business, politics, and global economics. We are building a completely new economic ecosystem on top of the economic system developed over the past 150 years of Industrial Age expansion.

Futurist David Houle, author of The Shift Age, believes that civilization will experience as much change in the next decade as was experienced in the thousand years from the year 1000 to the beginning of the new millennium in 2000. Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity is Near,believes "Because we're doubling the rate of progress every decade, we'll see the equivalent of a century of progress––at today's rate––in only 25 calendar years." But Kurzweil also points out that the rate of change is accelerating, arguing that we could see the equivalent of the past 100 years of change in the next decade.

Although the small generation of Internet Pioneers is just beginning to come to terms with its own importance, it is the generation that will lead us into this future. Because Internet Pioneers are spearheading the transformational period that is redefining the way we live, it is vital to understand what drives the members of this generation. Their attitudes, hopes, fears and actions are setting the agenda for the future.

Next Week: The Internet Native Psyche

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