By Charles Moffat - May 8th 2006.
1.01: Rrevised on December 11th 2006 to include more information about YouTube.
1.02: Revised on November 5th 2010 to include more information about Search Engine Optimization.
Cyberspacology is the theory/practice of studying the internet (aka cyberspace) and predicting what will happen next. Some people call this "Net Philosophy" or "Digital Philosophy", but those terms are sometimes used to mean something else hence I needed to coin a new term to more precisely explain its meaning without getting it confused with other theories/philosophies. Much of Cyberspacology has already been discussed by fiction writer William Gibson, the author of "Neuromancer".
The origins of the internet are quite simple: A group of scientists wanted to test out ways to communicate with one another via computers. Pretty soon the American military started using the internet to send large amounts of information back and forth and to patch that information into their satellites so that they could create an information network. Soon financial institutions got in on the idea and credit cards, ATM machines, Interac bank cards, digitally transfering funds became popular. It was only a matter of time before common people started using the internet through home computers to do so much more.
If you're reading this, you're probably already aware that much of this and a lot more. In our time we have witnessed the rise of the computer, from the lowly Apple Computer, the Commodore 64, the old UNISYS Icon computers of the 1980s, the 286, the 386, the 486, the first Pentium, Pentium II, Pentium III Pentium IV. Lest we skip over it, lets not forget the first Nintendo, the Sega Genesis System, Nintendo GameBoy, the Super Nintendo, the Playstation, Nintendo 64 Game Cube, Playstation II, the PSP and the Nintendo Wii.
The first computer in my family was the Commodore 64. It was so long ago I barely remember it. I also remember my mother buying a computerized typewriter that you could save your resume or homework assignments on it (it would print them out by typing each letter super fast).
Eventually in 1993 my parents got a IBM compatible 486 running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. It had 66 Mhz and the hard-drive was only 200 MB. I still have it stored away in a closet somewhere, minus some parts I salvaged from it when I bought my own first computer in September 1999. I took the hard-drive out of the old computer and added it to my new computer so I would have extra storage space.
From 1997 to 1999 I was a webpage designer for Geocities Inc. and in the summer of 1999 Geocities Inc. was bought out by internet behemoth Yahoo, whom I have since grown to despise. Yahoo Inc. laid myself and thousands of others off around Christmas time in 1999 (hence why they are so despicable). Some argue Yahoo's layoffs sparked the internet bust of 2000 when the internet stock market crashed horribly. I'm not sure if that is true.
1999 was also the beginning of Napster's popularity, a movement which revolutionized the music and computer industry and would later give birth to the movie and data-sharing technology we all use today. The concept of Napster was simple: Download a mp3 musical file in roughly 5 minutes and listen to it on your computer speakers whenever you want.
Unlike a conventional music store where you are basically buying a CD based on its cover art, downloading mp3s allowed you to sample the music as much as you want (much like free music on the radio but without the censorship and the commercials) and then you had the choice as to whether you wanted to go out and buy the CD. I went through a stage where I downloaded hundreds of Ani DiFranco mp3s and Kinnie Starr mp3s and later went out and bought the CDs.
In the case of Kinnie Starr it was first time I had ever used my credit card online. I ordered two CDs and a Kinnie Starr t-shirt (which is now one of my favourite t-shirts of all time). When people ask why I like feminism so much I like to joke that I was tied down by feminists and forced to listen Ani DiFranco and Kinnie Starr for 4 years.
So for me Napster was a life-changing technology. It allowed me to sample music from musicians I had never heard of and that music played a major role in 4 years of my life. I still listen to it sometimes, but I've moved on.
The next stage of the internet was not so surprising. People wanted to share other things than just music and thus a variety of data-sharing peer-to-peer programs were born. While Napster was shutdown due to copyright infringement lawsuits other alternatives popped up like wildfire (and continue to be created).
The current popular program of choice is LimeWire, which allows people to share ANY kind of file they choose to share, whether its music, movie, a book or an image. Not surprisingly a lot of the files are porn and usually riddled with advertisements selling viagra, larger genitals and Chinese/Russian mail-order brides. LimeWire itself doesn't have ads in it (unlike some other programs trying to turn a profit by having ads in the corner of the program), but people sharing files on the network have added the advertisements as part of their own little scheme to get people to download their ads.
And its probably works because "sex sells".
Since 1995 the internet has become a haven for pornography and also an oasis for people seeking out sex/love (who are presumably tired of the so-called "bar scene"). Its also become a network for criminals and pedophiles. Despite government crackdowns on "kiddie porn" the internet continues to be a thriving network for pedophiles (who are getting smarter about hiding their IP address, usually via a wireless connection and a laptop).
As more and more cities across the globe add wireless networks its going to become increasingly impossible to track criminals who hide their IP addresses. The stupid ones will still get caught, but what about the wise criminals who successfully manage to hide their identity and continue to proliferate child porn?
Governments and police organizations can't screen everything people see and do online, its simply too much data to process, and as I've mentioned above its becoming much more difficult to track the location of these (potential) child rapists. So what can they do?
They can start by posing as children and luring child stalkers in for a sting. Undercover cybercops posing as children online (with photoshopped pictures of supposedly real children) will become a thing of the future. By luring the child rapists into meetings they can begin the process of weeding out pedophiles from the common populace.
But what to do with them once they've been caught? How many years will they be in prison before they are released and ready to roam the streets and the internet in search of new prey?
The internet has a host of unmonitored chatrooms wherein children and adults can converse without really knowing who they are talking to. They could be talking to someone similar to Paul Bernardo or Karla Homolka (a husband and wife team who raped teen girls, videotaped the rapes intending to sell it online and chopped up the dead girls body).
Art imitates life, or so they say. Well the internet imitates life too. Paul Bernardo is our modern equivalent of Jack the Ripper, but thankfully he never got around to posting those movies online. But other people have done similar things and have never been caught.
Beyond rape violence on the internet there is also a new phenomenon: Snuff films. Videos of people killing themselves or killing others. Sometimes torturing them first.
Since 2005 cellphones with video cameras and digital cameras have become commonplace. So common place that when the US military was in charge of prisoners in Iraq they managed to take photos and videos of the soldiers torturing the prisoners. To my knowledge no snuff videos from Iraq have surfaced yet, but its really only a matter of time.
There is a famous video circulating online of a supposed Russian or Serbian soldier having his throat cut with a knife and then bleeding to death. Its unknown whether its real snuff or fake snuff, but it looks incredibly real.
The boundary between what we see online or on television and what we see in real life has become very blurry (partially due to Hollywood special effects) and confusing. Even when we see real events on television or online we have to stop and go "Is that real? I can't believe it!"
This disbelief factor has come up several times in recent years. On September 11th the world stopped and held its breath as the world trade centre buildings in New York city were crashed into by commercial airliners and then tumbled straight down as if by controlled blast implosions (usually used to demolish large buildings and takes weeks to plan).
Since then many people have stopped to question just how unreal the collapse of the WTC was. It looked staged and it reminded people of Hollywood special effects. Videos of the collapse quickly became available online and are heavily downloaded from a variety of movie-sharing networks.
Which eventually included YouTube.
YouTube is the newest internet venture and its starting to make the television industry angry as people more and more are going to YouTube to see what is popular and interesting and funny. YouTube streams videos online so people that people watch movie clips any time they want. Sometimes whole tv shows and movies are available on YouTube, along with home made clips from people all over the globe.
Its also the centre of controversy as people/companies have been using YouTube to promote products for sale. "lonelygirl15" is one such example. For months (and still today) she was the talk of YouTube as she shared her personal life with the world using just a webcam and some spunk. But then it came out she was actually an actress hired to promote a product, and then the uproar began.
This is just the beginning of the internet. Its been around a very short amount of time and it will constantly evolve over the next many years (and it will doubtlessly be around a very long time).
Let me start by making some predictions. Some of these predictions won't just be about the internet, but will overlap into other industries such as cellphones and television as well.
#1. The technology we use will dramatically change and become more and more customizable (and easier to use). This has already started with new browsers like Firefox and Opera.
#2. Advertising will be rampant. Google and Yahoo are both weighing in as huge contenders in the race for advertising revenues. In 10 years it will be rare to find websites that DON'T have some form of advertising on it somewhere.
#3. Videos will become more and more easily accessible. YouTube has already started this, but like all things the porn industry is close behind: There is now a company called PornTube.
#4. The internet pornography industry will continue to grow and use every available technology to sell its products.
#5. Information will become more spread out. Despite attempts by Wikipedia and similar sites to create online centres for encyclopedias of knowledge the constant bickering within Wikipedia and censorship of ideas has already started people on the path towards creating their own wiki-ish sites.
#6. Social networking sites will continue to flourish, but they will add more and more features like blogging, webcasts, video-streaming, etc.
#7. Internet addiction will become a major affliction. Addicts who stay at home all the time online and refuse to go to work have already become societal problems in the United States, Canada, Britain and China.
#8. People will be able to download YouTube clips on their cellphone.
#9. People will be able to talk to one another using the speaker phone option on their cellphone and using the video camera on the cellphone to send video to the other person in real time (essentially the cellphone will become a realtime webcam/Star Trek communicator).
#10. People will be fired for posting embarassing details about their boss/company on the internet (this already happens).
#11. Sites like BoingBoing.net will track whats new and interesting, and become incredibly popular, possibly overlapping the websites of tv shows and newspapers. Why hire reporters when people post info for free?
Indeed, if we compare BoingBoing.net to the Toronto Star newspaper (thestar.com) on Alexa.com then BoingBoing is already more popular (and has been since the Summer of 2006).
#12. Game consoles like Wii (which has internet) will start to offer VOIP (Voice Over Internet Phoneline) in order to cash in on the unlimited power of internet phones.
#13. Regular phones will become obsolete. Everyone will switch to cable/VOIP phones which can send video as well as sound, and cellphones (which will also be able to do that in the future too).
#14. Laptops will be everywhere. If the MIT project to build a $100 laptop is any sign of the future it means that laptops will become incredibly affordable, very cheap, lightweight, used constantly in schools.
#15. Schools will decide to get rid of school libraries. All the students will have laptops.
#16. If a student is sick at home they will be able to watch the teacher on their laptop using video-streaming. Some universities already have this so that students can sleep in and miss the lecture and watch it later. This is also useful if someone loses their lecture notes they can just watch the lecture over again.
#17. Having business meetings via teleconferencing will become commonplace. Working at home will become more socially acceptable and frequent.
#18. Courts of Law will start video-streaming live events for the public (same goes with politics).
#19. Psychologists will argue that the internet has broken down social barriers and caused people to lose touch with reality. We've already seen this happen with Montreal goth murderer Kimveer Gill who attacked a college and killed a girl in a binge of psychotic rage and in hope of dying in a hail of bullets. He described himself online as the Angel of Death.
#20. Religion will surface its ugly face in the form of internet cults, possibly with murderous intent. At the same time Atheism will spread more readily as people learn more about other cultures and other religious and philosophical ideas. Doomsday theorists will be abundant while the "silent majority" will start attending internet addiction counseling more often than they attend church.
#21. Obesity will skyrocket as people don't get outside and exercise.
#22. More interactive ways to experience the internet (similar to Nintendo Wii) will evolve in an attempt to keep people active instead of becoming couch potatoes and internet-zombies.
#23. Online roleplaying games (RPGs) in which virtual characters socialize, solve puzzles and go on adventures will become intensely popular. Dungeons and Dragons Online, the World of Warcraft and similar games are only the beginning of what will become some of the most popular games of the 21st Century.
#24. Traditional Dungeons & Dragons (and other roleplaying games using dice) may become obsolete as people make the move towards online gaming. Why imagine things in your head when you can see it in full colour on a screen? A normal roleplaying game requires for people to sit around a table with books, paper and pencils to track things and a game master to tell the story the characters interact in. It requires more time and effort and frequently has problems with arguments over the rulebook. Online RPGs don't suffer from rulebook arguments, but will still be a huge time consumer because it is incredibly addictive.
#25. Game designers and webpage designers have the potential to make more money than movie stars. The makers of YouTube sold it to Google for $1.6 billion USD, which is more than even famous movie stars will make in their lifetime.
#26. COPYRIGHT LAWS WILL BECOME ABOLISHED. Disputes over copyright and the freeflow of information online (especially across international borders) will bring around the possibility that copyright laws will simply have to disappear on the basis of obsoletism and the lack enforcability. There will simply be so much information out there and so much "stealing" of that information on a constant basis that there will be no valid reason for keeping copyright laws. The words you write, the videos you make, the digital images you make will no longer be copywritten. Only if you make a hard copy version (like a painting or a sculpture) will you ever truly own something.
#27. The freeflow of information and technology will reach a point where even patents on new technology will become disputed as companies develop hardware simultaneously that is similar in every respect but the name on the label.
#28. The music industry and movie industry will have to learn to adapt to this new freeflow of information. Movies will be leaked online before they are in the theatres (especially thanks to different release dates in different countries). Several years ago I saw the latest Harry Potter movie on television in South Korea before it was even available in North American theatres.
#29. DVDs and Blue Ray discs will be hacked/ripped into digital format and placed online (this is already happening). The music/movie industry has tried to create software that prevents their copywritten material from being hacked, but newer ripping software can bypass the software.
#30. The pornography industry will be the first to stop selling DVDs/etc and will switch to pure internet because it is more profitable and has less overhead costs.
#31. Because there is no rating system online for determining PG (parental guidance) material major Hollywood movies will start featuring more sexual themes and become more like softcore porn in order to compete with hardcore pornography but still have a sense of plot and good storytelling. The hardcore porn industry may also try more serious acting and storytelling in order to become more competitive.
#32. Internet behaviour will start to effect people in "real life". People will get into shouting matches as if they were flaming each other on a forum, people will stalk internet enemies (and even murder them), online matchmaking will become commonplace (along with online cheating/adultery) and a host of other internet problems (hatemail, spam, etc.) will take a major toll on people's regular lives.
#33. Writers will stop making books and will instead show their written work online for profit. The internet "novel" with new chapters added regularly (to keep people coming back for more) will set the new standard for the written word.
#34. Artists won't need to sell their artwork to make money. They can show it online for profit and also show it in movies, television shows and YouTube clips. They can make coffee cups and t-shirts with websites like CafePress and turn a profit with very little work. The kind of art that ends up in art galleries will be those that are of historical importance and controversy.
#35. Poets will be able to sell their poems on t-shirts, starting a new fad (this is my idea, I have yet to see it done) of selling poetic t-shirts. We've all seen those teenage girls with slogans on their shirts like "bitch", "slut" and "sex-crazed maniac", but I predict people will want to see something more insightful and poetic on t-shirts, giving people pause to stop and read the whole poem. The really popular poetic shirts will be huge money-makers. I could even see people having essays, newspaper articles and excerpts from their favourite books printed on t-shirts.
#36. Internet fads will drive culture and counter-culture, resulting in whole factories pumping out the latest fad or internet-inspired fashion trend.
#37. Japan is currently experimenting with making t-shirts and jackets with flexible TV screens on them and a portable DVD player in the pocket. Of course it will be expensive, but its also a great way to advertise a product. I won't be surprised to see people walking around with TV screens advertising a product sometime in the next 10 or 20 years.
#38. As internet technology grows the science of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) will expand as learning programs become more complex and diverse. AI will be designed for a broad range of functions, possibly virtual people with synthetic personalities that learn. However, I would like to point out that AI technology will eventually hit a brick wall due to hardware.
A conventional computer hard-drive and processor chip is a linear system. The human brain is three-dimensional and has millions of brain cells, and each brain cell is effectively a tiny hard-drive AND a processor. In order for the hardware to compete and truly develop the first "Philosopher AI" then the hardware will have to be designed in a non-linear system in which millions of tiny processors/hard-drives work together to formulate thought. With nano-technlogy this will be possible to build on a relatively small scale, but the software design of such a structure wouldn't even be able to begin until the hardware was completely designed.
The applications of AI (or even simply learning programs) on the internet however could be used for search programs, matchmaking, tracking pedophiles/illegal activity, catching hackers, monitoring chatrooms for abusive conduct and translating languages (we may yet develop an universal translator).
#39. Webpage design and basic programming will become mandatory in high schools and possibly even primary school. New and easy to understand design languages will be made so that regular people can learn how to create/modify their own programs.
#40. Our homes will become wired so that we can control the functions of our house (Oops, I left the stove on!) from a computer or a cellphone. We will be able to turn off/on appliances, warm the place up, turn on the air conditioner, change the light settings, program the TV (unless they're obsolete by then), etc. There is already a system online that you can buy that allows you to feed your pets and play ball with them over the internet using a robotic feeding tool that can toss small rubber balls.
#41. Businesses will focus more on online advertising in the future as television (and TV advertising) becomes obsolete.
#42. Online advertising will be a mixture of dynamic advertising (meaning you can play with it) and advertising which is content based, found within blogs, articles and reviews.
#43. Competitive businesses will focus on SEO / Search Engine Optimization (they're already doing this) and the SEO business will become more lucrative than conventional/traditional advertising.
#44. Advertising agency will have to expand into the SEO business just to stay competitive. Eventually their traditional models of advertising will be dwarfed by online advertising programs.
#45. Popular websites will make people famous, but more so it will enable them with enough advertising money that they can either live a life of luxury, or retire early.
#46. SEO is a process that requires a lot of patience. Its not for people who want instant gratification. Therefore companies will have to seek out SEO experts (preferably local experts because SEO works best on a local scale) who can do their SEO work for them and do it properly.
#47. SEM / Search Engine Marketing on programs like Google AdWords will eventually dwarf traditional advertising methodology because its more cost effective to only advertise to people who will actually buy your product or service (even if they don't buy it online).
#48. SEO however will always be superior to SEM because of simple mathematics. According to studies 45 to 65% of people click on the first link at the top of a search ranking. In contrast only 8% click on the first SEM advertisement. This means SEO is infinitely superior and unlike SEM has no daily budget.
#49. Eventually entrepreneuring young website designers will be websites run on databases which combine user-generated content with advertising, which share advertising revenues with both the users who create the content and the website's owner.
#50. Websites which review products will allow users to review products and services from a vast array of topics on a local playing field, allowing people to post their own products and services on an ever growing marketplace which is subject to the quality of their product/service and the reviews that they get.
As human knowledge expands so will the internet. It already contains a vast array of knowledge and truth (but not necessarily fact) which will continue to grow exponentially. The internet may eventually become completely wireless communication with computer chips attached to our brains which allows us to communicate non-verbally with our brains being the hard-drives. Difficult to imagine? Cyborgian Theory is a separate topic, but please consider this: If you can't live without your cellphone doesn't that make you a cyborg?