Looking Toward the Future

The digital age has brought about revolutionary changes in communications within a relatively short time period. In fact, it is important to remember how recent many of these developments are. For example, although BBSs have been popular since the 1980's, they have only gained true international exposure within the past few years as a result of Internet access. Before that time long-distance charges made the format an unrealistic outlet for many potential participants.(Internet, p. 2-4)

The rapid self-accelerating pace of technology makes predictions for the future very difficult.(Brand, p.12) However, it is necessary to look ahead as we enter the next century. This challenge to turn our gaze forward is exacerbated not only by our lack of knowledge about the future, but also by our tendency to view the future in relation to the past. (Cogan, p.243)

"The online world is far more than the sum of its cybernetic parts. It's a real place. What was once the domain of hackers, geeks, and an odd assortment of other computer enthusiasts is now a mainstream and perhaps common gathering place for ordinary people throughout the world...To those who venture these electronic roads it is a place as real as the local tavern or the neighborhood grocery store. It is all of those places we see every day and far more: a realm defined by the imagination of its creators that need not be constrained by the laws of the physical world. It is a vast Interbahn where the speed of travel is so instantaneous that distance is not even measured or considered-all places are virtually equidistant. Scattered through this landscape are shopping malls and department stores, libraries and universities, galleries and museums. There are also parks and playgrounds, video arcades and carnivals, bars and private clubs. Everything and anything that exists in our physical world has a replica in cyberspace, and every place, from the largest government metroplex to the seediest back-alley strip joint, is right next door." (Internet, p.2)

So grab a cup of coffee, and join your favorite discussion group...in your living room.

real man and virtual man having coffee

This graphic was designed by The Computer Graphics Lab (LIG) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. LIG is a world-leader lab in real-time virtual humans.

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