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Cyberspace in the 21st Century: Part Two, Cyberspace and Twelve Monkeys
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Cyberspace in the 21st Century: Part Two, Cyberspace and Twelve Monkeys

March 13, 2000 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

I’d like nothing better than to leap straight in with the technical details of how to implement cyberspace, and no doubt many of you would prefer that I did nothing else. Alas, ‘tis not to be.

Last month I presented a sort of overview of the whole series of articles (fractal writing?!), and I suspect that even that contained enough futurism for some of you. However, in my original outline of this series (as sent to Gamasutra) I seem to have decided that further futuristic prognostications were necessary before the technical stuff. So that’s what I’ve done – for better or worse I’ve followed my plan.

No doubt you’ve got enough of your own ideas about the future of the Internet without trawling through mine. Your vision of cyberspace may be quite different too. Even so, I think I have to make some philosophical case for the technical stuff that will follow next month. I want to present something beforehand to help ward off pessimism, and defend against negative criticism from those who have not yet bought into the whole cyberspace concept. So anytime you hear someone whine about how silly an idea cyberspace is, just tell them that it’s too late, it’s already been written into the script of progress. That’ll sort them out – oh yes.

What follows should be seen as a sort of morale boosting exercise. It could also be a little amusing in that I’m using a near circular argument: saying that because cyberspace is inevitable, because there are so many indications of its imminent arrival, that this should give us plenty of confidence and encouragement in embarking upon its creation. Furthermore, I might as well be declaring that it’s feasibility is therefore guaranteed. As always, there’s just a tiny little problem, and that’s discovering the system that demonstrates this feasibility. But, it’s such a trifle really.

So, this month: the inevitability of cyberspace. Next month: its design and implementation, so neatly lying upon its self-referential foundation…

How Could Anyone Not See It Coming?

In the movie Twelve Monkeys, there are some characters in the post-apocalyptic future who are so desperate to discover why things went wrong in the past that they send good old Bruce Willis back in time to find out. Well, right now it’s that time of paradox and inevitability for cyberspace. Not that I’m saying it presages an apocalypse, but rather that it vaguely marks the dawning of a new age. It’s happening now, and decades in the future they’ll look back at the early years of this new century and wonder how we didn’t notice.

I’m amused that instead, today, many people seem to think that cyberspace is just a case of better connectivity and a chance for everyone to have 15 megabytes of HTML fame.

Yup, plenty enough prophets without me joining in perhaps, but it’s a little bit spooky if not a bit fun to take a couple of minutes and have a go at holistically comprehending the ‘now’ of technology. The Web, is still largely a publishing medium (and probably always will be), but maybe if you squint your mind’s eye say, you might just make out the flow of technological progress that is driving us towards a fully interactive cyberspace medium.

It’s a bit like looking out of the back of a slow car. You can see where you’ve been and where you’ve just been, and despite continuous progress, things just don’t seem to change that quickly, but you know they might. You can only guess at what’ll come up next, and you might have an idea of where the car’s probably going. But you can never be sure, and no-one but the driver and those that can see into the future actually know. Of course, I’m facing backward like everyone else, but my hunch is that we’re on a journey to cyberspace – the scenery, the vegetation and billboards rolling by seem to be hinting that at least.

In ten or twenty years time, how will you look back and discern the origins of cyberspace?

Will you say “Oh, it all began with the X-Box having a hard disk and an ADSL Internet connection as standard”, or perhaps it’ll be “BeOS simply came from nowhere man – none of us expected it!”. Then again it could be the killer app: “MS Allegiance II just gripped gamers across the world like a plague”.

Let’s now go over the clues that should persuade us that today is the time for all good coders to roll up our sleeves and build cyberspace…

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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