Vernor Vinge is one of my favorite authors. He has written many amazing books, from the now classic True Names, which allowed cyberpunk to happen, to his startlingly visionary A Fire Upon the Deep.
But his day job was being a computer science professor at San Diego State University (he's now emeritus). This week, he has an article in a "Future of Computing" series in Nature that explores some of the deeper ways the Internet will evolve. Vinge's contribution is especially good. He looks at the Internet as a "creativity machine." It allows thinkers, researchers and people to connect and develop ideas in a collaborative way. He then goes on to ponder what future developments may bring:
"We know that hardware will continue to improve. In 15 years, we are likely to have processing power that is 1,000 times greater than today, and an even larger increase in the number of network-connected devices... these improvements will... create a world come alive with trillions of tiny devices that know what they are, where they are and how to communicate with their near neighbors, and thus, with anything in the world... the Internet will have leaked out, to become coincident with Earth."
The key phrase there is the last one: "to become coincident with Earth." It's happening bit by bit. Once the separation between real space and cyberspace is indistinguishable, I think the world will become a very interesting place indeed.
Vinge's latest book, which I haven't read, is Rainbow's End. It's about the Internet in 2025.