on 25 February 1998
"Mirror Worlds" sketches, on a broad canvas, what we will be able to do with (virtually) infinite bandwidth and storage capacity. Gelernter's book provides key concepts and mental models for envisioning technological futures.
We're never quite prepared for the future when it arrives. Exponential technology curves yield thousand-fold gains in capacity and speed, but humans can't imagine thousand-fold improvements. One solution: remove the limits completely. For example, assume that infinite bandwidth and data storage capacity are available to everyone for free. What would this enable us to do? Explore the new applications -- the new ways of organizing work, communication, commerce, thought, and art -- that would become possible. Then work back from that vision of the future, to find the paths that will take us in that direction.
Example 1: Put video cameras everywhere, and record every moment. -- Remember, infinite and free storage and bandwidth! Why throw anything away? -- Use that real-time data to build a virtual model of your city - a mirror world. Then have your software agents roam through all those data/video streams and flag - or respond to - events that might impact your neighborhood or your decisions. The value is in the filtering!
Example 2: Any human with a PC and a net connection can become a television broadcaster. The TV broadcasting infrastructure becomes obsolete, just as the telephone companies' infrastructure does in the Stupid Network vision With millions of producers creating and broadcasting content streams into infospace -- and all prior broadcasts stored for viewing as well -- a highly selective "TV Guide" will be a key to survival in the post-literate society.
Higly recommended reading for visionaries, product planners and science fiction writers. END