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Democracy & Technology Blog Web 50.0 feeds the exaflood

Peter Huber tours the exotic locale of a teenager’s bedroom. There he finds the fiber-fed 3D digital trickles that are beginning to puncture the narrowband dike and feed the exaflood.

Let’s not forget how rotten today’s Web really is. Amazon is useless if you love picking your way through books stacked high on tables, flipping pages and skimming dust jackets. Normal people don’t shop for groceries by clicking boxes on a meticulously prepared list; they make choices as they stroll down aisles packed with merchandise. Or, for an expert opinion on your so-called digital life, drag your teenager away from his Xbox to help you shop for a new minivan. Show him the neat video feature that takes you inside the car through the lens of a camera that you can pan, tilt and turn with your mouse. Tell him you think it’s “way cool.” He won’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
The graphics on his Xbox are cool. And while his fancy joystick can’t type, it can move him through virtual space a whole lot better than a mouse can. The Wii remote incorporates motion sensors, and, primitive as they still are, they let you stand in your living room really swinging a “Wiimote” bat or club at the virtual ball. If you could plug a strand of glass into the far side of the box, you could race the dealer’s virtual minivan on a Nascar track against Richard Petty.

As I attempt to quantify the exaflood in terms of IP traffic, I would put the applications Huber describes here under the heading of “Virtual Worlds” — though gaming and virtual worlds will cross over and converge and expand beyond our current conceptions. Huber reminds us that this category will be even larger and more diverse than we commonly believe.
Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson

Bret Swanson is a Senior Fellow at Seattle's Discovery Institute, where he researches technology and economics and contributes to the Disco-Tech blog. He is currently writing a book on the abundance of the world economy, focusing on the Chinese boom and developing a new concept linking economics and information theory. Swanson writes frequently for the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal on topics ranging from broadband communications to monetary policy.