In the next 100 years, there will be a shooting war over the internet.
Why? Because the free flow of information across the net is just too powerful a force for existing institutions to deal with. Already we are seeing the recording industry twisting the legal system in an attempt to keep copied songs off the net. Germany this week announced that “nobody rides for free”, an attempt to raise support for making Google pay for user’s bandwidth. This is a bizarre idea, but it makes total sense when you realize that the real threat in both of these cases is the free movement of information.
I doubt the war will be between nation-states, so it will truly be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Various groups will organize and plan over the net (which is rather ironic) and attacks will be launched at nexus points — fiber optic hubs and server farms are the new oil refineries and shipyards. The goal will be to make it more expensive to move certain kinds of information — probably financial in nature but it well may be entertainment only. Or perhaps these terms really won’t make much sense by the time it starts.
If you take a look around the world you’ll see the early signs: radical Islamic clerics decrying the western influence on their youth, countries jockeying for control over the DNS system (what better way to silence your political enemies than taking away their IP address?), and computer enthusiasts joining together to crack various codes whether legal or illegal.
As time moves on, the value to society and to the individual of these activities will increase. The idea itself may have a small impact, but the distribution of the idea along with a social impetus from like-minded net citizens is another thing entirely. Soon rational people will completely separate the quality of the work from the ability to get to it and evaluate it at leisure. That means that quality creative material and junk creative material all have the same value — zero. The value is in moving information around the world. And there is where the war will begin.
It’s possible to postulate a typical sphere-of-influence scenario or a total Information War. Imagine the Chinese government in forty years time: trying to expand control over the pacific while it’s people grow ever more weary of corruption and lack of real change. China may have the U.S. to play against or it may not. It really doesn’t matter. Once the Chinese completely grasp what the free flow of information is doing (and they’re already learning very quickly) they will get more and more desperate to control what their people hear and see. The tighter the fist, the more that squeezes through the fingers.
The same analogy will hold in a corporate/special interest setting. It’s not only the recording industry: massive numbers of industries are simply not going to exist 100 years from now. Real estate agents, insurance, banking, investing — these concepts will have an entirely new meaning. A meaning that revolves closely around the movement of information.
Along those same lines, the internet will become sentient sometime during this same time period. It’s easy enough to guess how we humans might act. It’s going to be very interesting to watch it actually unfold.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.