Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Social Web - Is it a Big Bang Deal?

Sometimes working in an industry magnifies the industry's importance. This doubly applies to anything digital, like the social Web. Sometimes it's easy to forget that a very short while ago the electronic technology we take for granted today didn't exist. Can't live without the social Web? Pfft! Back in the day, if we wanted to be social with someone we had to walk up hill both ways, in the snow, to visit them.

Here's a humbling perspective: I read this article in the MIT Technology Review about the search for another Earth-like planet, and the recent discovery of an exoplanet (a planet outside our solar system) that brings us closer to success than ever before.

The exoplanet, designated CoRot-9b (named after the French satellite used to discover it) is composed of Helium and Hydrogen and probably does not support life in its -23 to 157 °C climate. In terms of little green men, a big let down; but important to science nonetheless. More interesting, however, is the mention of NASA's Keplar Satellite, the James Webb Space Telescope, and several other technologies that will soon be searching for life-sustaining planets.

Happily, if I'm to take the word of an assistant professor at face value, I'll be around to enjoy the discoveries these technologies help make because:

"Johnson predicts that Kepler will find the first inhabitable "Earth" outside our solar system in the next three to six years."

The idea is enough to boggle the mind. The technology available in six years here on Earth will be as amazing to my generation as what we have today is to our grandparents. The capabilities of mobile devices and the infrastructure on which they operate will have multiplied in effectiveness several times. We will be far more Web-social.

We'll have integrated the social Web to a point where we'll raise a generation with the ubiquitous ability to contact their peers directly at any time with text, voice and video. And the concept of being without that technology will be as alien to them as the thought of the existence of another 'Earth' is to my generation.

Children six years from now will easily grasp the idea of a planet like ours waiting for us beyond our solar system. They'll know about it faster, share ideas about it more efficiently, and as they grow they will reach out to it with tools a hundred times more powerful than anything available today.

But some things won't change, especially when their grandchildren begin talking of travelling to our celestial neighbor. They will have to grapple with that new technological reality as previous generations have struggled with technology since the dawn of humanity.

The next time you see a child, enjoy a chuckle. They're in for quite a ride.

© Jeremy Buehler and Rogue Tendencies ( 2010.

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