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"There are two things that give the Internet
its power," says Kleinrock. "One is the concept of
people sharing ideas and participating in each other’s work.
The other is the culture that allows that to happen. The beginnings
of the Internet are clearly stamped with a feeling of openness
— open research, open architecture, open access, trusting
members of the community, no overbearing control." But that
same culture, cautions Kleinrock, is also "a formula for
the dark side of the Internet. That’s where spam, pedophilia,
pornography and identity theft come from."
The Internet’s infrastructure is expanding
in several ways, Kleinrock told the roughly 200 delegates at the
recent birthday bash. The first, "nomadic computing,"
or "nomadicity," refers to the ability to use computers
anywhere wirelessly, even from atop Mount Everest. Another direction
is the "invisibility" of the human-computer interface.
"For most users, cyberspace exists behind the computer screen,"
says Kleinrock. "We want to take cyberspace outside and
deploy it in our physical world — on our desks, shoes, eyeglasses,
vehicles, refrigerators, possibly even in our bodies."
That’s a widely shared vision among tech
gurus — the kind of self-fulfilling prophecy underpinning
much of the Internet’s success. "We’ve created
something that will ultimately connect every living synapse on
this planet," predicts John Perry Barlow, a former Wyoming
rancher and Grateful Dead lyricist, and co-founder of the Electronic
Frontier Foundation. "We still have a long ways to go down
that road, but the Internet is a system that will ultimately be
totally inclusive — a nervous system for the collective
unconscious of the human race."
Efforts are already underway to infuse our environment
with such a high level of technology that just about everything
around us becomes "smart" and easily accessible. As
Kleinrock puts it: "If I walk into a room, the room will
know I’ve walked in. I’d be able to talk to the room
and get a voice answer, or maybe a hologram or information display
of some sort will pop up."