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SXSW: Futurist Jamais Cascio on Augmented Reality

By Alexis Madrigal

Jamais Cascio is a futurist. That means companies and governments pay him to give his opinions on what's going to happen between now and the end of the world. Fortunately, we suckered him into giving these thoughts to you free.

Wired: What do you think the internet will look like in 2020?

Jamais Cascio: It will be indistinguishable from the physical world. Everything and everyone you see around you will have a simultaneous physical and digital instantiations. You can think of it in terms of augmented reality with glasses or contact lenses.

So, 2020: We have our augmented reality system saying, "Hi, this is Alexis and I know him through XYZ." How do I get somewhere? A path pops up like a Google map. At a glance, I can see environmental information. Oh, it's raining? How much has it rained? What's the pollen count? What's the forecast? All of these bits and pieces of how we appreciate the world around us will be given greater specificity and made graspable.

Once we have the data environments around people and business and the environment, what happens then? We have yet to build a communications system that hasn't been used to promote advertising or generate spam. There's no reason to believe this augmented reality will be any different.

Wired: I think a lot about whether technology really changes human beings. Does growing up with technology make people fundamentally different from the humans of A.D. 1500?

Cascio: You can find aspects of our lives that would be utterly incomprehensible and utterly recognizable. Sleeping, [having sex] and going to the bathroom are things we do pretty much as we did 600 or 6,000 years ago.

But how we conceive of ourselves as individuals and how we conceive of ourselves as members of a community or society: All of the different cognitive and cultural aspects of identity and role have changed in such a fundamental way that it would take someone from that time weeks, months, probably years to really understand what the world is like.

Everyone here assumes that the world of when they die will be fundamentally different in a material and cultural sense than the one they were born into. People in 1,500 would assume that the world they would die in would be essentially identical to the one they were born in.

I think it's hard to overestimate the importance that sense of expected change is in how we conceive of opportunities and policies.

Wired: What do you think will emerge as the most disruptive technology of 2008?

Cascio: The disruptive technologies of 2008 will be something that was already visible in 2007. Because disruption doesn't happen overnight. Disruption is a critical-mass issue. Think about Twitter last year -- Twitter had been around for months prior to South by (Southwest). There hasn't been a similar thing this year.

But here's my suggestion for 2008: real-time camera blogging over wireless connections. This year, the political rallies will be filled with people doing live streaming video. So if there is any event -- a riot, a really amazing speech -- that is going to be going out on video Rashomon-like, through multiple perspectives in this kind of fractal political engine.


At March 27, 2008 at 6:37 PM ShawnS said...

Did you notice what Alexander Tokman said in the video, "What it does is it will project high definition image", HIGH DEFINITION! did we all hear that right, have they already done it? I know it was mentioned in the past they were working on it, but is it done, is it true, have they succeeded?


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