The Future, From 10 Years Ago

Ten years ago I was attending a meeting of a smallish group of futurists and thinkers. I asked if I could have an introductory moment, something to set the tone. My statement was from Chu, a person from the future.

Thank you for inviting me to speak with your gathering. My name is Chu, I’m 16 years old, and I was just awarded the Sing Low Prize for Creative Thinking in Mathematics. I learned just before I came here that my Sr. High School thesis was downloaded by over 200,000 sites, representing 37 different countries. I’ve gotten feedback from over 120 people, 17 of them rather famous mathemeticians and scientists!

I talked with a couple of my elders before coming here, so I hope I say things you’ll understand and find interesting.

My grandmother told me it used to be different in the old days, but the NetChit I received from the downloads of my paper, combined with the Sing Low prize money, will allow me to attend college for another two years. There’s a local extension on the west end of my town that connects me with the rest of my class. The extension’s computers have multiple big desk and wall screens that enable us to work cooperatively on our assignments and interesting problems. I just plug in my WalkAbout, all the authorship and authenticity is taken care of, and I’m in.

Of course, I’m always online through my WalkAbout, but its operating system and functionality are more geared toward my lifestyle. I have a lot of friends–some of them don’t like math as much as I do. But we all keep in touch a lot.

My great-grandfather told me stories about his parents and how they used to wear their clothes and shoes with big Nike and Disney names on them. I can’t believe that anyone used to be so attached to those big companies of the past. During my great-grandfather’s days, he watched what they used to call “brands” slowly become less popular until at one point he said some companies were almost giving their stuff away! We have seen many examples in the last several decades of how so many big companies struggled and failed to adapt to the new ways. These days, when people want to take on a new persona, they might start out with a Def–a default persona that my great-grandfather says was kinda like a brand name that could be customized.

A couple other things you may be interested in. My grandmother told me you used to have things like digital watermarks and trademarks and such. I never quite understood these things or why anyone would do that. These days, a document’s content is keyed to authorship and authentication factors. The nature of the content is important, sure, but it’s also weighed against bodies of work by those and other authors. When some information is treated as a fact, its origins and context can be traced. Anonymous documents are represented by one or more Surety bodies.

Also, we have a truly global flow of information. The PublicNet is a vast, interconnected bit-pipe with no switches and no editorial controls to slow things down. The artists and other content creators connect directly to interested people. Our terminals, like my WalkAbout, have transaction, crypt, translating, summary, and other editorial preferences set by each user.

I understand you are all meeting to explore these and related concepts in the next couple of days. You can rest assured that meetings like this are happening all over the world, in a furious fashion, and that you have some big battles yet to come. I wish you well in your work–your future is my present and if all goes well, it’s a compelling one.

Thank you again for inviting me.

by Judi Clark
15 September 1998

Thank you to Jerry and others in that group for the opportunity to dream.