Within 15 years, every single thing you say and see, and every place you visit, will be recorded.
It is inevitable. Every drunken escapade will be captured. Every atrocity man commits against fellow man burned into our collective memories. Every news event viewable in real time from hundreds of perspectives.
This will dramatically change your life, and in the process raise three fundamental questions:
1. Do we want the power to record and view every moment of our lives?
2. What are the consequences?
3. And most importantly, is a life well-lived, a life well-published?
Moore's Gone Wild
The reason you will never be able to forget that whipped-cream party in college, or evade your next speeding ticket, can be traced back to a brilliant technologist named Douglas Engelbert. In 1959, he predicted the rate at which computer speeds would increase. His prediction turned out to be fantastically accurate not only for computer processors, but for storage capacity as well.
Today, it takes roughly a gigabyte of storage for an hour of compressed high-definition video. If you had a camera attached to you recording 24/7, you would consume roughly 9,000 gigabytes per year.
A single hard drive today can store 2,000 gigabytes. If storage capacity continues to follow Moore's law (and historically it has significantly exceeded it), in 15 years, we will have petabyte hard drives, or roughly enough storage for 110 years of today's HD video.
This means that for the first time in history, our society's ability to store data will exceed the amount of data we create.
Google Gone Berserk
If every piece of data is stored, the next obvious step is to make it all accessible and searchable.
Accessibility will happen via cloud computing. Companies like Google, BlueTie, and Salesforce.com are already making huge strides in this area by offering your applications and data in the cloud, while companies like SugarSync and Dropbox are shifting your photos and files to the cloud as well. Within ten years, local storage will seem quaint and unthinkable. Everything will live in the cloud.
Making all this data searchable is a little more tricky. Today's SaaS companies don't have nearly enough security or privacy controls to trust with your entire digital life. Further, video and audio search is still relatively nascent, despite the efforts of Google, Microsoft, and others. Within 10 years, though, we will have nearly perfect video and audio search, too.s
Are There Still Publishers?
What is the role of publishers and news organizations in this brave new world?
It would be naive to believe that with seven billion people in the world, today's newscasters represent the most thoughtful perspective on each issue. When nearly every individual can record the action and share his or her viewpoint, the news will profoundly and permanently change.
The news organizations of tomorrow will no longer be loud-mouthed pundits espousing a barely informed worldview. Nor will they still be large monoliths attempting to maintain news bureaus worldwide. There is simply no cost-effective way for them to be on scene in every city, town, or village where the next big news story may break.
Instead, successful media will become aggregators and editors of content, rather than creators. The smart money will build a technology to gather, sort, and filter stories from every corner of the world, and couple it with smart and thoughtful humans to do the editing.
This could lead to the next renaissance in news: instant reporting from the heart of the action, technology-assisted compilation and editing, and leveraging social connections to make it personal and relevant.
Diverged in a Yellow Wood
Or, it could become a platform for the vain, the narcissistic, and the self-absorbed to post their every last photo, video, and audio clip.
I really hope not, because you're not that interesting. And neither am I.