Participating In The Big Simulation

One of the most viewed YouTube videos in recent weeks – Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us deals with the transformation the web has been undergoing. It is well done and thought provoking even though it doesn’t deal with the meshverse transformation that is underway. This video has spawned a quite a few responses – videos as well as blog posts. Without using the term augmented reality, one video response really captures a key reason the meshverse paradigm is taking off:

This is a movement toward making the non-participatory form imitate the participatory reality. We’re trying to make the printed word imitate what we already experience everyday. The natural interaction between us and the world.

This has been coming for a long time. It’s been two decades since Electric Language pointed out the profound changes word processing was having. Nearly 10 Years ago in that wonderful city of New Orleans, at the CNET Web Builder Conference I predicted the advent of a participatory web based on the virtual reality standard of that time where people and software agents would collaborate:

To put the advent of agents into perspective, let’s back up and look at a time line for the Web. We’ve gone from a command line, to a graphic user interface, and now to a dynamic user interface. The web browser environment, particularly with dynamic HTML, is much different than a static graphic user interface. It has several streams of time frames; applets that are ticker tapes which are bringing in new information; timers set with a Java script application; or any number of different activities going on at the same time in that interface, and it’s constantly changing.

What is beginning to emerge now, particularly with things like VRML 2.0, is what is called a participatory user interface, where there are not only human participants but also collaborative workspaces. For example, if you log onto the web and go to a chat room or work group collaborative environment, you’re in an interface where numerous people are dynamically impacting the content of what you see on your screen. In addition to the people, there are also agents.

Rozier predicts that two years from now, participatory user interfaces will become commonplace, making what developers are doing today seem radically different.

Scriptable Intelligent Agents

I said 2 years, but it took 7 before Web 2.0 was acknowledged and Second Life launched – what happened? The first browser war which ensued nearly brought innovation to a halt as web developers had to devote a substantial percentage of their time to ensuring sites would work in both browser. At the time I was speaking, in October of 1997, Netscape had 80% of the browser market, but Microsoft was releasing Internet Explorer 4.0 as part of an effort to “cut off Netscape’s air supply”.

So it’s taken longer, but we’re almost there and it’s good to see people thinking about where this is leading, about the machines using us:

Does this give us hope for the power of networked individuals, or make us think about how Terminator might have started?

Remote Access

Hopefully people will mesh together for our collective good, but it won’t happen without dialog:

Will we in our lifetimes see the Internet blossom with
a new humanism? Is the Matrix a giant incubator for
another Renaissance? Or is humanity simply feeding ma-
chines that are ultimately serving themselves rather than our

Digital Humanity

We’re all participating in the emerging meshverse, the question is what roles we are willing to play? Will we be food in a spider’s web or will we be co-creators of a more humane planet?



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