I am a big fan of the hypergrid. I love logging into my personal grid. Then teleporting to my company grid, or visit friends on OSGrid, or go shopping on GermanGrid.
But I don’t have any illusion that the hypergrid will replace the Internet.
Instead, I believe that the hypergrid will become something very different — and possibly even more important.
The Internet has changed the way we share information. I no longer use my telephone books, and have thrown out my street atlases. I read books on my iPhone. I haven’t had a newspaper subscription in years and recently canceled my cable television in favor of Hulu and Netflix.
The Internet is a fantastic way to present a great deal of information, to search for answers, and to share ideas. And each year, the Internet is getting better at this — faster, smarter, more all-encompassing.
The hypergrid, by comparison, is lousy at managing information. In fact, often the best way to share information on a grid is to put up a window to a Website.
The hypergrid is difficult to navigate. It’s hard to find places. Once you find the right place, it’s hard to get around once you’re there. Navigation and search is bound to improve to some degree but, at the end of the day, you’re still better off searching a directory to find the store you want than, say, wandering around a virtual representation of a mall until you see it.
The Internet virtualized information. Books, music, movies, magazines, newspapers, and bulletin boards were transformed — information was separated out from its paper, vinyl or corkboard containers.
The hypergrid does something similar — but not with information.
Instead, the hypergrid virtualizes our physical presence. Our interactions with places, with things, even with our own bodies are separated away from their actual physical manifestations. I can visit a virtual Eiffel Tower and get the sense of being there, the sense of meeting other people there, without having to travel to Paris. And I can appear any way I wish — younger or older, fatter or thinner, as an animal or as a robot.
We have no way of predicting what societal changes will result from this transformation.
The Internet transformed all information industries. It transformed commerce. It transformed dating. It has almost completely replaced all other means of communication — we email, Tweet, Facebook, and Skype our friends and colleagues.
Now, with smart phones and tablets, the Internet is transforming the way we think. With the knowledge of the entire world at our fingertips, anything we want to know is immediately accessible.
This transformation is still ongoing.
The hypergrid has the potential to transform human relationships, by compressing distance. And it has the potential to transform experience, allowing everyone to experience things that had previously been available to the very rich, very brave, or very lucky.
As technology improves, as virtual environments get increasingly realistic and our experience of those environments progressively more immersive, our world will change in ways we can’t even imagine.
I still believe we’ll continue to use the World Wide Web, in some form, in order to find information, download media, and get and send messages.