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INSIDE COLUMN: ESP me

Jeff Albert | Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Apple has once again excited gadget geeks and businessmen alike by unveiling the iPhone, which, in his demo of the new product, Apple CEO Steve Jobs so eloquently described as “cool” and “awesome.”

Watching the keynote demo on Apple’s Web site got me thinking about the way the transfer of information is constantly being revolutionized.

Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, the creators of YouTube, gave the world a new outlet for conveying information (whether viewers find it relevant or ridiculous). But beyond the simple conveying of information, I am consistently struck by how quickly the knowledge of a particular video can spread, especially at a place like a college campus (think: “OMG – shoes.”).

Since people seem to be taking it upon themselves to use these contrivances to establish communities, small or large, where they can interact with like-minded individuals, it seems more than likely that product designers will actually put the establishment of these communities at the forefront of their future designs. Virgin America has designed an in-flight entertainment system that, among other things, would allow passengers to email/SMS/instant message among themselves, creating an airborne community.

With the arrival of Web 2.0 (which encourages community and user-generated content), and talk of Web 3.0 (a “Semantic Web”), a man by the name of Seth Godin has proposed a Web4, where the network would take initiative based on the way a person uses the Internet. It’s a smarter Internet that takes into account how a person has previously behaved online, and proposes the best way to go about any particular internet task.

It would perform autonomous searches that could benefit you (for example, just as you’re about to order the latest TV-on-DVD boxed set, Web4 steps in and informs you of a cheaper price on another site).

Additionally, the network would be aware of a person’s activities that are similar to others, and would be able to put those people in touch. Essentially, it would consist of a network of “machines talking to machines.”

This is where I would like to step in and suggest the future of community-based technology – extra-sensory perception, or ESP. Well, sort of. More like the ability for people in a network to access each others’ thoughts, and, in a way, brainstorm.

ESP is not some revolutionary new technology, and science isn’t even sure it exists. But if the concept of ESP could be applied in technological terms, you would have the highest form of information communication.

Essentially, it would be communication sans effort. By allowing “machines” to do what they do best – that is, process information – and then interact with each other as well as with each particular user, a powerful network without rival will have been created.

Microsoft’s Zune allows sharing of music within a local network – so why can’t that technology be applied directly to our mind’s thoughts?

Just think: In the future, you may hear your best friend say, “ESP me.”