Vernor Vinge is an emeritus professor of computer science at San Diego State University. His novel Rainbows End (2006) considers the Internet of 2025.
What will emerge from using the Internet as a research tool? The answer, Vernor Vinge argues, will be limited only by our imaginations.
We humans have built a creativity machine. It's the sum of three things: a few hundred million computers, a communication system connecting those computers, and some millions of human beings using those computers and communications.
This creativity machine is the Internet. It has already changed the way we do science, most importantly by enhancing collaboration between researchers. The present-day Internet provides convenient connections between computerized labs, simulations and research databases. It also represents an enormous financial investment that is driven by the demands of hundreds of millions of consumers. As such, the total Internet software and infrastructure investment dwarfs the budgets of scientific research programmes and even of many government defence programmes. And more than any megaproject of the past, the essence of the Internet is to provide coordinated processing of information. For researchers seeking resources, these are facts worth considering.
In 15 years, we are likely to have processing power that is 1,000 times greater than today, and an even larger increase in the number of network-connected devices (such as tiny sensors and effectors). Among other things, these improvements will add a layer of networking beneath what we have today, to create a world come alive with trillions of tiny devices that know what they are, where they are and how to communicate with their near neighbours, and thus, with anything in the world. Much of the planetary sensing that is part of the scientific enterprise will be implicit in this new digital Gaia. The Internet will have leaked out, to become coincident with Earth.
The notion of enlisting users to create content is widespread on the contemporary Internet. Companies such as Google provide users with tools to integrate search and mapping services into their own websites. Interested users are numerous and have their own resources. (taken from here) ///