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I went to a Round Table at The Philoctetes Center on Saturday on The Future of Technology with an absolutely stellar panel. (The video is Jaron Lanier, who coined the term virtual reality in the early 80s, playing ancient wind instruments he described as some of the first computers. )

The discussion, moderated by David Kirkpatrick revolved around the global network of the Internet as the unifying strand in all major change. Will we interact in unimagined ways? What are the privacy issues of global connectivity? Will life be better, or worse? Can the mind keep up? Can we recognize our future?

Panelists were Esther Dyson, Lanier, Bernard Meyerson and Ken Perlin

Highlights: Much of the discussion revolved around issues of privacy, which Esther Dyson pointed out is about the same now as it was in 1800. But the key points were about the value of our remarkable access to data and the fundamental desire to connect with others on a one-to-one and one-to-many level. A video of the event will be on the Philoctetes site soon.

My favorite line of the day was from Jaron Lanier: “the future of the Internet It wont be as good as books, but it wont be as bad as TV”

Incredibly quotable, Lanier also said:
Facebook, Twitter, etc. are an intense nostalgia for childhood.

Neoteny “Childhood is actually quite dark and cruel and mean…there is a horrible moment in childhood when you discover your limitations. Its a difficult, ongoing life process.”

The ultimate virtual reality would be the waking state of a shared dream. That would be permission to experience childhood in adulthood.

Ken Perlin: the web is really a conversational chat space. Everyone wants to hang out and chat and not have to think much about what were saying which is also whats great about it.

Esther Dyson “Back in 1800, nobody had any privacy. If you were rich, you had a chamber maid who took out the chamber pot, dressed you If you were poot, you lived in one room with eight people and the dog. The only privacy you had was private thoughts, which is the same now.”

Facebook is about a way to multiply your persona. Its about designing privacy the way you want it.

David Kirkpatrick: The deployment of mobile technology at an astronomical pace is bringing everyone on the planet into contact but technology will not change everything. It’s the group social contract that’s important. Right now, the social contract has not caught up with the technology.

Bernard Meyerson – we have pervasive access to any data and the ability to communicate with anyone in the universe. The flip side is that everyone will know everything about you and you have no privacy. But that’s old news.