How Decentralization Shapes The Internet Of The Future

The Evolving Internet: Navigating Risks Amidst Immersion, Decentralization, And Generative AI

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The future internet is on the horizon, promising unprecedented engagement and innovation. Yet, as we incorporate immersive tech, decentralized systems, and generative AI, we also invite new complexities.

Addressing Safety, Privacy, And AI Authenticity Concerns

Immersive experiences like VR and AR present significant safety and privacy issues. Companies could potentially harvest vast amounts of user data, from biometric details to behavioral patterns. Moreover, generative AI, which can produce content ranging from art to articles, poses the risk of spreading misinformation, fake news, or even creating synthetic identities. Distinguishing between AI-generated and human-created content will become crucial for maintaining trust and authenticity online.

Moreover, the advent of digital avatars heightens the risk of identity theft. Ensuring our children’s safety becomes even more challenging as their virtual experiences become visually inaccessible to us.

Regulation Is Still Catching Up

We need policy, governance, and rules for the new world of the future internet, so we can all enjoy a safe and pleasant experience online. Unfortunately, technology is advancing far faster than our regulatory policies.

There are a lot of legal gray areas that still need to be ironed out. For instance, what kinds of behavior are considered acceptable and not acceptable in virtual environments? What happens if someone commits an offense online that would normally be considered a prosecutable crime in the real world? Complaints of assault and sexual harassment are already being reported in virtual environments like Meta’s Horizon Worlds.

Adding to this, the rise of generative AI requires new policies on content authenticity, copyright issues, and ethical standards. Who’s accountable if an AI generates harmful or misleading content?

Infrastructure And The Burden Of AI-Intensive Processes

The next-generation internet is not merely about faster browsing speeds or improved connectivity. With the integration of generative AI, we’re talking about machines that can generate vast amounts of content, simulate complex environments, and process incredible amounts of data in real time. This means data centers, cloud providers, and edge computing nodes must undergo a massive transformation.

Our future devices, from smart glasses to wearables, will need to handle AI computations locally (edge AI) for real-time tasks. Simultaneously, they’ll communicate with mega data centers for heavy-lifting tasks. Moreover, with the decentralization trend, there’s a push for distributed computing resources. However, these come with their own challenges of synchronization, data security, and latency.

Energy Concerns: Beyond the Grid

The future internet’s combined energy needs, especially as AI computations grow more complex and frequent, could overshadow many of today’s industries. Decentralized systems, like blockchain, already consume significant energy due to their consensus algorithms. Add generative AI to the mix, and we’re looking at the need for sustainable, renewable, and perhaps even new forms of energy to meet demands.

The tech industry must pioneer green data centers, optimize algorithms for energy efficiency, and push for renewable energy sources. It’s a race against time as we try to match our innovations with the planet’s well-being.

Interoperability: Building Bridges In A Fragmented Digital World

Today’s digital landscape is characterized by isolated silos—platforms that don’t communicate well with others. As the lines blur between reality and virtual environments and as AI-generated content becomes ubiquitous, there’s a dire need for seamless transitions between these environments. For instance, an AI-generated artwork as an NFT should be viewable, usable, and transferable across multiple metaverse platforms without hitches.

Interoperability also pertains to standardizing AI outputs, ensuring that an AI model or system in one platform or application can understand and work with AI-generated content from another. This requires extensive collaborations, shared standards, and perhaps even new intermediary platforms and protocols to translate between different digital ecosystems.

Skill Shortage: Nurturing The Next-Gen Digital Craftsmen

Building and maintaining the future internet requires talented people who understand not just coding but the intricacies of virtual realities, the ethics and mechanisms of AI, and the principles of decentralized systems. It’s a multidisciplinary challenge.

Generative AI, for instance, isn’t just about programming. It’s about training models, understanding nuances, curating datasets, and ensuring ethical guidelines are met. Schools, universities, and online courses need to evolve, offering curricula that merge tech, ethics, design, and more.

Companies, too, play a role. They need to foster environments where continuous learning is encouraged, where experts in older technologies are retrained in the latest, and where collaboration across disciplines is the norm.

You can read more about future tech and business trends in my books, The Future Internet: How the Metaverse, Web 3.0, and Blockchain Will Transform Business and Society, Future Skills: The 20 Skills And Competencies Everyone Needs To Succeed In A Digital World and Business Trends in Practice, which won the 2022 Business Book of the Year award. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on X (Twitter), LinkedIn, and YouTube for more on the future trends in business and technology.