When the internet was popularised, the world started asking questions about topics like freedom of access to information, the nature of "digital goods" / "digital ownership", and globalisation.
Now that we're on the cusp of the next technology revolution, I'm excited about more compelling questions entering the zeitgeist.
Virtual Reality is currently being pushed forward by a gaming market (like computing once was). But it won't be long (2019, 2020) before consumer VR starts making its way into every home. All we need is:
- Standalone headsets (no computer required, coming 2018—2019)
- Faster wireless communication (5G, coming 2020—2021)
- Cloud rendering (2018—2019)
Once VR has become popularised, the global conversation will shift to focus on some very interesting questions. What is the nature of reality? Do quantum mechanics prove that we're already living in a simulation? Is consciousness emergent from biology, or something deeper? Does "self" even exist?
At the same time, I hope we see this technology creating new social dynamics, forming new partnerships and friendships, in ways that flat screen communication has never been capable of.
I don't think we'll recognise the world 5 years from now.
Postscript: One of my earliest VR experiences was sitting in AltSpace and meeting a Rabbi. We discussed the future Halakha (Jewish law) of VR for hours. Is flying around Google Earth considering "travelling" on the Sabbath? Should my avatar wear a kippah? Is my avatar Jewish? Is it permitted to eat virtual pork? These are questions that will have real authoritative answers in the near future.