Scenarios for cyberspace

by David Greenop < >

These pages are in draft, and are indicative only. Other scenarios will be developed including a short term 'most likely' The scenarios described here were first developed as part of a research programme funded by European telecommunication companies at Euroscom research institute

Being in Cyberspace

Cyberspace is a dynamic, developing concept; this chapter offers some introductory views of its current state and some indications of its future potential. Life experiences today are increasingly divided between the physical here and now and a 'someplace else' immanent in a virtual electronic space. The social, economic, and political lifelines of the world are now evolving almost exclusively within this electronic space. Here, for example, large corporate alliances busily co-ordinate their quest to balance efficiency, flexibility, and economies of scale. Here, data about consumer demand, production flows and finance is managed and shaped. Here is where our savings reside in bit form so that large banks and investment firms can fundamentally mould our lives. This virtual world is thus a place in which we already live.

We will explore some scenarios to find implications that could arise if some form of all pervasive Cyberspace actually emerged from today's markets and technologies. Each scenario investigates a specific realisation of Cyberspace. Most of the scenarios are based upon trends clearly identifiable today; others are purposely speculative to stimulate alternative thinking about the future. Each scenario has been analysed for its social, economic, political and technological implications.

The emergence of Cyberspace

"I'm just going onto the Internet' or 'I need to get onto the Internet' are phrases often heard these days. When people utter these phrases where do they think they are going or what do they think they are getting into. Perhaps alternatively we should be asking ourselves 'what are they escaping from'? When people are absorb in browsing the World Wide Web perhaps we should enquire as to where they think they are. When I recently asked such a question of a twelve-year boy, who was totally absorbed in landing a Boeing 737 on his PC using a popular flight simulation game, his reply was simple, 'in an aeroplane approaching Gatwick airport'. To him the game had its own a reality and he was part of that reality. His whole physical demeanour showed signs of concentration, anxiety and fear. When he successfully landed this turned to relief and exhilaration. He explained later that he flew with other pilots at special sites on the Internet where major airports had been replicated virtually, complete with weather conditions, air traffic control and other piloted aircraft. I asked him where he thought this place was; his reply was "in Cyberspace".

The term 'Cyberspace' originated in science fiction to designate an immersive electronic space. William Gibson, the author who coined the term, never claimed to have invented Cyberspace or even to know much about computers. His first book, Neuromancer, one of the most influential science fiction novels of the 1980's, was written on an old portable typewriter. However, through his potent imagination and highly poetic writing, Gibson manages to convey vividly the texture of virtual reality years before it happened. More than that, he created a myth for Cyberspace: the myth of the mean-streets cowboy who hustles and rustles data from under the noses of the corporations who own us. In the fifteen years since Gibson wrote his book we have seen the arrival of the Internet and World Wide Web into offices and peoples home and the maturing of the information society.

The idea of Cyberspace encompasses more than just the Internet and WWW we know today. It touches on how people will construct new topologies of space for themselves and others, how they will use the new information technologies, and most importantly how they themselves will relate to it. So understanding the formal properties of Cyberspace is critical for understanding the underlying principles of tomorrow's society.

Many people mistake the Internet for Cyberspace, whereas it is simply a network linking computers together. Cyberspace is actually that notional 'space' where transactions on the Internet take place. A telephone call can be thought of as simply a virtual meeting in Cyberspace. Likewise, virtual reality environments are commonly considered as Cyberspace. But Cyberspace is composed of far more than the much-hyped Internet or new virtual worlds. It is the total communications space that saturates our lives. It all adds up to an existential sprawl so vast and ubiquitous as to seem unmistakably 'real'. Cyberspace is the information space of modern society. It pulses with blasts from the sophisticated production studios, satellite uplinks, digital delivery systems, and receivers of the global media. It is the society of the spectacular. The irony, of course, is that the more 'wired' we become as a society, the more dependent we grow on the mediating technology. Despite the steady hyperbole about how networked virtual worlds will render the mental landscape of our electronic culture uniquely visible, the essential point about the Internet is precisely its growing invisibility.

But its roots go deeper. Cyberspace refers to the emulation of physical space in electronic environments. As the Internet continues to grow, electronically mediated environments will expand and 'physical place' will become less important. Mathematicians use the term 'space' to describe complex systems. In very complex systems, spaces acquire their own unique dynamics, as they require extremely high dimensions to be described. Many complexity theorists describe Cyberspace as an emergent phenomenon whose properties transcend the sum of its component parts. Cyberspace is therefore a place outside physical space.

One analogy for Cyberspace might be that of a belief in Heaven where disembodied souls are freed from the moral or physical weaknesses of the flesh. In a similar manner today's champions of Cyberspace hail their realm as a place where we will be freed from all physical limitations. Similarly the virtual spaces appearing within the Internet are not bounded by physical proximity. The advantages of virtual spaces are rooted in their unlimited ability to absorb connections and relationships. By means of communications, networked spaces can connect all kinds of nodes, dimensions, relationships, and interactions.

So Cyberspace allows us to conceptualise and visualise things in new ways, without the constraints of the physical world. The Internet has fostered new ways of structuring organisations and bringing people together. For many individuals, from communication engineers to software designers, artists and psychologists, this new electronic environment represents a cultural phenomenon as well as a technical one, and is fast become a convergence point for many disciplines. In Cyberspace new structures and methodologies are conceived of in more flexible, tactile ways that allow people to reconfigure relationships easily.

Because of the obvious significance of physical space for our everyday existence, we each build up a strong mental picture of the physical world, mapping the physical space into our mental processes. This same ability to make mental models of physical space, structures and behaviours allows us to conceptualise even fictional entities. Mental space involves more than just the representation of actual physical space; our imaginations can create structures that don't actually exist, or labyrinths of fantastic beings.

Neal Stephenson, a science fiction novelist who chronicles the wired society, paints a futuristic world in his book 'The Diamond Age'. In it he describes a world of Equity Lords and economic city-states regulated by a Common Economic Protocol only modestly extrapolated from the free-trade agreements of today. In such a networked landscape, the scope of creativity and cultural expression is bounded by the priorities of powerful informational overlords. They behave like the Medici patrons of Renaissance Florence sponsoring artists and entertainers in the new era.

Many social and political commentators on Cyberspace predict centralised government will serve no useful pur-pose at all. It has no operational authority over the informational realm. As the world grows progressively more wired, Cyberspace evolves into a manifestation sovereign unto itself. It becomes a force for creative change in a world of obsolescent ideas. These arguments may seem persuasive when applied to the Internet alone, but not when applied to the whole of information space. Cyberspace is not a single integrated and ubiquitous entity revolving around the Internet. It is a place fractured into multiple spheres of influence, each with autonomous priorities of its own. Sometimes these spheres will co-operate, sometimes they will compete, but always they will guard their vital cores.

But little is actually known about how people will behave when confronted with the twin realities of the physical world and Cyberspace. Evidence from today's Internet is conflicting, with some researchers citing increased social isolation, while others argue that the Internet has created new forms of social engagement. It is clear that the design of a popular Cyberspace has to be human-centred. So the key challenges that Cyberspace will face are not simply technological, but also sociological - the challenges of social interaction and social organisation. People's habits, even of the most mundane sort like shopping, will change radically. The emergence of Cyberspace will create complex new sets of cultural behaviours that will have to be learnt and reconciled.

Those consequences for physical world design and behaviour will have to be understood. A particular combination of facilities, buildings, or even communities may be found to be attractive in Cyberspace and then emulated in real towns or cities. The physical world can be linked to Cyberspace, or alternatively via Cyberspace to other physical world locations. Cyberspace could then be effectively used as a teleportation medium. For example, while wandering through a museum, one might enter a special room linked to other museums around the world. Distinctions of 'place' will blur as metaphysical space overtakes a physical sense of place. People will have to interact with multiple personalities in Cyberspace. Individual behaviours will be magnified by the possibilities offered in Cyberspace and the meaning of 'personality' and 'individual' will need redefining.

As Cyber-communities arise new forms of tribalism will appear. People will have to interact with their own or others 'agents' representing them. If the design of Cyberspace reflects people's needs, then the end results should be positive, expanding and enriching human communities. Cyberspace will create new, more complex communities with novel structures, relationships and purposes. People will find new friends via discussion groups, games and multi-user domains. We will see geography becoming less important in our relationships and interactions. Computer generated virtual spaces will enable us to meet in virtual coffee bars, or conduct business meetings in virtual environments populated by agents, transaction loggers, interpreters and secretaries, some of which may be human.

But humans are still gregarious and still tribal. We will have a larger choice of friends and increasingly will be able to maintain high quality contact with our loved ones. Our geographically based relationships will shift to ones based on common interest, attractiveness or common values. These are cybercommunities, as cohesive as any geographically based communities. People will have a higher quality of life. Perhaps those with most to gain are the physically infirm who will be able to transcend their bodily limitations. Within a decade they will visit friends and relations via a huge wall screen as if they were in the same room. The network will even help them find new friends.

Legal and governance aspects of Cyberspace raise new challenges. Many laws deal with transactions and property on a national basis. With the advent of Cyberspace, the 'national territory' concept is bypassed; the principle of 'ownership' based on physical property is rendered obsolete. Many legal questions remain unanswered: who owns Where and when does an e-commerce transaction take place? Who enforces what and how? Who rules and by what authority?

Global electronic communications have created new spaces in which distinct rule sets will evolve. The laws governing Cyberspace will reflect its special character which differs markedly from anything found in the physical world. For example, it must deal with identities which only 'exist' in Cyberspace, an agent whose purported identity may or may not accurately correspond to physical characters in the real world. In fact, the agent might not even belong to a person.

Cyberspace law cannot rest on the same doctrines that give geographically based sovereign jurisdiction over physical persons. Some fundamental questions about how Cyberspace will be governed and by whom need addressing. For example: what forms of representation are needed in Cyberspace? How different is politics in virtual communities to physical communities? What effect will CyberLaw have on existing political structures and communities? Will Cyberspace, like the Internet, suffer from invasion of privacy, intellectual property infringement, spamming, defamation, harassment, pornography, vandalism, viruses, fraud, and theft?


To explore the properties of tomorrow's Cyberspace, seven scenarios were constructed by the EURESCOM study team. The timescales where set at between five and twenty years in the future. The scenarios are based around the tensions between personal and corporate ownership and control, see figure 1. Three of the scenarios - CyberTown, CyberCar and CyberHome - are closely related. The disguised CyberWorld scenario takes a very personal approach to interactions in Cyberspace. The Cyber Big Brother scenario describes a future gone wrong, where portals have evolved into an authoritarian cyberspace that monitors and controls people. The remaining two scenarios are more speculative: Cyber Realm is possible today and might emerge as successor to the Internet. Cyber Jars is about disembodiment and the human desire for longevity, capturing aspects that need to be considered for understanding the longer-term direction of Cyberspace and perhaps human evolution. Each scenario is introduced by a short story of what it might be like to experience such a future.

Immersive CyberHome

Anna and her partner Magnus live in a hundred-year-old house outside Gothenburg in Sweden. They realise that they are lucky compared to many others. Their house was built for a large farming family unlike the small box homes built during most of the twentieth century. Their house could therefore easily accommodate the many activities that the family undertakes. The house is situated within a small village; they rarely travelled outside it. Their home is divided into flexible work and leisure spaces; each space is electronically controlled and can be changed by interacting with the home computer. Walls around the home are covered with paper thin display screens, which enable individually or collectively themed displays for different moods. Corners of the room are shaped to give a three dimensional immersive effect.

Anna is an independent researcher in genetic biology, specialising in environmental protection, when she is not looking after the family she uses the screens to simulate DNA combinations. By standing close to her corner, she can "enter" the DNA and study it in 3 dimensions. By simulating different manipulations of the DNA she can study what happens. Since the simulations follow a number of "nature laws", which are modelled on the home computer software, she can study what happens when these "laws" are broken. In this 3-dimensional world she sometimes works with other researchers around the world. They can then "meet" inside an interesting molecule; she would there see the avatars of her fellow researchers.

Magus is a lawyer specialising in civil rights law. He uses a room overlooking a small lake, from here he telecommutes to a virtual office in Germany. He has arranged and tuned his room to match the look and feel of the workplace in Germany. In his room are a number of cameras which project his image into the virtual office space. The wall screens show a view similar to the one he would have if sitting in his German office. He can thus see people passing by in the corridor outside his office. In a corner of his office a similar "corner" gives his colleagues at work a similar view of him at his work place at home. This set-up leverages the potential isolation of tele-working, and he can call out to anyone passing by. People at the office can also pop into his office for a chat. In fact he had never visited the office in Germany and he strongly suspects that it does not physically exist. He only now physically travels to very important meetings, in fact most litigation he undertakes is done by virtually attending the court.

Both their son and daughter attend the local school. Although the children could attend a virtual school, Anna and Magnus both appreciate the importance of physical social interactions. Their son loves watching soap operas and frequently uses his "corner" to participate in them. Through interactive TV he can communicate with the actors in the show and control some of their behaviour. He is keen to experiment in producing his own media show. He can choose between standing close to the corner, to get a feeling of "being there" or he can sit in an armchair, watching. Their daughter is an avid computer games player and presently enjoys flight simulators. By placing a chair, fitted with aeroplane controls, close to the corner, she can get a realistic feeling of flying. The computer can generate a very realistic picture of the scenery she is passing and the airports, which she chooses to land at. She can choose to fly alone, using only the computer in the house, or she can meet others, flying the same way as she. She of course envies her friend who lives in a house where the family has invested in a "cube". The sensation of flying, surrounded by pictures, and with 3-dimensional movements gives her thrills. Not surprisingly she would like to become an airline pilot but understands that there are now few opportunities since the airline industry was hit badly by environmental concerns over global pollution.

Background: The CyberHome contains a number of dedicated rooms, and flat screens cover many of the walls in these rooms. The screens run from floor to ceiling, creating 'contiguous' corners. Some houses may have a complete cube covered by screens, which rotates around 3 axes, very much like closed in boxes at amusement parks today. These room can create imaginary immersive environments for work, communication and leisure activities. The house is also equipped with a powerful computer able to generate animated content with a realistic level of detail. There is also a network connection with the outside world.

Implications: Prototype technologies for this scenario are in existence today at game centres or theme parks. The logical evolution of TV, most of the technology development is undertaken by the consumer electronics industry. Its key technology is the production of cheap semi-flexible flat screens and techniques giving the illusion of movement. In this scenario people are in control, although much of what they experience comes from global entertainment companies. Another important aspect is the networked property of the material experienced. In these environments people will not watch 'Titanic', they will share the experience of being there. There is concern that these environments in the home can give rise to wholesale escapism. Young people in particular can be more drawn away from the 'real' world into 'virtual' worlds. Some commentators see this becoming a 21st century addiction. As travel restrictions due to ecological concerns increase, this scenario may become an alternative to physical travel and holidays. As a business application it will let a wider range of people work at home, sharing virtual office spaces and even interacting with customers.

Turning Points: Immersive rooms already exist, but their range of experiences is limited. The appearance of CyberWorld versions of films such as Titanic will mark an important turning point. We can expect themed hotel rooms with cyber entertainment that will familiarise people with what is possible. This may lead to new homes being built with a space specifically for entertainment. Major entertainment companies deliver, via digital cable or satellite, artificial environments. These may be as simple as 3-D surrounds of some physical location, like a relaxing tropical beach. This scenario re-enforces the importance of the home as a major communication hub.

Disguised CyberWorld

Daniel was teaching his six-year old son Isaac how to make mince pies on Christmas eve when he saw the automatic warning message coming up on the kitchen screen. His wife's usual train home was running very late. Bother! That meant that he would have to sit on the floor and build the nativity scene with his son. Oh well, at least his children were able to experience a proper traditional Christmas and did not have to make do with the virtual one that had been predicted for children a few years ago. Isaac might have emailed Santa Claus with full extracts from the toy and software catalogue of what he wanted (and checked that his message got there), but he still expected his Christmas stocking to be filled by a man in a red velvet suit. And there would be a real Christmas lunch with the in-laws on Christmas day.

He continued the baking lesson, his son remembering to quickly scan the empty flour packet to re-order before throwing it in the paper recycle bin, when they were interrupted by a more serious warning message that someone unrecognised was interrogating the house-minder system. The system of course would not give out any information to unauthorised requesters, but the screen told him that something was happening that should not. He did not know how the security systems could be breached - he had the latest upgrade only last month. Leaving his son to stamp out the pastry, and knowing that the system would not allow the oven to be opened without an adult in the kitchen, Daniel dashed to the cyber room to see what was going on.

Using the virtual representation of the house system, Daniel could simply see the path the unrecognised agent was taking through the house minder. He followed with the joystick and became more worried as it was clear the intruder was aiming for his own out-side contact network. He knew now this was a contact collecting agent - a version of last century's junk mail, where recipients were identified by the people they associated with. He sent an immediate message of complaint to the communication utility company who were supposed to protect you against these problems, and decided to shut down all access to his contacts for a few hours until things had sorted themselves out.

With perfect timing the system then informed him that the in-laws were coming off the motorway exit, and so just a few minutes away. Daniel went into the living room to ensure it appeared as technology-free as possible - the modern version of plumping up the cushions for visitors. The in-laws arrived and commented as usual on the authenticity of his home restoration. 'Such a comfortable house and so nice dear not to feel spied upon by all those screens' as his mother in law always said. He smiled, noticing that even as she spoke, she used her walking stick communicator to turn up the heating. Later she would surreptitiously tune the kitchen screen into her own home to check her dogs had been fed - she still never really trusted the automatic system. And tonight they would all enjoy a 'presence', and perhaps a carol or two, with her other daughter over the living room screen.

His wife finally arrived home, and with a glass of Christmas punch in her hand, proceeded to gossip at length with her parents, knowing that tomorrow's dinner ingredients had been ordered, the oven and fridge set to operate automatically, and she could spend Christmas day with her family and not in the kitchen. Isaac proudly handed round his first batch of mince pies, released by the oven and now cool enough to eat. The house minder, way up in the loft, was at last contributing realistically to a more social (and traditional) Christmas this year, even if that did mean more of the mother-in-law!

Background: Disguised CyberWorld is exclusively a support structure for the real world rather than an alternative place to play or work. It reflects the human desire for a stress-free life. Cyberspace is used to organise life in physical space for individual benefit. Disguised CyberWorld exists mainly in the background, usually deliberately hidden. It developed as a natural consequence of the move towards ubiquitous mobile telephony and the ability of people to be continuously in touch and in control. In the Disguised CyberWorld, all human work and playspaces will be fully interconnected via Cyberspace appliances wired directly and externally 'plugged in'. Several communications lines per home, provided by integrated utility companies, will be normal. As far as possible this will be discreet or at least inconspicuous. Some users will be connected continuously, others only occasionally. There will be screens in every room but not intruding into the social space of the house. Wires will be banished, flat screens rendered invisible; keyboards replaced by voice-activated systems and personal communications interfaces. Homes will be specifically designed to appear computer-free, yet their occupants will have all the benefits of fully organised and supported Cyberspace.

Implications: This scenario emphasises the importance of the individual being continually present so data can be freely exchanged. People have to move seamlessly between different networks - in the home, in the car or in public places. Although not explicitly mentioned, agent technology could be the key to managing individual access and data. For this scenario to work there has to be co-operation between many different systems operated by different companies and the need for standards and non-proprietry solutions are critical. If the technology issues are resolved the main issues are about aesthetics, ease of use, etc. Control apparently lies with the individual user, but there is scope for supplier and government management. Ownership of personal data along with rights of access and use will become increasingly important issues. One example of this difficult area involves use of the system to monitor individual behaviour or environmental performance.

Because of its disguised nature the technology might seem non-threatening, especially to computer illiterates. The technology also allows other forms of social systems to operate side-by-side, presenting complementary options rather than alternative solutions to the way people behave.

Turning Points: Greater public acceptance and use of smart card technology necessitating much more public trust in computer systems. Possible development of systems from the personal health sector which demand high levels of safety and trust. The 'always on' availability of communications so people do not have to think about making connections or worry about costs.


Story to be added

Background: Governments face some serious problems with the Internet. They see subversive activities, paedophilia, and no protection against financial fraud, diminishing taxes and an increasing lack of control. Governments feel diluted and drained of authority. In an effort to control every transaction and message that occurs in Cyberspace, governments co-operate with suppliers and commercial interests to monopolise power. But sovereignty does not extend to Cyberspace.

On the supplier side, smaller numbers of increasingly larger suppliers control the provision of certain related services. Smaller competitors close down or merge as market share diminishes. International treaties override licence conditions for all suppliers of services, forcing them to allow full access to all messages, transactions and addresses facilitated by them. All details required by the authorities are streamed to monitoring centres and from there to analysis centres. Funded by the military, international fibre-optic circuits and supercomputers do the analysis. As the world becomes more and more dependent on electronic messaging, the analysis system will answer any question the authorities wish to pose for whatever reason. If citizens fail to answer satisfactorily, they might face the prospect of services being withdrawn for six months rather than jail. Because rigorous identity checks, including the ubiquitous 'thumbprint' check, would make it impossible to assume another identity, withdrawal of services would effectively isolate violators.

Implications: The development of Portals will manage access to information and services. Individuals are restricted to the information and choices of the Portal manager. Governments view their government service portals in a similar way. This centralisation of control is portrayed as good for the citizen e.g. anti-crime, anti-fraud etc. In the corporate world a few large companies own the whole value chain, from the provision of the portal and its services through to the means to access it. In this way the corporations have tamed Cyberspace for their own use. However this scenario would produce a situation of long-term instability. Although initially attractive, involvement in such activities would be politically and commercially damaging.

Turning Points: Governments unwilling to strengthen data protection legislation to protect people from companies that build very detailed profiles about individuals. Loyalty card individual sues corporation for electronic harassment and losses. With increasing use of private corporations to provide government services there is sharing of data across different sectors, e.g. health and insurance.

The CyberCar

On leaving my office yesterday I detected a long list of messages on my Car Digital Assistance (CDA). Browsing the main menu I discovered that Peter was willing to share the journey back home with me that evening. He had already negotiated with my personal travel manager (PTM) that he could join me at the supermarket, as he had to buy food for the weekend too. Whilst driving to the supermarket I downloaded the updated shopping list my wife had prepared for me and submitted it to the supermarket shopping agent. My bargain seeker notified me that finally the music CD we were waiting for had been realised to the city shops. I asked my CDA to sort out from both the bargain seeker and the PTM all the music shops on my way to the supermarket and organise for an auction involving those interested in selling me that CD for less than 15 Euros. Surprisingly no one accepted my offer but I am attracted by the offer from the AC|CD shop which for 30 Euros would bundle it in with three other CDs.

The CDA reported to me that the PTM had already modified the route to the supermarket and then asked me to sign the e-check for the supermarket. Later I was notified that my shopping was already available at gate 35. Peter was waiting me there as he had been notified by my CDA.

On the way home the PTM selected a smooth slot on the highway and planned the arrival within 30 minutes. Nice! That was exactly the amount of time required to discuss and plan with Peter our weekend. Peter played his DVD with the itinerary he had last year and we let the auto steering system drive home while we started examining all the possible alternatives. We decided to engage both our wives in a teleconference and then switched on the windscreen OSD (on screen display). We were about to conclude and store our travel itinerary when we arrived home. I dropped Peter of at his village and took control of the car to reach home. From time to time I like to drive myself just as my grandfather was used to drive his old car. However whenever I do so I have to accept a temporary increase on my car insurance premium for the duration I'm in charged.

Next day, despite the encouraging weather forecast, it was raining heavily so we had to change our plans refraining from embarking on an extra region trip. The alternative we picked up after a quick check on the CDA (that was earlier instructed to search and filter a few happenings) was to spend the afternoon at the city stadium and then go to a cinema.

As we planned already to join Peter and his family staying with them the whole day we took the basic module of the car with just four seats on it. Peter would have then simply connected their family module to our car thus setting up an 8-seat person carrier.

On the way to the stadium, while the CDA was booking an 8-seat park slot at the stadium, we concentrated on choosing the evening movie. We tuned in the broadcast carousel of the top ten and enjoyed the trailers of a few adventure movies on the wide screen. While the show was running, the CDA warned us that due to a traffic jam the PTM had to negotiate a different arrangement for the final part of the trip. Our combined 8 seats living module would have been aggregated with others up to reaching the stadium. We would have left the locomotive module in a stand-by park along the highway, ready to be picked back on our way back to home.

Once at the stadium our living module was taken and brought to the booked place and finally connected to the live info system of the stadium. We then enjoyed the match and there we had the occasion to participate to a virtual match organised just after the main event.

Leaving the stadium then we rented a locomotive module to go to the cinema. We plugged-in our detachable CDA and it managed to synchronise and instruct the local PTM to guide us to the destination. There we see the movie we chose early in the afternoon and finally we let the CDA to seek for the best "fish menu" available in town. The PDM skipped a few places where no parking places were available and suggested us a couple of nice places. We booked both the restaurant and the parking place and went there for the dinner. During the dinner the CDA managed to find a lift back to the stand-by parking on the highway and we concluded the day helping the kids with their homework …what a boring thing to design and develop a 3D model of a micro turbine!

Background: The concept of CyberCar extends the implications of contemporary personal/family transport. However, unlike those populating roads today, cyber cars will be multi-purpose vehicles assembled on the spot by users so that they can be customised individually. The CyberCar will take the strain out of driving on congested roads, optimising journeys to minimise environmental impact. The car will come fully equipped with sophisticated subsystems (GPS positioning, electronic guidance) to help guide, protect and entertain the occupants. The combination of in-car-processing, highway processing and the links to the driver's own information and communications systems make cyber cars more than just a physical transport system. Concepts such as car sharing include people using cars as temporary taxis. The onboard CyberCar system will arrange the pick-up, fares, identity checks and record of behaviour. Traffic reduction will also be achieved through the monitoring and booking of slots on busy highways as well as car parking spaces.

Implications: Much of the technology is available today, in particular cheap mobile communications, but further development would be needed in 3D graphics, and man-machine interfaces such as voice technologies and holographic rendering. The CyberCar is just another mobile node, like home or office. There are many anxieties, not the least of which relates to the absolute tracking of people and cars by government or private groups. A new authority is needed, perhaps linked in some way to environmental concerns. The CyberCar would allow personal travel only within a controlled transport framework; benefits include environmental protection and almost total passenger safety. From technology and network viewpoints there will be many possibilities to use or extend current networks, both fixed and mobile, to cater for traffic control. However it is more than just control of the vehicle, the CyberCar scenario points to opportunities for providing in car entertainment and advertising.

Turning Points: Sophisticated navigation devices start to appear in ordinary cars. Motorways introduce greater control of traffic movement, perhaps leading to people applying for motorway slots, like in air traffic control. Slots could be related to road and congestion pricing. With improved on- board radio communications and display screens commercial bodies like supermarkets or restaurants could advertise to passing motorists.

My CyberTown

Jane's interior design business wasn't getting much business. Countrywide, thousands of shops and other buildings were drab and dull, because the owners never had enough money to decorate them, let alone rebuild them. In a better economy, she could make a mint. Then she heard about the idea of Cybertowns. Immediately she realised that here was the opportunity she had been waiting for. Now the cost of refurbishment would be just the cost of the design, since no actual decorating or building need be done at all. Getting in there among the first, she would be able to increase shop takings and take a slice of the profits. So Cybertown Designs was set up. As the local Cybertown was developed, Jane's company took most of the business designing the look and feel of each of the premises, and even won contracts from the local authority who were running the Cybertown to design a new layout for the streets. When people logged on and looked at their local town, it was tidier and prettier than in real life. The ugly junctions now were clearly there, but were sanitised by ornaments and plants. Inside the shops, the differences were stunning. Apart from being much bigger than real life, with a larger range of products, they were pleasant places to visit almost worthy of Cybertourism.

The first problem was that as people got more and more used to the beautiful Cybertowns and their ugly sisters, there was ever increasing pressure on councils and property owners to tidy up the real world. In the absence of extra local taxation, this was obviously unachievable, so councils started to try to increase their takings by incorporating companies and shops from other towns. By renting new cyber-developments to all comers, local facilities were increased in even the smallest rural town. The incentive to go to real towns became less and less. Furthermore, as Cybertowns spread, there was less and less profit to be had from all the echo outlets. Only so much money is available and with a growing number of competitors, local companies began pressurising councils to restrict outsiders. But it was too late. By this time, software had become available that was able to make totally personalised environments, with completely fictional shops, storing the goods that the computer knew the user would be interested in. The Cybertown bubble burst. Suddenly there was a culture where people were happy to shop on the network, and where there was complete flexibility (at no cost) to mix products together from any manufacturer without any need for a retailer. Customers could deal direct with manufacturers, while retaining all the functionality that retailers had traditionally offered.

Almost overnight, real shops began going out of business. The ones left were reduced to little more than outlets where people would try out goods, try on clothes and so on, but would then take out their mobile computers and order a customised version direct from the manufacturer.

But Jane's company survived and flourished. By licensing designs to the software companies, they were able to make attractive and compelling environments and she was able to continue her designing.

Background: The CyberTown is a good example of what can be done by combining rich information gathering and provision with good filters. It is a very intuitive way to provide huge amounts of data to people. Real towns and their occupants would broadcast information into the world continuously, and viewers can extract what they need via filters. Such a prospect could be achieved by widespread use of video cameras for the real visual input; extensive use of smart databases to allow shops to show products in user-specific customised environments, GPS to enable vehicular positioning and guidance. Many other systems from e-commerce and so on could be integrated into the CyberTown. The user can then obtain any combination of real world and computer generated information, merged into a seamless 3D environment that resembles the real town. Of course, the concept extends further into Cyberspace. As well as the 'real' image of the real town, it will have echoes in many other areas of Cyberspace. Totally synthetic Cybertowns will exist that incorporate some information or images from real towns. A shop in one town may also have Cyberspace outlets in others. Many of these Cybertowns will exist only as individual spaces for the persons using them. We have a complete spectrum ranging from the imaginary and computer generated through to real life, with another axis ranging from completely flexible and personal to fixed and public.

Implications: This scenario illustrates the complex coupling that is likely to occur between the real and virtual worlds. Its emphasis is on 'local', but organisations and stores could have virtual premises in any CyberTown street whether or not they existed physically in the real world. One can anticipate the need for some authority to take responsibility for the structure and control of CyberTown - perhaps these might come from today's developing community networks or portals. Establishing an interactive CyberTown would be expensive, but eventually it could be cheap to operate. It is expected that the CyberTown would have real estate value, with some positions being worth more than others would, all requiring support services. Issues of virtual property ownership and responsibility, including people's rights to roam and virtual tourism, will arise in all their complexity. Eventually the asset value of the CyberTown could be worth more than its underlying information and communication infrastructure.

Turning Points: There are already early examples of virtual towns. However, enthusiasts will expand their number fashioning a user interface that is more intuitive. Improvements in digital rendering techniques and 3-D space creation will transform Cybertowns from possibility to actuality. Pictures and maps on GPS enabled mobile communicators will encourage the development of whole cyber landscapes.


A few years after the Cyber Realm started by retired BT futurologist Daniel Green, it had over a billion users. Their combined efforts had made it a place that was both the de-facto business location for meetings and commerce and was equally irresistible as a location for spending an evening. There were all the things you would expect - a wide range of world class entertainment, shopping, socialising, and access to every sort of culture. Sensors and cameras were so ubiquitous it effectively included the real physical world and people could travel to anywhere during their free moments, seeing everywhere at its best. The fact that it was non-profit made it a welcome change to the monopolistic exploitation people were use to. The only people who didn't use the Realm were third and developing world residents who didn't have fast access to a connection. Unlike the internet that had been very slow and was clogged with advertising, the Realm was ultrafast so that delays were imperceptible most of the time, and the small delays left were the only clue that the people you were talking to were actually on different continents. Otherwise, the quality of the images coupled with the latest immersion technology made communication almost as good as being in the same room. Except that the room wasn't real, the carpets didn't need cleaned, and the architectural diversity was way out of reach of materials science in the real world. Larger than life had always been a problem for people taking holidays to places they had seen on TV, but with the realm, real life just couldn't compete. Beaches were always empty of fat and ugly people and were never polluted. And the imaginary places made the real world emulations look especially dull.

But however good the technology is, there is always human nature to spoil things. Inevitably, people of political persuasion saw the realm as just another power base and very quickly they were building communities and empires. Instantaneous communication, data mining and personality matching tools lent themselves well to finding the people likely to listen, then persuading them to follow. Most people weren't interested in joining groups, but didn't object to others furthering their interests so long as they didn't have to do anything personally. So groups started up as pressure groups to influence companies and authorities of all kinds. Opposing groups started fighting it out in cyberspace. Many areas of the realm were taken over by battles; logic bombs destroyed areas of Cybercities just as real world cities were once destroyed. Defences were constructed around fortress cities, and quickly people had to decide where their affiliations lay. The utopian Realm with free travel anywhere with people of every persuasion living happily together became just another casualty, with cybernations and Cybercountries, with passports and politicians. Utopia was no more.

Background: A high-speed high capacity optical network is constructed using spare capacity on the world's networks, connecting all the major centres of activity. These centres are provisioned with huge processing power, giving high storage, processing and transmission capacity. This platform is used to provide a huge Cyberspace, called Cyber-Realm, which is then populated by cyber enthusiast. People could create their own cyberplaces and establish communities within the Realm, and as it grew, it becomes more attractive for commerce and socialising. There is competition among subgroups, competing for wallets and mindsets. Various self-contained 'nations' arise and various forms of governance are established allowing communities to associate in friendly and civilised ways. As socialising and commerce increases, the Realm gradually engages more of people's time and resources, and more of the world's communications and processing capability, until eventually it becomes the de-facto network for everything. As communities grow, alternative nationalities arise and eventually some groups are recognised as nations in their own right.

Implications: The Realm is achievable using either dedicated networks or by dynamically configuring bandwidth from existing networks. Something like this model can be expected to occur quite soon. One possible source could be a global research network. It would provide an alternative approach to defining and creating Cyberspace, possibly setting the design parameters for a post-Internet world. Commercially it could be very attractive to organisations and businesses that want an advanced global cyber presence. Politically it could begin to have a global presence in its own right; issues of governance would be high on its agenda. It could usurp geographic boundaries and replace them with cultural boundaries. The inherent complexity of this system would mean that artificial intelligence techniques would have to be extensively used to manage it, many of which may be autonomous. Eventually it could become the basis for a new global networking environment to house multinational corporations' global communication and computing requirements.

Turning Points: The Internet becomes too regulated, restricted, commercial, or just too crowded or successful. 3D technology really comes of age and people want to create something unique and different that is both play space and a business space.


Janet and John had never met, but they both died on the same day and their families had their heads frozen as requested. They had been ill for some time and the arrangements were on schedule. Before their minds started suffering, they would leave their unreliable biological bodies behind. The CyberJars Corporation took them both in and connected them up. Almost at once, they were free, no longer confined to their hospital beds. The computer provided them with the illusion that they were wandering round; though their heads were just in jars. The world they lived in now appeared the same as everyone else but had many additional features. Immortality was the headline grabber, but they hadn't fully realised the full impact of telepathic relationships at computer speed. With their brains connected into cyberspace they could communicate using thought to the computer. Obviously the computer is connected to everyone else in the same network so they can communicate telepathically with each other.

Janet and John were both new and decided to explore together. Pretty soon, they were in love. Physical appearance is obviously rather more fluid when your eyes are just electronic connections to a computer and you don't have a body, and each of them appeared just as the other would like them to be. Their voices sounded perfect too. Although they were both well into their 80s when they died, they now had the pleasure of youth again. They could run, jump and dance as well as any athlete. John had mental access now to all the world's love poems with which to woo Janet and she in turn was able to tap into all those things she knew John liked. All they needed now was a child.

John had never had children and Janet looked back with fond memories of baby smiles, knowing that this time round there would be no nappies to contend with. She couldn't wait. The first step was socialising as much as possible. They partied continuously for weeks, meeting people from all over the world with all sorts of characters. After a while, they had pretty much captured all those things about other people that they liked and had designed their ideal child. The next day they organised a cyberbirth, when their child would be constructed for them by the CyberJars matrix, with all the AI and characteristics they had requested. It would be brought up by them at an accelerated rate over the next year or so. Then it would be free to make its own way in life. If it wanted it could have a biological body constructed for it using the latest and genetics fabrication and cloning technology. Its real world cousins are not sure whether to be jealous or not.

The cyberspace child went through school in just a few minutes, since all the knowledge and skills it will ever need are inherently woven into its very being. It appears fully adult in every way at just a year old, while the physical teenager cousins are just slightly older teenagers. From now on, they will get older while the cyberspace version will stay at 25. The real teenagers are a little jealous of all this but they still believe the real world must have something special. It is real whereas cyberspace is just a computer environment. So this means they can have real pain and get really sick and be really killed by the bus… The cyberspace cousin doesn't miss any of this. To him, cyberspace includes a small alcove that incorporates the entire real world by virtue of the trillions of sensors worldwide. But no one ever spends any time there. It is dull, dull, dull, compared to the infinite stimulation of cyberspace.

Background: The combination of cryogenics and information technologies eventually makes it possible to remove the brain, place it in a jar of nutrients and connect it to a computer. The body becomes an irrelevance. This allows people to carry on living in spite of their mortal bodies. Some people might take this option long before their body has aged. Such people could carry on living by having computers link their minds into Cyberspace, or they could have their minds linked to or transplanted into a cloned body. They could wander round Cyberspace as they used to in the real world, but with all the enhancements and absence of physical constraints that Cyberspace has to offer. Individuals could pay companies to provide them with stimulation and care. People could interact with others in Cyberspace as well as in the real world, and relationships could occasionally produce Cyberspace offspring. Some of these could have a physical body made for them. Concurrently, it is likely that we will be able to use nanotechnology-based probes connected to individual brain cells to establish cordless two way links between brain and machine, which would remove the need to have the brain transplanted. This possibility of making a 'backup' would effectively confer immortality without any functional complications. Machines are also likely to achieve consciousness offering the prospect of links to higher intelligence, mind extension, personality modification, global consciousness and many others.

Implications: Technologically direct brain linkage may be possible in the near future, but whether the technology for detached heads is likely or desirable remains difficult to assess. However, CyberJars does present us with the human mind's biological voyage into the computer and Cyberspace. If such a eventuality were to happen then many ethical issues would have to be dealt with, including whether such cyborgs could be regarded as human and what rights would they have. While today we are building Cyberspace from without, would such beings build it from within, and would their experiences of that space be very different from ours? Could the promise of immortality lead to an exodus from the real world? Would there be competition between Cyberspace and the physical world?

Turning Points: Interest in this area arises from two main sources: the military and medical research. Advances in technologies such as brain-to-computer coupling will occur. But trigger points may be some epidemic or disaster where the only hope is to send humans into Cyberspace. Perhaps ethical considerations such as ending capital punishment may mean that criminals are given the opportunity to exist in Cyberspace rather than real space.

Closing remarks

Unlike the world that naturally surrounds us, humans devised Cyberspace. Whereas nature is found, Cyberspace and its properties are constructed for human use. Therefore we have to think in terms of 'engineering' Cyberspace in the same way we engineer other complex human artefacts.

Until recently Cyberspace has been devot-ed to the relay of text and numerical information. But the trend toward spatial representation in computing implies that elec-tronic environments themselves may become subjects for design. A good example is the development of the Internet portal concept. Portals may be conceptualised as environments within Cyberspace.

A key feature of Cyberspace is its inter-disciplinary nature. It is particularly rich in artistic content and in many ways has more affinity with media subjects than engineering ones. If Portals where just text driven spaces then their popularity would be limited. They are, in fact, becoming multimedia-rich design zones. We have to re-think our design parameters for such environments and the ways in which we link human needs to the underlying software and communication architectures.

In Cyberspace, nothing is given. The spatial experience is a conscious choice and requires an investment of effort and resources. The strategies for these spaces require us to determine their content as well as their containing spaces in much the same way as architects are aware of the ergonomics of people and movement when designing terrestrial buildings.

Cyberspace offers designers no such certainties. Users may occupy several spaces simultaneously. Many alternatives are available to users of these spaces, and designers must anticipate each choice, constructing the experience for consistency and grace. Furthermore, this design must be coherent from one space to the next and from one state to another. This might require designers to think like the direc-tor of a film, unifying content, movement and transition through careful design. Similarly, the architecture of Cyberspace is more like the space of our dreams, where our environment is complicit with us anticipating our actions and responding to our states of mind. Through its perceptual and cognitive realms Cyberspace extends us beyond our-selves to others. This is the potential strength of Cyberspace.

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