EMBRACE THE SWARM

Dumb parts, properly connected into a swarm, yield smart results.

A trillion dumb chips connected into a hive mind is the hardware. The software that runs through it is the network economy. A planet covered with hyperlinked chips is shrouded with waves of sensibility. Millions of moisture sensors in the fields of farmers shoot up data, hundreds of weather satellites beam down digitized images, thousands of cash registers spit out bit streams, myriad hospital bedside monitors trickle out signals, millions of web sites tally attention, and tens of millions of vehicles transmit their location code; all of this swirls into the web. That matrix of signals is the net.

The net is not just humans typing at one another on AOL, although that is a part of it and will be as long as seduction and flaming are enjoyable. Rather, the net is the total collective interaction of a trillion objects and living beings, linked together through air and glass.

This is the net that begets the network economy. According to MCI, data traffic on the global phone system will soon overtake voice traffic. The current total volume of voice traffic is 1,000 times that of data, but in three years that ratio will flip. ElectronicCast estimates data traffic–the talk of machines–will be ten times voice traffic by 2005. That means that by 2001 most of the signals zipping around the Earth will be machines talking to machines–file transfers, data streams, and the like. The network economy is already expanding to include new participants: agents, bots, objects, and servers, as well as several billion more humans. We won’t wait for AI to make intelligent systems; we’ll do it with the swarm power of ubiquitous computing and pervasive connections.

 

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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK