As a child I was often promised, among other things, a future who’s hallmarks were flying cars and holograms. Growing up I was regaled with tales of robots, instant meals, and all manner of things wonderful and fantastic. Furthermore these stories were always suppended with comments in the vein of “…and that is where you will get to make your mark, my boy!”. In those golden days of my youth, no-one expected humanity to try so hard to shoot themselves in the foot.
Moore’s Law stated initially that the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double over a period of two years. Moore himself placed limits on this theory, though the trend outlasted his wildest expectations; the result was a relationship that constantly underwent redefinition as the notion of “technology” evolved. Society had been skeptical in the past, steadfast in their belief’s that this kind of progress was pure fantasy, yet time and time again they were forced to sit slack-jawed in wonder at the latest in computing technology. The wiki article has a great history of the “Law”, and coincidentally one of my favourite blogs has just posted a fantastic article on how things could have turned out differently. What truly baffles the mind, what denies all plausible sensabilities, is how people seem to resent and resist this progress. Right here in Australia, planning is under way for a National Broadband Network that would potentially bring our fine nation into this nascent age of high definition internet access, connecting the entire country to the rest of the world in ways never before thought possible. For those of us isolated on the West Coast, the prospect of such a connection was akin to platform nine-and-three-quarters; a secret realm hidden between fantasy and ecstasy. On the cusp of such a monumental step forward, how does the populace respond?
They complain! They actually make statements like “The internet is fast enough[sic]”.
The argument that faster connections will only lead to greater instances of piracy are so unintelligent that I actually find them offensive. It is reductio ad nauseum to make the connection between faster downloads and the absence of any legitimate use of this extra bandwidth, and I don’t doubt for a second that Godwin is next to take the stage in this inane debate. Making things worse still, the population at large simply has too few sources of reliable and unbiased information from which to make an intellectual opinion. The media feeds this burning ignorance by stoking the flames of fear and mania, publishing and presenting stories designed only to create hyperbole and spread misinformation. It is the unfortunate state of our media monster, that if a news story is outrageous enough, other news sources will report on the first news story, thus creating a vicious cycle of publicity that all too soon spews out falsehoods masquerading as gospel.
I ask you now to imaging this, a near future where the right choices were made. The laying of fibre-optic cabling across the nation allows bandwidths capable of hundreds of Gigabytes per second (Gbps), with a fibre-to-the-home connection allowing a full 1 Gbps connection for each connected device. Using this connection, Television stations are capable of delivering HD Programming in addition to the high speed Internet afforded by the ISP. The cable-based TV station suffer less signal degradation than conventional antenna based transmission, resulting in a more reliable signal uninterrupted by local electromagnetic interferences such as washing machines or microwaves. With the TV stations no longer utilising the radio-wave transmission, this new “Empty Space” in the spectrum can be filled in by conventional wireless transmission currently being restricted to the frequency ranges around 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz. This greater freedom allows better signal penetration and less interference; it is now possible to have a single wireless router that will happily fill your house with no dead spots, and more than likely into your neighbours house as well. These freed-up frequencies also allow telecommunications companies greater opportunities in providing wireless broadband services to mobile phones and laptops on the move. The fibre-optic network also gives ISPs the chance to realistically offer competition to the current Telecommunications Conglomerates, driving down service charges and making communication easier and more affordable. The concept of being constantly connected to your family in England, or your children in the United States, is no longer some fantastical dream from a fantasy realm. Information becomes something people are entitled to, and able to access with ease and freedom.
Can you imagine this wonderful future?
Good. Now weep for it.