WebTalkGuys Radio has an interview with Howard Rheingold, the author of “Smart Mobs”, where he discusses the possible impact of a large number of people being able to interact in real-time via wireless and smartphones:
A smart mob is really about a social practice of a group of people who are enabled by an emerging technology. We’re seeing the PC, the Internet and the telephone emerging, and we’re beginning to see people using mobile communications and the Internet to mobilize and coordinate their collective actions in the real world. Those are “smart mobs.”
When I say “collective action”, big things happen when people are able to cooperate on a new level.
EBay is a great example of that. It is a market that shouldn’t exist because the buyer and seller are thousands of miles apart. Theres a reputation system that makes it work. Part of Smart Mobs talks about how a reputation system might enable us to connect with people we don’t know but might have a common cause.
There is also Napster – 70 million people put their computers together to create this giant jukebox.
There is SETI@home – 2 million people amassed 20 trillion computing operations per second of computing power to search for signals in outer space just by enabling your computer to share the computation with others on a collective basis.
Some people are using those computer cycles to help medical scientists study the immune system – something called folding@home (http://folding.stanford.edu) that studies protein folding.
So if you imagine that the devices were holding in our hands right now are going to be a thousand times more powerful 10 years from now, you have billions of devices a thousand times more powerful, communicating at very rapid speeds, we will be able to have these super computing collectives, these file-sharing collectives. What will they be able to do that we can’t do now? That is the important question about the future.