I was at the NASSCOM Product Conclave 2011 where Mr. Vinod Khosla said that he thinks that social media is only in its infancy. I agree with him. If you think that Facebook or Twitter is only about sharing what you ate at a restaurant or share photos that you clicked on your holiday, you’re seeing it the wrong way. You may not find a reason compelling enough to use social media if you’re not using it now. But technology has always been about where the puck is headed. Social media which forms the social structure on the internet is incrementally becoming the most important ingredient of the 21st century. To say that social media is silly would be as stupid as to say that human beings are unsocial.
We’re forming a parallel world on the internet which will define our lives. Our education, bread and butter, health and almost everything that is important to us will depend on the social structure that is being currently formed on the internet. I met a startup at the NASSCOM event that is building a trading platform for the brokers. The platform shall soon have a real time investment graph showing you the stocks that are being bought or sold by the people you trust. As information is being curated now on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ they will help you curate investments so that you can make the best investment decisions. Dear lord! The whole economy’s backbone will rest on the social structure in a parallel world-internet. This will happen to education too. Children of tomorrow can sit at home and choose any classroom in the world and study with his friends as we did in school. But this is only the adolescence of social media.
This is how I think the adulthood would be. In the past decade the three biggest online platforms- Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted all their energy on opening the flow of information. The craze and obsessiveness with information exists because information helps people make decisions. And when people make decisions there is usually tremendous flow of money, hence this is a high value business. In my view, information won’t be the strongest enabler in helping people with decisions in the future. We’ve already reached an optimum level of information spoon-feeding. People of tomorrow will make decisions based on social perception. And I mean that in a big way. Imagine you are not sure who you want to vote. A social perception engine will be something like Google, where you search,” “Who to vote?” and the search result will serve you up with the most popular views of the society presented to you in a single short video. You need not spend hours searching blogs to get an idea what people you trust are talking about. We may think that information is powerful, it is, but we make decisions based on our personal judgement that is formed by the social perception.
We’re going to only have our mortal in the real world but the self and the intellect will reside in the virtual world. With such tremendous power comes tremendous responsibility for the technology world of the future. As, we need law enforcement system in the real world we are going to need a law enforcement system that is multiple times stronger than the previous one in the virtual world because the communities are going to be so preposterously entwined that any violation of law can cause unimaginable and catastrophic disasters for civilians, governments or private business. We’ve seen how social media caused a revolution in the middle-east. This was a positive outcome. But how do we make sure that this power won’t be misused?
Building an automated law enforcement system to ensure malicious intent does not destroy the purity of the virtual world is going to be the one of the hardest challenges of the mankind in the 21st century because of the following reasons:
a) Human being converse in natural language. Hence, the system has to be capable to understand natural language.
b) The system has to be self-learning so that it can detect patterns. Hence it has to be artificially intelligent.
c) Who is going to build this law enforcement infrastructure and who is going to own it?
These are very difficult questions to answer. Technologically it does not seem to be impossible to me. Siri is one of the living examples of how a computer can be taught to understand natural language and recognize patterns. The bigger challenges are- who is going to build such a system and who is going to own it? My imagination is only limited, I can’t answer this question. Perhaps a start-up coming out of garage would be a nice beginning and eventually when it becomes successful the governments of the worlds will rely on its platform. Or perhaps it is going to be an open source platform where the likes of Facebook and Google will work together for their own benefits to provide an abuse-free service to their consumer. Only time can answer this question.
Summarizing, I’d like to say that social media is perhaps the most important invention of the 21st century. Those who think social media to be silly are going to make a u-turn or become irrelevant. Since, it is going to become a basic infrastructure of tomorrow’s economy, it is important that we protect social media with utmost care. Otherwise we may lose more than we can afford. Yes, it is incredibly challenging to solve this problem but there are positive signs and technologies available that can help solve this problem. This is the one of the next multi-billion dollar industries.