Web 2.0 = Facebook, Web 3.0 = StumbleUpon, Web 4.0 = Skynet?
I was coming up with topics for hubs, and I thought about making one about the business models of web technology; specifically Web 2.0. While the idea seemed promising, there was already a galaxy, it seemed, of articles on the subject already. So after a while, I moved onto imagining what Web 3.0 would be like.
After realizing that Web 3.0 was no longer in the speculative stage, I ran a search to see if anyone had begun hypothesizing what Web 4.0 would be like. Suffice it to say, I was a little disturbed by what I found.
There were some theories that compared the next step of web technology to the advent of Artificial Intelligence, a.k.a., computers thinking and making decisions for themselves!
I was in disbelief at first. But that didn't last long. It seems like a common thread among sci-fi flicks that technology will inevitably be the end of us. But what once was dismissed as imaginative fantasy is starting to become more and more possible each day.
Web 2.0 Technology
Before you call me crazy, let's look at what is happening to web technology now. Web 2.0 is the current generation of Internet technology. In a nutshell, Web 2.0 is basically users (that's you and me) making content for websites, instead of the webmasters. Think of websites like Facebook, Youtube, and even HubPages. These are all examples of Web 2.0 technology at work.
Seems pretty low key and non-threatening, right? From both the users' and webmasters' viewpoints, it's a win-win equation. We get to determine what content gets created and have some power over how web technology evolves. Webmasters get to take advantage of all of this material for whatever reason they can come up with. Everything's peachy.
Web 3.0 Technology
Cool. Now let's move onto the next phase of web technology: Web 3.0. The accepted notion is that Web 3.0 will be more interactive than its predecessors. That is because it will learn about users and tailor searches and content to their interests. StumbleUpon is an example of a website using Web 3.0 technology. By utilizing a simple feature of rating whether users like or dislike a webpage, StumbleUpon is able to learn user patterns and bring about more relevant searches that the user will be more likely to enjoy.
Web 3.0 is the next logical step for web technology. It guarantees that every user will have a unique and intimate experience when surfing the Internet. Instead of having to machete through web content that is useless to the user, "the web" will gather information about each person by recording and analyzing their Internet habits. Imagine logging onto a news website, and only getting the news that you're interested in, without having to manually search for it. Brilliance!
Web 4.0 Technology
And now we arrive at the future of web technology; Web 4.0. Out of the few resources that I discovered that actually wrestled with the subject, most of them concluded that Web 4.0. would be akin to what we call Artificial Intelligence, or A.I. This means that computers (more specifically, the Internet) would be able to "think and make decisions" with regard to user searches and / or content.
That's right. The projected evolution of web technology may very well lead to human and robot coexistence. Robots that act and think like us. Of course, A.I. will probably start with computers and then move forward from there. That means computers will be able to give suggestions based on educated studies of how we live and what we want / need.
Let's say you wanted to learn how to fix a glitch crippling a new piece of technology that was just recently put on the market yesterday. It would still be too early for other users to help you do this, and the developers have not been able to troubleshoot the problem because it never occurred in the testing phase of development. Theoretically, the future of web technology would allow for a computer to analyze the problem and offer you a solution. In fact, it may be able to fix the problem itself!
Now this is where the whole threat of Skynet, and likewise A.I. systems comes into play. The fact that web technology could hypothetically solve problems and perform other tasks normally delegated to humans means optimum efficiency, and maintaining society.
The Danger of Advanced Web Technology
But like all science-fiction movies, novels, video games and other works imply, the question of just how intelligent these systems will be gets raised. If advanced web technology can solve minor problems like computer glitches on its own, how long is it before the inevitable happens, and they attempt to "solve" the problem of humanity altogether?
It sounds crazy, but do realize that most of our technological advancement happened within a relatively short period of time when compared to the history of the planet. Think about services like Google Earth, that can provide users with information about other people's whereabouts, and the tracking devices in some of the newer cell phones being released.
Just where does all that information go? And who gets to see it?
The Future of Web Technology
I guess the best case scenario would be that next generation web technology would just allow companies to track buying habits and provide people will individual assistance for problems too unique for troubleshooting.
Like all forms of technology, web technology holds great potential for those who wield it properly. Many of the monotonous tasks we are forced to do daily can become automated, and life could potentially be made hands-free.
At the same time, advancing web technology can, (and probably will), be used against us, either by we ourselves, or by the technology itself.
It's just a matter of time to see which happen first.