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Mark Pesce - Dense and Thick

Mark Pesce, Inventor, Writer, Educator and Futurist. Known internationally as the man who fused virtual reality with the World Wide Web to invent VRML, Mark Pesce has been exploring the frontiers of media and technology for a quarter of a century.

Mark Pesce wowed the crowd with his exuberence and positivity for New Zealand in general and Wellington in particular - as he said:

Teh Awesome.... Te Awesome

Part One - The Golden Age

October 1993 - Having made a wad of cash from Apple, Pesce buys himself a used Sun Smart station. 30kgs of awesome power. Using a modem, FTP and his RS232 port he downloads Mosaic. But there wasn't sufficient content within the system to make it worthwhile. To make hypertext interesting it needs to be broadly connected. Unless everything is connected, everything is useless. Over the next few months the content increased and Pesce found the web to be personally seductive and that is the core of the web experience. Roll on the Yahoo category tree and the personally seductiveness of the web spread. The web is:

All things to all people

It has overwhelmed us. If the web crashed and exploded, we would find a new way to gain access to the world of information that exists therein. We have subsumed it into who we are and what we do. This is the golden ago, when everything seems ppossibly but... this age is drawing to a close, caused by:

  • The defences that books held up to resist their own digitisation have finally buckled. The human cultural object will be transformed
  • Ubiquity has meant that computing becomes as mundane as an apple or a dinnerplate - the web is a surface and nothing else. The iPad is stripped of everything that makes it a computer

But, the human universe is not the entire unoverse, even as the flashing lights become more hypnotic

Part Two - The Silver Age

Things are never truly what they seem to be - we overlay our own perceptions on the material world and from that overlay derive meaning. The material world always has a subconscious component, an apple may remind us of the fall of man, or Newton's theories of gravity - always there but rarely spoken. One of the implications of a ubiquitous connected world brings depth of knowledge to all citizens. Everyone is connected to everyone else but also all the information that has been hoovered onto the web over time. Augmented reality is no longer going to be spectacular but we will wonder how we lived without it.

Example 1 - Books - The device becomes the focal point, the book will be subsumed into the network and the device will be where the book is made explicit. The book stands on a threshold and wants to be liberated but will be utterly destroyed in that liberation.

Example 2 - Beef mince - Pesce want to hold his device up to a packet of beef mince at a supermarket and have all the information of relevance and interest to him served up through the device. The questions he has about his foodstuff need to be answered immediately.

The more information we have on hand, the better decisions we can make for ourselves.

Example 3 - Medicine - Recently Pesce caught adult onset chickenpox. Medication was subscribed and Pesce dutifully complied. The Doctor who subscribed had no knowledge of Pesce's medical history, that could have been a recipe for disaster. Right now we rely on Doctors and Pharmacists to keep their own records of our own medications. This, says Pesce, is precisely backwards. In the future our genetic code will allow us to connect ourselves with the medicines we take, an interface to ourselves. This is a revolution in waiting.

Part 3 - The Bronze Age

The semantic web has always been about pushing to get the machines talking to each other. The world Pesce envisages is so compelling that it will pull us all into it. Right now we are starting from zero. We have the capability to conceive of the world as a database, put that database to work and overlay our world with that data. The real revolution will come from a direction no one expects. There is no reason to believe that Wellington could not be the epi-centre of that revolution. Wellington is creating the revolution in the film industry and has the ability to invent the future for the world. To open the door.