Vint Cerf gave a riveting lecture to the Singularity University students on how he created the first Internet and it’s growth and infrastructure leading up to the present. Afterwards, he gave them more than an hour of solid Q and A.
During the Q and A session, a student asked Vint about his opinions about Twitter and the rise of social networks in general, and what he thought their implications were.
Here is his answer:
"As a real time rapid text communication capability, it’s very interesting," he said. "Because in an emergency situation, or in a situation like the situation in Iran, where there is a lot of political unrest, a lot of the information came out of that system that way. The mobiles have also enabled something that I think I didn’t fully appreciate until it started happening. These things have image capability. They can do video. They can do still imagery, and they can transmit data. And so every one of us becomes part of a very global sensory system.
The other thing which is begining to show up, is that people are looking at these devices and saying ‘gee, these are interesting devices.’ They know where they are (either because of GPS receivers, or because they are estimating their location by measuring the radio signals from bay stations).
And they have other properties. For example, they can tell if you’re moving or not. They have accelerometers because they need to be able to tell the orientation of the device. And you could instrument them. You could imagine, for example, if you needed an honest monitoring system for your current health conditions, and you could imagine instrumenting yourself and then having that data picked up by a mobile and transmitted for evaluation or for storage later. You could imagine using your mobile to detect hazardous substances.
Humanity, at the end of the day, could track everywhere you went, and then you could take that trace and give it to service, and say ‘did I go anywhere known to be dangerous? Is there a biohazard? Is there an announcement of swine flu? Was there an outbreak there? Were there other substances that I should be worried about?’
These systems have applications which I think we will discover over time. For me, the exciting thing to just anticipate, are the new ideas for using these instruments."