Jack Seay 1993 - freely distributable
If you are talking about the future of industry and information, you are talking about Nanotechnology and Mirror Worlds. They will change your life in the coming decades. Both are still in the development stages, and they are radical approaches to using matter and information. Nanotechnology will give you ways to transform matter many times more powerful than all technology in history so far. Mirror Worlds will provide an unlimited organizing structure to contain, distribute, create, and use the world's collection of information: books, newspapers, magazines, journals, public records, movies, TV, music, phone conversations, computer data, conferences and conventions - all in one digital medium of access and exchange. Virtual reality will be just one of several ways to explore Mirror Worlds.
The key goal of Mirror Worlds is "topview", the big element missing in our educational system today. To visualize topview, imagine flying over a 3-D map of your city. Below you see streets colored to indicate traffic density, public buildings with colored boxes on them showing various indicators of performance. This is the top level. Drop into City Hall and watch the video of last week's council meeting, or participate in a hearing now in progress. Jump out, fly over to the library. Drop down. Here you see the option of several views: topic, historic period, people, places. Here you also find the world's libraries: not just books; but video, audio, virtual realities (chemistry and biology labs, art classes, architecture in planning), weather, music, movies, audio books, and people to have discussions and forums with (all over the world). Libraries will be such fun. If you see a footnote you want to check out, grab it and yank on it. Start reading its' context. This is called hypertext, and is what I publish. Text is 3 dimensional. You read between the lines: related materials, definitions, in-depth outlines, timelines. It collapses and expands as you touch it. It breathes. There are other people now reading it, asking you questions and answering yours. Others have left their comments behind as they passed through. You can call them up or send them a message.
If you still can't find the answers to some questions you have, grab your 3-D video camera/computer and some scientific instruments, - go out and find the answers, make a documentary, involve people from all over the world who also have video camputers, edit the whole thing together (video, audio, effects) on your camputer, send it to the library via fiber-optic cable. You are now a TV studio. And so is everyone else who wants to be. Documentaries not your bag? Maybe you write poetry, make pottery, play darts, contemplate the Universe, or aspire to conduct orchestras. There will be areas in Mirror Worlds to play, and/or sell your wares and ideas. You can sometimes turn the thing off, close your eyes and listen to silence. Reorganize your furniture upstairs. You need to occasionally.
Most of the groundwork for all this has already been done or is in progress. (Read, several times, "Mirror Worlds: or the day they put the Universe in a shoebox" by David Gelernter.)
Suggest changes to the 3D computer model of the new Civic Center. Walk through the modified rooms, look around, touch things, talk to other people there, walk through their models, fly over them. There will be Mirror Worlds within Mirror Worlds with Mirror Worlds, (like the story "Horton Hears a Who", with a whole world inside a dust particle). Millions of people communicating all at once, in groups of 2, 3, 50, or 500.
A few facts: 1. We will all need to know a lot more in the future. 2. For most adults, college is not a practical option - they can't quit their jobs and families to become full-time students, and college is designed for full-timers. 3. Lifelong education already is a necessity to compete in most of the workplace. 4. Learning while earning must become the norm. 5. College degrees will become unnecessary. College as it is now operated is too expensive, too fragmented, too final. Education can not much longer be something you graduate from. Mirror Worlds will give us the capabilities to compete in the world, and understand it better.
Nanotechnology is a new branch of biochemical engineering. It's not about making smaller and smaller machines. That's microtechnology (motors and turbines on computer chips, etc.). Nanotechnology is a thousand times smaller than that. It is about making bigger molecules. Much harder to do than microtechnology, much more powerful. First, there will be shafts and bearings, then motors, then robot arms and conveyor belts with tiny machines on top of them. Then whole factories that build more factories. What happens next is mind-boggling. Cheap solar energy pavement, cars that drive themselves along the route they determine to be the safest and fastest, houses and jet engines grown in vats of raw materials solution, (assembled atom-by-atom by trillions of little factories too small to see, all working at once). Food "assembled" by synthetic plants ( just add water, dirt, and air), glasses' frames with 3-D video beamed into your lenses and surround sound. Magnetically supported subways running around the world at space craft speeds in a vacuum. I'm not even hitting the really far-out stuff here. Build Mirror Worlds with nanotechnology, and well - it makes science fiction look tame. You will develop your ideas and make some of your dreams real. For introductory reading about nanotechnology, see K. Eric Drexler's books "Unbounding The Future: the nanotechnology revolution" and "Engines of Creation".
Are Drexler and Gelernter dreamers and visionaries? Yes. But they are both building their dreams. And that's what the future is made of.