Internet’s past, present and future- keynote by Dr. Mark McCahill

I’m slow getting these notes up but a few weeks ago I attended an interesting conference on the history of the Internet. The only problem was that what they were presenting was stuff I remembered from my days at MRNet, which means history and my life are starting to intersect but it also reminds me of what interesting days we live in.

The keynote speaker was Dr Mark McCahill, who was lead developer at the U of MN for the GOPHER protocol. GOPHER was a precursor to the World Wide Web. It wasn’t graphical but it did provide amazing access to files on computers around the world. The difficulty was retracing your steps once you found something cool – or keeping focus because you could always find lots of cool things you didn’t know you needed. Again – precursor to the WWW. In fact McCahill spoke about his conversation with Tim Berners-Lee (developer of the WW) and wondering if they should work together on a protocol – McCahill decided not to and stuck with GOPHER.

His best line (of many) – If you’re in the right place you get exposed to the future – at least a little bit.

Then there was a lot of talk about the good and bad sides of broadband and technology.

We talked about the power of the internet and social media in raising previously unheard voices. And the power of social media, especially with kids, to create a false world that no one can live up to. It’s a double edged sword. But because of the growing impact of the internet e-commerce has gone from .9 percent of retail sales in 1999 to 10 percent today. Can you imagine how that’s going to grow?

We also talked about cyber security and the ability to have the Internet change the world for better or ill. Recipe for online dystopia was defined: “We know that adversaries are in our system. We can’t do anything. The next war will be digital. We rely on root cert authority.” Recipe for better: “Quantum computers. Get rid of root of trust. Standards are no longer enough.”

The Internet is a power that can’t be stopped but the session made the case that we need people thinking (and protecting against) worst case scenario. For example, we talked about the next generation of ID theft. Never mind criminals stealing credit info or your digital footprint. Artificial intelligence is getting to a point where one could create a synthetic version of you!

Again, a super interesting conversation – felt a little bit like sci-fi but probably closer to reality than I’d like to think.

This entry was posted in Conferences, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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