It’s Happening Now: Cisco Unleashes ‘The Human Network’

Not tomorrow. Yesterday.

“A phone that fixes a scooter. A billboard that adapts to an audience of one. A car that can see what’s ahead. On the human network, video changes everything.”

Click this link and scroll down to the ‘Visual Networking’ video. This is the ad that caught my eye.

You can also press play here for the official ad:

I remember when everyone was laughing at my naiveté in proclaiming that the internet will go video, eventually to become textless, and that this was the real nature of the internet.

Now I can clearly see that the global village vision of the internet was its inevitability from the start and that the conventionalist’s statements are out-dated by the hour and no longer by the day or week.

The ‘Visual Networking’ video ad features what looks to be a bustling French street scene. A guy next to a scooter, a billboard that has an asian woman catch a view of her friend just passing by the big screen in two remote locations on the planet as if they were right there in front of each other. THIS is what electric media have always meant: a literacy independent, total instant global communications media, decentralizing geography, nation-state, and virtually all human population demographics.

As the integral component of Cisco’s ‘Human Network’ Campaign, this company is unveiling video in a totally new (though perhaps overdue) way: teleconferencing as a mainstream way of life, rather than its current limitation to the select business world. For those who don’t know, teleconferencing is High-Definition video-phone where on a big HD screen or even on your laptop–HD video is transmitted right there in real time, as if one, two or even a dozen people were literally talking through a window like they were in the same room. For an overview, see this video:

The mistake conventionalists make in ‘taking in’ an idea, lies not in the the oversight of its understanding, but in failing to see its implications. This is a truism I hold to across the board.

So what are the implications of the new Cisco ‘Human Network’?

Here are just a few I can see right off the bat that you can laugh at now, and I can laugh at you for later:

-The end of divorce and the end of marriage-an eventual ubiquity of totally committed relationships for everyone at approximately age 15 .

-The end of the nation-state, and the retrieval of it as posterity and art i.e. the equivalent of the monarchy today.

-The speedup of business to the point of its obsolescence-corporations are so hell bent on creating this stuff–don’t they know that total video pervasion allows to ask: why do we need offices? Not to mention that video computer accessibility will replace the need for corporations themselves.

-Replacement of travel as supplemental rather than necessary.

-The end of the Oil industry.

-The end of conservatism.

-The conversion of geography into entertainment.

-The end of capitalism as an self-pro-active market economy: in the (near) future, you won’t go to jobs, jobs will go to you. Your career will be decided very early in life, perhaps by age 10, especially with the advent of the human genome project unfolding. The difference between this and fascism will only be that it will be accurate.

-The retrieval of local and individual business and a concentration on the arts and culture.


-City as planet.

-The end of nature on Earth.

So, hey, looks like a pretty bright future to me. This is what Bush and the rest of the old-world oil and industrial age conservatists are struggling against: our brave new world of electric media and global telecommunications which ushurs in the concentration on the environment, the local, the individual, the end of the mass-marketed suburban life-style.

I was nearly in tears watching these videos. I bought the propaganda hook-line-and-sinker.

Too bad the corporations don’t know they’ve signed their own death sentence: they will be shattered into 7 billion pieces.


15 thoughts on “It’s Happening Now: Cisco Unleashes ‘The Human Network’

  1. I think you’re damn close. A key point I would argue is that there are diametrically opposite views struggling to gain mainstream acceptance. There will be hiccups and many buyouts. I don’t see the infrastructure being affordable without massive consolidation. Also, I think there will be enough bandwidth for a variety of communication mediums, schools are starting to study the implications of texting as a separate language, I was surprised you didn’t address 3D Internet. An issue, in terms of adoption, becomes user experience. How much is too much information (not just visually but exposed)? What are the trends over the next 10 years going to look like? People have become very accustomed to customization. I think you’re right, seems a nice fit to expect them to start customizing their governments and personalizing the way they are sold product.

    I’ve run into a lot of people who fail to recognize that “the ultimate experience” isn’t a singular pinnacle but a conglomeration of technologies. It’s letting yourself see beyond the apex of what we’re using and understanding that it will evolve. I think you’ve done a nice job with what you’ve written but I’d love to see more concrete examples of that creeping normalcy. As far as vision goes, I think Spielberg did a great job explaining his own in Minority Report. Though limited, he’s already nailed some of the tech.

    I think you’re also using a shotgun to postulate. How long? How fast? Stick your neck out a bit more otherwise the future is an obvious thing 25, 50, 75 years out. I’d love to hear your views on UX, distributed computing, and telepresence.

    My favorite line:
    The conversion of geography into entertainment.

    I think that’s spot on. In regards to it, have you played GTA IV yet?

  2. Though you and I have had many philosophical disagreements, ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been pretty close when it comes to your predictions about technology. I agree with Dennis in that I’d like to see your examples expanded, rather than just quick bullet points.

    I think some of the changes may be a bit slower, though, due to current practical problems. First and foremost is energy. We’re at a shortage and banal politics are preventing the development of the infrastructure needed for the world you propose.

    Another is the major gaps between the haves and have nots. Where the west/first world may be adopting this world, many, if not most other humans, will still be living with 19th century technology.

    I think the last human civil war will be between those who are part of the machine and those who are not. I think that the argument could be made that that war actually started with WWI and hasn’t ended yet.

  3. To Joe:

    Yes, actually your anticipation of the machine civil war is dead on with what I would predict happening.

    My view is that it will happen sooner rather than later. It probably will happen in the next 50 to 100 years, if not sooner.

    I view this as being not so much a civil war, although that does somewhat seem fitting. The major reasons you gave I think are a HUGE part of it, and play into it, but I think the major reason will happen very suddenly due to robotics becoming all pervasive, rapidly. What happens when computers run everything is a very swift cutting of most of the jobs on the planet. When this happens, yes world war will ensue, but decentralized, mostly urban based world war. This will result when the economies collapse due to lack of jobs and war will substitute for them. I’m not sure how much the nation state will play into it, but the death of the nation state into a perhaps very ‘Rifts’ world-like environment could happen and might be likely.

    I never thought of the view that war simply hasn’t ended, and in fact, I would tend to just simply agree with that.

    I intended to make less sweeping predictions, but wanted the sweeping ones out there for first time readers of the subject on my blog to be able to read. As per reaction I will however, respond with another blog entaling specifics effects of the Human Network such as video-phone-‘blogging’ in real time with interactive debates. All in all, text will be made subordinate to video entirely, if not in many case, just gone.

    As far as the Energy problem is concerned, I generally omit this factor since it could mean ‘Game Over’ if you get my drift. Though I’m up for speculating about how it plays into all this.

  4. To Dennis:

    All in all, I think you’re view reflect the literacy-oriented, centralist conventional bias that there will be ‘product’ at all.

    Just look at how there is no more hard product with the disappearance of CDs to retrieve the old live show as if it were a new medium. That is, there will be no product to sell, just medium.

    This will happen to everything and even food will atomized through nano-technology and quantum physics into beams and teleportation. That’s a bit of a long way off, but the next thing to go will be suburbia and the car, to retrieve the bicycle which is already happening, just look at the popularity of Tour de France. Suburbia will be replaced by decentralist cities which are a retrieval of the old style New York pedestrian train based city. Trains will also be retrieved. Airplanes will give way to short distance jumper-jets rather than the long-haul busses. Perhaps this is where the flying car, which already exists, will come in.

    Capitalism nor individualism as we know them will survive the E-Media age. A new hyper-integrated communalism blended with the existing individualist culture will result for a very long time. I think your harking to Minority Report is accurate here.

    Just look at how community sites like Facebook and MySpace are transforming human interaction into networks. These are the networks that will replace the nation-state and land us into a decentralized pocketed series of ‘interest groups.’ The law as we know it will be gone, though law itself will have a form since has a necessity. Though law will be automated by machines, you will have instant communication via miniscule atom sized cameras EVERYWHERE.

    Once the landscape and geography, rooms, trees, the sky, themselves becomes a camera-linked computer, there will be no more criminals or descent in the way we know them. How will they take form? Probably in the form of a highly organized series of societies in which there are strict communal philosophies by which each of them has there own set of rules. It will be a matter of the long gone past which one you will be in. Until then, the internet is espionage as art form.

    The line “Geography as Entertainment” is a verbatim McLuhan aphorism, I can just see how it’s true.

  5. Neal,
    Your example of hard product is not what I was referring to. I never mentioned tangible product because I think we’ve already made the move to service-based industry, once nano-factories exist product will not be a tangible thing. We’re in the same camp there. What I was referring to is that it’s a given that much of what you’ve postulated has a high probability of occurring, my question was what do you think the experience of this looks like in the next decade or two? Looking at it from the outside in, can you drill down some more so that your ideas on the evolution toward “the open” relate to current trends. That’s the reason I asked what you may have to say on UX, distributed computing, and telepresence. Sound like you’re going to address some of these questions in the next post.

    I like the comments on Facebook and MySpace but we both know those are baby systems compared to the cross platform, cross network, life-sustaining, integrated mechanism the internet has the potential to become. Xbox-Live never gets put in the same category but GTA IV has clearly shown we’re prepared to virtually experience cities with friends we’ve made online.

    Any thoughts on ambient technologies and how they may change our energy and information usage? I’m asking for more concrete examples of the everyday rather than the philosophical generalities. What leads you to believe marriage and nations are ready to be put down? Is this coming from the potential of the technology in these ads are an unrelated philosophical ideology?

    In addition to these ads what disruptive technologies are you thinking about? I enjoyed some of the key bullet points because I thought you started to do that (ie. Replacement of travel as supplemental rather than necessary). I immediately thought Segway when you said bicycles in this last response. I don’t think many people have stopped to look at it from the outside as you have since we were younger. They don’t get that it’s not so much about when the matrix will be created but that we’re already well on the road toward its obsolescence.

  6. Okay, I stand corrected, sorry about that.

    As far as concrete examples go, they’re as numerous under each of the ‘generalities’ I made, as one can imagine:

    -We will certainly see the internet go ‘3d’or virtual as you mentioned, video games could be a very good platform for this to integrate into all the others, rather than going to a page one will simply ‘step in’ via any medium and I imagine that this media will range in quality just like video is now i.e. Skype vs. teleconferencing with Cisco.

    -Yes, Segways are the infants to replacing the car as well bikes or any other technologies that will crop up–I personally think levetational Segways and the like will replace the wheel with electromagnetic ground work

    -we can see the ‘speedup’ of romantic relationships with dating sites which will disappear under the weight of video-tele-conferenced community sites such as the multi-platform video-game virtual environments, these virtual environment based apps will replace the current page ones in anywhere from 3 to 5 years this heightened accessibility to give way to a huge increase and speedup of partners which will in turn, land people more with who they are better suited to. i.e. a marriage that would have lasted 5 years, is now only likely to last 1, a month, or maybe even only a few weeks before another partner is found

    -Education will be gradually, but eventually completely replaced by online simulators per field, i.e. interactive debates with thinking software for lawyers, and hyper-image-to concept based memorization techniques

    I am not sure what UX and distributed computing are, but I think distributed computing is a way to split software to run on multiple computers at once.

    I’m not sure I am going to get quite as specific as you want, as per my knowledge of the specifics is limited. I am not making predictions off of specifics I can name, just the implications of the media I can clearly see trends for in their infancy.

  7. On a very specific but relted note; please read: “Politics and Second Life: Virtua Lobbying”

    “I’m the canary in the coal mine,” Miller told the audience. “Second Life is the next frontier and hopefully other members will use it to expand the [public’s] interest and participation in Congress. I’m going to report back to my colleagues about how all this works

    Imagine how an online virtual world could transform politics as we know it…

    Also, see “Avatar Politics: The Social Applications of Second Life” by Nancy Scola, a former aide to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.),

  8. Loved this:

    -Education will be gradually, but eventually completely replaced by online simulators per field, i.e. interactive debates with thinking software for lawyers, and hyper-image-to concept based memorization techniques

    I think that nailed it.

    Thanks for following it up with some more thoughts. Have you seen any of the art-based physics simulators?

    Try this out, I think you’ll really enjoy it.

  9. I think the literature on Second Life is a start, but also look into what’s happening with World of Warcraft, Google, Ambient Findability, Augmented Reality technologies and artificial intelligence as it pertains to game design. Pick up any AAA game and it will likely come with an editor that essentially allows you to sandbox physics tests or ai trials. I think governments are going to catch on far too late, markets will have moved into the virtual and who the hell is going to offer up regional taxes for environments and transactions that exist in the virtual.

    “There is an ever increasing amount of people using virtual worlds at a rate of 15% every month and does not appear to be stopping or slowing down anytime soon. (Hof, 2006d; Gartner, 2007 cited by Bray and Konsynski 2007). This is the same with research being carried out in virtual worlds. It is an ever increasing way for business and governments to use the resources to gather and collate information for their use. Research for information systems purposes is being carried out in virtual worlds for the look in open sourcing, providing tools without the need for sponsorship of corporate businesses.”

    Following the path you’ve described, if education goes virtual lab, does it not stand to reason that entertainment will be essentially episodic content played out within a living virtual set? Imagine you’re watching someone else playing a mystery “mission” for lack of a better term, you can fly around and observe the unfolding storyline which to someone else will be what they are dynamically producing within the environment. TV shows suddenly become dirt cheap to create and the interactivity gap becomes surmountable. The future is a voyeur’s dream.

  10. I loved the last paragraph you wrote especially. It’s the fuckin Matrix man, the old, cliché, beat to death form of futurism: the virtual world. I just hope I can become a good enough developer and programmer to be able to create a world of my own with my paintings as content, perhaps in my late 30’s early 40s.

    But you’re right, movies are dead, virtual environent, which I think will begin as you suggest: with existing storyines, but then will progress into being actual worlds of their own like this one.

    I also like what you point out on virtual worlds having no taxes, but won’t the eventual virtual worlds need governments? Or will they? The virtual world throws a monkey wrench into everything because I don’t if people will eventually just give up their real lives for the virtual, or if the virtual world will simply be an augmentation to this one. I can see both happening. Obviously the first people to want a new world the most, are the ones who want a new life first i.e. ugly people. I could on and on about this.

    We will definately see this in our lifetime though.

  11. Kristin,

    I read the article: mindboggling. It’s something I’ve been foreseeing for a while, as we will certainly see a transfer from text based, to VR based internet for all communications, including the political, as this article said is already beginning to happen.

    But the real world might be obsolete sooner than communications for it become too advanced, this is where I think society will inevitably decentralize into pockets of itself per interest in much the way forums exist now.

  12. Neal, as far as relationships go, are you assuming the existence of sex simulators? IE machines you can fuck? For the relationships to be at all meaningful, these would be an absolute necessity. The human urge to mate is far too strong and would get people out of their houses better than any other incentive.

    Oddly, I think that this might actually be the most difficult technology hurdle to overcome. If the bulk of relationships are to move online, the sexual experience would have to be identical if not superior to actual sex. That would require not only some sort of aperatus for the genitals, but also for the entire body, plus mouth and whatever other part you may like. It would need to be heated, produce moisture etc.

    The other alternative would be something that could feed information directly into the brain and central nervous system.

    That’s something that’s still a long way off. Even if the technlogy is conquered, the cultural acceptance will be slow. I’d say at least a generation before it’s fully accepted.

  13. No, I didn’t mean to suggest relationship simulators, but that the internet will foster the ability to connect everyone with their best match, which is I think, happening.

    As far as the sex machine is concerned, it’s implications are obvious.

  14. UX is User Experience by the way, it’s cropped up out of ergonomics and user studies. Relates to psychology, marketing, and information architecture. Many developers are finding themselves at a halfway point between code and interface design on the front end of systems, and the psychology of data-manipulation and architecture planning on the backend. It’s kind of a nebular term right now that attempts to describe an emerging career field. Many designers and developers are having a hard time consolidating the massive data i/o issues when it comes to filtering and tagging people’s perception of the world, UX tries to establish baselines by creating proto-users, basically models of people to build a system against, then refining post-launch. That’s part of the reason most everything launches as “beta” now, our systems can be corrected in real-time as needs change.

    This is part of the reason A.I. is so important, not only can you test the system against it, but it’s a malleable animal you can feed actual user data into. The army is already doing this with war scenarios to refine their understanding of policy and combat. They’ve got a mirror-world project that aims to feed real-time data to a virtual earth. They can then run scenarios against that data using actual capability estimates and see what the median number for losses and gains are. Dude, great topic by the way. Really interesting conversation.

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