2035 – Blog Assignment #3

2035

Part 1: The Information Utopia

quasar

The answer to any question, the solution to any problem, the means to any end is literally at your fingertips. The technological leaps encountered during the digital age have finally come together from their various perspectives to form the ultimate model of media convergence.

Welcome to the world of QUASAR: the “Quantum Universal Activated Supercellular Application Receiver.” A quasar is the most powerful, luminous, and energetic object known to exist in our universe. Applied to this technology, the name is fitting.

QUASAR uses quantum-derived supercellular frequencies that are capable of transmitting large amounts of information in milliseconds, providing nearly unlimited access to digitally-based content. QUASAR contains no on-board information; it provides a window into the limitless wealth of knowledge and content that is the Universal Data Matrix (UDM).

Preceded by the World Wide Web, the UDM—commonly called the “Unitrix”— is an ever-increasing host of information that has an infinite storage capacity. Anyone can contribute content to the Unitrix. When information is requested by a Unitrix user, QUASAR algorithms receive this information and relay it to the user on a personalized interface.

For example, should you seek information on the first manned spaceflight to Mars in 2026, the Unitrix will gather this information, which will then be reassembled and relayed to you by QUASAR. Should you seek the UPS (Universal Positioning System) coordinates of the first man-made footprint on Mars’ surface, QUASAR and the Unitrix will deliver this information just as readily.

Knowledge is no longer a commercial entity. Gone are the days when specific websites and servers hosted information exclusively. Gone are the days when news organizations controlled the quantity and quality of the information available to the public. The Unitrix needs no distinction between sources of information. All information from millions of sources is pooled together to create one universal information resource available to all users.

Copyrighted material is also free to access in most cases. Companies upload their content, be it movies, television shows, video games, books, magazines, newspapers, or anything else in between, and receive indirect payments from advertisements attached to these entities. Thanks to the highly personalized QUASAR interface, even advertisements can be tailored specifically to each individual based on their location and general media and information consumption habits. As a very basic example, if you repeatedly query the Unitrix for anti-gravity hovershoes, you might receive an advertisement for Nike Neptunes with your download of the newly-released horror film Saw 32.

Most companies have found highly specialized advertising to be extremely profitable, though a few media vendors rely on subscription services for revenue. Information offered by subscription-only content is also found in the public domain as required by law (the Universal Information Act of 2026, enacted by President Matthew Harding). However, these companies do offer collections of opinions and nuanced pieces that are exclusive to their publications.

That’s not to say opinion and nuance are missing from the unrestricted reaches of the Unitrix. Individuals may freely offer their own work to the public domain, and with the specialized advertising model used by larger corporations, they can even make money based on their contributions. Independent writers and other artists have made tremendous livings by offering their work on the Unitrix. This sort of incentive has attracted the most prolific creators, allowing the Unitrix to amass a wealth of proficient and eloquent perspectives.

Accessing the Unitrix requires a QUASAR capable device and absolutely nothing more. At the very least, these devices may feature a touch-screen interface and projectable holographic keyboard for as low as ninety-nine cents. The most advanced models use three dimensional data storage techniques and emulsion holographic technology in a physical device as small as a sugar cube. The most popular of these devices, Apple’s Holo-Pod, operates through customizable voice commands. The interface can become nearly any size and shape desired by the user, projected onto an extemporized surface of free-floating holographic-based particulates.

All devices maintain power through wireless electrical networks (“Witricity”), which are carried and maintained by the devices themselves. Access to the Unitrix via supercellular frequencies are also carried and maintained by QUASAR devices. In essence, the proliferation of QUASAR-based devices, currently just below 97% of the US population, has simultaneously built the wireless infrastructure for the operation of these devices.

QUASAR is the ultimate navigator on the seas of the Unitrix. Information and content is freely available on the Unitrix, and QUASAR receives this content and delivers it to us in an organized and meaningful way tailored to our individual desires. Access is extremely portable and nearly ubiquitous, creating a society in which virtually no piece of information is ever out of reach.


Part 2: The Content Chasm

chasm

There used to be books– books, and movies, and music, and pictures. Reflections of our culture, art and information, were available to all. It’s hard to imagine such a time when all we have now is a jumbled display of tidbits and footprints left behind by a world all but forgotten.

The breakdown began in 2012—or so internet sources say. Whether this fact can be trusted is anyone’s guess. In any case, emerging digital technologies allowed us to more easily share more information with more people at faster speeds. The entire world became connected through the internet, and its potentials seemed boundless.

Freedom of information and network neutrality became focal issues in governments across the globe. Eventually, accessibility became so widespread that legislation seemed irrelevant. Access to the internet was a universal entity that was inherently open to anyone with a connection. In 2019, US President Sarah Palin admitted the logistical impossibility of limiting access to the internet, comparing the inevitably of wireless connections to the very air we breathe.

The speech set off a worldwide public celebration. At once, we all felt intertwined. One human’s importance, in the eyes of the technological movement, was no less or greater than another human’s. The internet officially felt like a democracy, and the entire world seemed dedicated to maintaining this democracy.

In 2020, the Neutral Enterprise of Wireless Technology (NEWT) was established. NEWT was a publicly-run organization that aimed to keep the internet open and free to everyone. In the spotlight, NEWT members joined together to build wireless technological infrastructures across the globe, providing access to more and more people. Off the record, NEWT supported measures to undermine any attempt at digitally-based commerce.

Because the sharing of information over the internet was so difficult to control, companies producing digitally-based content found it increasingly difficult to generate revenue. What’s more, the democratic spirit in the air lent to marked increases in piracy and other illegal methods of distributing and downloading copyrighted content. We wanted the internet and every aspect of the internet to be free for everyone.

Ad-supported content failed to produce any profits, partially because many were using pirated ad-free versions instead, and partially because NEWT quickly created and distributed programs that would block advertisements for consumers. A tug of war proceeded between media companies and consumers: the companies trying to make profits off of their content, the consumers trying to gain unrestricted access.

Subscription and vendor-based models failed just as quickly. NEWT began to buy single copies of paid content, deconstruct the security built to protect this content, and then distribute the content over its own networks for free. Copyright owners cried foul, but NEWT proved impossible to define and track down. The organization was purposefully fragmented and its most active members hidden to protect against lawsuits and prosecution.

In the meantime, public anthologies of information and content began to grow, creating an unparalleled internet-based free library. The emphasis on democracy started to cause issues, however, as users added dubious or even purposefully inaccurate facts to the collection. On October 8, 2025, the dwindling Walt Disney Company realized this Achilles’ heel and orchestrated a global attack on public-based information systems with inaccurate information and corrupt content files. “Mickey’s Massacre,” or so the event would be called, ignited a persistent downward spiral in the quality of content readily available to the public. Media companies built entire departments of workers whose sole job was to continuously invalidate the public record.

By 2027, many media corporations were now defunct, while those left standing were forced to drastically downsize. Objective information was now part of the public domain, though it was cluttered by irrelevant tidbits, annotations, and inaccuracies. The battle for content became increasingly polarized, the enterprising producers versus the free-spirited consumers, until both sides became entirely separated.

On April 15, 2028, the digital media shut down. In a cooperative effort, the remaining media production companies stopped producing content all at once. The world went into a panic. Television stations stopped broadcasting. Websites were completely stripped down. Movies were pulled from all theaters. Suddenly, full responsibility of information production and proliferation was is in the hands of the public. Democratically-based and open-source efforts, disorganized and rife with inaccuracy, were all that remained.

Behind the scenes, media organizations were restructuring on a new network developed by German military computer scientists. It was called the Universal Data Matrix (UDM) and operated on quantum-based supercellular frequencies that were incompatible with the current structure of the internet and the World-Wide Web. In a last-ditch effort to preserve their corporations, individual media moguls dipped into their personal fortunes to purchase the technology from the Germans. American legislators signed contracts to allow media companies to circumvent antitrust laws, as doing otherwise seemed to assuredly guarantee the complete demise of the media.

Within a month after shutting down, media companies were up on the UDM and began offering subscription access at steep prices to those who wished to escape the scatterbrained and intensely shallow World-Wide Web. Having tasted the sour of a completely decentralized information network, wealthier members of higher socioeconomic classes were quick to sign up. The UDM promised an Eden-esque alternative to the slums of the web.

Access to new information, content, and technology proved advantageous to UDM users, and two large distinct cultural classes emerged: those with UDM access and those without it. The space between became known as the “Content Chasm.”

UDM users were able to send and receive unprecedented amounts of information over the new network at breakneck speeds. What’s more, they were part of an exclusive club of elites that gained new information and knowledge in a timely, organized manner well before its subordinates. New communities were built around UDM-users, and soon, media companies refused to provide UDM access outside of these established locales.

This is where we are now, in the year 2035. I am looking beyond a stucco wall at the rooftops of mini-mansions. I see a little boy playing fetch with a holographic dog on his patio. I wish I knew more about holograms. They look especially beautiful against the night sky, crisp in their details, encircled by a ghostly aura. I doubt I shall ever see a hologram up close. That is a technology offered only to UDM users. Me, I’m on the other side of this wall, trapped by a limitless fog of the unknown. I would read the news, but I wouldn’t trust it: I could have written the news just as easily. We fought so hard to preserve the boundless potential of the internet. Now, I’d much rather watch an ad or two over this ad infinitum any day.


Part 3: The Middle Ground

convergence

Technology is sure to advance at a rapid pace over the next 25 years, and the dramatically changing media and information landscape is set to face many difficult issues.

Producers of digital based content are already facing competition from open-source and user-generated models that can sustain without any element of commercialism. For example, Wikipedia typically proves to be a much more comprehensive source of information than Britannica Online. Commercially-driven digital content will be unable to survive against democratically-based alternatives.

Content that is offered digitally is also having trouble generating revenue both online and through its original medium. Television shows, long supported by advertisements during commercial breaks, are being watched on television by fewer and fewer people. Those who watch shows online or through cable streaming systems (e.g. OnDemand) are subjected to fewer, if any, advertisements and therefore bring in less revenue.

What’s more, as the internet becomes more accessible and larger amounts of information are able to be transferred more quickly and easily, media producers will face even greater difficulty preserving the ownership of their content. Right now, a high-definition copy of a forty minute television program can be downloaded at typical cable modem speeds in seven minutes. Decrease the file size and increase the download speed, and sharing an HD television episode will eventually be possible in mere seconds.

On the other hand, the public domain will not be able to replace the media industry either. Film production, for example, cannot occur without commercial interests in play. Individual users may be able to create and upload video content with ease, but it simply will not match the professional efforts of the movie industry.

Accuracy and quality will also become major issues. If everyone is contributing to the fountain of knowledge, who will be making sure that the information put forth is true and well-formed? In a commercial media enterprise, there is both the incentive and means to check facts and create a finished product of a higher quality. In an open-source model, there is no way to ensure accuracy or prescribe the creation of content to the most capable users.

Some startling examples of the issues created by a democratically maintained information source have already emerged. In 2006, a man created a fake page on Wikipedia describing himself as a decorated war hero. He then proceeded to work with charities to fraudulently collect money and attend private events. He was exposed by the UK’s Daily Record in an article from April, 2006.

In the end, producers and consumers will need to cooperate in order to arrive at a viable compromise. If consumers want free access to all forms of digital content, they may have to sacrifice privacy and time for advertisements. If producers want consumers to consider subscription services or paid-for content, they have to offer reasonable rates and products that cannot be replaced by open-source alternatives.

The media will continue to converge over the next 25 years, to the point where original media outlets may become completely irrelevant. Any content that can be digitally expressed—movies, television shows, video games, books, newspapers, music, etc.—will be a part of a free-flowing media landscape. Access to this media landscape will be impossible to restrict and accomplished by a single device. Technological industries will work to advance the capabilities of these devices (imagine being able to project both a cinema-sized movie screen and a theater-quality film from a device that you can carry in your pocket… yes, this technology is being developed), which will allow consumers to use content and information in various ways.

Eventually, everything in our lives that isn’t a physical, non-reproducible entity will be provided by digital technology and the internet. Or might the pendulum swing back in the opposite direction? Might we grow sick of LCD panels and touch screen interfaces, instead turning back to the pages of books and the crackles of record players? Technology will provide us the means to replace all physical forms of media, but will we want to? Or might we hold on to our past, to the roots of our new media landscape, just as a debutante collects vintage cocktail dresses? Because the potential of digital technology seems as vast as the universe itself, truly anything seems possible.

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~ by Adam Mehring on October 8, 2009.

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