What is your vision for how technology will benefit humanity?
We have seen over the past 200 years that new discoveries have led to new products and services that empower humanity, augment our muscle and brain power, free up leisure time, cure diseases and repair broken bodies. In every case, the yin and yang of research and engineering have combined to provide benefits to many. As progress continues, costs will come down, and size, weight and power of devices will make them more affordable and more readily applied. The internet and the World Wide Web have ushered in a new era of information sharing and application, built on the back of transistors, computers and new communication technologies. Finding new ways of using these systems to benefit all of humanity is a worthy endeavor. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are creating new cognitive tools that enhance our ability to think at scale, and that capacity will produce rewards for every person on the planet.
When the panel description says you are going to provide your “future Internet forecast,” what counts in your definition of “internet”?
I think of the Internet as both the underlying communication technology and platform and the devices that populate its edge and animate applications. We will be exploring both the evolution of the Internet’s protocols and architectures and the products and services that are enabled by the underlying universal communication environment.
Which pieces of that definition would’ve most surprised you if we were having this conversation 40 years ago?
I think I would be surprised by the proliferation of portable, programmable devices, including smartphones, which have access to the World Wide Web and its vast information space.
What about the Internet makes you most proud and least proud?
The ability to scale by factors of millions and to reach billions of users is hugely gratifying, as is the dedication of so many to its evolution, expansion and application. I am most unhappy about the abuses that are found on the Internet and that are propagated through its infrastructure (malware, loss of privacy, harmful social behaviors, etc.)
Why is the next 40 years of Internet going to be better than the first 40 years?
More people will be online and contributing to the application of the Internet and to its continued evolution. Ideas come from everywhere, and the more people who are online, the more their ideas can propagate.
What role might standards and IEEE have in bringing about that future?
Standards are the key to interoperability and competition. IEEE work on local area network technology has been a key part of the utility of the Internet by providing ubiquitous wired and wireless access. The scope of the IEEE Societies covers every form of engineering, contributing broadly to the Internet’s continued evolution and use.
Why is now the right time for People Centered Internet?
There is a continued spread of affordable Internet access, and tools are widely available to make information useful and accessible. The users of the Internet are also the creators of its applications and its content. Focusing on the wellbeing of every person on the planet means assuring their access to the knowledge that they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Allowing anyone with new ideas to test them on the Internet and providing access to them to anyone on the planet seem the surest way to uncover the best ways for the internet to produce social and economic benefit. Education and work are keys to dignity and self-worth, and the People Centered Internet effort is committed to helping people find useful roles in a global economy.
How is PCI’s project in Tunisia creating models for connecting more people around the globe to the Internet?
The efforts in Tunisia are focused on education and the use of the Internet for economic benefit. Testing ideas for enabling more Internet infrastructure investment and application is the surest way to uncovering ways to apply lessons learned in other places around the world.
What most excites you about your first trip to SXSW? What are you hoping to learn while you’re there?
The energy levels and intensity of ideation are legendary at SXSW, and I am really looking forward to experiencing the network effects of so many people sharing their ideas together. I am sure I will hear new ideas for applications and evolution of the Internet and its functionality. I also hope to find new collaborators for the People Centered Internet!
Vint Cerf: An Internet For And By The People is included in the IEEE Tech for Humanity Series at the annual SXSW Conference and Festival, 10-19, March, 2017. In this session, Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and Founder of the People-Centered Internet (PCI) will provide a future Internet forecast. Find out how the PCI is advocating to make the future internet globally accessible, trust-driven, opportunity and benefit laden for all — and how you can engage!