Sun researcher: Technology means global shifts

PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA (12/19/2003) - Technology is enabling societal changes that are making for a different world, Sun Microsystems Inc.'s John Gage, chief researcher and director of the company's Science Office, said during a presentation on Thursday evening.

Shifts in the use of technology will make China a major IT player, according to Gage. Speaking at a Software Development Forum event here in Palo Alto, California, he cited the existence of 300 million cell phones and the prominence of the English language in China.

Gage stressed that multiple factors are coming together to spread technology.

"We're at this universal change moment right now brought about by cheap storage, by ubiquitous networks," Gage said. Broadband is spreading, providing the potential for inexpensive voice-over-IP phone access for the poor, he said.

"When we have these new capabilities, it implies (the emergence of) new metaphors, said Gage.

But there are prices to be paid. The ubiquitous use of cameras in places such as London, for example, means vanishing unanimity, according to Gage.

"At every intersection and ATM (there) is a camera. Your picture in London is taken several hundred times a day. Now that is new," Gage said.

Today's information technology enables permanent memory of sensory data, he noted.

Gage viewed cynically a recent U.S. proposal requiring that HDTV sets be disabled of recording functions.

"Anybody can make a device which inserts into this fragile web of trying to protect your existing business model and change the business model," he said.

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