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Welcome to the World of the Matrix

Two huge scientific breakthroughs were announced last week. The first was the arrival of a web-enabled surfboard, suitably painted with the ‘Intel-Inside’ logo, which enables the surfer to, well ‘Surf’ the Web in between catching waves and avoiding large sharks. Wireless enabled, from a base-station on the nearest beach, you’ll never miss that vital email from the office and in conjunction with a Bluetooth headset and a waterproof mobile phone, a whole new meaning is bought to the idea of working from home in summer or even ‘Life’s a beach’.

The second great scientific success was teleportation, not of people, yet, but of atoms, which is a start and the technical explanation of how this was achieved, lost me in the first paragraph on Quantum states. This does however have rather more practical implications for the IT industry than the arrival of the wireless surfboard.

The BBC reports that this landmark experiment is being viewed as a major advance in the quest to achieve ultra-fast computers, inside which teleportation could provide a form of invisible "quantum wiring".

The end result of the research may very quickly spell an end to Moore’s Law and one-day produce PCs that can process larger and more complex tasks than the fastest of our present generation of super-computers and at almost unimaginable speeds by today’s standards through teleporting rather than moving information around the system. At this point the explanation loses me completely but the implications in areas of computing technology that use virtual-reality, such as games or simulators are taking us to the very edge of the Star Trek Holodeck concept. In fact, only recently one eminent scientist suggested that we may all in fact be living inside some giant computer simulation of the far future in an unexpected welcome to the world of the Matrix.

Staying with breakthroughs but in a more familiar space, the United States Congress has taken one step further towards outlawing what we all recognise as ‘Spyware’. If you don’t happen to be running any of the free or cheap anti spyware tools such as Spybot on your PC right now, then it’s entirely possibly that it’s riddled with uninvited software which is tracking your online behaviour in various degrees of details. A US congressional panel has now endorsed a bill that would force the makers of spyware to notify users before installing such software on their PCs and it may become law in 2005.

While we happen to be losing the war against Spam there is a dim chance that legislation can at least fight back against the serious privacy threat presented by Spyware software and it remains to be seen how much influence the big Web advertising companies that use such tools can throw into the Washington lobby before it becomes law. While we might speculate over the advances in science represented by Web-enabled surfboards and Quantum computers, the harsher reality of the Internet is that it has another and much darker side, which is rapidly becoming cheap, dirty, insecure and highly intrusive, a long way from free-ranging information space we imagined at the turn of the millennium.


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