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Culture Technology Transformation

World Wide Three

Imagine a world split into three. A Black Web where weapons, drugs and other dark things lurk. A White Web where every person, every object and every event flowing through it is identifiable, verifiable and traceable back to its physical counterpart if there is one. And a Grey Web where things are, well, kinda grey, where you are usually not quite sure whether the person you are chatting to is really whom she claims to be, or the bottle of Grange you just ordered really came from Penfolds. These webs do intersect, through digital border security gates. Moving from the Grey to the White would require a form of citizenship. I cannot see yet, from now, who would be issuing these citizenships. Or rather, who would be controlling the computers that will issue these citizenships.

Sounds like science fiction?

Yes. But reality can be stranger than fiction.

The world wide web we are using today is that Grey Web.

Darknets will most likely evolve into the Black Web, despite efforts from governments and agencies to prevent such evolution, simply because there has always been demand for it.

The White Web is emerging, with foundational technologies such as blockchains, and eventually, quantum computing.

In my calculation trajectory, the White Web should be dominant in population, closely followed by the Grey. The Black would be a minority.

There is much interest in this emerging White Web, due to its obvious benefits in identification and peer to peer transactional models, leading to increased trust and cost efficiency. But it also threatens the existence of the incumbents. A lot of centralised utilities, such as banks and various providers, will need to make a case to continue their existence. Certain governments have foreseen a 1984-type nirvana in having the ultimate surveillance capability and control of citizens. In this White Web, once the computer says that you were in Las Vegas on the 22nd of October, 1984, then it is irrefutable that you were at that location at that time, and this evidence will stand in court. Whilst the White Web in some aspect improves privacy, it will lay bare everything about everyone participating in it to the authorities. This can only mean one thing. There is no such thing as ultimate privacy when one is in the White Web. In this new world, either one lurks in the Grey and Black Webs, or one must switch off the phone, if one is keenly interested in protecting one’s privacy.

Note that I said “a world split into three”, not “a digital world split into three”. The physical world is increasingly, and ultimately will be, controlled by digital devices. We will soon enter an era in which the physical will not function properly without its digital counterpart. Doors will not open. Ovens will not start. Planes will not take off.

In this new world, the real borders will not divide nations. They will divide trust and mistrust, precision and flexibility, the decentralised and the centralised, the emergent and the incumbent.

In this new world, the real wars will be digital, not physical.

In this new world, where everything is simply a tap away, we will be even further from one another, not closer.

📸 Viktor Forgacs