Monday, June 13, 2011

Pherecyde's cloth (II): The eCloth

When I wrote the previous entry on Pherecyde's cloth, I was thinking of a series of articles driving from the myth to a prospective trip on what can be the future of map making or, more precisely, of geographic information computing.

This series of articles would have explained the different stages of mapmaking evolution along time. But both the time passed since my first post, and the evidence that there are several very good web resources on that issue (e.g. BBC's "Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession"  and "The Beauty of Maps" series), have made me change my mind in the sense of deciding to close my own series of posts with just this second entry.

So, the important thing about mapmaking history with regards to what I wanted to transmit is that, from the 1970`s, the arising of CAD, automated mapping and GIS technologies have put in our hands the posibility to build up electronic, virtual representations of the territory. These representations, on despite their resolution, are generally stored as 1:1 models of our sorrounding space. And they have been highly improved from the 1990's on by means of the advancements in computer sciences and technologies (regarding both hardware and software) and the launching of digital globes, geographic mash-ups and SDI.

Due to this technological shift, we now are able of building quite complex, high resolution, almost full scaled representations of the world. So, we are closer and closer to being able to weave an ecloth, similar to that of Pherecyde but (in our case) made of bytes of information, that will perfectly reproduce our world in a 1:1 scale, as a virtual cloth lying on it. When this finally happens, we will have made that the myth comes true.

But this is not the end of the story (and not even of map making history). Let's watch a video:

Interesting, isn't it? When I saw it for the first time, about one year ago, I got highly impressed by the implications of Kurzweil's words and predictions regarding digital geographic information computing. And, when I begun relting them to Pherecyde's myth, provoqued my will of writing about this subject. Why?

Ok. Let's suppose that Kurzweil's predictions come true. If so, by the end of XXIst Century we will be inmersed in an universe that will mix real, phisical elements with virtual ones. An universe that will be, in Kurzweil's words, "As real as real life". An universe in which phisical elements (materials) of any kind will be used as information storing and processing units.

Let's go now one step beyond. Materials are information carriers. Ok. So, why not carrying all the data needed to describe/model themselves? This would not be that difficult as, accordingly again to Kurzweil's words: "The energy in a stone weighting one kilogram, equals the computing capacity needed to manage all of the information that humankind has managed this far". At this point, the above mentioned ecloth and the universe would be melted into just one single reality: the cloth will be the universe and the universe will be its own cloth. No more need to represent and model space, as space will be modelling and representing itself.

Hence, in that new mixed universe, we (our descendents, actually) will have the oportunity of both phisically and virtually move around and experiment the space that surrounds us at the time that we are experiencing its virtual representation.

And, would it be too risky to suppose that universe would, by then, become self-conscious? Think on the implications.

"Amazing!", is the least that I can say.