The Social Stone Age (2000-2013) will be looked back on fondly. It's the age when we discovered social media. It's the age when we were encouraged to share. It's the age when we naively assumed that private actually meant private, and that big brother didn't really exist - or at least if they did, they were only watching the bad guys. It's the age when we weren't having discussions about metadata.
That age is over. 2014 is the start of the Social Bronze Age. This age is marked by two distinct phase changes in the way that we communicate on the Internet.
The first phase change is that we are moving from a default unencrypted Internet, where we only encrypt that information that we consider to be sensitive, to a default encrypted Internet, where we encrypt everything all the time. Facebook and Twitter moved from only encrypting logins, to encrypting everything. Google started encrypting all searches. This would have happened eventually, but it has really been forced this year by the realisation that the threat model has fundamentally changed. We are no longer trying to protect ourselves just from cybercriminals, but also from the security services that are recording everything all the time.
The second phase change is that we have moved to a default "in" position for social media. It is now assumed that everyone has at least one social media account, and that the only people who don’t have one have consciously chosen not to, and they are just a little odd. Private mailing lists have almost entirely gone, replaced by social media groups. Moreover social media is replacing e-mail as the normal way that people communicate with each other.
My calculations show that the Social Age is running 2.5x faster than the IT Age, and 500x faster than civilisation! It's hardly surprising that we really aren't coping that well. If this trend continues, then here are my predicted dates for the remainder of the Social Age, and some key expectations.
2018: Social Iron Age. The end of centrally controlled social media, and the end of companies like Facebook and Twitter. Social media will be peer-to-peer with all the processing, privacy and communication controlled by the users and happening in an app on their phones. The Internet of things will be real and it will all be IPv6.
2021: Social Middle Age. The end of e-mail and text based communication. Everything will be voice controlled, and keyboards will seem quaint. Real-time language transcription and translation will be practical for everyday use. Language will no longer be a barrier to communication.
2023: Social Industrial Age. Avatars will do most of the work for you. Expect the first real cyber world war. What we see as science fiction today, will be practical reality, except that we still won't have artificial intelligence, robots or flying cars.
2024: The next age starts - the Machine Stone Age.
It's going to be an interesting 10 years.