Referring to the era influenced by computers and the Internet as the “Digital Age” is like defining the industrial period as the “Blacksmith Age.” It seems clear now that we’re three or so decades into this thing that digitization itself was the portal leading to the Age of Virtualization.
This isn’t merely a reference to virtual reality imaging technology, which will redefine the way we experience media and probably the world. It also has to do with the virtualization of the systems underlying media, medicine, business and First World economies as well.
We’re only just beginning to comprehend the potential of virtualization, where these systems are self-healing and constantly evolving. We see the necessity of this firsthand across the media industry, where escalating demand for content is driving a proliferation of formats across ever-evolving display types. There is a general sense that systems based on the more traditional physical or facilities-based model will be rendered obsolete before the last port is connected. By then, an entirely new and unanticipated form of media and/or media consumption will have emerged that the physical system cannot be upgraded to accommodate.
Virtualization in this environment becomes a must. We’re still very early in this process, however, and while it’s not without its bumps and detours in the form of incompatibilities and unforeseen complications, the individuals on the leading edge of this technology transformation are ferreting those out.
That’s what they’re there for. Someone has to test drive the prototypes.
We know from our brief history of the Internet that there will never not be anomalies, bugs and hackers, and these things, too, are driving the vision of virtualization—of dynamic, intelligent systems having a Fischer-Spassky in the background that no one ever sees.
What is needed most now to realize virtualization, it seems, is a common language, be it in the form of standards or fundamentals. Either would have to be as dynamic and evolvable as the technology that it supports—technology that will change the world in ways we’re just now beginning to comprehend.