In the present day most of our transmissions are discrete units where the signal corresponds directly with an information path. An AM station transmits a program, and FM station transmits a program, a TV station transmits an audio and visual program.
Gradually we are seeing a trend towards the breakdown of this 1:1 relationship in favor of a continuous digital RF media and multiple multiplexed information channels. Cell phone networks, WiFi, and WiMax networks are examples of this.
The availability of spread-spectrum technologies and orthogonal frequency division modulation technologies made it possible for multiple transmitters to share spectral space and to transmit and extract information even when noise actually exceeds signal.
We are seeing AM, FM, and TV stations move to digital transmission and virtually all of the new digital systems use a orthogonal frequency division modulation techniques because of the noise immunity and lack of susceptibility to rapid fading that the technique provides.
We are seeing multiple information channels being multiplexed onto these AM, FM, and TV digital signals just as with cellular and WiMax capability.
As the demand for faster transmission rates and the availability of faster and faster digital signal processors capable of encoding those rates continues, the bandwidth of each transmitted signal widens.
We will see the end of the discrete 1:1 information flow to transmitted signal disappear entirely for terrestrial transmissions. Eventually the special purpose nature of various transmissions will disappear and we’ll end up with ultra wide broadband networks with virtually all communications multiplexed onto those networks.
The digital bandwidth available will eventually eliminate the need for nodes to be wired together, they’ll start routing information between themselves directly. Smart routing will be developed that will find optimal routes on the fly allowing nodes to be added / dropped at random with no effect on service, automatic hand-off will allow information streams to follow moving targets as with present day cellular.
This sort of infrastructure is inevitable because it will make the most efficient use of bandwidth and power while providing almost infinite functional flexibility.
Devices will be less inclined to have significant data storage, instead, you’ll access data over the network from a centralized location. This will greatly increase interoperability between devices as well as facilitate communications between people.
There are going to be challenges, organizational issues, who owns what when any given node will carry anybodies and everybodies traffic of all kinds?
Privacy, any veil of privacy is going to disappear. Privacy itself has already disappeared, the current administration demonstrated that it’s OK to completely ignore the constitution when it comes to unreasonable search and seizure and it’s implications for domestic spying. Privacy is already gone.
We’ll be able to use our electronic gadgets everywhere, that will be another assault on personal privacy because virtually everywhere there will be laptops with built-in cameras, cell-phone with built-in cameras. However, strong end-to-end encryption will become indispensable. It will need to be based upon something other than factoring the product of large primes because quantum computers will render that task trivial, unless advances in number theory does so first.
The media center in your home and car will no longer tune stations that occupy certain frequencies, instead it will tune addresses. Narrowcasting will largely replace broadcasting.
The ubiquitous nature of this new ultra-broadband everything media will not lend itself well to respecting national borders and this is going to change the nature of governments as well as society greatly.
One social aspect I see coming is that the total lack of privacy will lead us to the recognition that nobody is without sin in a social sense at least, and perhaps that will force laws to be brought more inline with our true nature, what we are, as opposed to what we like to pretend we are, and the need to jail 2% of our population will go away, and hopefully a fair amount of the current social hippocracy .
It’s going to be an interesting experiment, if we manage to survive the current era so that it can unfold.