There will always be abuse of privacy, and there will be laws against that abuse. But just because we have car theft doesn't mean we ban the automobile.
AD: Today, we've got e-mail, cell phones, and PDAs, with wireless Web access just around the corner. What new technologies do you see on the horizon that will transform consumer behavior?
PB: Wireless Web access on cell phones or on a PDA is a novelty today, but in the long term, I don't think that people will really want to read the Web on those tiny screens. I think that the next shift will come when we perfect voice recognition and voice command. Right now, you need a keyboard to interact with the computer, but when you add voice recognition, you can fit any machine - a car, an entertainment system - with a voice chip, and command it verbally. When you combine this with flat-panel displays - there's true potential.
AD: How would this work?
PB: I'll be able to separate computer input from computer output. The input function will be in my hand or in my cell phone, for example. The cell phone becomes the remote control. I'll speak my command into the cell phone, and the visual display will show up on whatever flat-panel display I happen to be near to at the time. These flat-panel displays will be everywhere, in the home, in the office, in the car, even at a public telephone. By then, we'll have broadband wireless, and this will eliminate the personal computer as a device in a box, with a monitor and a keyboard.
AD: What will this mean for consumers?
PB: Computers will be everywhere, and they will be invisible.
AD: What do you mean by invisible?
PB: It used to be a real big deal when you got electricity in rural areas. Now, we don't even think to ask if a house has electricity. We know that the house has electricity because it's a house. So, when wireless Internet access becomes ubiquitous, no one is going to ask, "Is your house wired for the Internet?" I don't think we're even going to use the term "Internet." It won't be a part of the language because it will be redundant.
AD: But couldn't concerns about privacy get in the way of this vision of the future?
PB: Privacy is a huge issue. There will always be abuse of privacy, and there will be laws against that abuse. But just because we have car theft doesn't mean we ban the automobile. When things settle down, privacy violations will just become part of the background noise. We'll learn to live with it. Some people will try to take a lot of precautions, but some people will just throw their hands up and say, "Oh, the chances of something happening to me are pretty small." It just becomes part of life in the information society.
AD: What other technology changes do you see in the offing?
PB: TiVo. I don't know if you all appreciate the bombshell that's going to lay on the marketing world. It's the perfect example of a paradigm shift. Right now, we're locked into watching commercials, but what happens when we're not? It's a threat to today's business models. Consumers will have to choose to watch commercials, and they'll only do that when the commercials have entertainment, educational, or other informational value.