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50. Lifestreams don't yield the "paperless office." (The "paperless office" is a bad idea because paper is one of the most useful and valuable media ever invented.) But lifestreams can turn office paper into a temporary medium — for use, not storage. "On paper" is a good place for information you want to use; a bad place for information you want to store. In the stream-based office, for each newly-created or -received paper document: scan it into the stream and throw it away. When you need a paper document: find it in the stream; print it out; use it; if you wrote on the paper while using it, scan it back in; throw it out.

51. A well-designed store or public building allows you to size up the whole space from outside, or as soon as you walk in — you see immediately how things are laid out and roughly how large and deep the space is. Today's typical web site is a failure because it is opaque. You ought to be able to see immediately (not deduce or calculate) how the site is arranged, how big it is, how deep and how broad. It ought to be transparent. (For an example of a "transparent" web site, Mirror Worlds — figure 7.6.)

52. Movies, TV shows, virtual museums and all sorts of other cultural products from symphonies to baseball games will be stored in lifestreams. In other words: each cultural product will be delivered to you in the form of an artifical mind. You will deal with it not as you deal with an object but roughly as you do with a person.

Institutions Afloat In The Cybersphere

53. Your car, your school, your company and yourself are all one-track vehicles moving forward through time, and they will each leave a stream-shaped cyberbody (like an aircraft's contrail) behind them as they go. These vapor-trails of crystallized experience will represent our first concrete answer to a hard question: what is a company, a university, any sort of ongoing organization or institution, if its staff and customers and owners can all change, its buildings be bulldozed, its site relocated — what's left? What is it? The answer: a lifestream in cyberspace.

54. A software or service company equals the employees plus the company lifestream. Every employee has his own view of the communal stream. The company's web site is the publically-accessible substream of the main company stream. The company's lifestream is an electronic approximation of the company's memories, its communal mind.

55. Software can solve hard problems in two ways: by algorithm or by making connections — by delivering the problem to exactly the right human problem-solver. The second technique is just as powerful as the first, but so far we have ignored it.

The Second Coming Of The Computer

56. Lifestreams and microcosms are the two most important cyberbody types; they relate to each other as a single musical line relates to a single chord. The stream is a "moment in space," the microcosm a moment in time.

57. Nowadays we use a scanner to transfer a document's electronic image into a computer. Soon, the scanner will become a Cybersphere port of entry, an all-purpose in-box. Put any object in the in-box and the system develops an accurate 3D physical transcription, and drops the transcription into the cool dark well of cyberspace. So the Cybersphere starts to take on just a hint of the textural richness of real life.

We'll know the system is working when a butterfly wanders into the in-box and (a few wingbeats later) flutters out — and in that brief interval the system has transcribed the creature's appearance and analyzed its way of moving, and the real butterfly leaves a shadow-butterfly behind. Some time soon afterward you'll be examining some tedious electronic document and a cyber-butterfly will appear at the bottom left corner of your screen (maybe a Hamearis lucina) and pause there, briefly hiding the text (and showing its neatly-folded rusty-chocolate wings like Victorian paisley, with orange eyespots) — and moments later will have crossed the screen and be gone.

But What Does It All Matter?

58. If you have plenty of money, the best consequence (so they say) is that you no longer need to think about money. In the future we will have plenty of technology — and the best consequence will be that we will no longer have to think about technology.

We will return with gratitude and relief to the topics that actually count.



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