Dertouzos is the director of the Laboratory for Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a position he has had since 1974. Since its inception in 1963, the LCS has been a hothouse of technology innovation. Members and alumni have been instrumental in the development of the ARPANet, the Internet, the first commercial spreadsheet program (VisiCalc), the file-sharing program FTP, and the RSA encryption algorithm.
More recently, the LCS has served as the home for the World Wide Web consortium and has spawned many innovative tech companies, such as Lotus Development Corp. and Akamai Technologies Inc. Dertouzos recently shared some of his deep technical and historical knowledge with BusinessWeek's Spencer Ante. Here are edited excerpts of their converstaion:
Q: Is the Internet worn out?
A: This is precisely the reason I wrote the book The Unfinished Revolution.
I consider our present state on the Internet as being 5% along the way toward the ultimate destination of the Information Revolution.
Q: What's wrong with the Web?
A: The Information Revolution is not yet serving human beings. We are serving technology. The Web is a collection of exhibitionists and voyeurs, and I'm not just talking about porn. Consider that 5% of people are connected, and that 1% of the economy is online. We need to be able to do a lot more, and the Web can't quite do that for us.
Q: How will the Web evolve?
A: The Web will evolve over 5 to 10 years. I see at least three major changes
happening. The first is in the area of natural interaction, as in speech. There are over 300 startups in this area. A lot of this stuff is also going on in computer science labs across the country. And it's very good stuff. One good thing is that these applications open up computing to the Chinese and to the illiterate population.
The next area is in automation. I foresee a 300% improvement in productivity over the next 100 years. And another area is in collaboration across space and time.
Q: What would you say to the people who say the Internet is dead?
A: Simmer down. They're the same people that were overenthusiastic on the
way up, and now they are overreacting on the way down.