“Across the world, thousands of people are giving birth to what I call an ‘Empire of One’”

Thomas Frey’s revolutionary vision has inspired people in the higher levels of government as well as the top executives in Fortune 100 companies, including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, Boeing, Bell Canada, Visa, Ford Motor Company and many more.

What technologies do you think would be with us in the future?

1. Binary power is the concept where two otherwise harmless beams of energy will intersect at some point in space, creating a source of power.
To better explain binary power, think in terms of two invisible beams intersecting in a room and the point at which they intersect as a glowing point of light. Binary power will eventually replace all light bulbs. And lest you think it can only be used for intense forms of power, it will also be used to create ‘points’ of sound, eliminating the need for speakers and headphones.


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2. Proof has to be demonstrated on two very fundamental levels before there is reason to think that time travel is truly possible. The first is to be able to communicate across time, and the second is to be able to view things across time. If we cannot first communicate across time, or view real life images of another time, how can we possibly imagine sending people across time?

So the ‘viewing things across time’ technology that I think most promising is—viewing the past. Think in terms of setting up sensors around a room and being able to replay images of past events, as much as 20, 50 or 100 years ago.

3. Disassembling matter. Imagine a technology capable of breaking all of the molecular bonds in any given material. As an example, place a rock on a table, focus a beam on the rock and visualise all the molecules in the rock separating and falling in a pile onto the table.
Now imagine being able to selectively disassemble the rock. All of the molecules separate except for a piece in the middle that looks like a rocking chair. Suddenly we would have the ability to sculpt solid-rock rocking chairs whenever we wanted to.

This is probably a poor example but I think you get the idea.
“Inventions will happen so quickly that few people will understand the line between what is real and what is still only imagined.”

What are today’s most prominent technologies that you believe will have no takers in the future?

Some of today’s technologies that are on their way out include fax machines, the checking industry, traditional television, invasive surgery and regular AM-FM radio.
Also, RFID technology will quickly come and go as we develop search technology for the physical world that works without the chips. You can understand this better only through a detailed example, and this example is necessary because RFID is considered by many as a promising technology.

Many years ago, the famed father of fractal geometry, the gifted mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, was presented with the question: “What is the distance around a lake?” His response was: “It depends on your perspective.”

If you look at a lake on a map from an altitude of 100,000 feet or 30,000 metres, it is very easy to draw a line around the lake and measure the distance. As you move down through the different altitudes, more and more details become visible and the distance continues to increase, as suddenly the line is being drawn around clumps of dirt, and later grains of sand, and eventually individual molecules. The distance around a lake approaches infinity.

The Mandelbrot distance-around-a-lake perspective has far reaching implications. As we develop the technology to see tinier and tinier particles, we will also be able to define physical objects in unique and different ways. And one way will be to define every object as digital information—digital information that will be searchable, traceable, and yes, even ‘spyable’.

So is the case when you look at a departmental store from a distance–it is just a building, but as you come closer, the components with RFID tags become clearer.

While the argument will arise that RFID chips have the ability to emit signals that make them uniquely and unreasonably intrusive, the reality is that all objects emit reflected light and this too will some day be the source of uniquely and unreasonably intrusive information.
This type of technology is inevitable and will likely be developed sometime within the next 10-15 years.

Considering your view that some of the promising technologies will vanish, how different would the entertainment of the future be?

I am going to answer this in a rather unusual way and talk about how libraries will become a very entertaining place to go to.

John Naisbitt tells us, “In the experience economy, services are linked together to form memorable events that personally engage the customer.”

As an example, coffee can be bought on a commodity level at any grocery store. On a product level it can be bought in any restaurant. But if you want the real coffee experience, you have to go to Starbucks. If you pay close attention, Starbucks is not in the business of selling coffee. Rather, their primary product is the Starbucks experience. So, if we transition that concept into the information world, how do we go about creating the ultimate information experience? How do we take words on a page, books on a shelf, or digitised bits on a memory stick and create information that has an impact? Another way of asking this is, how do we create informational experiences that are entertaining, timely, pertinent and fun, while at the same time are meaningful and relevant to our lives?

Libraries are a perfect example of an industry struggling to make this transformation. Long regarded as a ‘centre of information’, libraries find themselves competing with Barnes & Noble and their warm, inviting atmosphere, soft comfortable chairs and in-store coffee shops. Future libraries have an opportunity to reinvent the information experience.

Here are some examples of featured experiences that could be added to a library:

• Treadmills and exercise bicycles—People can read a book or listen to an audio book while they are working out. In fact, with added blood flow to the brain, this type of exercise-learning can actually improve retention.
• Mini-theatres—The world is rapidly shifting to video for their information, best exemplified by YouTube’s million-plus downloads each day. Watching video on a computer screen is just scratching the surface of what the true experience could be. Mini-theatres will be designed to offer a fuller sensory experience without all the distractions.
• Podcasting studios—Podcasting is quickly catching on, but few people understand how to use the equipment and post their podcasts online.
• Vidcasting studios (the video version of Podcasting)— These studios will quickly develop their own centre of gravity, attracting a wide spectrum of creative people who want to make their ideas come to life.
• Band practice rooms—MySpace currently has 2.2 million bands in their social network, and virtually all of them are searching for good places to practice. Sound-proof rooms with viewing windows and listening phones will create an entirely new experience for libraries.

These are just a few of the possibilities for creating the next-generation super-entertaining library.

Technology is going to play a major role in driving us towards the future—what would be the structure of enterprises or businesses going ahead?

Running a solo (one person) business in the past meant that you had a one-person practice, most often offering a professional service, well suited for lawyers, accountants and doctors. However, a new breed of solo business has emerged that allows people to leverage the power of the Internet and control a vast empire from their home office or wherever they happen to be. Across the world, thousands of people are giving birth to what I call an ‘Empire of One’.
Most ‘Empire of One’ (an Empire of One business is a one-person (sometimes married couple) business with far-reaching spheres of influence) businesses require an affinity for working in the online world. The Internet is an unparalleled communications tool, growing organically in ways few could have imagined, and in ways that are difficult to manage. Unlike putting a product on a store shelf and counting the number of sales, feedback loops for gauging influence and making good decisions online are not always intuitive. Quite often, the mention of a product online today will yield results several months from now, and the establishment of an online brand is far different than traditional corporate branding.

Few people can run their ‘Empire’ business without good relationship-building skills. While it is commonly thought that online businesses isolate people, and owners end up being quite insulated from their customers and vendors, successful businesses are far more sustainable if they are built on a foundation of good will and solid relationships. Relationships can be as weak as an e-mail exchange or a voice at the end of the telephone, or as strong as lengthy face-to-face meetings. But, a person’s ability to build endearing forms of communications between affected parties, has a direct correlation to the likelihood of success.

Typically, the business outsources everything—information products marketed and sold online, or products manufactured in Asia, sent to a distribution centre in Europe, with customers in the US, UK and Brazil. Manufacturing, marketing, book-keeping, accounting, legal and other operations are all out-sourced to other businesses around the world.

Yes, much of this has been done before, but a person’s ability to leverage people and products across country lines in a below-the-radar fashion, and still maintain control of a vast and virtual empire, is refreshingly new.

Virtual Citizens are already out there—what do you think about a ‘real’ virtual world in the future? How would people interact or commute, transfer money or buy things in that age?

The world presently being created on Second Life already has much of what you are talking about. I see Second Life as the next generation of social networking, but so much more.
It has its own currency, land to buy and sell, and free enterprise systems that allow entrepreneurial-minded people the ability to build new countries and new kinds of business.

What is the future of laboratories or inventions?

In the past, computer programming has been focused around architecting the flow of electrons. In the future, nanotechnology will be focused around architecting the flow of matter.
Laboratories in the future will be akin to thought factories where the outputs will be visualisations with several million permutations. Inventions will happen so quickly that few people will understand the line between what is real and what is still only imagined.

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