research staff member at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center

As usual you are a font of important, stimulating ideas and have gathered together an awesome collection of minds for your latest survey. Here is my response.

In 105 AD, Ts'ai Lun reported the invention of paper to the Chinese Emperor. Ts'ai Lun was an official to the Chinese Imperial court, and I consider his early form of paper to be humanity's most important invention and progenitor of the Internet. Although recent archaeological evidence places the actual invention of papermaking 200 years earlier, Ts'ai Lun played an important role in developing a material that revolutionized his country. From China, papermaking moved to Korea and Japan. Chinese papermakers also spread their handiwork into Central Asia and Persia, from which traders introduced paper to India. This is why Ts'ai Lun is one of the most influential people in history.

Today's Internet evolved from the tiny seed planted by Ts'ai Lun. Both paper and the Internet break the barriers of time and distance, and permit unprecedented growth and opportunity. In the next decade, communities formed by ideas will be as strong as those formed by geography. The Internet will dissolve away nations as we know them today. Humanity becomes a single hive mind, with a group intelligence, as geography becomes putty in the hands of the Internet sculptor.

Chaos theory teaches us that even our smallest actions have amplified effects. Now more than ever before this is apparent. Whenever I am lonely at night, I look at a large map depicting 61,000 Internet routers spread throughout the world. I imagine sending out a spark, an idea, and a colleague from another country echoing that idea to his colleges, over and over again, until the electronic chatter resembles the chanting of monks. I agree with author Jane Roberts who once wrote, "You are so part of the world that your slightest action contributes to its reality. Your breath changes the atmosphere. Your encounters with others alter the fabrics of their lives, and the lives of those who come in contact with them."