I know where to find the future. It will show up, I predict, on Tuesday at London's Westminster Central Hall. Don't blink. It will arrive in the shape of Le Web, Europe's illustrious two-day Internet conference which, this year, is focusing on next-generation digital products that are "faster than real time."
Faster than real time?
"It's when the server brings you a beer before you ask for it because she already knows what you drink!"
That's at least what "faster than real time" means to Robert Scoble, Silicon Valley's most ubiquitous observer of the digital future who, inevitably enough, will be speaking at Le Web.
In Scoble's future, the computer "server" and the "server" in the bar will be indistinguishable. And they will both know what you want to drink before you know it yourself.
Loic Le Meur, the Silicon Valley based Franco-American impresario who founded Le Web and is the architect of the "faster than real time" theme of tomorrow's conference, shares Scoble's faith in the uncannily predictive power of the internet.
"We've arrived in the future," Le Meur told me. Online apps are getting to know us so intimately, he explained, that we can know things before they happen. To illustrate his point, Le Meur told me about his use of Highlight, a social location app which offers illuminating data about nearby people who have signed up for the network like -- you guessed it -- the digitally omniscient Robert Scoble.
Highlight enabled Le Meur to literally know the future before it happened because, he says, it is measuring our location all of the time. "I opened the door before he was there because I knew he was coming," Le Meur told me excitedly about a recent meeting that he had in the real world with Scoble.
Paul Davison, the CEO of Highlight who will be speaking at Le Web, agrees with Le Meur about how "faster than real time" is revolutionizing not only the internet but the very nature of life itself in the digital 21st century. "We're entering a very special time in history, where smart phones and mobile sensors will allow us to see things that we've never been able to see before," Davison told me. "It's really exciting."
But it's not just social apps like Highlight that are enabling the web to predict the future. As Le Meur explained to me, medical lifestyle and fitness apps like Withings and Runkeeper enable him to predict his weight in advance because they are able over time -- through the massive amounts of personal data that they collect from his body -- to map out patterns which his brain doesn't have the processing power to grasp.
"Our bodies are streaming data. It knows thousands of my runs," Le Meur confessed to me. "It even measures my sleep."
But faster than real time goes beyond Loic Le Meur's body. Many of the speakers at Le Web -- such as Tom Katis the CEO of Voxer, Bradley Horowitz the VP of Product Development at Google and Shakil Khan, the head of special projects at Path -- will talk about how their products are radically changing the way in which we use voice, video and text data online.
Le Web will even feature a speech from McKinsey partner Eric Hazan on how "faster than real time" is shifting the behavior of consumption across the internet.
This is a business as well as a consumer revolution. Another of the Le Web speakers will be Nick Halstead, the founder of Datasift, a platform that enables companies to interpret massive amounts of data through social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.
Companies like Datasift enable companies to know the future. "In the pre-social era, companies based their business decisions on backwards looking data; purchases that have been made, and orders that have been fulfilled," Halstead explained to me. "In the social era, the social-stream of the world is telling us what's happening now, or will happen. As a social data platform, DataSift helps companies make sense of billions of social conversations to make better decisions for their company and customers."
Not every web user, of course, will be thrilled with the idea of companies being able to predict our future buying habits in advance. Indeed, as I've argued, "faster than real time" apps like Highlight creates a eerie, perhaps even a creepy, kind of serendipity. According to Sam Shank, the CEO of HotelTonight and another of Le Web's speakers, tomorrow's technology will know what we want before we know we want it ourselves.
As Shank confessed to me, his "long term vision" for HotelTonight is "to get the service so personalized and context-aware that it books you the perfect room at the perfect hotel for you, before you even know you want a hotel."
"Now that's clearly faster than real time!" Shank told me with unabashed excitement.
But do we really want algorithms knowing what we want better than ourselves, so they can determine -- faster than real time -- where we should stay, when we should eat, who we should meet or what we should buy? According to Le Meur, who did acknowledge to me some privacy