PewResearch Internet Project has just released a report on Digital Life in 2025 based on expert interviews.
One of the interesting aspects of the report is the ‘theses‘ that they have distilled from the interviews, which they have divided into ‘more-hopeful and ‘less-hopeful’, concluding with one very important piece advice. These are:
1) Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.
2) The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.
3) The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior.
4) Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially tied to personal health.
5) Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.
6) The spread of the ‘Ubernet’ will diminish the meaning of borders, and new ‘nations’ of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.
7) The Internet will become ‘the Internets’ as access, systems, and principles are renegotiated.
8) An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers.
9) Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.
10) Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography, dirty tricks, crime, and those who practice them have new capacity to make life miserable for others.
11) Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power — and at times succeed — as they invoke security and cultural norms.
12) People will continue — sometimes grudgingly — to make tradeoffs favoring convenience and perceived immediate gains over privacy; and privacy will be something only the upscale will enjoy.
13) Humans and their current organizations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.
14) Most people are not yet noticing the profound changes today’s communications networks are already bringing about; these networks will be even more disruptive in the future.
Advice: Make good choices today
15) Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’
I agree with these theses to differing degrees.
Most of the positive ones are very likely, and most of them very positive, far beyond the words of the theses.
Point 9) is one I have focused on for well over a decade; it remains a critical issue. I absolutely believe point 14) to be true; I think very few people grasp the staggering extent of the change that is happening and is to come.
Which brings us to the last point, which I very strongly agree with (except for the part about predictions). The role and value of thinking about the future is so that we can understand the actions today that will create better futures.
The juncture we find ourselves, at which not just information technologies but also an array of other emerging technologies are transforming society, offers both massive opportunities and startling challenges.
Foresight and structured exploration of the future are fundamental to our future, in enabling us to shape it in a positive way.
Let us work together to create a wonderfully positive future for tomorrow’s connected society.