The Future of the Internet

The Beeb has a good discussion of the implications of the latest Pew survey on the future of the Internet.There is a good summary on the wires.

So what did the gurus see happening over the next fourteen years?

The deployment of a global network: Most respondents foresaw a global, low-cost network thriving in 2020, available to most people around the world at low cost. And they agreed that a techabetted “flattening” of the world will open up opportunities for success for many people who will compete globally.
Still, a vocal and sizeable minority of respondents say they are unsure that the policy climate will be favorable for such internet expansion. Resistance will be led by businesses anxious to preserve their current advantages and in policy circles where control over information and communication is a central value.
In addition, a significant number of these dissenters argued that the world will not flatten enough to wipe away persistent social inequities.
Human control over technology: Humans are likely to remain in charge of technology between now and 2020. However some fear that technological progress will eventually create machines and processes that move beyond human control. Others said they fear that the leaders who exercise control of the technology might use this power inappropriately.
Transparency vs. privacy: There is a widespread expectation that people will wittingly or unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy. Respondents split evenly on whether the world will be a better place in 2020 due to the greater transparency of people and institutions afforded by the internet: 46% agreed that the benefits of greater transparency of organizations and individuals would outweigh the privacy costs and 49% disagreed.
Luddites, technological “refuseniks,” and violence: Most respondents agreed that there will people who will remain unconnected to the network because of their economic circumstances and others who think a class of technology refuseniks will emerge by 2020. They will form their own cultural group that lives apart from “modern” society and some will commit acts of violence in protest to technology. But many respondents argue that violence arising from conflicts over religion, economics, and politics, will be more prevalent.
Compelling or “addictive” virtual worlds: Many respondents agreed with the notion that those who are connected online will devote more time to sophisticated, compelling, networked, synthetic worlds by 2020. While this will foster productivity and connectedness and be an advantage to many, it will lead to addiction problems for some. The word “addiction” struck some respondents as an inappropriate term for the problems they foresaw, while others thought it appropriate.
The fate of language online: Many respondents said they accept the idea that English will be the world’s lingua franca for cross-cultural communications in the next few decades. But notable numbers maintained English will not overwhelm other languages and, indeed, Mandarin and other languages will expand their influence online. Most respondents stressed that linguistic diversity is good and that the internet will allow the preservation of languages and associated cultures. Others noted that all languages evolve over time and argued that the internet will abet that evolution.
Investment priorities: Asked what their priority would be for future investments of time and money in networking, 78% of the respondents identified two goals for the world’s policy makers and the technology industry to pursue: building network capacity and spreading knowledge about technology to help people of all nations.

Comments are closed.