Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Future of the Internet - PART II

The Pew Internet Project announces the release of its second report on The Future of the Internet. (For the full report, please click HERE.) The report is built around respondents' responses to scenarios stretching to the year 2020 and hundreds of their written elaborations that address such things as the kinds of new social interactions that will occur when more "meetings" take place on screens; the changes that will occur in nation-states; the evolution of autonomous technology; and the proper ways to police the internet. According to the press release, a survey of internet leaders, activists, and analysts shows that a majority agree with predictions that by 2020:

o A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a "flattening" world.

o Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and "smart agents" proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans' ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.

o Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.

o Tech "refuseniks" will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.

o People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.

o English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.

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