As the Web celebrates its 25th birthday on Wednesday, a new report has looked into the future of the Internet. As technologies evolve and emerge, the Internet is seen by many to become an integral part of our lives --becoming less visible yet becoming more like air that we need.
Imagining the Internet Center of Elon University has again collaborated with Pew Research Center's Internet Project to conduct a survey online of 1,500 experts and how they see technology influencing our life in 2025. The results of the survey were compiled in a published report titled "Digital Life in 2025."
Just like the forces in the universe, the report [PDF] has reflected the optimistic and pessimistic views on how the Internet or technology in general will influence lives a decade or so from now.
"It is striking how much consensus there is among these experts on what will change, and equally striking how varied their answers are when they are asked how those changes will impact and influence users in good and bad ways," said Professor Jana Anderson, director Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center and one of the lead authors of the study.
The two organizations have conducted similar studies since 2004 and peforming the survey on a two-year interval. The first report looked into how the Internet will change lives between 2004 and 2014 and fast forward to the latest study, it also wants to look into the future and how technology will impact lives.
Anderson, together with Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan, director and research assistant, respectively, of Pew's Internet Project analyzed the data and worked together to produce the report. They compiled the views of the respondents into a chapter titled "15 Theses About the Digital Future."
There are a lot of interesting foresights but as one group sees how the Internet will do a lot of great things for mankind, there is also the other group that cautions everyone.
Internet flowing like electricity
"More and more, humans will be in a world in which decisions are being made by an active set of cooperating devices. The Internet (and computer-mediated communication in general) will become more pervasive but less explicit and visible. It will, to some extent, blend into the background of all we do," said MIT research scientist David Clark.
Quick feedback and adjustment using wearables
"We may well see wearable devices and/or home and workplace sensors that can help us make ongoing lifestyle changes and provide early detection for disease risks, not just disease. We may literally be able to adjust both medications and lifestyle changes on a day-by-day basis or even an hour-by-hour basis, thus enormously magnifying the effectiveness of an ever more understaffed medical delivery system," shared sofware developer Aron Roberts from the University of California-Berkeley.
Ubernet and diminishing borders
"We may well see wearable devices and/or home and workplace sensors that can help us make ongoing lifestyle changes and provide early detection for disease risks, not just disease. We may literally be able to adjust both medications and lifestyle changes on a day-by-day basis or even an hour-by-hour basis, thus enormously magnifying the effectiveness of an ever more understaffed medical delivery system," said one of the Internet pioneers David Hughes.
Education for all
"The biggest impact on the world will be universal access to all human knowledge. The smartest person in the world currently could well be stuck behind a plow in India or China. Enabling that person - and the millions like him or her - will have a profound impact on the development of the human race," said Google chief economist Hal Varian.
"We have to think seriously about the kinds of conflicts that will arise in response to the growing inequality enabled and amplified by means of networked transactions that benefit smaller and smaller segments of the global population. Social media will facilitate and amplify the feelings of loss and abuse," said University of Pennsylvania emeritus professor Oscar Gandy.
Online availability of everything
"Everything - every thing - will be available online with price tags attached. Cyber-terrorism will become commonplace. Privacy and confidentiality of any and all personal will become a thing of the past. Online 'diseases' - mental, physical, social, addictions (psycho-cyber drugs) - will affect families and communities and spread willy-nilly across borders," answered Llewellyn Kriel, CEO of TopEditor International Media Services.
Privacy will just be for the rich
"Yes, the information we want will increasingly find its way to us, as networks learn to accurately predict our interests and weaknesses. But that will also tempt us to stop seeking out knowledge, narrowing our horizons, even as we delve evermore deep. The privacy premium may also be a factor: only the relatively well-off (and well-educated) will know how to preserve their privacy in 2025," an anonymous respondent answered.
Digital diplomacy and virtual states
"Some of the really important dimensions include the development of transnational political actors/movements, the rise of the virtual state, the impact of digital diplomacy efforts, the role of information in undermining state privilege (think Wikileaks), and ... the development of cyber-conflict (in both symmetric and asymmetric forms)," responded communication professor Randy Kluver of the Texas A&M University.
Invent the future
"... The good news is that the technology that promises to turn our world on its head is also the technology with which we can build our new world. It offers an unbridled ability to collaborate, share, and interact. 'The best way to predict the future is to invent it.' It is a very good time to start inventing the future," said policy and Internet law expert Robert Cannon.
The full report presents more insights on how Internet will make the world go round in 2025.