Experts believe technology will become more “like electricity” in the next decade and produce much more human and machine connectivity, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.
The insights came from a survey of 1,500 experts who responded to open-ended question about how technology will impact life by the year 2025. It was published as part of a series celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the World Wide Web.
Not surprisingly, there was a wide divergence in answers from the experts, but most say in a decade there will be:
- A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment.
- Continued proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, and massive data centers in a world-spanning information fabric known as the Internet of Things.
- Portable/wearable/implantable technologies that will allow people to “augment reality.”
- Disruption of business models established in the 20th century, most notably impacting finance, entertainment, publishers of all sorts, and education.
- Tagging, data basing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms.
Beyond that, the experts had divergent views that roughly grouped around 15 scenarios, eight of which were relatively hopeful and six of which were more worrisome:
Hopeful 2025 Scenarios
■ Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible.
■ The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity, fostering more positive relationships among societies.
■ The Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and big data will make people more aware of their world and their own behavior.
■ Augmented reality and wearable devices will be implemented to monitor and give quick feedback on daily life, especially in regard to personal health.
■ Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change, and more public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge.
■ The spread of the “Ubernet” will diminish the meaning of borders, and new “nations” of those with shared interests may emerge online and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.
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■ The Internet will become “the Internets” as access, systems, and principles are renegotiated.
■ An Internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on buildings and teachers.
Worrisome 2025 Scenarios
■ Dangerous technology divides may expand between haves and have-nots, resulting in resentment and possible violence.
■ Abuses and abusers will “evolve and scale” and thanks to technology, the offenders will have new capacity to make life miserable for others.
■ Pressured by these changes, governments and corporations will try to assert power—and at times succeed—as they invoke security and cultural norms.
■ 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.
■ Humans and their current organizations may not respond quickly enough to challenges presented by complex networks.
■ 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.
Not sure if you like the sound of all that? The report concludes with a piece of sage advice from the experts: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
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