The future of the internet (mark II)

September 26, 2006

A report has been released by Pew Internet & American Life Project giving the results of a survey of internet leaders/activists/analysts. The survey asked the respondents about seven scenarios about the future internet based on developments in the technology in recent years.

Some of the predictions:

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
  • 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.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • 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.
  • People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
  • 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.

Now these may not seem exactly ground breaking prophecies, in fact glancing at a summary of the report it seems like common sense to expect the above. The report as whole does contain much more insight however and is well worth a read (PDF) as it has full answers to each question from each respondent.

As the internet is (at it’s most basic level) a platform for information, communication and commerce those three will still drive the growth and advancement of the web and the biggest advancements could come from ways we begin to integrate those three to create platforms for trading and exchange (something that is constantly evolving).

Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see how it pans out, my main concern would be that the internet becomes overregulated which could be seriously damaging to the webs future.

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