What does the Internet society look like in 2020?

The latest Pew study report (collaborating with Elon University), entitled The Future of the Internet II, shows the vision of “internet leaders, activists, builders and commentators” on “the future social, political, and economic impact of the internet”. Seven scenarios have been discussed including:

  1. the deployment of global network
  2. human control over technology
  3. transparency vs. privacy
  4. luddites, technological “refuseniks,” and violence
  5. compelling or “addictive” virtual worlds
  6. the fate of language online
  7. investment priorities

The full report contains tons of interesting quotes, although at some points I found it’s too overwhelming. Hence, I would think citing this piece should be more cautious, as the introduction already state that the samples are not absolutely representative.

I have to suspect that the visionary does not necessarily need democracy or to be democratized, although innovation will probably do. (see also Hippel’s Democratizing Innovation – I have to admit that I have read only a couple of chapters)

Anyway, it is also a good resource for some folks to learns about internet leaders.

Overall, I am not quite surprised with the results. It seems like there is no a totally undiscovered idea appeared. The results are pretty much based on current tendency. Therefore, the scenarios is quite predictable with just stronger degree of intensiveness. And I think it is reasonable, why?

Evolution or revolution?

In 2020, although the introduction of new innovation may happen as often as weekly or even daily, the Internet (or maybe more specific to WWW), as we have been used for many years, will still play a significant role in the society. We still look forward to the new societal scheme. However, the existence of today Internet society will be merge in tomorrow world. Online society is accumulative where we will never want to delete anything. We will no longer have archives, which we will have to store and retrieve them separately. Instead, our memories will follow us in everyday life in everywhere. We will live with all kinds of tenses within a single moment. Therefore, the future of online society will still be based on evolution not revolution.

Quantifiable responses?

To prove that citing this piece needs some additional attention, here is my example.

Scenario Four: Transparency vs. privacy

Prediction: As sensing, storage and communication technologies get cheaper and better, individuals’ public and private lives will become increasingly ‘transparent’ globally. Everything will be more visible to everyone, with good and bad results. Looking at the big picture – at all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible – this will make the world a better place by the year 2020. The benefits will outweigh the costs. (p. 30)

49% says disagree. However, I am quite confused about the instrument on how the question is structured. There seems to be three major arguments inside the scenario given.

  • more transparency
  • transparency makes better place
  • outweighing the costs

The first and the last makes more sense to me. But I am not sure if the high transparent atmosphere would make a better place. The word “better” (or good), as we all know, is absolutely subjective and too broad. Therefore, the percentage of response can not tell anything specifically because you can not tell which statement is valid to result. So only valid responses, to me, are those qualitative responses.

Anyway, it is very sparking in overall…


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