Pew Report Looks Into Our Digital Future

Enid Burns for – Your Universe Online
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet. To mark the occasion, Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center worked together to discuss what connected lives will look like in the year 2025. The report, “Digital Life in 2025,” lays out “15 things about the digital future” for Internet users to ponder, looking at both good and bad aspects of what may come.
“The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, gather and share information, and consume media,” the paper said. To peer forward into the future, Pew Internet canvassed 2,558 experts and technology builders to come up with 15 themes.
Information will become much more available in the next 10 years. That is, “experts foresee an ambient information environment where accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity,'” the report said. Connectivity will be ever present through mobile, wearable and embedded computing. All of these devices will be tied together through the Internet of Things, where connected devices will have programs to carry out tasks automatically in certain situations with limitless possibilities.
After studying responses from their sources, researchers found that experts agree on the direction that technology is going, though the “ramifications” present some different opinions. Four trends that all sources agree upon include four underlying themes. An ambient computing environment network will become global, immersive and invisible. This environment will increase through a proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases and massive data centers. “Augmented reality” will enhance real-world input through portable, wearable and implantable technologies. Business models will see disruption. The areas most affected by this disruption will be finance, entertainment, publishers and education. The fourth trend involves the tagging, databasing and intelligent analytical mapping of physical and social realms.
The 15 trends that emerged from the Pew Internet survey discuss how connectivity will evolve in the next 10 years:
• Information sharing over the Internet will be so effortlessly interwoven into daily life that it will become invisible, flowing like electricity, often through machine intermediaries.
• The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity that fosters more planetary relationships and less ignorance.
• 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 tied to personal health.
• Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and 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 and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control.
• 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 real estate and teachers.
• Dangerous divides between haves and have-nots may expand, resulting in resentment and possible violence.
• Abuses and abusers will ‘evolve and scale.’ Human nature isn’t changing; there’s laziness, bullying, stalking, stupidity, pornography, dirty tricks, crime, and those who practice them 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.
• Foresight and accurate predictions can make a difference; ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’