Experts and Analysts Assess the Future of the Internet in a New Survey

WASHINGTON, DC--A survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves. They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives. Here are the key findings in a new report based on the survey of experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020:

  • The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020.
  • The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.

Voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the internet will be more prevalent and accepted by 2020.
Those working to enforce intellectual property law and copyright protection will remain in a continuing "arms race," with the "crackers" who will find ways to copy and share content without payment.

The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations.

"Next-generation" engineering of the network to improve the current internet architecture is more likely than an effort to rebuild the architecture from scratch. "The internet is now used by 1.6 billion people, with another billion expected to be added soon," said the report's principal author Janna Anderson, director of the Imagining the Internet Center and associate professor of communications at Elon University. "These experts' answers reflect continuing concern over the tension between security and privacy issues. They emphasize the importance of enhanced and enlightened cooperation between the leaders involved in decisions about internet architecture and policy."

The report entitled "Future of the Internet III" is built around respondents' responses to scenarios stretching to the year 2020. Full results of the survey, including quotes from hundreds of respondents and brief biographies on many of these people, can be found at www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/expertsurveys/2008survey/default.xhtml.