What Will the Internet Be in 2025?
A Pew Research survey hints at the future upsides and downsides of the Internet’s evolution.
Looking back can be used to help predict the future, but predicting the future of the Internet and its impact is a challenging endeavor. The history of the Internet has been populated by rapid growth of applications whose success and failure were difficult to foresee. By surveying those who are involved with the Internet, however, as well as connectivity and applications, some measure of the future can be obtained.
Experts believe that easy access to the Internet is a growth stimulator. Connecting people and the Internet of Things (IoT) will make the Internet a true utility that will become an even greater resource in everyday life. However there will be both positive and negative outcomes from the Internet's growth.The Pew Survey
The Pew Research survey of Internet predictions, " The Web at 25 in the U.S., Digital Life in 2015" is the organization's latest report, marking the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The survey report was produced by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center. The predictions from 1,867 respondents were collected between November 25, 2014 and January 13, 2015.
The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends affecting the U.S. and the rest of the world. They do this by conducting opinion polls, demographic research, and media content analysis.The Upside Predictions
Predictions are just that, a look into the future. Some are obvious while others are not so visible. The Pew report digests the positive predictions into eight statements. I have selected four of the predictions that I find most interesting:
- Eventually the Internet will become so much a utility that it will be an integral part of daily life. It will be used so often that it will be expected to always there, just like electricity and water.
- The Internet will continue to expand global connectivity, which will promote more planetary relationships and less ignorance. One of the respondents, Paul Jones, professor at the University of North Carolina and founder of Ibiblio.org, stated that "Television let us see the global village, but the Internet let us be actual villagers." I am not sure this will be true because the Internet also allows those with differing ideas and philosophies to only interact with those with similar ideas without really interacting with those of differing ideas. ISIS is an example of a body using the Internet to create a closed community of like believers.
- The Internet will be used to make people more aware of their own behavior and the world that surrounds them. However, too much information means that some will be ignored. There are already cases where people have turned off their wearable devices because the continued data presentation was beginning to run their lives rather than benefit them.
- One prediction that I fully agree with is the spread of education and opportunities that cost less saving real estate and teacher time while expanding the audience. Consider the Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) movement that is delivering college/university education across borders.
In addition to the beneficial predictions, the Pew report highlighted seven less hopeful predictions. I have selected three negative predictions to discuss:
- The Internet will continue to facilitate the division between the haves and have nots. The result will be resentment from those who know what they don't have. Counterproductive, violent actions may be the result. What the Internet will do is offer plenty of images of the resentment and protests.
- Human behavior will continue to exist with both good and bad results. We have seen online bullying, stalking, pornography, and crime flourish. One of the respondents who is an antispam and security architect predicts that "There will be an erosion of privacy and the use of dirty-tricks social media will emerge more and more in election campaigns. Abusers evolve and scale far more than regular Internet users."
- To combat abuses, governments and corporations will attempt to assert power, invoking more security and cultural norms. These actions can be used to limit the user's actions even when positive because the actions may interfere with the status quo. Some governments value stability above freedom.
These predictions will be influenced by factors that may not even be visible today. A restrictive government may become financially weaker. The result could be more restrictions or the government being unable to enforce the restrictions, thereby losing control.
The advice of the report is to make good choices now and not wait to see the outcome of the Internet. I like the quote from the Pew report that sums up the best path forward, "The best way to predict the future is to invent."