workplace, family life, education and many other foundations of
society will undergo fundamental changes due to advances in Internet
technology over the next decade. That is the forecast of nearly
1,300 leading technology experts, consultants and scholars who responded
to a fall 2004 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project
and Elon University's School of Communications.
The survey results attracted national and international media attention
when they were released Jan. 9. They provide
a vision of a networked, digital future that enhances many peoples'
lives, but also has some distressing implications. The survey included
many scientists and engineers who created the first Internet architecture,
along with current technology leaders in corporations, media, government
and higher education. Nearly half of those responding began using
the Internet sometime in the decades prior to 1993.
Among the respondents were people affiliated with IBM, AOL, Microsoft,
Intel, Google, Internet2 and Oracle; Harvard, MIT and Yale; and
the Federal Communications Commission, FBI, U.S. Census Bureau,
Social Security Administration and U.S. Department of State.
questions were based on a retrospective study that recorded predictions
first made between 1990 and 1995, when the internet was just beginning
to take off. The "Early 1990s" study was directed by Janna
Quitney Anderson, an assistant professor in the School of Communications.
It was developed from an original concept by Lee Rainie, director
of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and a member of
the school's Advisory Board. In the spring of 2003, Anderson enlisted
62 of Harlen Makemson's Media History students in the collection
of more than 1,200 early predictions. She and others added more
entries to the site, which eventually swelled to more than 4,200
entries. The collection of early 1990s predictions was converted
into an online database.
and Anderson worked together to conceive and construct two more
elements for the Predictions site before the online database was
revealed as a public resource in January 2005. The first is a "Share
Your Vision" database, to which anyone anywhere can add his
or her predictions for the future of networked communications. The
second element is the "Experts Survey." Rainie and Anderson
collaborated with Susannah Fox, Pew Internet associate director,
in putting together the official Pew report on the survey.
A number of
experts who were quoted in the early 1990s
predictions database were invited by e-mail to take a web-based
survey, and they were invited to ask their friends to take it as
well. Respondents were asked to forecast the next decade of Internet
development, sharing their views about how things will look in 2014.
Among the findings are the following:
- Two-thirds of the experts predict at least one devastating attack
on network information infrastructure or the country's power grid
in the next 10 years. Some experts believe serious attacks will
become a regular part of life.
- 59 percent of these experts predict increased government and business
surveillance as computing devices are embedded in appliances, cars,
phones and even clothing.
- 57 percent
of these experts predict more virtual classes in formal education,
with students grouped by interests and skills, rather than by age.
- 56 percent
of these experts predict changes in family dynamics and a blurring
of the boundaries between work and leisure as telecommuting and
- 54 percent
look for a new age of creativity in which people use the Internet
to collaborate with others and share music, art and literature.
- 53 percent
predict that all video, audio, print and voice communications will
stream to coordinating computers in homes and offices via the Internet.
The Internet experts said the news and publishing industries will
undergo the most dramatic changes over the next decade, with new
"digital media titans" forming connections across media, entertainment,
advertising and commerce. They also predict major changes ahead
for educational institutions, workplaces and health care institutions.
Fewer changes are predicted for religious organizations.
experts look for the development of a "more thoughtful" Internet,
others are more pessimistic, calling the increasing online data
"drivel," diluting the quality of information that is available.
respondents' answers display a conflict between their hopes for
the Internet's positive potential and their reality-based opinions
of what can really be accomplished in the next 10 years. "Experts
are both in awe and in despair about the state of the Internet,"
he said. "They celebrate search technology, peer-to-peer networks,
and blogs; they deplore institutions that have been slow to change."
the predictions are valuable because they allow society to be better
prepared for the future. "The big-picture Internet issues of the
next decade, as foreseen by these experts," she said, "include
positive and negative changes in the family dynamic; a conflict
between our desire for privacy/security and our desire for the convenience
of information sharing on networked devices; and a conflict between
our desire to have access to all information everywhere and our
desire to simplify our lives and avoid being inundated with information."
respondents predict expansion of high-speed Internet service with
vastly more people and information online. They say that will impact
families in many ways.
now are 'on duty' 24/7 - responding to emails, alerts, blackberries,
and cell phones, no matter where they may be," wrote survey respondent
Gary Bachula of Internet 2. "For the office, this may increase productivity.
For the home and family, this adds to stress and strain. But that
is because, today, this 'extra' duty usually comes on top of a regular
40-to-50-hour stint in the office. In the future, it will be possible
for people to do their work from home, from the beach, from the
back yard - and it will be theoretically possible to enhance home
and family that way."
director of the Communications Media Center at New York Law School,
wrote, "Families, friends and colleagues hang together much more
through the Internet than through the lost art of written communication
or voice - as seen by the fact that my adult children answer e-mails
immediately and phone messages in a week (if at all)."
While the experts
were generally impressed with the speed and scope of change that
the Internet has brought, there were some areas of disappointment.
Many survey respondents said they were surprised at the slow rate
of change in educational institutions, despite predictions a decade
ago that schools would be quick to embrace change. Many experts
also said health care is a decade behind other industries in adopting
new information technology, with the greatest changes ahead in areas
such as online patient records and consultation via the Internet
with healthcare professionals.
a concern for sophisticated Internet users as new convenience technologies
expand the ability to track users and their activities. Some experts
predict increasing numbers of arrests based on surveillance by government,
while others are concerned about "social surveillance" by businesses
that track habits of their customers.
online Internet experts survey was conducted from Sept. 20 to Nov.
1, 2004, by Princeton Survey Research Associates. Full results of
the survey, including engaging quotes from hundreds of respondents
can be found on the internet at www.elon.edu/predictions.
Visitors to the site are encouraged to share their own visions for
the future of the Internet.
of predictions is valuable," Anderson said, "because it
allows us to be better prepared for our future. The sharing of smart
expressions of expectations contributes to intelligent planning.
It allows us to foresee difficulties and brace for them or find
ways to avoid them; it allows us to reap as many benefits as possible.
was built to be used as a tool for people who care about the future
of communications. We are thankful to Lee Rainie of Pew Internet
and Rebecca Rimel and the people at Pew Charitable Trusts for giving
us the funding and the opportunity to bring this resource to life."
to the survey and the Predictions site included mention in the traditional
versions and/or on the web sites of the New York Times, Newsday,
National Public Radio, San Jose Mercury News, Technology Review
(MIT), Information World, InformationWeek, the International Herald
Tribune, CIO Today, CXO Today, Linux Insider, CNet News, the Poynter
Institute online, Jupitermedia ClickZ.com, nearly 75 television
web sites across the United States, and on many blog sites. It topped
the front pages of the Jan. 10 issues of the Raleigh News &
Observer and the Greensboro News & Record. International coverage
included publications from Australia to Congo. More than 32,000
people downloaded the PDF of the report from either the Elon or
the Pew Internet web site in January. By mid-February, that number
had grown to 53,000.
an article that takes a closer look at predictions about the media.
a sampling of the blog sites, by using the blog-search site Technorati.
the Raleigh News & Observer story.