Elon University Home

Digital Life in 2026 - the 2016 survey

Researchers at Elon University and the Pew Internet, Science & Technology Project canvassed technology innovators, entrepreneurs, analysts, digital professionals, and the highly engaged public, asking them to assess today's trends and imagine what may evolve. They share thousands of predictions in these reports, illuminating hopes and identifying challenges.

Scroll down the page to find details on FIVE reports being released the first quarter of 2017 based on a survey fielded from July 1 to August 12, 2016.


Trolls, Anonymity, Fake News & the Future - Released March 29, 2017

Will uncivil and manipulative social discourse stay the same or worsen? 1,537 respondents replied to the following question about the course of discourse: In the next decade, will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust? Which is most likely: 1) Online communication becomes more shaped by negative activities. 2) Online communication becomes less shaped by negative activities. 3) I expect no change in the tone of online interaction. Please elaborate on your answer. 42% said there will be no major change in discourse (and the vast majority of these were unhappy with much of the popular discourse in 2016); 39% said it will be "more shaped" by uncivil activities; only 19% said the future is likely to be "less shaped" by uncivil activities due to a variety of technical, regulatory and social solutions.

Code-Dependent: The Impacts of Algorithms - Released Feb. 8, 2017

Will the future impact of algorithms be positive, negative or about 50-50? 1,302 respondents replied to the following Algorithms question:  Algorithms will continue to have increasing influence over the next decade, shaping people’s work and personal lives and the ways they interact with information, institutions, and each other. The hope is that algorithms will help people quickly and fairly execute tasks and get the information, products, and services they want. The fear is that algorithms can purposely or inadvertently create discrimination, enable social engineering and have other harmful societal impacts. Will the net overall effect of algorithms be positive for individuals and society or negative for individuals and society? Which is most likely? 1) Positives will outweigh negatives. 2) Negatives will outweigh positives. 3) The overall impact will be about 50-50. Please elaborate on your answer. 38% said impacts will be mostly positive; 37% said the spread of algorithms will turn out to be mostly negative; 25% said they see the future impact of algorithms as 50-50, half positive/half negative.

Reports to be released later in 2017:

Report About Online Training for Future Skills

Will new training prepare workers who are fit for the future?1,408 respondents replied to the question: In the next ten years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future? Yes or No? Please elaborate on your answer.

Report On Connected Infrastructure: The Internet of Everything

Will connectivity extend despite issues? 1,201 respondents replied to the question: As billions more everyday objects are connected in the Internet of Things they are sending and receiving data that enhances local, national and global systems as well as individuals’ lives. But such connectedness also creates exploitable vulnerabilities. As automobiles, medical devices, smart TVs, manufacturing equipment and other tools and infrastructure are networked, is it likely that attacks, hacks, or ransomware concerns in the next decade will cause significant numbers of people to decide to disconnect, or will the trend towards greater connectivity of objects and people continue unabated? Which is most likely: 1) Yes, significant numbers will disconnect. 2) No, most people will move more deeply into connected life. Please elaborate on your answer.

Report About Trust and the Global Internet Impact 

Will trust in global interactions strengthen? 1,233 respondents replied to the question: Billions of people use cell phones and the internet now and hundreds of millions more are expected to come online in the next decade. At the same time, more than half of those who use the internet and cell phones still do not use that connectivity for shopping, banking, other important transactions and key social interactions. As more people move online globally both opportunities and threats grow. Will people’s trust in their online interactions, their work, shopping, social connections, pursuit of knowledge and other activities, be strengthened or diminished over the next 10 years? Which is most likely: 1) Trust will be strengthened. 2) Trust will be diminished. 3) Trust will stay about the same. Please elaborate on your answer.