Imagining the Internet Project

description

The level of change in institutions

Predictive assessments of the future influence of the internet on societal institutions were assembled from a select group of 1,286 Internet stakeholders in the fall 2004 Pew Internet & American Life Predictions Survey. First, the participants were asked to rate (on a scale of 1 to 10) a list of institutions in regard to their likelihood for change due to the impact of the Internet. They were told that 1 represented "no change" on the scale, while 10 represented "radical change."

Following these guidelines, the participants ranked news organizations/publishing as the institution most likely to change the most in the next decade (giving it a mean score of 8.46 on the scale of 1 to 10), followed by education (7.98), the workplace (7.84), medicine/healthcare (7.63), politics/government (7.39), music/film/the arts (7.18), international relations (6.74), military (6.53), families (6.24), neighborhoods/communities (6.16), religion (4.69).

Some respondents chose to supplement their rating of institutional impact by accepting the invitation to write about their point of view; many did not. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with their answers; many did not. We share some, but not all, of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are listed below are attributed here only for the purpose of indicating a level of internet expertise; the statements reflect personal viewpoints and do not represent their companies', universities' or government agencies' policies or positions. Some answers have been edited in order to share more respondents' replies. Below is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following question:


Request for an overview of the future
In the next decade, which institutions and human endeavors will change the most because of the internet? Tell us how you see the future unfolding.

There will be a move toward networked individualism - where people link to each other as individuals - and away from groups - in work, neighborhoods, kinship and even households. - Barry Wellman, University of Toronto

As broadband proliferates, the access to information, services and applications by households and institutions with relationships to households (schools, communities, governments, marketers) will deliver on the promise of the internet as a personal-productivity tool as well as a communications/information resource. - Mike Kelly, America Online

We will be free to create, share, and organize untethered - using enhancements that in the past were enshrined in revered spaces, devices and times. - Christine Geith, Michigan State University

Cultural infrastructure will change the most. Alternative media made possible by new technologies will continue to drive change in both the producing and distributing sectors of radio, TV, the recording industry and film. - Fred Hapgood, Output Ltd.

Anything that has involved an intermediary will be changed. New kinds of intermediaries will emerge, but the old ones - especially in businesses that have created high margins by being in the middle of transactions - will find their very existences at risk. - Dan Gillmor, author of "We the Media" and technology writer for the San Mercury-News

One of the biggest changes the Net will bring in the next decade will be a new way of doing journalism, with media companies being watched by the producers of weblogs and citizen media trying to co-opt their efforts in some way. The Net is one of the last bastions of independent journalism, so media companies will try to dominate online while smaller players work the niches. - Mark Glaser, Online Journalism Review, Online Publishers Association, CMP TechWeb

The Internet has thrown open the floodgates for participatory news and information, allowing individuals to aggregate information from a broad range of sources, truthsquad what they collect, burrow deeper on topics of concern or interest, and take action on that information, if they so wish. - Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism

The relationship between politics and media will continue to change and affect how people learn about and choose their leaders. The leveling of access to information will make some people remarkably well-informed and others remarkably misinformed, and unless we push to train young people in critical thinking skills this could become dangerous. - Cynthia Samuels, Center for American Progress

The biggest changes, as always with new media, will be metaphorical. It's not that anything in particular that we do on the Internet is so important - it's that behaviors we have online can serve as models for behaviors that change in real life. - Douglas Rushkoff, author

Governments will tend toward democracy. Transportation will be refined through massive substitution of communication. The current flight to cities will be reversed. The Internet won't be in schools; it will replace schools. Television channels will be replaced by video blogs and Dan Rather will be dragged off the set. - Bob Metcalfe, Polaris Venture Partners, Ethernet originator and former InfoWorld columnist

There will be greater use of open development processes for technology, as in the World Wide Web Consortium or the Internet Engineering Task Force. There will be greater separation of people from direct social interaction, leading to decreasing skill in social interaction and more social and organizational problems. There will be greater offloading of work tasks from organizations to their customers (e.g., do-it-yourself websites) with less and less human help or customer service available. - Peter Denning, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA; columnist for Communications of the ACM

A significant percentage of the world's population will have access to the Internet wherever they go within the next ten years ? this presents a radical potential - however, that potential's realization depends on how people and their governments take advantage of that opportunity. With Internet- and mobile-phone-organized collective actions instrumental in choosing the heads of state in the Philippines, Korea, Spain and the USA, it is clear that activism and electoral politics are already undergoing radical change. With the emergence of new models of production and distribution, cultural production is undergoing equally radical changes. The education system, the military establishment and the workplace are full of big institutions that change slowly - but as we have seen in the past 10 years, people find ways around the slowness of big institutions. - Howard Rheingold, Internet sociologist, writer, speaker

One of the greatest areas of change concerns communities of shared interests. The Internet enables us to find people with similar interests: dogs, diseases, hobbies, musical tastes, etc. These on-line communities are a vital resource of knowledge that is easily accessible. Connecting people of shared interests and bypassing any gate-keeping filter creates the opportunity for radical communitarian "open source" exchange of information, ideas and resources. This has a potential to subvert a business model that isolates people and makes them dependent on fee-based exchanges. - Andy Opel, Dept. of Communication, Florida State University

The most radical changes will likely involve the workplace, because of the economic incentives involved, and processes of artistic creation, because the Internet is such a fabulous new medium of creation and distribution. I hope for real-but-more-modest gains in the contribution of the Internet to our democratic life. - Peter M. Shane, author of "The Electronic Federalist: The Internet and the Electric Institutionalization of Democratic Legitimacy," in the book "Democracy Online: The Prospects for Political Renewal through the Internet" (2004).

The institutions and endeavors most amenable to change are those that are most readily affected by ease of communications and the capacity of ordinary individuals to reach a public audience without intermediation by government or corporate or other ingrained institution. They would include also those that currently require large bureaucracies to process information - such as healthcare ? Opportunities for individual writers and teachers and artists of all kinds to find an audience and thus a livelihood will steadily increase and make the culture much more creative and productive. The trends in peer-to-peer, business-to-business and business-to-consumer on-line interactions will continue and move toward seamlessness. The models of eBay and Amazon and Google and Yahoo will continue and become part of the mobile, wireless network with each individual empowered by continuous access to information and a network of workplace and entertainment that is both instantaneous and globe-spanning. - William B. Pickett, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

It will take several years for the players to get their acts together and re-engineer mass-market-access products and services for reliable and safe use by ordinary human beings. It will then take several more years to overcome the growing backlash. Radical change will therefore only begin to happen towards the end of the decade. It need not be that way but the current state of denial is that it looks as though it may. One of my uncles had a mobile office in the early 1950s (World War II Army-surplus wireless equipment), and I was using non-internet e-mail (IP Sharp time-sharing service) in 1977. The pace of change to date has been greatly exaggerated. - Philip Virgo, secretary general for EURIM, the UK-based Parliament Industry Group; IMIS, the UK-based professional body for management of information systems

Students are likely to be increasingly dissatisfied with conventional approaches to teaching and learning and to the limited resources available to them in all but the best-equipped schools. In the final analysis, schools would do well to heed the Latin writer Seneca's words, which ring as true today as when they were written nearly 2,000 years ago: "The fates guide those who go willingly; those who do not, they drag." - Douglas Levin, policy analyst, Cable in the Classroom

The Internet ? changes the way [medical] clinicians communicate with one another, including consultation specialties; it transforms the way patients and providers access and share information; it lowers barriers of the paper world, making it possible to patients to see their records online and be more involved in their health care; it offers additional channels through which care can be delivered to patients; because of this, it will force new models of licensing healthcare professionals, to permit us to deliver care at a distance; it will also force us to change the way clinicians are remunerated, to include non-visit-based care; the Internet will increasingly change patients' expectations of the clinicians, so that physicians will routinely need to offer services like e-messaging, instant messaging, video conferencing and other online services. - Daniel Z. Sands, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School

Public health has the potential to change the most, with the widespread dissemination of public health information via the Internet (and eventually to the mass media), the earlier detection of the spread of communicable diseases, and the ability to treat people remotely - all increasing significantly in the next decade. - Charlie Firestone, The Aspen Institute

The Internet shall break down the significance of the nation/state as we know it today, and what will we see is the rise of the sovereignty of the individual. We shall also see the rise in impact of groups of individuals in every area, beyond what we have already seen. Changes in entertainment shall respond to the individual as well as to groups of individual who may or may not know each other. Education shall change to an individual-driven endeavor, where knowledge is knowable by impetus of the individual, and the presumed authority of teachers shall erode. A new role for teachers will emerge. - Moira Gunn, Tech Nation - technology commentator

Nearly everything will change because of the Internet, and especially as the Internet becomes ubiquitous and all-pervasive, different from the discrete experience it is now on a computer. The "always-on" Internet, combined with computers talking to computers, will be a more profound transformation of society than what we've seen so far. - Gary Chapman, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

The Internet opens communication channels. Each one of us as a leader must put truly helpful content on those channels and responsibly move it forward in a direction for the benefit of many ? the world doesn't need to get more complex. In fact, there can be less clutter and more efficiency in all areas. The world could use more creativity to move us forward through the portal of the next decade. - Victor Rivero, editor/writer/consultant; former editor of Converge, an education-technology magazine

Telecommuting already has begun to happen in a big way in white-collar professions. For better or worse, most research - by academics as well as students - takes place on-line. There is at least some possibility for expanded informal "publishing" on-line, though it is not clear how seriously this is taken. Families, friends and colleagues hang together much more through the Internet than through the lost art of written correspondence or voice - as seen by the fact that my adult children answer emails immediately and phone messages in a week (if at all). Opportunities for interaction with foreign colleagues are much greater, since the Internet obviates problems of both cost and time zones. - Mike Botein, Media Center, New York Law School

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. The Net will wear away institutions that have forgotten how to sound human and how to engage in conversation. - David Weinberger, Evident Marketing Inc.

The greatest changes will occur in the arena of trust and human relations. The Internet makes it so easy to obtain, store and retrieve the most intimate details of our lives that people will inevitably exercise a certain pre-emptive caution or self-censorship even in their most personal relationships ? [When] the Internet and electronic technologies seem completely unremarkable, our notions of privacy and personal space will have been irrevocably transformed ? When we reach the point where adults have always understood that their electronic footprints are subject to extensive unwanted tracking and storage, risk-taking behaviors will become rarer, to the impoverishment of our lives as individuals in communities. - Lois C. Ambash, Metaforix Incorporated

We are at the point where applications will mushroom for individuals and organizations. In particular, individuals will have 24/7-access to communications, education and information with the proliferation of a new generation of small, portable, wireless-access tools. Full integration of voice recognition will make the Internet both accessible to a larger audience and considerably more human-friendly. - Bill Eager, professional speaker on uses of the Internet

News media, politics and governance promise to change the most thanks to the all-publishing, all-connecting nature of Internet communications. The most obvious effects on news media are the rise of weblogs supplanting the public's attentions to traditional news media, and the slow death of newspapers ? We can expect the nature of socio-political interaction to change as well, potentially changing the way prospective voters make up their minds - or even how frequently and consistently they vote on any given race or cause ? However, the digital divide will grow ever deeper, as computer-savvy citizens enjoy the fruits of this development, while non-users (by reasons of choice, ignorance or poverty) are left to deal with metaspace government representation that will dwindle as more resources are poured into online solutions. - Mack Reed, Digital Government Research Center, USC

The next 10 years will see explosive growth in social networking applications, collective work applications and visualization. - Susan Crawford, Policy Fellow with the Center for Democracy & Technology

Business will continue to both drive change online and be driven by it. Medicine will utilize new technologies in perhaps the most dramatic way - in saving lives, extending lives, and making lives better. And as those worlds evolve, they will naturally bring along politics and government, the media, and educational institutions - those who study and respond to these trends as a matter of course. - Brian Reich, Mindshare Interactive Campaigns, Boston; Mouse Communications

Connections across media, entertainment, advertising and commerce will become stronger with future margins going to a new breed of digital-media titans. These companies may not come from the traditional value chain; they will be far more aggressive than existing players. The incumbents are not moving fast enough. Well-branded innovators such as Google and Starbucks have a chance to build all-new distribution models tied to ad revenue and retail sales. - James Brancheau, vice president, Gartner

Media and Entertainment industry impacts: Ubiquitous broadband network and P2P connectivity, combined with Internet-enabled technologies and behaviors will continue to reshape the media and entertainment industries and the legal frameworks under which they have operated ? Legal and technological controls will not be effective; new laws and technologies designed to maintain centralized control of content will fail to stop ingrained sharing behaviors. After the novelty: The percentage of content purchased vs. content acquired through sharing will eventually return to proportions resembling pre-Napster after the novelty and binge effect wear off. - Terry Pittman, America Online, Broadband division

The business community is getting a better handle on how information is being consumed. That fact is beginning to take the guesswork out of convergence. As a result the technology product and service offerings in the future will be more targeted. Some markets will grow very quickly and others that seemed to have potential will fade away. In short, the consumers of information products and services will drive the next wave. However, as society becomes more sensitive to the loss of privacy and actually faces the mountain of information that will become available, there will be blowback. Technologists will have to incorporate social concerns into the innovation process or revenues gained on productivity improvements will be lost on product fixes at the end of the commercialization cycle. We will no longer be able to create technology products in a clean room void of societal interest. The consumer will be heard one way or another. - Bradford C. Brown, National Center for Technology and Law

The entire concept of information freedom will be profoundly impacted. I do not refer to price, but to the free flow of ideas; to the expectation that information can be located and accessed as never before. - Michelle Manafy, Information Today, Inc., EContent magazine & Intranets newsletter

The Internet has created information demand that traditional publishing technologies are not capable of meeting ? Search technology has changed the way information is presented and sorted. Editors have lost the control they traditionally wielded over the presentation and selection of news ? Some are predicting the rise of "citizen journalism" provided by the man in the street using digital technology. I'm not sure most "citizens" are that interested in being news providers and reporters, but one thing is very clear: the news is becoming interactive. It is no longer a one-way conversation. - Janice Castro, assistant dean, director, graduate journalism programs, Northwestern University

It will change the job of every knowledge worker, because it will continue to make more knowledge more readily available. - Reid Ashe, CEO Media General Inc.

As an ever-increasing share of transactions become digital a whole host of functions now performed by paper, phone and in-person, many of them by middlemen, will become digital, lowering costs and freeing up labor. To take just one example, buying a home could be transformed from an expensive paper and person-intensive process to an inexpensive and streamlined digital process. - Rob Atkinson, Progressive Policy Institute (previously project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment)

Power was once reserved for those with a lot of money - major corporations, special interest groups, and political parties. Now anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can make his or her case to the masses. As the grassroots flexes its muscles, the balance of power will shift - not only in the U.S., but internationally as well. - Cheryl Russell, New Strategist Publications, author of "The Official Guide to the American Marketplace" and "Demographics of the U.S.: Trends of Projections."

Organizations of civil society in countries undergoing varying degrees of democratization will benefit the most. The Internet will have a significant impact in the Middle East over the next ten years in terms of empowerment of formerly marginalized sectors, particularly for women. I predict less of a change in Western democracies, where certain processes and realities have been imbedded into political and social systems and thus the change will be less. - Michael Dahan, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, (he leads projects to foster peace in the Middle East through new technology).

Political and governmental organizations will change the most, as they have changed the slowest so far. In a decade, they will have returned to a more representative role, contrasting with today's misguided elite-biased misinformation, biased today by listening more to broadband users than the narrowband or offline. - Dan Ness, MetaFacts, a market-research firm that solves customer challenges for high-tech companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Microsoft

The Internet will erode individual privacy. It does nothing so well as remember the data that users post. The advent of the Net marks the beginning of wide-scale, self-initiated surveillance. - Thomas Claburn, InformationWeek (formerly at New Architect, Wired and KQED-TV)

The workplace will have the largest change, because it needs the largest change. The whole notion of ''going to work'' is one of the newest of civilization's innovations. The only reason people ''go to work'' in offices is because that's where the paper is. Large companies used to work out of people's homes, viz., the great trading houses of Amsterdam, which were really houses. Lloyd's of London was a coffee shop where the underwriters congregated to make deals; it only became a skyscraper when they needed a place to put the paper. The ''paperless office'' is a pipedream, but the mandate for people to congregate physically will be greatly reduced by the Internet, which will have as profound a long-term effect on the development of cities as did the automobile. - Mike O'Brien, The Aerospace Corporation, formerly of RAND.

The greatest change is likely to be on individuals and the way they perform their work. A growing segment of business needs no longer be at a specific location ? The impact on the individual, where he/she lives and works, will alter the structure of our cities, the environment, and much of our society. - Ted Christensen, coordinator, Arizona Regents University, overseeing development of e-learning at Arizona's three public universities

There doesn't seem to be any original thought out there anywhere, and I think the Internet bears a responsibility for this that will only increase in the coming years. - Tom Egelhoff, smalltownmarketing.com

The Internet will become even more organic. Wires will fade and the 'Net will be more like a utility - always on. Every device that computes will be capable of connecting, and generation Z will assume connectivity. - B. Keith Fulton, vice president, strategic alliances, Verizon Communications, formerly a senior telecommunications policy analyst with the U.S. Department of Commerce IPv6 Task Force

Any institution that chooses to ignore or underestimate the ''user drives'' aspect will suffer adverse consequences ? The current regime of copyright protection is an impediment to society moving forward in leveraging technological benefits and furthering creative works. Other impediments are legacy ''entitlement'' arrangements of traditional media, proprietary exclusionary technologies, regulatory systems that respond more readily to corporate lobbies than demonstrating responsibility to social principles. If there is another lasting lesson that the Internet has brought it is that change is persistent and unavoidable. It is better to be actively, thoughtfully and humanly adapting technology than to be creating inertia to resist it. - Sam Punnett, president, FAD Research, Toronto, Canada

The Internet will significantly impact the channels through which people around the world get news and information; existing powerful channels will diminish, and new online social networks will evolve and deliver news to people much more organically in the course of their daily lives. We are seeing the ''Blogosphere'' starting to impact traditional news channels in this fashion - becoming a catalyst for creating and driving the news, speeding up the news cycle, and delivering critical real-time news and information across millions of touch points. - Lyle Kantrovich, Internet usability expert, Cargill/also known for his blog Croc o' Lyle.

The Internet allows small units of thinking to access the larger public audience. Language and ethnic minorities political groupings like Greens or religious fundamentalists neighborhood political advocates distinct territories, and even individuals like the Baghdad bloggers or Matt Drudge, can publish and converse with the larger public. This will continue, despite efforts by the media companies to prevent it. There is too much momentum behind the decentralization movement already. - Mike Weisman, Seattle attorney and activist in the advocacy groups Reclaim the Media and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

All institutions, all endeavors that rely on the exchange of information will feel the increasing impact of the Internet. The key is to separate the Internet from the World Wide Web. The Internet is truly the revolutionary delivery vehicle; the Web merely an early indication about how looking for information, finding information, publishing information, sharing information, selling information and even defining information will change in the future. - Howard I. Finberg, director, Interactive Learning, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies

Actually, I do not believe that institutions and human endeavors will change ''because of'' the Internet. I do not believe in technological determinism. To me, the Internet is a tool, a catalyst and not the cause. Technology never emerges independently from its social context; some technologies emerge, others, whose scientific qualities were at least as good, do not; in fact, we collectively choose the technologies which we (subconsciously) believe will enable us to live the life we have chosen for ourselves. The Internet ? is the tool for maintaining or re-creating social and functional links in an increasingly individualistic society, where everyone's rhythm is disconnected from everyone else's. It is basically a tool for re-synchronization, or for managing our independence without transforming it into loneliness. Therefore, the answer to your question is: Everything and nothing [will be most transformed] ... However, it seems clear that all activities which can be entirely digitized, from creation to distribution, will change the most. That goes for news, entertainment and many services. - Daniel Kaplan, founder and CEO, FING (France's Next-Generation Internet Foundation) and chairman of the European Institute for e-Learning, EifEL.

Two counter-movements [are] pushing stridently against each other ? One movement is related to radical democracy, distributed systems and open source. It is a force for the distribution of power among the many, viral replication of memes and other forms - activity similar to the asymmetrical warfare tactics of al Qaeda, to be specific, but also resembling the decentralization of solar energy, of people working with alternative power, going off the grid, defying convention ? The opposing move represents something of Marshall McLuhan's media reversals. It attempts to use information technology and networks in a panopticon function, leaning toward increased central control and monitoring, and crunching all activity - both at the granular level and at the statistical mass level. It is an authoritarian backlash to the openness of the Internet and an attempt to put the genie back in the bottle. And it could be successful. The technology supports the success of this movement, but the activity of participants online provides resistance, building distributed forms into the politics of interfaces. Unfortunately, these distributed forms and open interfaces also facilitate panoptic monitoring and may seemingly undo their own advances. It is a bold move, not to fight fire with fire, but rather to combat control with greater openness instead of going into a secret underground, to avoid becoming the fascist in order to fight the fascists. While idealistically pure, it could be doomed to failure. It is a fascinating struggle. - Christine Boese, cyberculture researcher/CNN Headline News

I've been most amazed by the change the Internet has already had in my own family life: my wife and I don't talk any more; we just forward interesting email to each other ? The Internet is an incredible medium for sharing and communication, and who do we want to share and communicate with more than our own families? The other people we share and communicate with are our coworkers, and I think the second largest impact will be there. The internet will impact both how people work in the same company or location, but also change the economics of sharing across companies or borders, not just changing the workplace, but even changing economies. - Joshua Goodman, Microsoft Research

Globalism: The global distribution of information and knowledge over the Internet at lower and lower cost will continue to lift the world community for generations to come ? A better-informed humanity will make better macro-level decisions, and an increasingly integrated world will drive international relations towards a global focus. Attachments to countries will marginally decrease, and attachments to the Earth as a shared resource will significantly increase. Communities: ? Local communities will organize in virtual space and take increasing advantage of group-communication tools such as mailing lists, newsgroups and web sites, and towns and cities will become more organized and empowered at the neighborhood level. At the same time, communities will be as profoundly affected by the capabilities the Internet is bringing to individual communications, providing individuals in the once-isolating city the ability to easily establish relationships with others in their local area by first meeting in cyberspace ? Internet applications will change expectations of geographically oriented community organizations, and provide increasingly wide choices. - William Stewart, LivingInternet.com

The institution of education and the way our intelligence will evolve will continue to change from the Internet. The access to information from anywhere/anytime will no longer will define knowledge based on memory but on ''how'' to find information and how to put it into context. - Tiffany Shlain, founder, The Webby Awards

And the following are from predictors who chose to remain anonymous: [Workplaces of these respondents include Intel, Oracle, Jupitermedia, MIT, Microsoft, RAND, MSNBC, The Institute for the Future, The Charlotte Observer, Harvard Business School, IBM, AT&T, France Telecom, Hewlett Packard, NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Centers for Disease Control, Razorfish, CNET, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others.]

Several trends will shape the next ten years: the extension of the Internet beyond the PC to reach the sensors, actuators and other embedded computers, the continued incorporation of on-line information into sectors of society, and the completion of the "always connected, anywhere" transformation of society ? A major debate over the next 10 years will be the struggle over who owns and controls the knowledge of where people are. "Location-aware" computing can be a lifesaver, or a tool for delivery of new sorts of spam and advertising.

The Internet will ? have a large impact on police agencies, as organized crime and terrorist groups leverage the Internet to victimize millions. By the end of the decade, losses from Internet-related crime and terror will exceed losses from all natural disasters.

The Internet won't change most institutions and human endeavors too much, because it's increasingly a cesspool of spam, porn, phishing and other distracting and annoying commodities, discouraging more intensive and productive use.

The whole concept of the media, what is news, who produces it, and why, will continue to change. This will greatly shape politics, public opinion, and social activism - for both the bad and the good.

There's almost no limit to the potential for change. Publications and information-based industries have already been radically transformed, and more traditional industries are seeing their information-based components moved entirely online.

Soon being offline will not be an option. As more and more people get on the Internet, more businesses will be there to provide services and to troll for customers. There will be huge demand for: security, wireless access and entertainment. Advertisers will continue to flee print and broadcast media, fracturing that market and forcing them into niches. When everything is available to everyone at the same time there will be no dominant killer-advertising channel.

The military, health and medicine, and education will change the most, primarily because each area (a) has strong economic/social/political pressures that will drive change, (b) are relatively cohesive institutions that are capable of executing on strategic change. I expect wireless networking and de-centralization and more participation/control from the grassroots will be at the heart of a lot of change.

The Internet has already revolutionized the way educational institutions work (how we conduct research, how classes are taught, etc). The workplace has been profoundly impacted by the net: written memos gave way to email messages, non-colocated team members keep in touch every day through email and instant messaging. News institutions are a bit lost as they start to figure out what to make of bloggers and their newfound power to impact readers.

Several institutions and human endeavors have already leapt ahead in using the Internet (families have been significantly impacted in terms of generational use of the Internet and what it enables e.g. IM; workplace environments are impacted in terms of the Internet, but more likely to be impacted in terms of extranets and intranets). Other institutions are slower to adapt new technologies that are developed as a result of the internet - take for example the adoption of DOI by the publishing industry, or even the ability to have an integrated patient record in the medical field. What the Internet enables will impact all groups - some groups are slower to adopt technology than others. It is also important to take into account the trends in the intranet, extranet and other communication-based technologies.

The most change listed is media/news. The application that will make the most change is RSS. Previously, the news website, even though virtual, carried significant value to the individual seeking information. Individuals were not apt to go to multiple sites to get diversity of news. They will continue to not go to multiple sites, but with RSS diversity of news will be brought to them. This has almost the greatest potential for radical change. All of a sudden, small publishers will have compelling means for distribution. But the RSS readers have to get better.

[Key things will be] anything concerning intellectual property and information dissemination, marketing, consumer expectations and interactions with products, brands and entertainment - who can publish/disseminate content - and what that content will be.

The assumption that there is ''a'' internet is fascinating. I look at the recent takeover of the Orkut.com site by Brazilians as the most exciting thing happening. It demonstrates how with more people able to participate in ICTs that it will no longer be limited to English and upper-middle-class uses and values.

The scope and speed of the global economy as well as its regulating mechanisms will create a data tidal wave that will overwhelm existing comprehension mechanisms. Entirely new technologies and societal coping mechanisms will need to be developed to process data into information (and who knows if wisdom will follow).

The impact of the Internet on today is not understood and we are witnessing the birth of 4th-generation computing. The invisible network revolution. Evolution of the relationship of human and machine? from centralized to decentralized to distributed to morphological structures. Hybrid networks that evolve. Structures that evolve. The Internet has [been] and is changing the flow of people, capital and information, thereby introducing structural transformations in the institutional fabric of the world. We are talking about an evolution of cyberspace and the relation between the virtual and the physical and the logical. Birth of new worlds, new languages, new processes, techniques and knowledge. The birth of the Cybernetic Age and the death of notions of industrial and information ages. The Info Age is part and parcel to the Industrial Age. Industrial and Information Ages are about knowledge accretion. Cybernetics is about transdisciplinarity, process automation and convergence and knowledge creation. We are on the verge of a new renaissance. Science, art and design! Architects of the future will understand the Internet as the platform for a global youth boom. We no longer can see generations in the same light and driven by segmented histories. The global Youth Movement is networked, cross-disciplinary, cognitively unique and it is about creating the world we live in... The world we are projecting forward... Our world. Their world. We are immigrants to the future. It's all in our children's hands now.

Communications is instantaneous and mobile. Society is and will continue to be impacted significantly due to the reality of the technology. The circumstance as catalyst making the impact realized may not have arrived but are present only waiting to be fulfilled. Education is probably the most impacted. No longer does anyone have to attend a class to realize a benefit to an education. Cost factors should be significantly impacted to making education available to everyone worldwide for relatively small costs.

The most radical impacts will be in areas such as government and public policy as a result of information sharing among the non-elite. Opinions will be shaped by far more - and far less elite - influences than the fairly limited ones in the past, such as major media and government officials. The power of virtual lobbies will continue to grow. However, it is an open question of whether or not the financing for these will remain diffused among the non-elite or be co-opted by corporations or ideological organizations. The other key area of impact will be healthcare, as the Internet changes the relationship between medical professionals and consumers.

We will continue to find new ways of connecting humans to each other and new ways to give over to technology things that humans do now.

Organizations and functions that require large numbers of people to actively communicate with one another are more Internet driven than those driven by passive interactions. Competitive advantage among nations, companies and peoples will be among those who can apply future technology to their basic needs and infrastructure.

Business will change the most as companies use the Internet to link themselves with suppliers, distributors and customers. Governments will be more responsive to their constituents. Education will be increasingly freed from the walls of the classroom. Physical presence will not disappear; in fact, it will be more valuable than ever, because people will not have to ''be there'' but will do so only when they choose to.

In the next decade, these contributing factors: faster Internet; cheaper, faster computers; better mobile devices; better webcams, microphones; cheaper peripherals (printers, DVD burners, LCD screens, portable storage ?) will get more people to access the Internet in richer ways in a more affordable way. Also, China, India, Brazil etc. coming online will change the overall Internet user demographics. These ''enabling'' factors will have revolutionary technology advances in communications, payment infrastructure and information dissemination that will further improve efficiencies in various industries that have a lot of middle men, wiping out established players in medicine, entertainment ? Internet will improve the quality of life for a lot of people (affording more items) but will complicate people's lives (artificial necessities) in that overall life-satisfaction ratings could go down.

The ability to keep in touch with non-local family members is affirming, particularly for those with young children and grandparents far away. On the other hand, the focus on the Internet in the home might further contribute to a disconnect from your community/neighborhood/family of place.

The long-term focus should be the pervasiveness of the change over the next decade ... I see a two-pronged development for this change. The first is the progress of virtual presence from today's fictitious game avatars and 2-dimensional business teleconferences to a subtle, nuanced and authentic representation of people and environments. The second path is the provision of devices and real-time connections so that the granularity of reality is transparently overlain with a web of context and information.

Within 10 years, many more devices will connect (and we'll think back to how quaint it was when we needed a ''browser''): in our cars, kitchens, phones, etc. The Internet will continue to be driven by people rather than be constricted by commercial interests. The Open Source model will continue to grow in popularity and ease of use, and we might even start thinking in terms of Open Source models. This would improve the efficiency and transparency of everything from government to commerce to interpersonal communication ? The most radical and positive change I can envision is the change in the way people interact with government. If public information, public comment, voter information, planning processes, etc., were to be overhauled so as to make them highly accessible to citizens online, it would go very far toward improving citizen involvement and taking the corrupted old-fashioned media monopolies out of their middle-man roles.

On information Internet is increasing the noise-to-signal ratio, leaving fashion and false news a great place. On the other hand, new methods of securing the true from the false will emerge. The source will become more important than the message, as it is in TV. Relationships between individuals will be fragmented more than they are today, implying less commitment in most interactions. This will be balanced in the short term by increased value for family and close-relatives relations. Intimacy will not always mean physical proximity. The commercial side of web will be comforted in the long run.

The most changes will probably be in the international/political and business spheres. The Internet has shown itself to be really useful to people seeking to bring information into otherwise tightly controlled societies, or to spread information and propaganda. Terrorists' use of the web to display their captives comes to mind. In the business sphere, I am seeing a slow but sure decrease in the need for face-to-face meetings or shared workplaces; as of this year, our organization is heavily using netmeetings to save travel expenses or time lost in getting to other campuses. CDC is also supporting more telecommuters, who connect to work via the Internet. This phenomenon is only going to get more common, and this is a HUGE change in the way business is done.

The Internet has placed the power of information in the hands of the masses. While gatekeepers, such as big media, still exist and will continue to exist, the flow of information is much more free, especially as tools, such as imovie, have allowed people to create their own media. Entertainment, media and commerce have been most effected and will continue to be effected as people search out their own truth. From a cybernetics standpoint, we have moved from a hierarchy to a circuit - almost as if the structure of Internet is changing the structure of communication and society itself.

The information-anywhere-anytime future we are fast approaching will heighten the divide between the haves and have-nots. Information is power. Governments also will be transformed by the instant reactionary and amplificatory effect the Internet has. Government adjusted to TV by polishing charisma over substance. The next revolution is already underway, and sacrifices substance completely to rule the infomoment.

Person-to-person communication will be the first where various technologies (IM, voice, data, etc.) converge. However, there will be some negotiation of this, as some people like to be contacted immediately (cell phone, for example) and some prefer to answer at their leisure (email, IM). Spam and Spim will have to be eradicated or sufficiently curbed for this point to be reached.

The Internet will primarily remain a tool of the wealthy (families, nations, etc), but slowly will become a mass media. As this happens, the sharing of information and ideas will begin to also increase.

 

A project of the Elon University School of Communications
All rights reserved. Contact us at predictions@elon.edu