Imagining the Internet Project

  Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2008 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. Participants were encouraged to provide a written elaboration to explain their answers; they did not always do so, but those who did provided richly detailed, fascinating predictive material. We share some—not all—of the responses here. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.  

Scenario Two:
The Internet and the
Evolution of Social Tolerance

Prediction: Social tolerance has advanced significantly due in great part to the Internet. In 2020, people are more tolerant than they are today, thanks to wider exposure to others and their views that has been brought about by the Internet and other information and communication technologies. The greater tolerance shows up in several metrics, including declining levels of violence, lower levels of sectarian strife, and reduced incidence of overt acts of bigotry and hate crimes

Compiled reactions from the 1,196 respondents:
33% Mostly agreed
55% Mostly disagreed
11% Did not respond

Expert respondents' reactions (N=578):
32% Mostly agreed
56% Mostly disagreed
13% Did not respond

Overview of Respondents' Reactions
A majority mostly disagreed with the proposed future. Most say while there is no doubt the Internet is expanding the potential for people to come to a better understanding of one another it also expands the potential for bigotry, hate, and terrorism, thus tolerance will not see net gains. Still, about a third mostly agreed with the premise, optimistic that gains will be made, while adding the qualifier that negative agendas will always also be well-served by advances in communications technologies.

Below are select responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. This is not the full extent of responses. To see more, read the report PDF, and to read reactions from participants who took credit for their answers, please click here.

The Internet allows minorities to interact with each other, giving them a greater voice.

Civilization and Technology are not correlated positively, in fact they have been found to be inversely correlated. The Nazis regarded technological advance as one of their heights of achievement, but they were hardly "love thy brethren" kinds.

Social engineering is so 20th century. Besides, "greater tolerance" usually means indifference. This is completely the wrong track.

Absolutely disagree and would argue that it has helped advance terrorism, militants, hate groups, and further Balkanize society.

There is a loss of a shared experience with fragmented media. People may only read things that fit their prior views.

Generally agree. The more information made available to more people, the more those individuals will learn about other cultures/people different from themselves. Tolerance levels for different cultures and people will increase due the increase in knowledge and information.

The Internet is dividing us more. Despite Web 2.0 being about community, I have yet to see much of a trend of being inclusive and bringing people from different walks of life together.  Instead, people are finding like-minded people online.

As the world's poor get connected and find our how bad they have it compared to rich nations, they demand more equity.

In the US, social tolerance has definitely increased in the last 50 years, but little of this has to do with the Internet. Worldwide, I'm not so sure whether tolerance is on the upswing.

The Internet has already been around for a couple of decades, I don't see declining levels of violence. In fact, because information can be shared so quickly and is available on demand, it is easier to incite racial hatred and to describe how to commit crimes etc (c.f., pedophiles grooming young children via chat rooms, how to disable burglar alarms etc). The opportunities are just there for a different way of committing crime.

I hope this will be the case, although currently people are more focused on giving their views than listening to others.  Eventually, I hope, open communication will increase tolerance.

There's no evidence to support such a utopian vision. The Internet cuts both ways. Visit an extremist site sometime—there are thousands to choose from, and they are not going away.

Tolerance is decreasing in many parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East. This is a long-term trend unlikely to be changed by the Internet.

People will become more aware of differences but no more tolerant.

The Internet has a proven ability to create communities. But communities can be exclusive—people can choose to tune out (e.g. the Internet makes home-schooling easier for parents who wish to shield their kids from public schools' broad curriculum).  So while I think the Internet, to date, has played an important role in creating communities for people with viewpoints or lifestyles that previously were repressed, I think there's a good chance that we'll see the Internet used as a way to "tune out" in the future.

Bigots can use the Internet just as easily as non-bigots.

I believe we'll see more *personal* tolerance—person to person—but, unfortunately, I don't think this will lead to less violence and strife on a larger scale.

Nice to think this will happen, but I think the Internet will have limited impact here, and maybe even negative impact.

The recent violence in the developing countries does not match [this scenario’s positive outlook].

The Internet exposes people to other people's points of view, culture, etc., and that promotes understanding and therefore tolerance. As more people get connected to the Internet, this tolerance will reach more and more people. However extremists will always exist and will try to subvert the Internet for their purposes but the tolerant majority will prevail.

There will always be fringe hate groups, but that the public at large will become more accepting of all different sorts of people.

The Internet becomes a tool for the fringe and extremists to have a platform and recruit. Conversely, technology will make it easier ignore such groups and enable authorities to ensure they do no more than just "talk."

A bit hard to see given the vehemence and aggressiveness people display online so long as they are anonymous, but I suspect we will see the progress described prevail slowly over time.

A nice thought, but I doubt the somewhat greater transparency will deliver this kind of congruence. Pessimist.

For a large part of the population, exposure to other cultures does help with understanding and empathy of others. But like we still see racism existing in major American cities (NY, LA) we'll still see it carry over on the Internet.

If this happens, it will occur because of increased levels of education, not the Internet, and will take place in wealthier, developed countries, where this trend is already evident.

On the other hand, radicalism also increases, as the disaffected fringes of society find it easier to collect and coordinate. Isolated violence may decrease, but terrorism and organized violence may not.

Do I agree with the statement? I hope it depicts the future, but I do not dare to say that this is a valid international prediction.

Education and knowledge bring down walls.

I agree that access to information generally leads to greater tolerance but I don't think that it will be as stark as it is painted above. The television is a great medium for exposure to other cultures and lifestyles but even in countries where most households have a television intolerance is rife.

People tend to only talk to their own "kind." Right-wings with right-wings, left-wings with left-wings, etc. There's not that much crossover. See also John Kelly's research, Columbia University, NY.

Greater exposure has not led to greater tolerance so far; unless different social norms can be brought to bear there will remain an absence of civil discourse that can promote understanding and tolerance.

Wishful thinking. The Internet contributes just as much to polarisation as it does to widening ranges of views.

This is a big problem and despite diversity initiatives people will never be as tolerant as we would like. This is a class issue; so as long as there are different classes, we won't tolerate others.

My answer here is similar to the digital identity question, except that change in this area will be much slower. The digital identity question is largely one of individual choice, whereas social tolerance is linked to social organisation and culture, which take much longer to change. Also, the Internet will continue to be a tool for those who encourage intolerance and hate, which will slow this progress. Ultimately however, the Internet's ability to increase individual awareness, education and access to information will overcome organised social and cultural intolerance.

We are living in speedy-age. It's far from tolerance. Only it will change the format of intolerance, like massive hacking.

Greater tolerance can only occur through additional efforts to create understanding and valuing of difference. Exposure to difference will only generate a modicum of tolerance and, unless reinforced by people with the wisdom to foster it, can lead to greater conflict.

Education is necessary.

The Internet will have dramatic in various areas of social interaction especially related to politics and elections. The Internet will enable "Democracy 2.0"—next-generation democracy.

The people who are tolerant today will be tolerant of more variation in 2020, but the intolerant people of today will even less tolerant in 2020—they will find more variations to hate and be more convinced that they need to be separated and protected from all those variations.

Internet is a double-edged sword, although we like it to serve the purpose of bringing people together, it’s up to the people to take advantage of this medium. There is nothing in-built into the Internet that fosters social tolerance. There is always going to be strife and disagreements, and devious minds will have faster ways of coming together.

Who are we kidding? The Terry Schaivo incident tells you all you need to know. Half the country thought it was disgusting for Congress to intervene and the other half thought it was wonderful. The Internet will not end those disagreements.

I'd like to agree, but I don't see things unfolding in this would be nice though.

While I would hope that this would be the case, the current situation is that the ability to bring your own views into the public fuels the bigotry and hatred of those of like minds, not reducing it.

I think this will happen, but disagree with the "due in great part to the Internet" piece of this. This has been the trend since before the Internet came about. And it is debatable whether or not any benefits in this area from the Internet are offset by its facilitation of organizing like-minded people with less-tolerant beliefs.

The above statement has two halves. The first sentence is likely to be true in my estimation. At the same time, the abilities of the minority that remains intolerant are increased by technology. Monkeywrench politics are only likely to rise over the next 15 years.

Access and education are key. Access without education can breed more intolerance (e.g., all the rumors circulated via e-mail), and give platforms for the fringe radicals (left or right) to have a strong voice.

Learning about others increases our empathy. Being able to read and see news from around the world and instantly exchange messages with others anywhere in the world will bring us all together.

There will be a divide between extremes.

The Internet will not decrease the number of poor people in the world, and as the populations increase, the divide between rich and poor will increase.

One could argue today that the trend is in some ways toward decreasing social tolerance, at least as exercised by the government on the people. Societal tolerance, between individuals apart from the government, yes, probably has advanced.

Unfortunately, exposure to other lifestyles may not change the opinions of certain individuals.

I find this an unlikely scenario. There has been no noticeable decrease in bigotry since the Internet began and it is unlikely to start to decrease now. The Internet is a "safe" place for bigots to fester and encourage each other. Sad, but true.

People find more people like themselves online and so can stay fractured and not having to learn to get along with people.

Tolerance may increase, but it won't be because of the Internet. Radicals of all sorts have connected online, and it's possible to tailor your media diet to match and reinforce your viewpoint.  This will only get easier in the future.  Increasing educational and economic opportunities will have greater impact.

I do think tolerance is increasing and will continue to increase, but the pace will remain slow, and the increase will primarily be in younger generations.

Your status quo is wrong. People across the globe are feeling more disconnected from meaningful relationships and seem to be more prone to violence, not less.

The Internet gives voice to everyone, including narrow-minded bigots and narrow-minded liberals. This leads to further stratification of thought, not tolerance.

But there will always be those who swing in the opposite direction, and will try to influence others to their point of view.

People fight as much on the Internet as they do in real life. It's just as likely that the exposure to different ways of life via the Internet will end up polarizing people even more. Especially since so many tools on the Internet encourage people to focus on their own particular interests and to communicate very specifically about those shared interests with like-minded people.

People will likely be more world-aware, but tolerance comes from a different facet of human interaction.

As Internet will become readily available on portable computing systems such as mobile phones, people would very well connect and socialise with each other through the net. Especially on portals for friend-finding, dating, and sharing similar interests. But this will inversely affect their normal in-society face-to-face socialising skills. This may make them short-tempered and more intolerable to nuances of the world.

The terrible economy will cancel out any goodwill transparent technology and social networking brings.

Wishful thinking. I don't think increased exposure to people who are different always or usually leads to increased tolerance.

More tolerance would be nice, but I doubt it will happen.

While some online communities promote tolerance, the majority do not. Go read a couple posts at LGF.

The Internet is a tool. It can be used for good or bad. Expecting it to miraculously change human nature and advance human tolerance is silly. Those who are tolerant will use it tolerantly.  Those who are not will use it to advance their own agendas.

Leadership by government, by peace movement, by the current anti-war sentiment will do more. People may use the Internet to spread the message but it's the people that make it work. I see as much hate on the Internet as peace. In real life there is a new movement afoot. It may spread to the Internet, but it will not be created by exposure via the Internet.

The Internet also allows easier selection of materials that already fit my biases. Reading the newspaper online allows me to identify and read only about the Boston Red Sox. I never need to find out about the Yankees—as I might if reading "the sports page" in a paper version. I believe the Internet allows a wider diversity of opinions to be posted; but that doesn't mean individuals will expose themselves to that variety.

Is it tolerance, or a feeling of "as long as I get what I want, I don't care about the other"?

Tolerance will decline since the Internet will continue to make it easier to only read about and associate with people like yourself.

Social tolerance progresses and recedes. There is a constant ebb and flow to this dynamic process. At times, it may seem as if two steps are being taken forward, and then intolerance will rear its ugly head again, with one step backward. Not sure where things will stand at a single point in time (2020), but technology is no guarantee that social tolerance will improve.

Web is a media to enhance positive attitudes, but also a media to broadcast negative attitudes, just as TV does.

I see more people identifying with smaller groups more like them. "Niching," for lack of a better term, will draw like to like. For example, there are online groups for home-schooling parents, support fora for parents with children of rare diseases. We are more widespread, but people are still drawn to those like them. I attribute the social tolerance more to the fact that later generations are not exposed so much to racial and other societal bigotries. However, as people are drawn to "like," I could also foresee that there would be an insular approach in cultures where differences are not tolerated.

The Internet reflects current social circumstances in the non-virtual world that are not more inclusive. In fact technology does not promote interaction between groups but rather maintains communication between existing groups. Social networks are based on invitation/acceptance. Mobile phones connect to the distant and distance from the ones close.

I don't think human nature will change that significantly by 2020. Millions of years of evolution have led us to become a violent species with strong allegiance to our own groups. This will not change significantly in 13 years. Maybe in 1,300 or 13,000 years or even longer.

I would hope for more communication between all humankind.

Not a chance. Our sense of claiming territory will adjust to different boundaries.

We see some evidence of this progression in our current-day political scene.

I think this would be lovely but I don't want to give that much credit to the Internet for it. Plus it might be wishful thinking. I'm agreeing in principle but not due to any great conviction that the Internet is going to change what has been something consistent in human history, though I'd like to think that human good will always prevail.

In parts of the world, yes; 13 years is not even one generation of people.

Access to information in the past has not improved tolerance.

I wish that this would be true, but I doubt that the sectarian strife will be erased merely through people being able to read others' opinions.

Greater social tolerance will not decrease violence, sectarian strife, etc. It will increase the incidence. The deterioration of religion and social values will lead to uprising of more crime and violence and more government control.

Unfortunately, I think the Internet provides a place for people of like minds—including those who engage in bigotry and hate crimes. In order for such abominations to decline, it will take more than that Internet—a major offline societal change.

I agree with the first part of this that social tolerance will advance. However, the world continues to be a violent place and it is hard to imagine the world without sectarian strife

I do think it has advanced and will advance. "Significantly?" How much of a statistical drop in violence and bigotry would be significant to indicate that a change has been brought about—and how do we measure that the change has come because of the factors listed above? I would *so* like this to be true...but sometimes I think that the only thing that could really get humans (and their governments, in particular) to cooperate and play nice is a threat from the outside.

Despite increased access and opportunities for exposure to others and their views, information and communication technologies are too frequently misappropriated as vehicles to further intolerance, self-interests, and self-righteousness. Unfortunately, bigotry, sectarian division, and incitement to violent action can be spread easily and quickly to larger populations due to the advances in information and communication technologies.

I hope and pray that the differences that make us hated each other make us respect each other in the future. Intolerance and bigotry are from a lack of education and communication. The Internet allows you to understand someone's race or creed in a whole new light (thank you Wikipedia and Google). There will always be hate speech, but the current view point of the Internet will likely prevail, which is race/creed/nationality/gender/age don't matter. It is what you can do and how well you can do it. there will still be hate speech, but it will be taken to represent the actions of someone not a race/creed/blah. Though its origins will be negative its use won't be.

I wish, but human nature being what it is...

Awareness does not equal tolerance.

I believe this one cuts across the so-called digital divide; it was characteristic of individualistic post-Western cultures perhaps, but can this be envisioned in those nations and regions dominated by more restrictive religious and social creeds?

There is little evidence of this. The Internet is neutral in its morality and if I am correct, still has pornography as the leading single use? Minority views and opinions may find a voice, but this does not mean peace and harmony!

To some extent I agree, but technology is a double-edged sword. As fast as positive images can be transmitted, negative images can also be portrayed. The media will have a larger influence in our lives.

The Internet also is a place for assembling into groups that represent views similar to your own and getting reinforcement for those views.

While the Internet does expose people to new ideas, it is also a place with bigotry, hatred, and misinformation can flourish.

I don't think there is much of a chance to get past some of this religious and territorial strife, but from person to person we have an excellent chance of becoming one human race of equals.

This seems very optimistic and overplays the importance of the Internet in our lives.

Social tolerance has advanced/increased, but I'm unconvinced that the Internet is a significant contributor, although it is a player. Exposure to different cultures and views through a variety of media, including traditional ones, is the main contributor, with the Internet being one player among many.

The Internet has provided a less broad perspective on social interaction. We tend not to be exposed to variety, but rather only seek out that which is most like ourselves. We join only similar enclaves and thus more narrow in our views.

Not in America—perhaps in other areas of the world. People are tending to pay attention to media that supports their pre-existing views more often than they go explore other's viewpoints. Again, if consolidation continues to increase, there will only be one socially acceptable viewpoint presented through ALL mass media outlets, yielding greater homogenity and conformity—therefore more distrust of the "others."

This really represents a hope! The other possibility is that the ease of restricting interaction only to those with whom you agree, creates strong support groups that do not care about other viewpoints. Show me only the news I want to see, etc.  However, I'm an optimist and think that over time such behavior will be self-limiting.

The Internet narrows the world for most people as they tend to communicate online mostly with those like themselves.

The Internet enables to share ideas of racism and antisemitism for example. This will not change.

The clash between conservative social forces and non-conservatives will only become more pronounced; especially as natural resources become increasingly scarce.

The ability to speak what is on your mind is truly powerful. That is one of the gifts of the Internet. Learning the diplomacy of expression and how to play well with others is another Internet gift.

New tolerance will only apply to connected and user audiences. While a smaller percentage of people might be left unconnected by 2020, the potential for that group to harbor even more violent, paranoid, and reactionary segments may only increase. It seems likely that the threats and actions of bigoted violence will still be with us, and may perhaps only increase in intensity.

I think people will actually become less tolerant because of the tendency to seek out information that confirms already held beliefs and the "echo-chamber" effect that the Internet provides for extreme and/or uncommon points of view.

Tolerance has not increased so far due to technology. However, intolerance has become more disguised.

While I hope the Internet and technology can help a much-needed social change like this, I'm not sure that they actually can.

Unfortunately the Internet facilitates bad behavior as much as it does good behavior.

I am more neutral on this, but want to be optimistic. While I would like to believe the Internet helps foster social tolerance and reduces persecution, hatred and violence, I am uncertain if this will be true...and I think many other factors beyond the Internet will have a role to play in such a development.

Again, I see a bifurcation. The Internet is a unique tool that allows for exposure to others' views. At the same time, people tend to look for and find others who think as they do and it's possible for "outliers" to find themselves and band together through electronic means.

It will be easier to find out information about different cultures, etc., but it will also be easier to anonymously bully people. There will be easier access to hate sites and people who would have had a difficult time finding allies will be connected worldwide.

I think the culture of celebrating diversity based on ethnic heritage and the ability to connect with like-minded people will create more prejudice and hate between people of different origins and beliefs.

I can't see the Internet solving this problem.

I wish this were so, but don't believe that the conservative right will allow it to be.

The Internet allows people to only see and experience what they want, so it can actually be more insulating than other forms of media. Tolerance will erode as more people spend time in online echo chambers with like-minded folks.

As more and more people question things, (their religion, their government, etc.) the stricter these things will become. Calephs and Imams will not allow people to question Islam, and if they do, they will be punished. Governments will not open their doors to outside influences; they will crush all attempts to do so.  Those with free thought will become pariahs and refugees from the “true” believers.

The Internet certainly has the potential to break down barriers and to promote collaboration across boundaries, but it also can provide a pathway for things like “cyberbullying.”

No. Social tolerance has increased due to the increased lack of due diligence on the part of parents raising children.

I think violence throughout the world is on the increase although hate crimes might be down.

I question two aspects of this scenario. First, given that the time frame being considered is only 13 years off, television would likely remain the more important driver of increased tolerance than the Internet. Second, the Internet can as easily facilitate intolerance as tolerance given its individual and anonymous nature. (As opposed to broadcast media, which tend toward political correctness.)

Social tolerance will increase, but not because of wider exposure to others and their views, but because people must adapt.

Greater intolerance might spread from the Internet. “Safe virtual havens” will probably follow the tax haven example. Bigotry and hate crimes might rise, especially if the sender of these messages is protected by state sovereignty. If levels of violence are to decline, other reasons will be responsible for that.

Human nature and tribalism will tend towards the opposite outcome:  more intolerance and hatred as more people become uncomfortably close.

When people actually know their neighbor, (the need of) fear/protection will decrease.

The data on the millennials indicates that they are very tolerant of all sorts of differences, and as they move up in the power structure [they will bring positive change].

I would like to think that the above scenario will be the norm. My fear is that the opposite will be true. People will gravitate, physically, to individuals like themselves.

People who are tolerant may become more tolerant. People who are violent may become more violent.

Tolerance (or apathy, it may be hard to distinguish) will grow in those exposed to a greater flow of information; but the potential for demagoguery also increases with uncensored mass information capabilities.

This scenario makes the assumption that individuals in lower socioeconomic classes will radically alter their media consumption behavior. I see no reason why this would be the case.

Tolerance can only be enhanced by direct contact. The Internet creates small groups that want to singularize themselves. It is to fear that just the contrary will become true: The Internet is a destroyer of tolerance because the quality of the information allows easy manipulation, populism, and the result is the diminishing of tolerance.

I think there will be a mix—those people who are open to the idea of differences and tolerance will become more so—and those who are not will find reasons in the views they have become aware of to become less tolerant

Open communication makes us all brothers, as such differences blur. We take care of the needy, discipline in the commons those who are aberrant. Many explore polymorphous perversity in their own evolutionary trajectories. Few get stuck in any one of them, but most pass through quite varied ones and become more accepting.

There will be greater tolerance, but I believe your conclusion that declining levels of violence and sectarian strife will not be indicators of this. The social isolation that increased electronic, vs. personal one-to-one interaction, brings, will lead to fewer social skills and less ability to deal with and cope on a personal level with anything that feels uncomfortable. Violence and strife are an individual action; tolerance is a feeling. They do not necessarily equate. Individuals will seem to be more socially tolerant in their thoughts and expressions, but that one-on-one, the individual will actually not have any improvement in violence levels or strife. There may even be an increase, as a broader reach of instigating material can be published.

Internet, technology will only make things worse.

Who says only the “good” people use the net?

Unfortunately, the trend now is going against this scenario: most politicians see in the xenophobic issues a big repository of votes.  Internet, ethics, the defense of the environment and other movements are towards social tolerance, but 2020 is too near to let the scenario change totally from now.

Unfortunately, the Internet has facilitated the spread of intolerance by providing a forum where it can be more freely spread than ever before.

It seems to me that the Internet perpetuates intolerance rather than the other way around.

This scenario is likely, although I am somewhat skeptical that it will occur by 2020.

The world will be forced into collaboration based on mutual-survival needs.

I hope so, but also recognize that the Internet allows people to be diverse in its ugly and violent forms as well as its positive ones.

It's entirely possible that the opposite will happen, where in a normal society one is to an extent held in check by the social contract agreed to by a group of diverse individuals. On the Internet, anything can be normalised, reinforced, furthered and even the most heinous perspectives can find support and encouragement. Anyone who thinks that the Internet gives people exposure to other ideas hasn't looked at how people use it. And the sophistication of search and folksonomies and semantic Web, etc., will mean that people can increasingly zero in on specific stuff related to their “community of one” rather than that messy, diverse stuff one normally encounters in the street, classroom, workplace, or "real" environment.

Here, the “tie breaker” is whether or not we can avoid a global war between now and then. I think this medium can help us avoid such a war, but...

The Internet allows radical groups to spread propaganda and recruit from a much wider base of individuals. While overall tolerance may increase, extremism will become more extreme. Technology will also allow this tiny group of radical thinkers to have greater impact than they could have in previous ages.

Technology does not change basic human behavior that is the result of long-term evolution. And not everyone agrees that tolerance is good (or that evolution exists, for that matter). We have a long way to go before reaching this optimistic scenario.

The Internet has enabled people to create communities of "like-minded" people, who legitimate closely held notions rather than question them.

This may be a problem as the tolerance will be towards everything perhaps without evaluating outcomes. Social tolerance will not be consistent over the world, as specific local areas will still hold sway—for example a new version of a group like the Taliban may have even tighter restrictions on women.  There will be groups exempting themselves from social tolerance.  But we also need to think does social tolerance mean that we do not care deeply about anything?

Perhaps more social tolerance, but declining levels of violence?  This is too utopian a view.

The inverse is also true. The Internet is a breeding ground for hate groups, terrorists, pornographers, exploiters, criminals.

I can't be objective because I'd love for this to be true.

Violence prevails because many in power have found that conflict between groups can be used to strengthen their personal positions. This will not change.

In certain countries and areas, yes. In many countries Internet is already heavily censored, this trend will probably continue in the coming year.

While I agree with this statement because it's what I wish would happen, I'm not foolish enough to believe that it really will happen. It might happen and I hope it does. But the world can be a vicious place, and the Internet as well. That will never end completely.

Values-based dialogue will slowly progress and morals-based dialogue will diminish.

People are more tolerant, but I think it is a stretch to give the Internet too much credit for this. The Internet can be a conduit for hate, and it is interactions people have in-person, not online, that open their eyes.

Human evolution is not this fast!

While exposure to other ideas and lifestyles can increase tolerance, the anonymous dog-pack mentality allows people to be even more effectively hateful and divisive.

Take out the word “significantly” and you'll be there. I think it will advance, but not by a factor of more than 10 percent.

There is some tendency this way, but many people also use the Internet to find like-minded bigots.

Intolerance is increasing, and people share a way to think the same thing, which is primarily communicated as an idea by a marketing meme.

In this overcrowded world, don't expect the Internet to overcome human nature.

The Internet and Web facilities have often had a negative effect in our society. Such activities as gang recruiting, sexual predator interaction, identity theft, and terroristic intercommunications have expanded in our society because the Internet's openness and low cost of entry for people with bad intentions.

So far, none of these scenarios allow for the basis of human nature being inherently selfish. These scenarios are assuming that human beings are inherently good.

I'm not seeing this at all. People are becoming more “anonymous,” more able to lash out at others, forgetting how to interact with others in person, staying inside playing Wii instead of going outside. I don't think this breeds tolerance.

The Internet has been around for a while now and I don't see a decrease in sectarian strife. Everything is up for immediate views and with little time for reflection everything is about knee-jerk reactions. The only thing that will happen is that many will become more blasé and cynical.

Most evidence also points to an increase in religious intolerance and increases in fundamentalism, and the increased contact with “others” through IT may make people cling more to restrictive social politics.

Tolerance comes with better education, and better education has very little to do with Internet exposure. Bigots will be bigots, and racists will be racists, with or without cyberspace.

What a wonderful utopian idea! I don't think the telephone or printing press made intolerance disappear. Nor will the Internet.

Agreeing in optimism, hope, not sure if that can happen.

I think that it is too simplistic to attribute better tolerance to the Internet alone. If this is to be achieved (and it is unlikely) there will have to be more widespread social changes that occur. Sectarian strife is likely to continue to escalate.

It seems this should be the case, but I don't see it.

Sadly, I think it's going the other way:  people are less and less forced to acknowledge people who differ in religion, skin color, nationality, and political viewpoint. In fact, I think this is one of the scariest outcomes of personalization. It used to be you listened to the few radio stations or watched the few TV stations. You were then exposed to different things. Today, you can read only blogs that agree with you, read only editorials you agree with, listen to only music you like, etc. Furthermore, it's very easy to set up extremist Web sites.

The impersonal, no-holds-barred nature of anonymous text communication, and the inability to understand what people really mean when they write in text talk, makes it ever easier to incite violence and to promulgate intolerance.

I believe that tolerance is an evolving concept and people will always be intolerant, though where that is directed may change. Human nature won’t change from the Internet, and social tolerance in general will always be around no matter what you call it. As long as there are two people with unique egos, social tolerance will never be achieved.

People are likely to flock more and more towards opinions and people who are like their own. People will become more skilled at filtering out those things that they do not like to be confronted with. Information overload will lead to more selective use of sources. This scenario might be slightly different in those parts of the world where freedom of speech is subpressed and people have a clear need to hear outside opinions and will be exposed to sources they would normally not be exposed to. I don't think the world will change that much, for better or for worse.

I believe tolerance increases overall, as the Internet not only mixes viewpoints between groups, but also starts providing logical non-liner and semantic frameworks for discussion.  Large religious and irrational divides still remain, however.

The Internet and other information and communication technologies are double-edge swords. Social tolerance can decrease or increase by its usage.

The Internet is also a haven for hate groups and similar ideologies—many people who spend a lot of time online do so because they are isolated in real life, which makes them vulnerable to the influence of hate groups and other socially proscribed ideologies. I think that while overall, we might see an increase in tolerance, we might also see increases in organized criminal/hate activity facilitated online.

There may be an increase in acknowledged tolerance and acceptance of others but cultural and religious differences will not change that dramatically due to the Internet. The dialogue will continue and increase but it will take more than 12 years to effect that kind of change.

Strife and violence will only go down when people are given an alternative...democracy tends to be the most effective (not perfect, but effective). Until societies have an example of what that might look like, the greatest ideas, no matter how communicated, will be ineffective.

This is the great leveling effect of broader communication.

The Internet's increasing availability to those at the fringes of societies makes it a place where extreme views are readily marketed and enticing. The ability to move crowds towards intolerance and violence is increased as each individual's reach expands without limits.

“Significantly”? Tend to think “somewhat” more applicable.

Metrics of social tolerance become contentious as a multiplicity of standards become accessible.

Social tolerance, at best, will remain status-quo as a result of the Internet.

People can just as easily use the Internet to reinforce their bigotry.

In more than one million years human behavior did not improve. The rise of threats to survival in the real world, e.g. access to water and energy, will cancel any trend toward smoothening relations thanks to whatever facility.

The Internet, particularly the Web and its associated technologies, has allowed people to narrowcast information to their own values and attitudes far more easily. Selective attention will still be key in 2020 in understanding how new media works.

This seems to be a very naive view. Technology isn't going to stop a radical from blowing people up.

In agreeing I cling to the liberal notion that greater information and education helps conquer prejudices that arise from ignorance and isolation, this may be just another load of liberal baloney. Intolerance still seems to be rife in many parts of the developed world, whose citizens have had access to more information and connections to other cultures and societies.

I'm not sure technology will be the catalyst to change thousands of years of hatred.

I agree that tolerance will improve due to a greater understanding through the Internet. But human nature is human nature and has been throughout time. It is difficult to believe that wider exposure to other people and cultures will decrease violence, bigotry, hate crimes, and the like.

But the amount of public or impersonal vitriol has seemingly increased with the decrease in civility and psychic pressure of local social norms.

Cyberviolence has increased. The emotional damage is just as bad in online environments as in face-to-face environments.

Just as the invention of the printing press allowed for so many new stories to be told, the Internet continues to reveal new perspectives and communities online. This all leads to better understanding of different perspectives in this world.

I sincerely doubt it... with the religious wars brewing around the world, as they have been for thousands of years, as well as churches in this country preaching intolerance, people will be more apt to believe their religious leader than to buy in to the wider exposure to others' views that the Internet provides.

The best predictor of the future is the past. This has not had this effect so far.

Social tolerance will always be constrained within the bounds of human nature but as we connect with others online, we find common ground we did not have before.

I would like to believe this will be true; it seems like it will be more difficult to hate anonymously!

As long as the Internet remains open, it will provide a free and unfiltered exchange of information. This will allow people to assess multiple sources of information before forming perceptions. However, it's a stretch to expect the Internet to reduce violence. Terrorists are adept at using the Internet to encourage violence.

I think the only way people can be more tolerant is by education and having personal, face-to-face, communication. Internet is a substitution that can lead to a virtual fantasy world that replaces healthy social lives.

Although I see the openness of the allowing those in minorities to exact positive change on the majority it can also be a breeding ground for hate and intolerance. I hope that the situation described above is accurate.

It cuts both ways. Agents of intolerance, including jihadists, have been able to use the Web to further their agendas. It is possible that 9/11 would not have been able to happen prior to the Internet.  It has been an invaluable communications and planning resource for trans-national groups.

Though I believe this will happen, the 2020 timeline is too optimistic.

Let's hope so!

The Internet allows people to get into echo chambers where only the intolerant views of their group are expressed.

Yes, though there will still be places on the Internet for bigots to gather.

I hope this is not wishful thinking on my part. In third-world countries the Internet can be used to disseminate information and increase understanding and knowledge about other people and other ideas.  What was fascinating to me was how the Internet exposed the brutal stoning death of a woman who was thought to have shamed her family and community.

Unfortunately, the ease of concealing one's true identity online has made it easier for people to write negative, hateful things online. I don't see this changing in the near future.

I don't know that this will necessarily be manifested by 2020, but I think the overall trend will exert itself in the next 50 years.

Nothing can change human nature.

I think our nature is to surround ourselves with people who agree with us. People who are already tolerant might meet more people who are tolerant, but the intolerant could meet more people who are intolerant. I don't think increased access to people and ideas will change our views.

Hopefully. But the same hate groups are connecting and organizing heinous things online.

I think this is the most likely scenario of all that I have read in this survey; however, it also assumes that governments and radical elements of religion do not undo all the good that can be accomplished online.

The Internet has the potential to promote social tolerance in a positive way, but there is also the danger of inciting the negative things mentioned above.

Tolerance unfortunately needs more than just more open communication. People tend to listen only to what they want to hear.

Exposure to others and their views are easier on the Internet, but it is also easier to get surrounded by conforming ideas on the Internet. I wish to be optimistic on this, but I simply cannot know with any certainty now.

Digital divide, language barriers, Internet drop-outs, dictators in many countries will probably slow down the social-tolerance advancement. In some countries, a parallel Internet network could be owned and controlled by governments who will not allow their citizens to navigate freely on the real Internet.

I am pessimistic that tolerance toward those different from ourselves will, or for that matter can be casually linked to increased exposure to differences via technology.
People will not change, adverse climates will further prevent healthy economic growth

Well, this is my hope. As a lesbian, I want to see the ban on gays in the military lifted; tolerance of transgender people increased, and terrorism mitigated because Americans in particular learn what Islam is truly about, and use this knowledge to combat radical fundamentalism.

The ease of disseminating new ideas and building off others is creating a greater tolerance in the western world. It is yet to be seen what will happen in the Middle East and Asia.

A sense of identity will always be important and for the majority of people in lower income economies this is not tied to technology. In fact the Internet is highlighting the disparity in the world and allowing factions to become better organized and distinctive.

If there were declining levels of violence, et al, I'm not sure one could direct link to Internet use. I do think the Internet promotes social tolerance by highlighting smaller-interest phenomena that would normally be hard to find out about. This can be positive, where someone in a rural area can network, and negative, with increasing access to child porn and hate groups that would normally not get such a wide forum.

Call me pessimistic, but I think this is one area that the Internet has very little influence over. As eons and eons have proven, bigotry, hate, and violence will always find a home.

I wish I could enthusiastically say yes, but technology doesn't change human behavior and prejudice. It's just a venue to communicate whatever it is you think. With all the technology we have now, there is not greater tolerance or violence.

I'm not sure I ever heard of a correlation between tolerance and Internet usage. I wish it were true.

I think younger generations are mostly open to people from all backgrounds. I think there will be increased violence for other reasons (not bigotry) but instead over availability of natural resources.

People will not benefit from the exposure to diversity on the Internet; there is evidence today that the Internet is being used for exactly the opposite purpose.
Internet provides access to all sort of information, including the one reinforcing intolerance. When the world moved online it did not leave the bad habits behind.

Other factors (such as TV) began to shift social tolerance before www.

This is a yes and no answer. Perhaps 12 years is an insufficient period of time. I think that the axiom, for every force there is an equal reaction holds true. What is more likely, especially in the short term, is that access to information will be divisive.  Cultures will retreat to maintain and protect traditions. The extremes at either end of the social spectrums will excel faster than the middle where there's more of an institutional lag.  As the left and right become increasing vocal, a greater divisiveness will result.

The somewhat anonymous nature of the Internet seems to make people more bold and polarized. Those who want to spread hate are using this relatively new medium to continue to do so—just more efficiently and to a wider audience. Of course, those who want to use the Internet to bring about greater tolerance will have the same advantages.

Yes, social tolerance will improve, but the Internet is but one manifestation of an ever-smaller world. The increase of population size, prevalence of inexpensive travel and communications technologies, and increasing interdependence of nation-states will drive tolerance (due to proximity) more than the Internet. And it's a bit naive to think that humans living in closer connection will lead to less violence and strife, rather than more.

The Internet helps share views from other ways of life, other places, etc. This broadens peoples' worldviews to varying degrees, but tolerance is still a fairly personal, localized thing. The Internet will not radically change tolerance levels, at least not by 2020. Too many other factors affect tolerance, as in the individual's condition (those who are prosperous and without fear are likely to be more tolerant) and other factors of current life.

Increasing sectarian conflicts will continue despite the prevalence of Internet. Hate crimes may decrease due to other trends in culture, but more traditional tribal areas that are cut out of the predominantly Asian and Western Internet culture will continue to perpetrate violence from past wrongs.

No reason to believe that technology will transform human nature (e.g. suspicion of "others"). Fault lines of intolerance might shift and opportunities to find common cause might grow but ultimately, conflict will prevail (e.g. across communities vs. within communities).

It totally depends on what region you are talking about. I don't think the Internet will make much of a difference when it comes to sectarian strife in tribal territories. The conflicts go back too far and have more to do with power than they do with differences.

People self-select like-minded communities on the Internet. If anything, the Internet encourages the hardening of preconceived notions and opinions, because people are more easily able to find others of like views and create closed communities, intolerant of outsiders. Just look at the way blogs have developed: there are liberal blogs, conservative blogs, feminist blogs, etc., and the readers and commentators of each are, almost without fail, extremely hostile to those whose views are too different from their own.

We're dealing with the same model of human beings.

Even though the Internet has become a great way to share information and for some to gain more exposure so that they are more tolerant I believe that this won't be a common thread.  Those who are interested in this information are probably socially tolerant already. Those who aren't more likely than not will not read into this information.

When people use the Internet to pull away from other people in person, it leads to less true tolerance.

The oneness of humanity is a fact that will become more and more obvious to more and more people.

Many things that are considered unacceptable today will be acceptable in 2020. However, there will continue to be a strong divide still between the information “haves” and information “have-nots.” There will be much social strife as the education gap increases—new classes will appear in societies between those who come from well off, college-educated backgrounds and those who do not.

Have you read some of the vitriolic comments that get posted on the Web? Responses to blogs and other sites have to be moderated because they are often abusive. The Internet can be a platform for bigotry just as much as tolerance.

The ability for individuals to find more like-minded others via networking counter-balances the perception that there is wider exposure to others.

Social, political and religious trends will continue to move in the direction of intolerance as the percentage of the population that adheres to a conservative belief system increases. As the amount of information to be processed increases, this group will continue to rely on its leaders to filter information and provide them concise and unquestionable guidance.
I agree, however spectacular terrorist violence is unlikely to be reduced by this broad tolerance.

The Internet helps people find other like-minded people and groups and does little to expose people to new opinions.

I am not convinced the Internet breeds tolerance. It might ultimately prove, in some areas, to be a tool to spread hatred.  However, as races & cultures interbreed, tolerance should increase as distinctions decrease. This issue is too much influenced by the state of the economy to predict at this point.

Sadly, despite the greater availability of information and differing viewpoints, tolerance does not seem to be increasing.  Instead, people are often choosing to gather with like-minded individuals online.

I agree mostly out of wishful thinking, hope, not certainty.