Imagining the Internet Project


How will the accelerating impact of networked technology change our lives and our world?

Researchers at Elon University and the Pew Internet Project conduct surveys of leaders, asking them to share their expectations for the future. They are offered a series of predictions with which they can choose to agree or disagree, and they are encouraged to elaborate on their remarks in written responses. The links below will lead you to data from the surveys, including each official Pew report and thousands of quotable predictions shared by survey respondents each year.

Future of the Internet V - 2012
Results from eight reports tied to data from Future Survey V, about the Internet in 2020 - imagining the future for the always-on, hyperconnected generation in their teens-to-20s by 2020; the future of the mobile Web, HTML5 and native apps; e-money and financial transactions through near-field communication; gamification, the addition of game mechanics for interactivity and engagement; "smart systems" and the future of efficient homes; corporate responsibility in the digital age; the influence of "Big Data"; and the future of higher education.

Future of the Internet IV - 2010  Respondents shared thousands of opinions on various Internet issues - exposing predictive statements in a qualitative and quantitative survey from late in 2009 through early 2010. Experts were asked about the Internet and the evolution of: intelligence; reading and the rendering of knowledge; identity and authentication; gadgets and applications; the core values of the Internet; institutions; the semantic Web; cloud computing; social relations; and young people's adoption of communications technologies. This site offers extra data tied to the series of Elon/Pew reports, released with details of respondents' answers to the 10 questions asked in the 2010 Elon University/Pew Internet Future of the Internet survey. (Data from the three previous surveys had been released in single reports. 2010 data was  released in six reports.)

Future of the Internet III - 2008–  Respondents participated in this web-based, qualitative and quantitative survey from late in 2007 through the early weeks of 2008. They said in 2020 the mobile device will be the primary tool for connection, talk and touch interfaces will be prevalent, tolerance will not increase, IP conflicts will remain unresolved and hyperconnectivity will alter some social structures.

Future of the Internet II - 2006– Respondents participated in this web-based, qualitative and quantitative survey from late in 2005 through the early weeks of 2006. They were asked to respond to issues that included: the pros and cons of pervasive, autonomous technology; the loss of privacy; the impact of virtual reality; the "flat-world" revolution; the possibility that some people living "off the grid" may protest violently against accelerating technology; and world priorities in regard to developing information and communication technologies.

Future of the Internet I - 2004– Nearly 1,300 technology stakeholders participated in this study in the fall of 2004, each offering responses to a set of 18 questions about: institutions that are undergoing change; the future of civic engagement; embedded networks; security; and threats. Most of the respondents classified themselves as research scientists, entrepreneurs/business leaders, authors/journalists or technology developers/administrators.


Select quotes from anonymous participants
in Elon/Pew surveys

- "The world will get a nervous system, and that is a big deal."

- "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."

- "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. The Net will wear away institutions that have forgotten how to sound human."

- "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes in their own reality show."

- "You’ll get more information, but much of it will be contradictory."

- "Entirely new technologies and societal coping mechanisms will need to be developed to process data into information (and who knows if wisdom will follow)."

- "Losses from internet-related crime and terror will exceed losses from all natural disasters."

- "There will be a move toward networked individualism … in work, neighborhoods, kinship, and even households."

- "Government will be forced to become increasingly transparent, accessible over the Net, and almost impenetrable if you're not on the Net."

- "The greatest changes will occur in the arena of trust and human relations." 

- "New methods of securing the true from the false will emerge. The source will become more important than the message."

- "The digital divide will grow ever deeper."

- "(We will see) the rise of the sovereignty of the individual (and) the rise in impact of groups of individuals"

- "Peddlers of wares and services, hucksters of all descriptions, and general riff-raff will make these larger social networks somewhat less than useful."

- "Knowledge (will be) knowable by impetus of the individual… A new role for teachers will emerge."

- "Transportation will be refined through massive substitution of communication. The current flight to cities will be reversed."

- "We'll probably see more attempts at control of the internet, both by business and governments around the world."

- "Connection and automatic sharing of contact information … will foster digital tribes and a stronger sense of 'family.'"

- "Children will grow up with the knowledge that their every move is being watched. This is a recipe for killing the kind of independent thinking that creates innovation."

- "Creativity may bloom but that does not mean it will be seen or appreciated by all."

- "Virtual communities of interest will exercise episodic political power ... like a swarm of angry bees!"

- "The internet is like graffiti, only it can be targeted to the right niche."

- "Enhanced communications and access to information are on the evolutionary path to freedom."

- "It is better to be actively, thoughtfully and humanly adapting technology than to be creating inertia to resist it."


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