Elon University
About the Imagining the Internet Center

Imagining the Internet's mission from 2000 to 2024 was to explore the likely impact of digital evolution. Its work exposed people's perceptions at that time as to the challenges and opportunities ahead for humanity. Here you will find the hopes and fears of many thousands of people from every corner of the world who shared their thoughts about the likely future. They explored how free expression, property, privacy, presence, identity, security, trust, economic development, human cognition, human relationships, human values and human rights might evolve. This work is being continued by Imagining the Digital Future.

Internet Society Global INET 2012, Geneva, Switzerland.
Time Capsule: Past Future Forecasts

What were people saying about the potential promise and perils of networked digital communications at the turn of the millennium? When earlier communications innovations were introduced – the telegraph, radio, telephone and television – people predicted they would bring world peace. In the early 1990s folks said the same about the Internet. What looms in the future? AI far superior to human intelligence? Brain downloads? Here we offer three collections: a database of early 1990s predictions; predictions made by futurists in 2005; and stories of family life online in 2001.

photos of internet pioneers

"Virtual communities could help citizens revitalize democracy, or they could be luring us into an attractively packaged substitute for democratic discourse." - Howard Rheingold, 1993

"The struggle will not be over mechanical control of the means of information, but over spin-control of the zeitgeist." - Bruce Sterling, 1994

"We're going to have to look at information as if we'd never seen the stuff before... The economy of the future will be built on relationship rather than possession." - John Perry Barlow, 1994

"I had (and still have) a dream that the Web could be less of a television channel and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge." - Tim Berners-Lee, 1995

"Creators will have to fight to attract attention and get paid. Creativity will proliferate, but quality will be scarce and hard to recognize." - Esther Dyson, 1995

“The value of information about information can be greater than the value of the information itself.” - Nicholas Negroponte, 1994

Multimedia Reports From Global Gatherings

How did tech experts believe turn-of-the-millennium communications technologies might change the world? From 2005 to 2021 researchers from the Imagining the Internet Center conducted video surveys and documentary multimedia coverage at national and international communications events hosted by the Internet Society, UN-facilitated Global Internet Governance Forum, Internet Engineering Task Force, OECD, International Telecommunication Union and other multistakeholder organizations, creating an unparalleled archive of people's insights at that time.

2009 Internet Governance Forum, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
'Future of the Internet' Surveys Raise Issues

This treasure trove of nearly 50 long-form reports published between 2005 and 2023 contains tens of thousands of insights from thousands of experts. Elon University and Pew Internet Project researchers regularly conducted surveys asking leaders in technology, business, research, governance or other expertise to weigh in on the impact of current and oncoming digital change. They responded with richly detailed written elaborations sharing their foresight as to the opportunities and challenges ahead. They expressed their hopes and fears and shared potential solutions. This work is being continued by Imagining the Digital Future.

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Imagining the Internet and Pew illuminate experts’ views on top concerns

The Next 50 Years of Digital Life: Pew Research Center: Imagining the Internet Center Logo

Digital Life In 2025-2071?

From 2003 to 2023 Imagining the Internet partnered with Pew Research to ask thousands of digital experts questions about issues and trends, publishing 48 highly detailed reports including: the best and worst of digital change expected by 2035the future of human agency; the future of XR and the metaverse; effects of toxic social media on democracy and societyhopes for 2035the future of ethical AI design; the digital new normal after the 2020 outbreak; the future of democracy in the digital age; the future of social and civic innovation; the next 50 years of digital life; about AI and the future of humans; the future of digital life and well-being; the future of truth; the dangers of being code-dependent; about fake news and the future of discourse; the future of job training; about infrastructure vulnerabilities; the future of trust in online interactions and more. It was succeeded by the Imagining the Digital Future Center in 2024.