Elon University

The 2006 Survey: Scenario Six – The internet opens worldwide access to success and reconfigures human networks

Responses in reaction to the following provocative future scenario were assembled from a select group of internet stakeholders in the 2006 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Predictions Survey. The survey allowed respondents to select from the choices “agree” or “disagree” or to leave the scenario unanswered. Respondents were encouraged to provide a written elaboration to explain their answers; they did not always do so, but those who did provided richly detailed predictive material. Some respondents chose to identify themselves with each answer; many did not. We share some – not all – of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents whose reactions are shared 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 to share more respondents’ replies. This is a selection of the many carefully considered responses to the following scenario.

internet artIn the current best-seller “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman writes that the latest world revolution is found in the fact that the power of the internet makes it possible for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. This scenario: By 2020, the free flow of information will completely blur current national boundaries as they are replaced by city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings, and/or other organizations tied together by global networks.

Compiled reactions from the 742 respondents:
52% agreed
44% disagreed
5% did not respond

Below are select responses from survey participants who agreed to be identified with their statements. To read reactions from anonymous participants responding to this question, please click here.

Structurally, the issue for the world is much more about balance of power. Right now, there is no balance and the United States is viewed as a threat because of its untrammeled ability to enforce its own rules and interests. If there is a balance of power, there will be a stability that allows the internet to level the playing field for economic success and access. – Stewart Alsop, investor and analyst; former editor of InfoWorld and Fortune columnist; internet user since 1994This is incoherent nonsense. The only meaningful element is that multinational corporations can rival national government as power blocs, and such corporations may gain even more power in the future. Information is a part of the economy – a big part. But it’s still only a part. – Seth Finkelstein, anti-censorship activist and programmer, author of the Infothought blog and an EFF Pioneer Award winner

I agree that virtual connections will increase in scale, scope, and importance. I disagree about the magnitude of this change by 2020 (e.g., don’t agree with “completely blur”). Physical relationships and communities will continue to be important. Nations have a lot of history, ideology, and culture. – Alan Inouye, internet policy analyst previously with the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council; internet user since 1990

Nice dream. – Nicholas Carr, independent writer and consultant whose work centers on information technology; internet user since 1987

I certainly agree that the Internet allows small groups to compete globally; in fact, I’ve written about “micro-multinationals” as becoming an important force. But I think that such forces only work well in some domains. People will still be plowing fields on their own. – Hal Varian, professor at University of California-Berkeley; Google; internet user since 1986

Although I agree in principle, there remains sufficient misguided nationalism to maintain borders between people – despots and dictators will still be in power. – Adrian Schofield, head of research for ForgeAhead (focused on ICT research and consulting in Africa), South Africa; a leader in the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA); internet user since 1994

First off, I said the first sentence before Friedman; he just has better P.R. I agree with the first sentence, but disagree with “completely blur.” We still have bodies; we, states, and organizations still have territorially-based interests (in the political sense of that word). – Barry Wellman, researcher on virtual communities and workplaces; professor and director of NetLab at University of Toronto; internet user since 1976

I disagree with “completely.” Moreover, if anyone can be successful, then those who are not successful (by whose definition?) must be responsible for their own failure. (Again, too many thoughts mingled into a single prediction.) – Esther Dyson, editor Release 1.0, investor and adviser to start-ups, and member of many boards, including Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Global Business Network; former chair of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board; internet user since 1985

I mostly agree, but strongly object to the panglossian overstatement. This trend will continue, but the old order will fight back. National governments will aggressively defend their power, and corporate incumbents will fight dirty against networked challengers. I thus believe that the 2020 networked world will be a turbulent place, full of opportunity and real innovation, but also real risks. Friedman’s writings will take their place alongside earlier optimist tracts extolling the wonders of technologies-to-come that over the years touted the benefits of radio (1930s), television (1950s), and personal computers (1970s). – Paul Saffo, forecaster and strategist, director, Institute for the Future; serves on many boards, including the Long Now Foundation; Internet user since 1978

Yes in the sense that some of the institutions that relied on geographical particularity will be weakened (e.g. universities linked around physical libraries). BUT new distinctions/boundaries/groupings will arise to add “texture” to this so-called “global village”. In the medium-term there will be just as many barriers, in effect, to open global action/interaction. – Bruce Edmonds, Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK; internet user since 1992

The hind side of this scenario is that the collapse of nation states and other existing power structures is unlikely to be peaceful, causing widespread low-intensity violence. – Pekka Nikander, Ericcson Research, Helsinki Institute for Information Technology; past member of the Internet Architecture Board; internet user since 1987

The technology tends towards this openness, but our religious and political predilections now indicate otherwise. – Douglas Rushkoff, author of many books about net culture, teacher, New York University; internet user since 1985

I disagree with the word “completely” here, but I agree that Friedman’s “flatteners” add up to a powerful force. I would also point out that the global economic flows enabled by communication infrastructure are highly dependent on cheap petroleum when it comes to moving matter around. That could change overnight. – Howard Rheingold, internet sociologist and author; one of the first writers to illuminate the ideals and foibles of virtual communities; internet user since 1990

In the intervening 15 years there is going to be a very large financial reconning as power is rebalanced. – Gordon Bell, senior researcher, Microsoft; computing and internet pioneer; internet user since 1986

My “agreement” with this is more of a hope than a certainty. Most surely, there are massive forces – government, corporate and “religious” – who are doing everything they can to limit such egalitarian distribution of power. For after all, timely access to adequate information, and the ability to timely communicate with the body politic (be it our neighbors, or a national or global audience – e.g. pollution recipients around the world – is the ULTIMATE power. If it were not, those in government and business who HAVE power would not be so all-fired zealous in trying to limit public access to information about themselves and their activities. However, it is not clear to me that we citizens will be successful in protecting our “right” (ability) to communicate freely. That freedom may be choked by governments, by corporate managers and by self-appointed censors who “know what’s best for us.” – Jim Warren, internet pioneer (founding editor of Dr. Dobb’s Journal), technology-policy advocate and activist, futurist; internet user since 1970

It will all happen, but the right date is closer to 2120 than 2020. National cultures run deep. – Fred Hapgood, author and consultant; internet user since 1981

Citizens may be less willing to allow the collapse of nation states if they believe that international organizations lack accountability. The debate over the WTO is a precursor to the future. – Marc Rotenberg, executive director Electronic Privacy Information Center; internet user since 1978

Not ‘completely blur’ national boundaries, but these other allegiances (religious of course) will be very powerful. Most of the changes will be for individuals, not “communities,” because the individual is the one with the raised expectation and awareness, and while she may try and convey that to a surrounding neighborhood or town or tribe, she may decide it is best to move away and into places where she can grow and excel. For that reason I see the Internet as an urbanization (globalization) engine that weakens many rural areas. They just can’t change as fast as the individual – who becomes impatient with that stasis. – Steve Cisler, former senior library scientist for Apple, founder of the Association for Community Networking, now working on public-access projects in Guatemala, Ecuador and Uganda; internet user since 1989

It will be about Adaptive dynamics and Economics, with new comparative advantages and value propositions. Adaptiveness + Economics = “Adaptnomics” – with credit to my friend Wale Adjadi. – Tunji Lardner, CEO for the West African NGO network: wangonet.org; agendaconsulting.biz; has held various consultancies for the World Bank and United Nations as well as being a resource person and consultant to the UNDP African Internet Initiative; internet user since 1988

The nation state is an invention of the industrial world that allowed the most efficient management of resources both material and people. The information age needs the flow of ideas, the political form always follows the economic need. We will see a flattening of the nation state in Western society. In third world countries and networks of ethnic grouping such as the Arab world, we will see a desperate attempt to hold onto the framework as is. We cannot forget that Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia lost many years, due to imperialism, to work through the various aspects of nationalism. It took Western Europe a thousand years and two very bloody world wars to work out the kinks of nation, culture, country, resource. The future is brighter since the source of wealth is no longer based on carbon, such as oil, minerals, land, which are limited – but based on information and creativity which is limitless. – Amos Davidowitz, director of education, training and special programs for Institute of World Affairs, Association for Progressive Education; internet user since 1994

I’d agree with the statement if the word “completely” was deleted as a modifier for “blur.” I don’t think social transformation will be effected in the next decade and a half. But, barring additional polarizing events on the scale of 9.11, we should be well on our way toward a more global environment, both socially and economically. – Reva Basch, consultant for Aubergine Information Systems (online research expert); internet user since 1973

I think that this is already true, though it will take some time before it sinks sufficiently into the cultural background to be fully effective. Again, issues relating to assessing identity and trust will be key. For instance, it is often suggested that projects such as Wikipedia would be better if readers could more easily identify and trust the source(s), but conversely, the value of contributing would be greatly increased if contributers could be uniquely identified and if trust in them could be asserted. That being said, I believe that “completely blur” is an overstatement and that it’ll take longer for this to be complete, if it ever is. It should be noted that even in a post-geographic world, geography isn’t blurred; it just becomes a less important factor amongst many. – Robin Berjon, W3C and Expway; internet user since 1996

The internet also makes it possible to preserve and nurture ethnic and cultural differences. People keep thinking that the latest change in technology is going to change human nature and society and it just ain’t gonna happen. – Roger Cutler, W3.org, senior staff research scientist at the Chevron Information Technology division of Chevron U.S.A.; internet user since 1994

Completely agree. Like never before the human race will be enabled to act as one entity. -Michael Gorrell, senior VP and CIO for EBSCO; internet user since 1994

I think this contention is basically correct, however a flat playing field also means you can lose big as well as win big. Where we’ll lose out is that we have many computer users, but few of the people who have the great ideas are the same ones who can program software. For example, a man sending one e-mail, or even a batch of e-mails by using a “cut and paste” feature from a list of addresses can never compete with a fully automated system that transmits e-mails 7 X 24 as fast as the processor will go. Most Americans have not transformed their work habits to use the computer to their best advantage unlike the Asians, the Indians and Pakistanis and Chinese. Americans still think of it as a toaster and fail to see its potential. Consequently, we’ll be eaten alive economically unless the quality of our educational institutions increases and people learn how to tap the power available in these systems. – William Kearns, assistant professor at the University of South Florida; internet user since 1992

Too much inertia in the current system to be replaced in 15 years, particularly as we won’t be 100% connected. – Willis Marti, associate director for networking, Texas A&M University; internet user since 1983

Since most war and exploitative pain in the world’s history has arisen from nation state ‘ego’ conflict I am hopeful that emerging affinity networks and identification will lead to long term more peaceful networking toward mutual gain. As Elise Boulding taught me, the expansion of global NGO’s is our best hope for a friendlier planet. – Ed Lyell, pioneer in issues regarding internet and education, professor at Adams State College; internet user since 1965

Most in the technology fields have seen this coming a long way off. “The World is Flat” exposed to the rest of the world what many in technology have known for a long time, that the more communication that is available the smaller the universe. When the first telephones were given out, no one wanted them, but they quickly made the world smaller and more mobile by creating access beyond the town hall or country store to the entire world. This will only continue as we realize that borders don’t really exist and find even more ways to communicate with each other and that in fact, it is a very small world. – Tom Snook, CTO, New World Symphony, internet user since 1967

You seem to overlook the fact that nation states can control access to the Internet if they choose to. I doubt that national boundaries will dissolve by 2020 unless we discover extra-terrestrial intelligent life. – Joe Bishop, VP business development, Marratech AB; internet user since 1994

I like Friedman’s book, and I was with this prediction until the word “completely.” Some countries, such as U.S., Japan, and China, will remain sufficiently nationalistic that even with blurring they’ll still be distinct. Even in Europe, the EU project has had recent setbacks, and while national boundaries are more porous than they used to be, national feeling still exists. Blurred yes; completely, no. – John S. Quarterman, president InternetPerils Inc.; publisher of the first “maps” of the internet; internet user since 1974

This is already starting to happen today. As corporations like Amazon and Google rush to compete with one another, they will act as an enabler to smaller organizations (even organizations of one) that will leverage the commodity services provided by the giants. The key lies not only with a free flow of information, but of service – service to which others will add their own value. – Ross Rader, director of research and innovation, Tucows Inc; internet user since 1991

The Internet will open worldwide access to opportunities for success. It will also open ways for many dysfunctionalities. Corporation-based cultural groupings may actually be one of the most destructive forces if not enough cultural, relational, and bottom-up social forces are built up. This does not detract from the prediction that a lot more people than today will have a good life through extensive networked collaboration. – Alejandro Pisanty, CIO for UNAM (National University of Mexico); vice chairman of the board for ICANN; member of United Nations’ Working Group for Internet Governance; active in ISOC; internet user since 1977

It is surprising that many people find this prediction original or novel. Since the advent of computer-to-computer messaging in the early 1980´s (Videotext, BBS´s [bulletin board services], Bitnet and ultimately the Internet) it has become manifestly clear that space and time are together altered by the new asynchronous, highly capillarized data networks. You no longer have to be in a major city of the world to be able to develop a product, project or service that makes the world beat a path to your door. And this is good, very good. So what else is new? – Fredric M. Litto, professor, University of Sao Paulo; president, ABED-Brazilian Association for Distance Education; internet user since 1993

While this is theoretically possible, it ignores the fact that the internet largely reflects the social, political, and economic hierarchies and networks outside of it. – David Elesh, associate professor of sociology at Temple University; internet user since 1983

Nation-states are not going to go away, nor is nationalism. – Gary Chapman, director, The 21st Century Project, LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas – Austin, internet user since 1982

The nation-state will become an administration entity rather than a cultural organizer. – Charles Hendricksen, research collaboration architect for Cedar Collaboration; internet user since 1968

This, like many of the other claims, starts with a reasonable premise (e.g., internet makes it possible for individuals to collaborate and compete globally). But there is no reason that this ability to collaborate with be associated with the withering of nation-states. – Robert Kraut, Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

I agree, except that I don’t think national boundaries will be replaced. They will continue to play an important role. But it will be less unique. National identity will continue to be with us. – David Clark, internet pioneer, senior research scientist at MIT; now working under a major National Science Foundation grant to rethink the architecture of the internet; internet user since 1975

Yes, but this will happen within clearly defined cultures. Japanese will not mix with US-Americans for the simple reason that US-Americans will not learn foreign languages. Chinese cyberspace will be huge but by and large inaccessible because most non-Chinese will not have learned Mandarin. What Friedman writes might be the case for national boundaries but will not be the case for cultural limitations that cannot so easily be overcome. – Geert Lovink, media theorist, professor and internet critic, Institute of Network Cultures, University of Amsterdam; in 2005-2006 he is a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg, the Centre for Advanced Study in Berlin; internet user since 1993

The mechanism for doing this, however, is the Next Generation Network infrastructure, not “the Internet.” – Tony Rutkowski, VP for regulatory and standards, Verisign; a co-founder and former executive director of the Internet Society; active leader in International Telecommunication Union (ITU); internet user since 1979

The power of the internet in enabling collaboration is very important, and I would agree with Friedman’s remarks on the ability of individuals to collaborate. The inference this question proposes (the complete blurring of national boundaries), however, requires for example that Syria and Israel decide that the border between them is no longer important. Gee, I’d love to see world peace, but I don’t believe that the Internet alone will be able to accomplish it. Much of the thinking in “The World is Flat” is valid. However, I doubt that the western notion of a nation-state will significantly change during my lifetime. – Fred Baker, CISCO Fellow, CISCO Systems, Internet Society (ISOC) chairman of the board; Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); internet user since 1987

The Internet is, and will continue to, foster online livelihoods and collaborations not previously possible. This is fostered by the increasing (business/professional) service base of the economy. Increasing education and connectivity have grown the pool that contributes to professional services beyond typical boundaries. We have tapped this approach in our own business with a model that leverages a distributed workforce of micro-enterprises working in Open Source technologies (see www.ifpeople.net/fairsource) based on the model of Fair Trade. These cross-institutional collaboratives allow for agile, learning organizations that can compete and adapt quickly. – Christopher Johnson, co-founder and CEO for ifPeople, Inspiring Futures; internet user since 1995

The phrase “completely blur” probably goes too far, but it’s fair to say that new non-geographical allegiances will become as important and probably more important than today’s geographical communities. However, note that in addition to being connected with like-minded people, I also need to have economic intercourse with complementary groups. Hence, although I’m a Ph.D. computer scientist and will want to connect with the same and equivalent world-wide, I also want to connect with farmers who grow and will ship me great produce. The real world counts because I still can’t get fine dark chocolate to appear from my wireless PDA. In fact, I suspect I’ll spend a minority of my time with like-minded people of all types (cultural groupings, etc.) and the majority of my time with complementary people and groups. – Glenn Ricart, executive director, Price Waterhouse Coopers Advanced Research; member of the board of trustees of the Internet Society; internet user since 1968

This has already happened – no need to wait for 2020. – Robin Gross, executive director, IP Justice, civil liberties organization that promotes balanced intellectual property law and defends consumer rights to use digital media worldwide; internet user since 1988

This is again more of a utopian desire than any thing else but is a major part of the benefits that an “Internet for Everybody” can/will offer. – Cheryl Langdon-Orr, independent internet business operator and director for ISOC-Australia; internet user since 1977

I agree in part but disagree also in part. The contribution and creativity of individuals has always been important, way before the internet, but what the internet offers is a mechanism that connects and leverages individual creativity and behaviour into a collective mechanism that both rewards individual excellence and joint efforts. Therein lie the benefits. The individuals continue to live in nations, societies and cities with their own value systems that are not going to be displaced by this behaviour. – Robert Shaw, internet strategy and policy advisor, International Telecommunication Union (ITU); internet user since 1987

Both types of associations are needed and will coexist: a) cross-border interest-driven virtual communities and b) local communities. – Luc Faubert, consultant, dDocs Information Inc.; president of Quebec’s Internet Society chapter and an ambassador to the World Summit on Information Society; member of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR); internet user since 1985

Not likely. While there is much to be said about the enabling power of communications and the Internet, there is a deep-rooted nationalism that is part of the psyche of nearly all people worldwide. Many events only serve to strengthen that nationalism in both positive and negative ways, including wars and conflicts, financial systems, political messaging, and even the World Cup and the Olympics. This doesn’t mean that groupings won’t continue to happen as they have today, but they will continue to consist mostly of people with shared common interest that still end up living their own separate lives when offline. – Philip Joung, Spirent Communications (wireless positioning products); internet user since 1989

This is one of the wonders that will evolve out of the internet – free flow of information across physical and geographical boundaries. However this must not come at the expense of a loss of identity of people involved. – Rajnesh J. Singh, PATARA Communications & Electronics Ltd., Avon Group, GNR Consulting, ISOC Pacific Islands; internet user since 1993

I can see a trend toward regionalism and cross-border cooperation, but it won’t proceed as fast as this question suggests. National governments still have lots of financial, legal, and rhetorical tools at their command, and the change from one country to another can still be extreme. It will be a long time, if ever, before the force of last resort ceases to be the national government. – Andy Oram, writer and editor for O’Reilly Media; internet user since 1983

We’ve been getting this prediction for a while, and it hasn’t come true. Large corporations, with the support of strong nations, continue to have great control over economics and politics. There is no real basis for power in these dispersed city-states, and no one with power today is showing willingness to give it up. This could be a scenario for 200 years from now, but definitely not 2020, and getting there may not be through peaceful means. – Karen Coyle, information professional and librarian; internet user since 1983

I partially agree, as national boundaries will be even more emphasized in those countries where there has been political resistance (explicit or inadvertent) to the information age. These countries will effectively become outdated islands of information poverty. – Alan Levin, programmer, designer, systems and network architect; chairman of the ISOC South Africa chapter; serves on the boards of Future Perfect Corporation, AfriNIC and .za DNA; internet user since 1994

We saw hints of this in the late ’90s and the very first part of this century, only to see it “interrupted” by the bursting of the “bubble.” However, perhaps the bubble burst because we moved too fast too early and with insufficient thought to have sound business models. We will have learned in the next 15 years and we should see great collaboration by people to complete globally with any entity. Indeed, it’s likely that that will, effectively, be the way of business – whether the “individual” is essentially a “corporation,” or virtually individuals, literally. – Don Heath, board member, iPool, Brilliant Cities Inc., Diversified Software, Alcatel, Foretec; internet user since 1988

Yes, to the extent that it is allowed by trading regimes. When the African farmer can see prices in European markets, he will be all the more outraged at foot-dragging over liberalisations proposed in – e.g. – the Doha round of trade talks. – John Browning, co-founder of First Tuesday, a global network dedicated to entrepreneurs; former writer for The Economist and other top publications; internet user since 1989

The internet’s real power is that it allows individuals that share a common interest to interact and collaborate in ways simply not possible before. That ability will continue to erode traditional boundaries (e.g., national, or geographic). – Thomas Narten, IBM open-internet standards development; Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) liaison to ICANN; internet user since 1983

Reasons for collaboration have to exist. Finding them and making worthwhile for all involved will be a growth industry. I predict more jobs for matchmakers. – Mike Gill, electronics engineer, National Library of Medicine; internet user since 1988

Although there is little doubt that we will see some pioneers in this area, politics and economics in general do not change that quickly, especially across borders. Too many incumbents have a vested interest in the status quo. When the “old people” die, THEN we’ll begin to see changes of this scope. Besides, people as a rule are not intelligent enough to mingle so deeply with other cultures. -Michael Steele, internet user since 1978; chose not to share any other identifying details

As Friedman correctly identifies, this will be a trend, but it will NOT “completely blur” anything in the next 20 yrs, and may never do so. – Peter Roll, retired chief system administrator; internet user since 1981

The Internet may be a great place for the flow of information, but I still have to buy food from my local supermarket, send my child to a local school, attend a local church, and so on. While online communities will have greater roles, the needs for real-world communities won’t change. – Jim Huggins, associate professor of computer science, Kettering University; internet user since 1989

Completely agree. I think Friedman nailed it. Also note the fact that we are emerging into an era of user content creation and distribution. This is already becoming a disruptive force, affecting mass media of various types, the music and motion picture industry, and others. – Joel Hartman, CIO, University of Central Florida; internet user since 1970

Absolutely! But this also means the globalization of the hinterlands. While individuals in India, China, and ultimately Africa (though this will take much longer) will be part of these new global networks, there will inevitably be losers in this process: those who remain less connected. And here “less connected” does not merely mean unable to access the Internet, but unable to call on a global network of financial and interpersonal resources. So yes, you will be able to find the First World more often in the Third, but also the Third World more often in the First. – Alex Halavais, assistant professor, State University of New York-Buffalo; internet user since 1984

William Gibson foresaw this all in the 1980s and it appears he was right. – Martin Kwapinski, senior content manager, FirstGov.gov, the U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal; internet user since 1997

The world is flat, but it’s also lumpy. We cluster together. Geography is one powerful attractor. So are interests. We’re capable of maintaining many sets of relationships simultaneously. – David Weinberger, teacher, writer, speaker, consultant and commentator on internet and technology; Harvard Berkman Center; internet user since 1986

2020, as defined in the beginning of this questionary, is too early for current national boundaries to have become fully blurred. Also, the description above (not in bold) does not lead to what is stated in the main sentence (in bold – The internet opens worldwide access to success) as current national boundaries ceasing to exist do not imply everyone will live at the same conditions anywhere in the globe. Local differences will remain, we will just stop understanding them through the colours defined by current (artificial) national boundaries to read them according to how other, as artificial, lenses will have been tinted. – Suely Fragoso, professor, Unisinos, Brazil; internet user since 1994

Countries will still want to retain their political power. As such, they need money to support their government, their infrastructure, and their military (unfortunately). Unless they system of collecting this money changes from the current business tax and import/export duties, it will be hard for a company to be completely agnostic to national boundaries. I do agree, however, that the Internet will make it easier to attain a global reach. – Rangi Keen, software engineer, Centric Software, internet user since 1989

This question is hard to give an either/or answer to, I believe that the trend the question describes will be true, but only to a limited extent, national boundaries will persist, as will national identities, as strong or maybe even stronger than before. If you on the other hand talk about the years between 2050-2100, migrations may wipe out a lot of national identities, not so much the internet, which can be used to maintain national identities. – Arent Greve, professor, The Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration; internet user since 1983

There will still be peaks and troughs in access geographically and economically. The internet will create cultural crises (like the current issue over the Prophet Muhammad cartoon) that will reshape how we deal with issues in a transnational manner. – Mark Gaved, The Open University, United Kingdom; internet user since 1987

While the basic observation is valid and this will certainly become more important in the future, the prediction wildly overstates its effects. Among other things, it overlooks the existence of diverse languages and cultures, and all the other aspects of nations beyond the economic. – Florian Schlichting, Ph.D. candidate, University College, London

I see no decrease in nationalism. – Leigh Estabrook, professor, University of Illinois; internet user since 1978

In many instances this is highly likely. But I suspect there also likely to be a huge backlash against the global corporatisation of the world and commodification of culture. I also do not see a free flow of information, given the current attempts by many to control it. However, localised and topical tribalism (and multi-tribal affiliations) seem likely to rise. – Andy Williamson, managing director for Wairua Consulting Limited, New Zealand; a member of the NZ government’s Digital Strategy Advisory Group; internet user since 1990

I didn’t believe Friedman when he wrote that and don’t believe that national boundaries will ever be so threatened by the Internet as to erase them. China is doing everything it can to allow all of its citizens to access the Internet even while it dictates to Google which sites will be blocked. – Christine Ogan, professor, University of Indiana School of Journalism; internet user since 1986

It’s already more difficult to travel than 20 years ago. National government power holders/structures will not go quietly. – Michael Cannella, IT manager for Volunteers of America-Michigan, member Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility

In spite of all our collaboration, the coffee machine (hopefully delivering real espresso by that time) remains a central meeting point for quasi-professional deliberation. – Carlo Hagemann, professor, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Netherlands; internet user since 1989

This trend will be more developed, but by no means complete. – Tama Leaver, lecturer in digital communication, University of Western Australia

Not by 2020. I predict that China, a very potential world economic power, will still have not loosened it’s grip on controlling access and flow of information into and out of it’s borders. All of the computers that allow the net to exist are still within geopolitical borders. Only if we had a truly distributed network could we have such reorganization on a large scale. However, as time progresses, we know that the very distributed net has become constricted and controlled at it’s very backbone. There was a time that one could literally connect a computer to the Internet and be on – now, one must register the IP connection, which means such a connection can be denied. It is not freedom when a corporation or government holds the key to the cage. – Scott Moore, online community manager, Helen and Charles Schwab Foundation; internet user since 1991

Some individuals will be able to collaborate globally. Local operations will still have an advantage for anything that involves physical flow of objects. – Grant Blank, assistant professor of sociology, American University; internet user since 1987

This is very likely to happen, but not 2020. – Ben Detenber, associate professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

The ability for individual to collaborate and compete globally (which has been true since life appeared on this planet) on the one hand, and the reconfiguration of social groups around new foci at the expense of the nation-state, on the other hand. The latter phenomenon is not primarily dependent upon ICT. The decline of the nation state is much more the result of the subversion of those supposed to represent and defend the common interest by forces that represent particular ones. – Michel Menou, professor and information-science researcher; born in France, he has worked in nearly 80 nations; internet user since 1992

The corporation-based cultural groupings will still be called countries in 2020. ;-). – Sam Punnett, president, FAD research (consultant on strategy, marketing, and product-development issues related to e-business); internet user since 1988

Yes, we will definitely see a weakening of the current nation-state barriers, but there will be other, very prominent barriers. Most importantly will be language, followed by digital access. – Randy Kluver, executive director, Singapore Internet Research Centre; internet user since 1989

It can be hardly expected that current national boundaries will blur completely by 2020, but it can be predicted with a great deal of certainty that corporate-based power will continue to exert its influence relying on the possibilities offered by the new technologies, not only the internet but also beyond it. In any sort of prediction of this kind, some room should be left for cultural forms that will be a reaction to this state of affairs. – Mirko Petric, University of Zadar, Croatia; internet user since 1996

All these statements are so absolute, I can’t do anything but disagree. I agreed with the first part here, and was quite happy to have found a question where I could say: yes, that’s how I imagine the future. Then it got around to a vision again of the totally smooth integration of nations, organisations and individuals, and I have to say, sorry not going to happen anytime soon. They burn Norwegian embassies in Syria over a cartoon drawn in Denmark. How is that kind of national and cultural conflicts be overcome in 14 years? – Torill Mortensen, associate professor, Volda University College, Norway; internet user since 1991

The Internet, in fact, connects to the world… but only if we have proper connections to the Net. The information flow is not plenty free: is limited by the interests (money, politics, rivalries) of governments and corporations. That is not a surprise: is part of the present and indeed the next realities in this world. Is difficult to think in a world of city-states in only 15 years. Our countries are much too complex to turn, suddenly or almost, in demarcations like Singapore. – Raul Trejo-Delarbre, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico; internet user since 1993

The death of distance doesn’t flatten social hierarchies. In fact, the opposite is true, it promises MORE not less authoritarian control. – Edward Lee Lamoureux, associate professor, Bradley University

This techno-centric view totally ignores the counter pressures of national-state loyalties, religious affiliations, and political alliances. – Jim Jansen, assistant professor, Penn State University; internet user since 1993

Without clean drinking water and global basic education for women, there will always be a digital divide. Technology is just a detail in this regard. – Jason Nolan, associate professor, Ryerson University, Canada; internet user since 1987

People talking erodes nationalism. The conversation is pervasive and as people get to know each other, they will find how similar we all are. – W. Reid Cornwell, director of The Center for Internet Research; internet user since 1974

This is a much broader process than can happen in the next 15 years. – Rich Ling, senior researcher and sociologist, Telenor Research Institute, Oslo, Norway; internet user since 1984

I think this will probably happen, but perhaps not by 2020 and it won’t be a pretty or peaceful transition either. – Janine van der Kooy, information management/librarian; internet user since 1997

Nations aren’t going away, but perhaps people will reach out more across them than now. – Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief, SearchEngineWatch.com; internet user since 1994While I agree, Friedman has the same blind spot as he did in his “Lexus and the Olive Tree” analysis where he missed the “democratization” of mass violence. While there will certainly be mass cooperation and competition, there will also be the ability of heretofore ineffectual entities to project power in unexpected and disruptive ways. This will be especially true for those who hold totalizing worldviews. This will result in a constant, global, low to medium intensity insurgent warfare manifesting across all venues and using all manner of repertoires to further agendas or thwart others. This will not be an entirely bad thing, as cooperation and building affinities and alliances will be the keys to success rather than coercion. – Ted M. Coopman, activist, social science researcher, instructor at the University of Washington, Seattle, member of AoIR board of directors

China (a nation-state) is very adept at controlling the free flow of information available to its individuals. China is not going away by the year 2020. – Charlie Breindahl, external lecturer, University of Copenhagen, IT University of Copenhagen; internet user since 1996

This is a question of degree. Will the internet facilitate “alternate mappings” for disparate communities of interest? Yes. Will communications barriers across national boundaries decrease in some ways? Probably. Will national boundaries completely disappear? No. National boundaries are sustained by economics, politics, cultural identity, religion, etc. – a whole host of complex systems that can’t/won’t be dissolved quickly or easily. It is important to keep in mind that opportunity is not the only necessary precondition for drastic change. The internet is a tool that could just as easily be used to cloister and protect. – Nan Dawkins, co-founder of RedBoots Consulting; internet user since 1997

I agree, but it will not be “city-states” so much as it will be corporations that become the sovereign entities transcendent of geographic space. – Peter P. Nieckarz Jr., assistant professor of sociology, Western Carolina University; internet user since 1993

While this collaboration and competition will increase, the prediction that these developments will completely blur national boundaries ignores the many forces that will maintain these social and political institutions. Instead of “either-or,” it will be “and” – ongoing national boundaries supplemented by geographically independent groupings. The dynamic between the two is where the most interesting questions lie. – Patrick B. O’Sullivan, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Illinois State University; internet user since 1987

Although I do not completely agree with the complete blurring of current national boundaries, I fully agree that the internet opens up enormous opportunities for international collaboration. For the “blurring” to be a reality, however, proven models of collaboration that have not yet seen the light of day must be developed, understood across cultural boundaries, and as easily accessed as the internet itself. – Paul Chenoweth, web developer, Belmont University; internet user since 1994

Of course the internet adds to other processes of globalization marking our times. However, locality will always remain an important factor in people’s lives – the place (geographical, social, political, economical, etc.) in which people live forms the background against which they have their experiences. This phenomenon is part of the human condition and will not disappear through the rise of the internet, despite its globalizing aspects and tendencies. – B. van den Berg, faculty of philosophy at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; internet user since 1993

You forgot language! This might be true for an elite of some industrial countries but in many countries we still have great problems with illiteracy, even in the U.S. And the Internet requires a high competence in literacy skills, and if it’s global you might be required to speak a foreign language as well. – Oliver Krueger, Princeton University professor; internet user since 1995

I’d like it to be that way, but I’m not sure that 15 years is realistic time for those changes. – Lilia Efimova, researcher, Telematica Instituut, Netherlands; internet user since 1993

We see this already with blogs, individual and joint, claiming space where mainstream media is losing ground. – Deborah Jones, freelance journalist; Canadian technology writer; internet user since 1980

Not ALL individuals will partake in this free flow of information, but it will redefine our culture and our leadership. – Kathleen Pierz, managing partner, The Pierz Group (consultants in directory assistance/enquiry); internet user since 1985

I think the success part is right, I tend to think nationalism is more hard-wired and unlikely to disappear. – Cleo Parker, senior manager, BBDO (international agency for networked, multi-channel communications solutions); internet user since 1993

This seems like an unlikely outcome. Many people identify along ethnic, religious, and linguistic lines and computers are unlikely to change that. – Michael S. Cann Jr., CEO of Affinio Corporation; internet user since 1992

Many of us have been writing about such changes for at least a decade. That process is already well under way. – Bud Levin, program head/psychology and commander/policy and planning, Blue Ridge Community College; Waynesboro (VA) Police Department; internet user since 1988

I agree that the internet opens worldwide access to success but I disagree that national boundaries will be replaced by city-states. – Carter Headrick, director of grassroots and field operations for Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids; internet user since 1993

National boundaries are too important to the most powerful interests on the planet. They will not lose their power to uncontrolled media. Global collaboration will happen to the extent it supports existing power structures. – Michael Reilly, GLOBALWRITERS, Baronet Media LLC, Hally Enterprises, Inc., State Univesity of NY at Stony Brook, Global Public Affairs Institute; internet user since 1972

It’s happening now. It hurts my brain to think of what will happen in 15 years. – Michael Collins, CEO (company name not given), internet user since 1996

Unlike a few Yanqui fantasists like Friedman, most peoples around the world operate as collectives. Some wires won’t change that! – Toby Miller, professor, University of California-Riverside; internet user since 1990

Why wait until 2020? This is happening NOW. – Howard Finberg, director of interactive media, The Poynter Institute; internet user since 1991

Connectivity is essential to global peace. – Russell Steele, owner The Insightworks (provider of tools for research and teaching in economics and public policy); internet user since 1995

This may happen, but not by 2020. Cultural identities take longer to blur than that. A flat world will certainly extinguish some cultural identities but will create new ones. – Joel Bush, a respondent who chose not to reveal more details about his identity

I agree with Friedman’s premise, but this will not be reality only 14 years from now. There are far more powerful forces working to strengthen and sharpen national and cultural boundaries and these will override much of the individual convergence that is possible through the web. – Ralph Blanchard, investor, information services entrepreneur; internet user since 1994

Disagree only because I think this is feasible, but not in the timeframe. Government regulation will slow the pace of this change as political constituencies fight to keep revenue sources local. – Peter Kim, senior analyst, marketing strategy and technology team, Forrester Research; internet user since 1993

Clearly, new business models and new types of social interaction will continue to evolve as the cost and friction in communicating globally falls. But this prediction is too sweeping. People are still a product of their local communities, customs, parental expectations, religious affiliation, etc. to be as plastic as this statement asserts. Over a generation or two perhaps. – Kerry Kelley, VP product marketing, SnapNames.com; internet user since 1986

Internet will open worldwide access to success, but will not blur national boundaries. – Sean Mead, consultant for Interbrand Analytics, Design Forum, Mead Mead & Clark and other companies; internet user since 1989

Whereas I believe this will eventually come to pass I don’t think it will happen by 2020. – Paul Craven, director of enterprise communications, U.S. Department of Labor; internet user since 1993

Commerce is only one domain of human experience. While commerce may create transaction-based groupings across political boundaries, the city-states may well evolve to fill the human need for tribal community that is based more on religious, ethnic and cultural distinctions. – Jeff Hammond, VP, Rhea and Kaiser; internet user since 1992

I’ve seen “Blade Runner” and read “Neuromancer” too, but recognize the artifice as separate from the reality. – Joseph Redington, associate academic dean, Manhattanville College; internet user since 1993

We can never forget the internet “unsuccess” to many during the 90’s. Stating the internet opens worldwide access to success is too risky. – Ivair Bigaran, Global Messenger Courier do Brasil, American Box Serviço Int’l S/C Ltda.; internet user since 1994

Much like tectonic shifts moved land masses long ago to form world geography, the online shifts we’re experiencing are reconfiguring the human experience to form a new world order – one without borders. Success, however, will depend on the accessibility to networks, and whether the flat world is going to be an equal-opportunity one. – Daniel D. Wang, principal, Roadmap Associates (coaching and advisory company); internet user since 1995

With the Internet homogenizing the developed world, people will want to retain their identity rather than lose it. Not everyone who has access to the Internet will be able to do well. The www also stands for World Wide Wastebasket. There will be a large amount of false information that will be detrimental to some. – Richard Yee, competitive intelligence analyst, AT&T; internet user since 1995

While physical national borders will remain on the ground, the borderless universe available via the Internet will continue to flourish and bring together populations in ways never possible physically. – Mitchell Kam, Willamette University, Oregon; internet user since 1979

Risk, security, trust, and personal identity issues will preclude this free one-to-all collaboration and social reconfiguration. The test case for this is “distance learning,” where 100% remote arrangements are less effective than combined remote-personal arrangements. – Ellen K. Sullivan, former diplomat, policy fellow, George Mason University School of Public Policy; internet user since 1988

I especially agree with the part about the corporate city-states. Like stadiums named for corporations, corporate identity of governmental districts is a natural, especially if we secede responsibility for and acceptance of formal governance in general. Privatize everything, and the corporations will be able to slice up our lives in whatever way is good for their quarterly gains. – Susan Wilhite, design anthropologist, Habitat for Humanity; internet user since 1993

Geopolitical boundaries exist in our minds only. The degree in which we choose to make them part of our lives depends on how much we value competing affiliations. Arguably, the trend is already there with multinational work forces, corporations, organizations and confederations like the European Union. – A. White, a respondent who chose not to share more of her/his identifying details

A qualified disagreement: Although I believe it will occur, I do not believe it will “completely” replace current national boundaries. Our nationalistic tendencies, ethnic and religious groupings, will continue to exert a lot of influence for generations to come. – Jeffrey Branzburg, educational consultant; internet user since 1997

Again, factor in the ever-present tension between government and business. A boon to business often produces anxiety in government, in this case due to loss of control. Therein lies repression or revolution. – Ralph Mueller, self-employed; internet user since 1977

People will have strong ties to reality beyond 2020. Online communities may be boundless, but they can be easily disrupted by offline actions. – Brian T. Nakamoto, Everyone.net (a leading provider of outsourced email solutions for individuals and companies around the world); internet user since 1990

Increasingly, we are being bound by a common bond and we are speaking a common language. The Internet has no boundaries; geographic boundaries shall become meaningless. It will not make a difference where you are till the time you are connected. Behavior is the function of learning, and the Networks shall be the common source of learning, a common platform where all netizens stand equal. – Alik Khanna, Smart Analyst Inc. (business employing financial analysts in India); internet user since 1996

There will also be increased conflict among states and social movements reacting against the homogenization of the world, the “westernization” of the world, etc. – Benhamin Ben-Baruch, senior market intelligence consultant and applied sociologist, Aquent, General Motors, Eastern Michigan University; internet user since 1980

I think that we have to be cautious regarding utopian predictions a la Friedman who has his own liberal and globalization agenda. Utopian predictions regarding the Internet have been proven wrong for the most part. Power and hegemonic structures will not allow such “access to success” to spread too widely and will adapt themselves to the new networked reality in an attempt to preserve their hegemony. – Michael Dahan, professor, Sapir Academic College, Israel; Digital Jerusalem; internet user since 1989

I think national boundaries are too strong to be blurred by other groupings of humans, although I do agree that these alternative groups will become more numerous and more powerful. – Mark Crowley, researcher, The Customer Respect Group; internet user since 1995

However, the participants in these “cultural groupings” and “human organizations” will still maintain ties to those outside “the network,” and national boundaries will remain relevant in co-existence. Successful Indian entrepreneurs, for example, will not be indifferent between living in India and the U.S. – Jonathan Sills, SVP (strategy & corporate development), Provide Commerce, Liberty Media; internet user since 1993

National boundaries will be increasingly blurred, but not “completely.” So many processes and so much legitimacy is still tied up with the nation-state. On the other hand I agree with Friedman in that individuals will work and compete globally. – Olav Anders Øvrebø, freelance journalist based in Oslo, Norway; internet user since 1995

Generally, this seems to be the trend, but nation-states will continue to have an important role in this mix as recognized organizational units, if nothing else than for symbolic reasons of identity, even if their actual role is diminished. They may become more inclined to be police states or the security apparatus of some of the other main groupings, although this very power of physical violence will give them continued power within a global networked world. -Shawn McIntosh, lecturer in strategic communications, Columbia University; internet user since 1992

The real question is how does anyone prepare for this? The cultural gaps remain wide and change much more slowly than the technology can bridge. – Jill O’Neill, director of planning & communication, National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services; internet user since 1986

Research has been conducted that digital divide is deepening both between and within developed and developing states. In the long run, they will be more remote or even unconnected to each other. – Yiu Chan, internet user since 1995

I do believe that the internet has opened up the globe for companies, but the blur of national boundaries isn’t there. Companies still need to enter these countries delicately and learn to “speak” the language, and blend into that country’s cultural world. If they don’t, then they won’t be successful, so this is why I think culture will still exist, thus creating “boundaries.” – Jeff Gores, internet user since 1994

Globalisation for the elite has almost been the case, from the 19th century onwards. Communication facilitated the connections between same groups, but this has not yet proven the case for most of the people. Local environment will most probably remain the key social reference. Very localised and very globalised might impact the levels between. – Sylvain Grande; internet user since 1995

Thankfully, the nation-state shows no sign of dying, even in an internetworked world. State governments didn’t wither away when we shifted to a national economy after WWII powered in part by new technologies (air travel, telephony, air conditioning). National governments won’t either. However, much better mechanisms to address cross border issues will be needed. – Rob Atkinson, director, Technology and New Economy Project, Progressive Policy Institute (a think tank); previously project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment; internet user since 1993

As nations are essentially artificial, and are resultants, at least in part, of a process of mutual identification between the member individuals of the nation, then if the Internet does not change how an individual creates their identity it will not change the existence of nations. What the ease and speed of international communication may do, given time, is reduce the general level of xenophobia in the world. It may, and I hope that it does, lead to less conflict between nations. However it may also result in more conflict as it creates cultural interfaces that were not factors in people’s experience prior to high speed international communications. There is a potential for peace and a potential for conflict present in the internet, as there is in all forms of communication. – Robin Lane, educator and philosopher, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil; internet user since 1990

The next important step in the social software revolution will be tools that enable the collaborative creation of capitalization for large projects. However, the significant factors in the development of global culture in the next two decades will have to do with the implementation of nanoscales and the conversion to new energy sources. Networked groups will multiply these effects. – Daniel Conover, new-media developer, Evening Post Publishing; internet user since 1994

I don’t know whether to agree or disagree. Of course, the power of the internet makes it possible for individuals to collaborate and compete globally. But successful competition has been repeatedly proven to be very difficult: marshalling resources in an effective and co-ordinated way takes organization well about the individual level. Geographically diverse organizations already compete with great success, but geographically and ethnically specific organizations show no signs of waning. This isn’t a simple either/or issue. – Walt Dickie, VP and CTO, C&R Research; internet user since 1992

Internet 2020 will help most developing countries catch-up with advanced ones. Cheap access to the huge information capital available on the Internet will be used by these countries to move forwards very quickly. – Louis Nauges, president, Microcost (an IT services and hardware company based in France); internet user since 1990

I completely agree with this in the longer term, but not by 2020. – Cary Curphy, operations research analyst, U.S. Army; internet user since 1989

While the Internet does blur national boundaries, it cannot eliminate the significance of geography, nor huge global economic disparities. – Henry Potts, professor, University College, London; internet user since 1990

Human differences will be less based on geography. – Dan McCarthy, managing director, Neuberger Berman Inc. (equity funds); internet user since 1994

National boundaries will be blurring somewhat, but the nation-state continues to be an important concept. Once humans thought the people in the next village were outsiders, now we have moved to considering a larger number of people somewhat like ourselves. But our old habits and our “old” biology will not change this fast by 2020. – Cheris Kramarae, professor, Center for the Study of Women in Society, University of Oregon; internet user since 1976

There is no way that in less than 15 years, nation/state boundaries will be literally blurred. Obviously, the global economy will become increasingly more complex, but traditional political systems and national identities cannot be blurred or lost in this short of time. However, keep an eye on Europe. I guess Europe will be the first place to experience potential “blurring.” – Jeff Bohrer, learning technology consultant, University of Wisconsin-Madison; internet user since 1993

I agree, but I don’t see it as a completely good thing. At least nations have some means of accountability. Corporate states scare the bejesus out of me. –Gordon MacDiarmid, Lobo Internet Services; internet user since 1988

Yes, and the phenomena will yield both boon and war. – Denzil Meyers, founder and president, Widgetwonder (internal branding consultants and facilitators of corporate storytelling), Applied Improvisation Network; internet user since 1993

I agree with the basic statement and premise. By 2020, nations will continue to exist however, and I’m not convinced that they won’t try to control (and prevent) success of the masses. – James Conser, professor emeritus, Youngstown State University; internet user since 1985

The issue is will that result in harmony or will it become a variation of H.G. Wells prediction in the novel Time Machine. – Michael Castengera, teacher and consultant, Grady College of Journalism/ University of Georgia; Media Strategies and Tactics Inc., a media consulting firm; internet user since 1992

The Internet opens worldwide access to success and skills, if you have the necessary skills and knowledge. For some underprivileged people, the Internet may make their situation even worse by increasing the competence they will have to face. Also, as the world’s economy becomes more globalized, the entrance of large numbers of workers (from China, India, etc.) into this global employment market is reducing the workers negotiation power and their wages. – María Laura Ferreyra, strategic planner, Instituto Universitario Aeronautico; ISOC member in Argentina; internet user since 1996

I agree with the first part: “The internet opens worldwide access to success”, but I disagree with the rest. The Internet is an enormous source of any type of information, it is a great road of communication, so much internal as external, public or private, but the individual will be always the one that takes the it finishes decision. – Sabino M. Rodriguez, MC&S Services; internet user since 1994

This is already the case. Once can also live in both worlds. I have a “day job” while also running my own website, publishing my own book, and performing freelance work using the new tools provided by the internet. – Alix L. Paultre, executive editor, Hearst Business Media, Smartalix.com, Zep Tepi Publishing; internet user since 1996

The Internet is not going to blur or eliminate national boundaries. It will allow corporations spread around the globe to cooperate better with others and with their international divisions, but I doubt it will help individuals. – Doug Olenick, computer technology editor, TWICE (This Week In Consumer Electronics) Magazine; internet user since 1996

Thomas Friedman is absolutely correct in his globalization assumptions. For the world in general, this will be a positive thing. However, I don’t believe Americans quite understand how this will vastly increase the amount of competition Americans and American business will face. Such things as depletion of natural resources, such as oil, and global warming will have negative consequences as countries such as India and China gain an equal footing with the West. – Mike Samson, interactive media writer and producer, Creative Street Media Group; internet user since 1989

Absolutely true. Every significant technology advancement has served to make the world smaller and smaller. Previous developments in communication technology required substantial investments for creation and dissemination of material. The Internet affords this opportunity to virtually anyone who can afford a basic computer. Imagine the impact of television, time 1000. – Al Amersdorfer, president and CEO, Automotive Internet Technologies; internet user since 1985

Ever heard of the digital divide? What Internet are you talking about, then? Globally seems to be first world global, in which case it is true that success is net-based. But in the big picture, internet is, unless it solves its distribution and access problems, just another medium. Not to mention the irritating allusions to the golden era of the Greek polis (city-states, …). That dream was held on the shoulders of slaves, bear that in mind. Solve the digital divide, then we will have “worldwide” success. In the meanwhile, it is mere rhetoric. – Miguel Sicart Vila, junior research associate, Information Ethics Group, Oxford University; internet user since 1997

The internet opens worldwide access to success – this is already true. However, the idea that this will fundamentally reconfigure human organizations is ridiculous. Physical proximity matters, it allows a much higher-bandwidth communication to occur. We don’t even understand all of that communication today, let alone reproduce it over a network. – Simon Woodside, CEO, Semacode Corporation, based in Ontario, Canada; internet user since 1992

Thomas Friedman connected all the dots leading to the future. – Tiffany Shlain, filmmaker and founder and ambassador of the Webby Awards; internet user since 1987

Manufacturing will go to countries with cheapest labor sources… closest to raw materials. Ford and GM will become automotive “marketing” companies… selling their designs mfr by other countries and companies. – Terry Ulaszewski, publisher, Long Beach Live Community News; internet user since 1989

Not by 2020. No way. There are too many geo-political barriers. Folks will hunker down, want to be more in a place. Tech is not a warm blanket. – Gwynne Kostin, director of Web communications, U.S. Homeland Security; internet user since 1993

I’ve followed Friedman; great read; made lots of money; interesting ideas: utopian rationalization of increasing global inequalities and free market capitalism. Given his track record on predictions re Iraq, I’d not bet that he is right about the world, but rather, he is insightful about his corner of the world – even though he is well-traveled. – Joe Schmitz, assistant professor, Western Illinois University; internet user since 1985

This is substantially true, and I agree with parts (although many of Tom’s points are shallow and simplistic). National boundaries may indeed be shifted, but the over-arching politics will persist beyond technology policy. Corporate cultural groups will result for sure, but we may opt into several such clusters. I wonder if some cultural alliances will take shape based on ethnic or intellectual connections… and thus exacerbating the haves vs. have-nots of the globe. – Gary Arlen, president, Arlen Communications Inc., The Alwyn Group LLC; internet user since 1982

This is already happening. Geospatial boundaries are artificial boundaries, useful for some forms of governance but antithetical to real knowledge sharing. – Meg Houston Maker, director of external information services, Dartmouth College; internet user since 1993

I disagree just with the notion that success can be obtained only globally. There will always be a flow of goods which are best served through local businesses and I believe the internet will also help locally business better meet needs of local consumers of goods not necessarily suited to global enterprise. And in developing world, this may be even a greater advantage of the internet. – Jeff Corman, government policy analyst, Industry Canada, Government of Canada; internet user since 1995

It also will continue to grow the Digital Divide. The Global connected community will become more of a single entity vs the City State etc. with very distinct lines drawn between those that know and use this tool to prosper. – Jim (Jacomo) Aimone, director of network development, HTC; internet user since 2000

Absolutely. We’re already seeing the effects of digital globalization and these trends can only accelerate. Individuals may well come to view themselves as citizens of philosophical and cultural milieus rather than nation-states. This is good and bad, of course, since individual responsibility becomes so dispersed in these scenarios. – Suzanne Stefanac, author and interactive media strategist, dispatchesfromblogistan.com; internet user since 1989