Elon University

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

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 preferred to remain anonymous. To read reactions from participants who took credit for their answers, please click here.

Blurring’s already begun.The Internet is the greatest meritocracy in the history of mankind.

This may be the most frightening aspect of all. For thousands of years, social order has been maintained by government and religion playing off of each other. Will new constructs for social responsibility develop and evolve quickly enough to beat back the chaotic nature of these kinds of alliances?

People will begin to see all are one and one are all. It’s a good thing.

The “blur of national boundaries” will be replaced by “knowledge clusters.”

I would add international cultural groupings – “tribes,” religious or other socio-political affinity groups.

Agree completely. Geography will become meaningless.

I agree provisionally; global communication could be seriously hindered by the intervention of private telecommunications companies and content cartels.

This is not an individual player economy – far from it – and too far to make it happen by 2020. We are pack driven organisms – and while there may be some re-ordering of packs the overall default of governments will continue.

Internet helps globalization and associated corporate interests, but human cultures are persistent and resilient – the idea they will all be wiped out is wrong thinking.

This is probably an overly “Pollyannaish” view of the power of technology.

Absolutely. This will be taken for granted by 2020, and it’ll be hard to remember a time when the world did not operate this way.

Or, worse, the traditional societies that show no signs of releasing their members from their sticky structures will co-opt the free flow of information to their own uses. We have seen it already. Technology is neutral. People make the decisions about how to use it – and it often isn’t pretty (e.g., cell phones setting off bombs).

This will continue to be one of the most dramatic effects of the internet on our lives.

As long as the information flow remains free and uncontrolled, yes, this trend will occur.

Nation-states will continue to weaken as mega-corporations become more and more powerful, but they won’t disappear. Geography will still matter, but matter less.

This is a growing concern because governments will have to collaborate to ‘control’ the interests of their corporations and allow fair competition.

Nationalism is something that, no matter how evil, will never die.

Worldwide competition will continue to grow but will be complicated by diplomatic barriers between nations. This will only be true if diplomacy, not war, takes center stage.

National boundaries are getting stronger, not weaker.

We have only scratched the surface with this technology, the future flow of information will only be restricted by the methods/hardware we receive it

Love Tom, but he is so idealistic in that book it is absolutely painful! That’s not to say he is wrong – he’s just talking about the horizon as if it were here. He’s looking at a distant oasis and acting like we can all start drinking the fresh water if we just believe and get down on our knees. in my opinion, his lake is out there – but the one he’s describing may be only a mirage. There’s going to be a lot of painful times in the near future – while blue collar workers and industrial age tradesfolk are simply put out to pasture. It’s like the hackneyed example of the craftsmen of buggy whips in the town where they build a factory for horseless carriages … all the buggy whip craftsmen can read Tom’s book, and many will learn to craft steering wheels instead … but many will simply go out of business and starve to death.

I totally agree. The internet will allow thinkers and creative people to participate and compete in a way that people in remote areas of the globe couldn’t do before. It’s easier than many think – I work in a home office that’s 200 miles away from my “real office” and co-workers. I’ve done it for five years, and it works amazingly well. The internet has allowed me to be productive at my job without physically being there.

It’s easier and cheaper to start a company today than it was ten years ago by orders of magnitude. This trend will spread around the world as bandwidth and clock cycles become more affordable.

I think this will happen, but not by 2020… maybe 2030.

The nation-state as we know today will be eliminated. However, the free flow of information will not be able to overcome cultural/religious issues. Nations will be based on those factors. Successful “nations” will embrace the new technology and thrive as part of an interconnected global network.

Blurring of boundaries is occurring already for Internet-intensive users. If you look at this group only, your 2020 vision is here already.

Thomas Friedman’s head is flat. That’s about the only thing the book proves.

I agree with the first part of the statement but NOT the second. Nation-states will adapt to flat-world capitalism. The relationship between power and money is quite enduring

True, but the risk is that the gap between what Richard Florida calls the one-third of the pop. who are part of the creative class and the under-skilled, undereducated rest will open even wider.

That might work if we were all the same race, religion, socio-economic level.

I agree with this prediction but with the exception of Individuals empowered to compete globally. Perhaps at first this will be the case but power will be held by affiliation as described above.

This is the best part of the Internet.

Even on a small scale, we’re already seeing a tremendous increase in collaboration on a smaller scale (individual and small group level).

Much as I’d like it to be so, I think that nationalism will survive and even thrive. The internet will be as powerful a tool locally as it is globally. A more powerful force will also emphasize separation: religion. The internet is increasing, not blending religious separatism, and I fear that, too, will only increase in the next 15 years.

I do not believe that corporation-based cultural groupings will become more geographically diverse. They will be part of the controlling interests on this revolution.

Culture will continue to rule… there may be global networks, but we can’t get rid of the subjectivity in people regardless of their time zone

Readily available internet access isn’t the only answer – fresh water, health care, food, and shelter are still going to be hindrances – the digital divide will be even greater.

This comes at a cost – again, I am very concerned about who has access and who has the opportunity to participate.

Ideally, I would hope that this would happen. However, religious and political strife will segment the internet and further divide the human population. The traitorous actions by some companies in relation to kowtowing to Chinese limitations is point in fact.

National cultures will continue to be quite dominant, even when the boundaries have apparently disappeared.

Only starting to appear by 2020, though. We can all happily adopt multiple individual roles (which may sometimes appear to be in conflict) – this may result in multiple online identities for any one individual. Would then expect to see some confusion as to which of these emerge as the dominant grouping(s). So people will identify less with being “American” or “Chinese” – but whether they become predominantly a “football fan” or a “New Yorker” is open to doubt.

I agree, but I also say, “Good luck with that.” Most of us are not intelligent enough to fully take advantage of anything that the Internet has to offer.

This is very dependent on whether English is the one globally chosen language.

Boundaries are falling; but the danger is that new ones will arise – we have a knack for finding ways of walling out and walling in, no matter how we slice of the real and virtual geographies we inhabit.

It’s enough to say that the free flow will blur current national boundaries. What do you gain by adding “completely blur?” Does that mean obliterate? If so, I don’t agree. Blur is the right word.

National boundaries will increasingly be seen as trivial compared to corporate allegiances that transcend borders, but am not so sure that individuals will be so empowered.

No the world is not flat. The world is shrinking some places or some leveraging functions. But this is not uniform. That is why some take advantage of it and some don’t.

Yes, on the condition that the internet remains free. We’ve seen what happens in the television and radio industry, the telecommunications industry, and elsewhere when monopolies are allowed to form and block out competition.

Nation states and confederations (EU, ASEAN) will continue exercising power.

Yes, there will probably be some blurring of national boundaries, just like corporations seem to expand across nations. But so far corporations do not control weapons of mass destruction. If they do, then the end of nations is near.

The current static boundaries that define states, companies, and organizations will become much more fluid and adaptable to whatever is needed and will be able to pull in whoever is needed.

As long as there is real estate, our physical national boundaries will be powerful.

I will take more than this to erase the cultural differences that fuel the fires of distrust and their related fire accelerants.

We will see this occurring, but not in such stark terms.

I just don’t think we can/will move so quickly to change longstanding structures in which powerful people and cultures are invested. There is no doubt, though, that other cultural groupings and other organizations will be reconfigured by then as more and more individuals work together (and play together) globally.

There will be human organizations tied by global networks, a la al Qaeda, a la the eBay marketplace – and they will rise in number and impact – but national boundaries will still exist.

Could happen, but again, one word: CHINA.

In 2010, as today, there will continue to be cities and countries that are more attractive to live, due to their jobs, their culture, their attractions, their concentrations of people, their infrastructure, their sense of humour. Currently it’s more expensive to live, and on average there’s lower dispensable income from living in the most popular places. No network will be able to replicate being in the same room as another individual.

Governments will balkanize the internet and prevent this from happening.

Not quite completely.

Globalization is a mixed blessing.

Business is based on trust, which is founded on relationships, based on culture. The internet is blind and mistrusted. Am I going to collaborate with a screen-name?

Increased transparency eliminates boundaries. People who add no value or try to erect barriers will get voted off the island quickly. Groups will form and disburse as needed, whether short or long term.

But this will not happen in the US, because the Internet in the US will be a dumbed-down, slow-poke, wall garden that will only partially and unreliably connect to the rest of the world.

Nation-states can still exist, and national groups can still identify as such, even as technology and various institutions allow greater transnational connection and identification.

Hate to argue with O’Brien, but I still think politics and culture will get in the way of the free flow of information and total collaboration.

The economic reality of the “global village” will not be leveled in 15 years to allow ALL inhabitants of Earth to interact in the manner stated.

The notion that the power of nation-states as currently configured will dissipate radically in 14 years simply due to global information flows is naive.

I think that global collaboration is rapidly happening. Political ramifications and international laws will slow this so that it will not be completed by 2020.

The world in 2020 will be a very different place–one that we are unable to envision at this time. But very unlike what we know today.

I agree except for the “city-state” potential. Although I believe those knowledge collaborations will exist, certainly federal governments (and their tax interests) will preclude full realization of a boundary-less virtual environment.

I agree that because of the internet’s ability to link disparate groups worldwide so that entities can pool resources, it seems likely that corporations will increasingly govern international politics.

On the contrary, although on one level there will be globalization, on another we are seeing clear acceleration of nationalism, ethnic centricity, and the collision of cultures. See Samuel Huntington.

Thomas Friedman is a one-man cliché machine. I sure don’t see complete blurring of national boundaries in 14 years, unless the Muslims get their international caliphate or the Communists try again and finally succeed in ruining everything. In either case, there won’t be worldwide access to success…just worldwide misery.

Very true. The first part, that is. Rest is piffle.

It’s not just the internet that enables this success, government policy also dictates whether or not it succeeds

Ah. Disintermediation 2006. The old, new thing. I think we call this eBay today.

This must be the position version of the prediction that the world will be undermined by loosely affiliated terrorist groups that communicate via the internet. I think that what Friedman says may be true in the sense that individuals may create entities that thrive in the short term. But without being trained as an economist my experience in watching high tech companies is that there is intense value created in the short term and then in most cases the smaller entity is purchased or absorbed by a larger incumbent. Hmm. So maybe larger corporations will become larger but I have no idea what Friedman means by “corporation-based cultural groupings” and I expect he has a more benevolent view of corporations than I do. Maybe I should read his book.

No, national boundaries will always carry great political and social history and stigma. I do believe that more global networks will collaborate on similar problems and issues.

Looking at current global politics, this will hardly occur. National boundaries may be blurred, but ones based on religion and cultural differences are being erected at great speed. The case will look different to business people than the most of us. I suspect there will be increasing desire among some not to network with North America & Europe.

I hope so!

Agree with the concept – but disagree with the timeframe. I believe it will take longer – adoption cycles are not as fast as some would like.

Maybe, but by 2050.

There is a need to adapt in order to be effective and successful.

It is in the interest of many industries reliant on the military that national borders and differences remain.

We’ll be on our way to that by 2020, but that’s only 14 years away. The UE is still having problems, so certainly all government will not collapse in 14 years.

I expect the internet will afford the development of social networks (of individuals and/or other collectivities) that will not be isomorphic with current national boundaries, but I do not expect the latter to be displaced or replaced.

This is already happening in the form of open source, etc.

I think people will be tied together, but I think states will become more reactionary and more insistent on national boundaries as they find their importance waning.

Communication processes and resulting contacts have changed as a result of the internet. But whether this will equal a totally “free flow of information” remains a political, economic, and social issue. For instance, Google’s sell-out to Chinese authoritarianism, paid rankings on search engine results, etc.

The ends of WWI and WWI were supposed to lead to a new thinking with regards to nationalism. As we have seen, nationalism will not die. However, we are seeing increasing globalization. Communicating and associating with different people is not the same thing as identifying with them.

This statement does not take into account that there is still a socio-economic background to the processes taken place on and around the Internet.

This is unrealistically utopian. The ‘”global village” assumes that economics and politics will cease to influence communications. I disagree.

Religions, nationalism, criminal impulses, etc., are stronger than the internet and will screw up the technological paradise envisioned by so many

Access only to some, not all. Digital inequality threatens to increase existing social inequalities.

This scenario is less likely than interplanetary trade.

I find this scenario plausible, and Friedman has been eloquent about its benefits, but I’m leary of the categorical modifier “completely.” I’m not willing to go that far.

Nationalism will be weakened but it won’t disappear.

Not “complete” blurring – I think there may be some blurring.

The Internet is a major flattener. When someone selling crap on eBay can make a living from home that just shows what is possible. Imagine all of the Internet entrepreneurs that will flow out of China and India. It’s incredible.

The move to global networking will be (is being) paralleled by the rise, not of national boundaries, but of local identity. So there will at once be both a more complete global and local consciousness, which are not always working in the same direction.

I do not think that national boundaries will be blurred. Otherwise I agree.

Internet opens worldwide access to success and increases global collaboration, yes. Completely blur of current national boundaries, no. The nation-state still has staying power, at least within the timeframe of these predictions.

The entrepreneur can make money currently on the Internet. With the growth of this medium, I can only predict that the possibility for enterprising individuals to succeed will also grow – exponentially.

The nation state is already losing importance. However, the internet does not open access to success for everyone. Being a part of the new city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings etc. is a crucial factor in gaining access to technologically facilitated success.

The elimination of national boundaries is a utopian fantasy long distant to our own times. While I agree technology allows people to create and be part of their own virtual communities, I do not see those groups supplanting the modern nation state (and I could well see a backlash against such groups, depending on the nation involved).

We can already see this trend in the academic world, to say nothing of the various online communities that share common interests that transcend national and cultural boundaries. However, the power of the internet is that it acts as a medium to draw together peoples of a diaspora. We can see that in the UK, where immigrant communities, refugees, asylum-seekers and others use the internet to maintain their cultural roots and identities.

I agree with this scenario up to the point of “completely blur” national boundaries. I don’t this will happen but the trend is moving global.

Not completely. Humans aren’t that good nor that comfortable with absolutes.

The result is complex and not really “flat” but “bend.”

This is the kind of provocatively sounding speculation that sells books, but is grossly oversimplified. So long as the government collects the taxes, commands the military, controls the borders (physical and virtual), upholds the law, incarcerates those who violate the law, protects the rich and placates the poor…then the nation-states will be around a good many years beyond 2020 and China will still tell Google what it can or cannot do.

This (like most of the predictions) will be true only in a weak form. Certainly there will be a globalisation effect breaking down barriers. But this exists within a pre-existing world order that is nothing to do with technology.

Agree, with the caveat that open connectivity will be challenged by governments (such as China) and by large business organizations with political clout. Until a paradigm shift occurs concerning the way that information flow is treated, these major entities will present major barriers to internet openness.

Fourteen years from now may seem like a long time, but this statement seems a bit far-fetched to suggest that national boundaries will be blurred because of the power of the Internet. There’s still way too much nationalism and national pride in much of the world to ever suggest that boundaries will disappear. The idea of corporation-based cultural groupings is also interesting, but the idea of individuals collaborating and competing globally would seem to erode at this idea. Doesn’t the idea of using technology to make the world flatter suggest that you wouldn’t need a corporation to achieve your goals? If anything, individual power will increase – more and more people will utilize technologies to create their own businesses and compete with these larger corporations who are slower to react. The future will be lots and lots of small businesses (who can all act global) – all that needs to happen is people who are unafraid to try it.

Yes, but not to that extreme; the nation-state will still be alive and well for a long time to come.

Partly agree – although I suspect the timescale will be longer.

Agree about global access and interactions and blurring of certain national distinctions. Disagree that political entities would disappear.

National boundaries will still be with us in 2020. It takes a lot more than simply allowing good communications across boundaries to eliminate borders!

We are more likely to see Castells’ scenario of networked states.

On my optimistic days, I can imagine this. I worry, however, that power and politics will trump. I’ll go with the optimistic – cautiously.

This blurring of national boundaries may happen in Europe, but not in most of the rest of the world for quite some time.

I agree it will happen, although I question if this will happen already by 2020. Maybe it’s a bit later. But we will definitely see some very good examples of this.

National boundaries will NOT be replaced – but they will be blurred much like we see in the European Union. Information does not trump common ethnicity, heritage, language and history. Unfortunately, global corporations will be more powerful than ever (though not as depicted in the original 1970s film “Rollerball”) to the detriment of workers worldwide. Nations will find themselves increasingly unable to limit the power of corporations.

Access will indeed be greater, but countries will still exist. A given individual will have many social and professional affinities, which will be constituted, dissolved, or maintained as circumstances require/facilitate.

The world is not flat and will never be. The world is spikey. There is so much evidence of that. Wealth, power, internet access, resources, etc are concentrated. The 80-20 principle applies. Individuals can compete globally only if they are trained at the leading global institutions and then live in the leading global cities. I just returned from an Indian city of 500,000 and internet access is difficult and there are few opportunities to get the people who can help run a globally competitive corporation. I need to go to a big city.

Not disagreeing that the Internet will blur the lines and shrink the world, but can not see virtual communities replacing existing real world communities.

This success will only be for the already technology/information rich. Digital inequality will grow.

We should encourage diversity rather than homogeneity. We don’t want a MacDonald’s world!

Just because it is possible does not mean it will happen. Just being able to access unknown people over the Internet does not mean that I want to do it.

The year 2020 maybe an early target but I believe the Internet will continue to reshape the structure of social organizations and interaction

There will be a free flow of information, yes, but free information? The problem is not the flow but the content.

I agree on this point but people in developing countries have little scope of access to internet. Their case must be considered first.

This is so true and will happen so thoroughly that this is why it will be beyond 2015 that we can measure if the benefit will outweigh the costs.

I agree that the effect will happen but the national boundaries will remain as there are more factors that fall outside the global collaboration impact which will maintain the boundaries.

I generally agree with this statement but the identity of ‘Nations’ will continue forward.

By 2020 the sense of global community will be considerably stronger, but the concept of sovereignty will not have been completely transcended.

The presence of taxation, armies, religious and cultural differences, and natural limitations on the movement of peoples will mean that we will continue to have countries, and the imposition of their laws and restrictions will continue. The balance of the two trends will be an evolving dynamic.

I suspect there is much truth to this thesis – as there is to much of what Friedman writes in this book. But I would argue there are just too many variables related to individual’s identification with today’s institutions to suggest that we will replace national identification at some other level. I do think people will, to a large degree, be much more open to differences between individuals and cultures. I think this is enormously healthy for individuals, for the world as a whole (and for all the institutions in between (I don’t see this is a threat to nation-states))

As a trend, this may turn out to be true, but I certainly don’t think national boundaries will be “completely blurred” in the next 14 years.

Capitalism fosters the state form and vice versa. State-shaped power structures are needed to guarantee private property and to ensure the security of individuals. Rather the opposite; I expect a strengthening of the concept of the state, once the state has moved from being paper-based to being code-based. Code will become territory, users citizens and transmissions transactions with geolocally identifiable points of origin and termination and accountability of persons. However there will be a trend of centralization of power structures around cities/places where data converges and is minded.

A nice utopian view – sounds good across the developed countries where all can compete equally. Sounds less good for developing countries/individuals competing in developing countries. This question should have the danger flag on it!

So long as nationalism remains a strong, powerful and vital social and cultural (and in many cases political) force, as I think it will for a long time to come, this is highly unlikely.

I totally agree. In my mind countries will support the companies no matter where they come from. The internet already allows to launch a website and offer the service on a global scale. Paying a service is still an issue but I see that diminishing in the future. Findability on the internet is a greater issue, there might be ‘regional’ markets that allow vendors to offer their services.

I partially agree with this statement. I do believe that the global networks will become more prevalent as more countries become high stakes players in the world economy, however I do not believe that national boundaries will be replaced. In my view, people will actually feel a bit threatened by globalization and so will react with a heightened patriotism.

The lines started blurring when companies and people could talk across borders and time zones. The internet may have accelerated this process but the blurring of lines has been well underway for some time.

One interesting way to look at this is to look at its other side. Friedman’s story is essential one of homogenizing results and the cost of that homogeny. So worldwide access to success, for me, reminds me of the axiom: which is better in a crisis – a friend or a neighbor. When we remove geography and proximity from our lives, we make it much easier to ignore and pass over the basics. So if a distant colleague fails – for whatever reason – how can we care? How can we help? Sure, we can judge and complain about unfinished tasks that make our jobs harder, but how can we physically express the caring and nurturing aspects of our relationship with our distant colleague? We can’t. We can only leverage distant colleagues for our advantage and be forced to ignore the disadvantages. Something about this concept seems unbalanced to me.

National boundaries are already skewed as we see from our competitiveness problem including what is a US company – they are now global.

This one (just like Friedman’s book) gushes too much. Yes, there already are and will be positive effects. But world hunger won’t be solved, and world peace is not around the corner yet.

Get real. All this by 2020? Multi-national corporations, irrespective of the Internet, are doing more to obliterate national boundaries and they are still a long way from having this kind of affect on the world.

Much of this will happen but “completely blur” is far too dramatic a statement. Anybody who agrees with this one probably didn’t read it!

More international cooperation, yes. Blurring of some boundaries, yes. City-states, etc., no.

This is already happening.

Internet business will increasingly become one-to-one as systems are developed to allow me to sell something to another, anywhere in the world.

This statement is totally blind of the fact that there is such a thing as a relevant habitus in which one grows up. Cultural differences do not die away and internet will not be The melting pot. Imperialism of capital and instrumental mind will remain blind to some crucial questions of human existence. Violent religious fundamentalism (in USA) thrives on this kind of blindness.

Agree for the most part; however, there will continue to be some small countries that will attempt to dictate what their population can watch, read and access.

I agree with the first part of the statement, but not on the second.

Governments will find ways of keeping their people within their boundaries.

The internet allows faster information flow. Only the rich and developed countries would be benefited. For those undeveloped/developing countries, they can’t get good benefits from the Internet as their connectivity and availability is low.

Friedman is right that the world is flat and will empower everyone and everything will change. But it will never blur current national boundaries.

Yes, although the “flat” is actually a landscape with potholes – some cultures and geographical areas (consumed by war or disease) will just not be able to catch up to the others.

I put disagree because no way will “free flow of information blur current national boundaries” – but the many organizations and global networks will move in this direction – Agree with a lot of Friedman’s thoughts – direction except for end of nationalism is largely correct. Corporations may hope that nations go away – they might get even stronger in response to the “blurring” – believe what Michael Schrage says – unless people get in a try to control us – UGH! – we will pretty much have cyberspace that mirrors reality with the good, bad – wonderful and ugly … that’s the way media has always worked – but then people have always tried to control it and others work on governance in response.

Ha, ha, ha. Probably a lot of this is true except for the “success” part. I will be earning an Indian programmer’s salary in Chicago, trying to pay my property tax and cursing the market crash that wiped out my “social security”, and realizing that I won’t be able to retire until I am 85. The good news I can spend my off hours in virtual reality! It will be too dangerous to go outside anyway without my sunblock 1000 and oxygen tank.

Established interests still normalise the internet – nations-states are polities of stability. When do these alleged revolutions ever happen? It is right that things will be different – and problematic in ways – but this is 1980s techno-futurism…

Contrary to the techno utopians, governmental boundaries have not faded away. There will be, to be sure, reconfigurations, but the nation-state will not disappear. There may, however, be EU type regional groupings; however, these have not eliminated sub-regional national identity.

With high-speed internet access and some ideas, we’ll be competing head to head with everyone.

Forget 2020, it’s happening now.

This isn’t the way people seem to have worked in the past… It is unlikely that they will do it in the short-term future.

The world has seen sectarian fighting and battles for centuries. The Internet will not change this, especially since I don’t believe that it will be as widespread and readily available to the masses as was predicted in an earlier survey. Attacks on US soil, something that was fairly unthinkable to US citizens only began to occur with dramatic results in the last 10 years. If this prediction were true, these attacks would never have occurred.

I wish you were right. Governments – “nation states” are engaged in fighting back, and BACK, and BACK…. Not all – and certainly not in a country near you/or me, but in some countries. Corporations have suffered from the ENRON/MCI mega fraud situations, which while they may not resonate to you, resonate in capitols around the world…. they wonder still at the corruption in corporate America (I note it was a very SHORT list), even as corruption in governments are the theme of some countries. To advance the benefits of end-to-end Internet, based on bringing all countries into electronic commerce, we still need to address underlying communications technologies in many countries. In the book, the idea that the Internet spontaneously combusts and just HAPPENS, thus everyone can benefit from the “online world revolution” doesn’t address how to connect the rest of the “world,” the rest of the users.

Oh, Internet! How glorious you have been to we human beings. Without the surge of Internet, some anachronistic states, such as Russia and China would not be able to realize political, economic, and industrial changes, as they are doing today. Even remote communities, such as those living along the Amazon River, are seeing some progress and waking up to the reality because of the Internet. This global network has revolutionized everything, therefore I can predict that the world will be more unified than ever, as it is happening in Europe right now. The concepts of national borders will be deeply altered.

This is no more different than a description one could apply to today’s world. The idea that people will stop fighting over land territorial space in exchange for pure territory of power networks is a fantasy. People will still compete for geographic space because at its foundation, land is a material resource that no one can live without. Specific land areas with unique material resources and strategic locations will always be at a premium. Certain values established by the power brokers who manage such real estate, as well as values brought by people attracted to such situations, will always to some degree influence the local culture.

The European Union is trying to make this happen and is having some success. There is and will continue to be some tension from other major power brokers, who may not permit individuals to do this. The pressure will be there from people, but the governments may not be responsive to that pressure.

Yes, for those who embrace the technology. There will be a dear division between the haves and the have-nots.

But, the individuals who succeed will become rich, while others will remain poor in spite of the open worldwide access.

This is already happening; but note that there are powerful forces in opposition. it won’t happen consistently or universally.

While I agree with Tom’s observations, I think it is going too far to conclude that national boundaries will be completely blurred.

While I believe some aspects of this are true, it’s also a very old phenomenon. Fox’s “History in Geographic Perspective” describes how critical communication media (in the form of shipping) created communities by interconnection that competed with communities united by nation building.

Agree in part though this phenomenon is not exclusively based upon Internet technologies but far more upon concentration of economic power and the destruction of the State as the protector of common good by policies driven by neo-liberal ideology

“Completely” is too strong a word for this. The blurring is already happening, especially with regard to taxation. The significant change would be extension of the blur into physical domains, ultimately to military power.

The world is not flat, nor does it change that quickly. You need to get out of Harvard Square more often.

The world is on a globalization trend not a city-state trend; information is on a stifling trend (via copyrights and software patents), and national boundaries are shoring up against the information flow (e.g. to Muslim women). However, what little information is permitted in the public part of the internet does indeed contribute towards success.

I don’t believe that current national boundaries will be “completely blurred” because people appear to be “hardwired” through evolution to be attuned to geography and a geographic sense of home. I didn’t understand this when I was younger, but I see and understand it more as I gain age and perspective.

I agree with the concept; I think that 2020 is too soon. This is primarily because of obstacles provided by certain governments and institutions, corporations, etc. There are artificially imposed limitations on informational and technical transfer, on technologies perceived to be threatening to established entities and on content. (Examples being File sharing, US encryption export restriction laws, religious or sexual content restrictions in various regions). Already the sense of “community” has expanded to include like-minded individuals aggregated online as well as geographically close groups. The trend is there. See SourceForge for a very dynamic and productive example.

Although individuals will be able to collaborate and compete globally they will still have national boundaries and pay taxes where they live. The internet will simply create a virtual geography extending the loyalty of those involved.