Elon University

The 2010 Survey: Anonymous responses to a tension pair on how new tools and applications – takeoff technologies – will emerge

Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the2010 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.

Future of the Internet Survey CoverThis page includes details on responses to a question about people’s perceptions of the ways in which new Internet tools will emerge, also revealing what some expect these may be. This was one of 10 questions raised by the 2010 Elon University-Pew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. A report outlining results of five of the survey questions was unveiled at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Survey respondents shared thousands of issues-exposing predictive statements after being asked to consider “tension pairs,” thus projecting their attitudes about the likely state of things in 2020. Experts were asked about the Internet and the evolution of: intelligence; reading and the rendering of knowledge; identity and authentication; gadgets and applications; and the core values of the Internet.

Prediction of Future Tools Chart

Following is a selection of responses from survey participants who preferred to remain anonymous. Additional anonymous responses to this question will be posted soon. To read the responses of people who took credit for their remarks, click here.

“The fundamental technologies may be around today, it’s the combinations and implementations that are hard to predict.”

“Sometimes the world is like a school of fish – attention turns in synchrony. This year, TV is about 3D and all manufacturers are thinking in sync. But the real surprises come from those outside that pond.”

“The primary, world-alerting innovations of the next 10 years will be in biology and (bio)nanotechnology.”

“We don’t know what we don’t know.”

“Technology is still changing so quickly that I do not think we can speculate on the ‘hot gadgets’ in the next decade. There are clearly many more cool things that can be done with mobile devices, multimedia recorders/players, etc.”

“Innovation will surprise.”

“That is the actual definition of innovation!”

“As diligent as we are about staying in touch with a fast-changing world, many of these inventions will come at us out of the blue.”

“I’d like to say that we’ll all be surprised. After all, 10 years ago I never would have imagined what is possible today.”

“Today’s savviest innovators cannot answer ‘How many orders of magnitude more processing per Joule should we use to forecast optical and wireless in 2020?’ Today I heard some programmers talking about using a Broadcom 10-core processor chip, and recalled that 20 years ago I had similar interlock problems programming Silicon Graphics first quad-processor. In 1989 I never thought that much computing power would be in a handheld device.”

“Both. We can foresee some (perhaps most) of the hot gadgets and applications – such as mobile and contextual recommender systems, and more immersive, haptic entertainment systems. But there will be some that will be completely unexpected (in the way that SMS texting by teenagers, and its use for organising their social lives, was not foreseen). Perhaps we can expect the unexpected by saying that it’s most likely to arise initially from novel forms of social interaction amongst young people.”

“Most developments build on what came before. It’s the press who hype the new-ness. But there’s nothing fundamentally new about the things that we think are radical today – Twitter, the iPhone, social network sites. All have been around for a long time. We’ll see some pretty impressive changes to the mobile, but it’s not going to be so radical unless you’re sitting on the outside or a person who is excited by hype.”

“We never know the future.”

“The ‘killer app’ is always out of reach. Something new will happen.”

“The hot gadgets are always on the horizon. In terms of core functions, I still do lots of typing on my desktop computer, iPhone and laptop – just as I did 30 years ago a Wang word processor. Better tools, but same basic function. But my car talks to me quite a bit more than it use to.”

“I’m still waiting for my flying car.”

“With broadband stimulus money undergirding innovation, let’s hope so.”

“I would also expect many more future technologies that are actually integrated into our physical bodies, rather than mere attachments – vision-enhancing technologies for the eyes, brain implants, etc.”

“Some of the hot gadgets will be new, unexpected enhancements to mobile phones, e-readers, televisions, and other existing technologies, but many others will take us by surprise.”

“There are many examples of this (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) I believe history repeats itself.”

“In the last 30 years, the hot gadgets of ICT, like PC, IP and the WWW have not been anticipated 10 years ahead. There’s no reason why this will change in the next 10 years.”

“In the last 30 years, the hot gadgets of ICT, like PC, IP and the WWW have not been anticipated 10 years ahead. There’s no reason why this will change in the next 10 years.”

“Probably mobile, probably voice (else we’ll all have thumbs with repetitive stress injuries).”

“Has there ever been a 10-year period of stability in gadgets, since the invention of the transistor?”

“Both are true. When has it been different? Why would this be different now?”

“The Internet took many established companies by surprise even though it had been around a long time. I expect the same thing from tomorrow’s hot technologies.”

“I can’t predict what the ‘hot gadgets’ will be in the future. Futurists who think they can are fooling themselves. We can see some long run trends in knowledge processing and communication, but human inventiveness is not bounded by what we can see now.”

“It’s hard to imagine anyone who’s been following technology for the last several years would agree to ‘will not take many of today’s savviest innovators by surprise.’”

“We are just at the start of the wireless application revolution. The iPhone is just the beginning. 10 years from now? OMG, I haven’t a clue.”

“Who would have guessed that iPhone and Twitter would succeed as they have.”

“It’s a good bet that the staples of today will still be used and improved in 2020, but it would be sad if no significant new gadget innovations happened in the next 10 years.”

“I think this has been the more common case and it will continue.”

“Young people are more brave and clever.”

“The hot gadgets we will have in two years probably will take innovators by surprise.”

“You won’t let me choose both so I went with a false positive. Many ideas are evident on the horizon and many are yet to be innovated.”

“Just look back 10 years. The iPhone could not have been properly anticipated, nor the Wii.”

“We’re being surprised every day. I look forward to that continuing.”

“Maybe by 2020 we’ll have a tablet PC that someone actually wants. Actually, the gadgets of 2020 probably can be foreseen, and they probably will take innovators by surprise, because they’ll arrive later and in a slightly different form than expected. Big public networks weren’t a surprise to Microsoft or AOL, but the Internet sure was.”

“Mobility devices/applications will prevail, but unsure what the next ‘killer app/technology’ will be. Innovations will generate surprises.”

“Just think of the last 11 years. Who anticipated Google? Who anticipated the iPhone? If we already know what will be hot in 2020, then things are a lot more boring than I believe.”

“Futurism is a difficult ‘science.’”

“Barring some type of chip implants or other bionic development, I think we see a lot of what we will see in 10 years time.”

“Ten years is a huge time frame. In 1999 the Internet was so primitive and most of the coolest technologies we’re using today were far to come.”

“’Hot’ means new. And new technologies tend to have been conceived recently. If we know today that something is useful, we will already be building it.”

“Science looks a lot like magic to the primitives.”

“I think this is evidence-based. Five years ago, who could have predicted the emergence in such vast numbers of things like smartphone apps? That technology is only going to get better. Back in the ’80s we used to say that the technology we’ll need to know in five years hasn’t been invented yet. I don’t know if the time estimate is right, but I agree with the sense of the phrase.”

“This is just the way it is. What takes off can be conceived of earlier, but isn’t necessarily in the right form, or able to be distributed until later.”

“Given the rich set of possibilities of use, and the advances in all kinds of technologies, it is inevitable that useful gadgets will develop in the next decade.”

“2020 is a long way off.”

“No one knows with any degree of assurance what the future will bring. However, the seeds of all future inventions are already sown.”

Many more anonymous responses will be added to this page in coming weeks!

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