Elon University

Survey IX: The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World (Anonymous Responses)

Anonymous responses to the primary research question:
Will digital life be mostly helpful or mostly harmful to individuals’ mental and physical well-being in the next decade?

Future of Well Being LogoResults released in spring 2018 – To illuminate current attitudes about the likely impacts of digital life on individuals’ well-being in the next decade and assess what interventions might possibly emerge to help resolve any potential challenges, Pew Research and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate and public practitioners and other leaders, asking:

Digital life’s impacts on well-being: People are using digital tools to solve problems, enhance their lives and improve their productivity. More advances are expected to emerge in the future that are likely to help people lead even better lives. However, there is increasing commentary and research about the effects digital technologies have on individuals’ well-being, their level of stress, their ability to perform well at work and in social settings, their capability to focus their attention, their capacity to modulate their level of connectivity and their general happiness. The questions: 1) Over the next decade, how will changes in digital life impact people’s overall well-being physically and mentally?  2) Do you think there are any actions that might be successfully taken to reduce or eradicate potential harms of digital life to individuals’ well-being? 3) Please share a brief personal anecdote about how digital life has changed your daily life, your family’s life or your friends’ lives in regard to well-being. 

About 47% said in answer to question one that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade. About 32% said individuals’ well-being will be more harmed than helped. About 21% said things will stay about the same. These responses were collected in an “opt in” invitation to more than 8,000 people; 1,150 respondents answered at least one question. The written elaborations to question one by anonymous respondents – explaining why they chose to say well-being will be mostly harmed, mostly helped or mostly stay the same – are listed below the following summary of the common themes found among all responses to question one.

To put things into context, among the key themes emerging from among the 1,150 respondents’ answers to all research questions were: * CONCERNS – DIgital Deficits: Cognitive abilities, including analytical thinking, memory, focus, processing speed and effectiveness, creativity and mental resilience, are undergoing change. – DIgital Addiction: Internet businesses working to earn attention-economy profits are organized around dopamine-dosing tools designed to hook the public. – Digital Distrust/Divisiveness: Personal agency is reduced and emotions such as shock, fear, indignation and outrage are being weaponized online, driving divisions and doubts. – Digital Duress: Information overload + declines in trust and face-to-face skills + poor interface design = rises in stress, anxiety, depression, inactivity and sleeplessness. – Digital Dangers: The structure of the internet and pace of digital change invite ever-evolving threats to human interaction, security, democracy, jobs, privacy and more. * POTENTIAL REMEDIES – Reimagine Systems: A revision and re-set of tech approaches and human institutions (their composition, design, goals and processes) will better serve long-term good. – Reinvent Tech: A reconfiguration of hardware/software to improve human-centered performance can be paired with appropriate applications of emerging technologies such as AI, AR, VR and MR. – Regulate: Governments and/or industries should effect reforms through agreement on standards, guidelines, codes of conduct, and passage of rules and laws. – Redesign Media Literacy: Formally educate people of all ages about the impacts of digital life on well-being and the motivations underpinning tech systems, as well as encourage appropriate, healthy uses. – Recalibrate Expectations: Human-technology coevolution comes at a price; digital life in the 2000s is no different; people must gradually evolve and adjust to these changes. – Fated to Fail: A share of respondents say all of these remedies may help somewhat, but, mostly due to human nature, it is highly unlikely that these responses will be effective enough. * BENEFITS of DIGITAL LIFE – Connection: It links people to people, knowledge, education and entertainment anywhere globally at any time in a nearly frictionless manner. – Commerce, Government, Society: It revolutionizes civic, business, consumer and personal logistics, opening up a world of opportunity and options. – Crucial Intelligence: It is essential to tapping into an ever-widening array of health, safety and science resources, tools and services, in real time. – Contentment: It empowers people to improve, advance or reinvent their lives, allowing them to self-actualize, meet soulmates and make a difference. – Continuation Toward Quality: Emerging tools will continue to expand the quality and focus of digital life, and the big-picture results will continue to be percieved as a plus overall.

To read the 86-page official survey report with analysis and find links to other raw data, click here.

To read the for-credit responses to the main survey question, click here.

To read a 272-page Expanded Version of the Digital Life and Well-Being report click here.

Written elaborations by anonymous respondents

Following are the full responses by study participants who chose to remain anonymous when making remarks in the survey (those who included a written elaboration) to the main question, “Will individuals’ well-being be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade?” Some of these may be the longer versions of expert responses that are contained in shorter form in the official survey report. This includes responses that were not in the official report.

Responses from those who say well-being will be more harmed than helped

The director of one of the world’s foremost digital rights organizations said, “I’m concerned that the pace of technology creation is faster than the pace of our understanding, or our development of critical thinking. Consider, for a moment, the latest buzzword: blockchain. Yesterday, I heard about a blockchain app designed for consent in sexual interactions – designed, of course, by men in Silicon Valley. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. We’ve reached a phase in which men (always men) believe that technology can solve all of our social problems. Nevermind the fact that a blockchain is a permanent ledger (and thus incontestable, even though sexual abuse can occur after consent is given) or that blockchain applications aren’t designed for privacy (imagine the outing of a sexual partner that could occur in this instance). This is merely one example, but I worry that we’re headed toward a world in which technosolutionism reigns, ‘value’ has lost all its meaning, and we’re no longer taught critical-thinking skills.”

research scientist said, “There is too much connecting to other people’s anxieties and expectations.”

young multimedia journalist based in the U.S. said, “More people will be negatively impacted by technological digital advances and would be more harmed than helped mentally because people are thinking less. When folks use their brain power less or rely on technology more the movement of mankind plateaus. In order for generations to keep improving in years to come, folks need to remember basics that cause human nature to thrive. For example, happiness, love, laughter and – most importantly – relating to other humans allows us to feel and emote, resulting in a more positive mental and physical state. While technology can supplement some of these things, it’s no perfect replica to what all humans can do.”

An associate professor at a major university in the U.S. Midwest said, “My biggest concerns are for work/life balance and children. As email isn’t going anywhere yet, the idea it is a synchronous, not an asynchronous, function grows and workers are increasingly feeling they must be plugged in. As social networking becomes professional ‘grooming’ as well as providing family/friend updates, the need for multiple platforms (such as LinkedIn and Facebook/Instagram) becomes an assumed need. The amount of time it takes for workers to manage these tedious online interactions will lead to an increasing lack of work/life balance.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Children today are finally the first generation that has grown up with social-networked phones readily available since birth. I know of few children that have no access to a smartphone. I believe over 50% of US children over 10 now have some sort of social network-based application, whether it be Instagram, Snapchat or Minecraft. These children are always looking for what they may be missing online. They are increasingly finding it hard to be present and focused. Even in classrooms, students often peruse social networks rather than write papers on school-issued devices. This will be a difficult mindset for those older to understand, and it may take generations before technology and mental health for children are properly studied and appropriate practices and ideologies are known and applied by parents and educators.”

professor of information studies and digital design based at a major university in Europe said, “I anticipate a continuation of the negative health impact because of ergonomics-sitting, immersion and convenience of access to goods and services without leaving one’s chair. Before this is properly addressed, the problem will continue to worsen for a few years, therefore the ‘decade’ in the question is important. Anticipate greater stress because of the ability to be connected to innumerable outlets for news of crises around the world. Impact is already felt, but this will likely worsen, if trends from the past 60 years are any measure.”

professor of public policy and economics at a major U.S. university wrote, “Digital communications and the time they take away from personal interactions are contributing to growing social isolation and eroding interpersonal relationships. This affects individuals’ mental well-being. Physical well-being is also at risk when we are too sedentary and constantly leaning over a computer or phone. People everywhere – walking, in their cars, in meetings, et cetera – are glued to their cell phones.”

head of research and instruction at a major U.S. university wrote, “Despite the incredible usefulness of new communication, workflow, aggregation and other technologies, I worry that the accompanying downside is only growing. Specifically, I see the lack of privacy and control over information collected, the sociology of algorithms that are virtually invisible to users and the commercialization of personal data as having short- and long-term effects that are already radically changing norms. In addition, the conveniences of tools and applications in our hands are a tradeoff for remapping attention spans and information-literacy fluencies that seem – at this point, at least – to prompt anxiety and discontentedness over the longer term.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “People learn what types of emotions are more or less acceptable in various social settings and calibrate appropriately. Most users know that different social networks have different tones and types of content. However, all of the major digital communities we have right now are part of for-profit businesses. Since they make money by getting regular users to spend as much time on the site as possible, they have strong incentives to promote content that gets people riled up. Many people rely on social media for news, but users disproportionately engage with outrage over cultural and identity grievances. Promoting the most popular posts may seem content agnostic, but it encourages an us-versus-them mindset as the lowest common denominator of digital life. It’s easy to put all the blame on the big corporate boogeyman, but I wouldn’t let users off the hook that easily. Look at what’s happened in the United States since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president. Every time he says something outrageous, people who use social media to discuss politics drop everything else to respond to him. Trump provokes, and most users can’t help but being provoked. They can’t focus on their own political agenda. I can’t help but wonder if most of us have little training in how to focus our attention, and digital connectivity is just exposing this weakness. Then again, many of my friends and family don’t seem to want to learn how to focus better online.”

research scientist said, “There are all sorts of benefits related to online developments. However, unless we are more aware/careful/media literate, there are a lot of ‘analogue’ behaviours that we will jettison that are actually more efficient, positive and valuable.”

A college student wrote, “Although there are pro’s to hyperconnectivity, I foresee it doing more harm than good. Many people have gotten to the point where they can’t survive without their phone or other smart technology. This addiction and dependence is unhealthy and causes poor mental and physical health outcomes. I fully believe that this behavior will continue to escalate. People will become more shut off from the physical world, and only interact with others through some digital platform. This lack of real human contact will be extremely detrimental to social skills and overall well-being of individuals and society. These addictions, dependence and withdrawal from society are things that we have already begun to see happen in extreme cases. I predict that they will both intensify and become more commonplace.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Election results will remain unverifiable and subject to digital manipulation by political criminals. [Politicians] will take advantage of these weaknesses to profit the wealthy and harm those who already do not have their needs met. Identity theft will continue to grow. Terrorists will recognize more ways to destabilize economic, social, political and environmental systems.”

professor at a major university on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote, “There are, of course, many very positive and necessary aspects to digital media, beyond their being an intrinsic and embedded part of all aspects of life and business, and a fundamental infrastructure for nearly all other activities. However, there are many problems and challenges. One problem is increasing mindless dependency (some would call it addiction) to the smartphone and social media. The ongoing and often desperate need to check and monitor and respond and invade public physical and aural space is becoming a real social plague. Individuals are becoming more distracting and distracted, dependent, demeaning and disrespectful. This has negative implications for one’s own well-being (as well as academic achievement, productivity and self-concept), but also for the well-being of those around that person. More use can foster greater access to resources and support, but also to more depression and other forms of decreased well-being. Then, too, there is the explosion and exposure to very bad human behavior through ubiquitous social media, not good for anyone or for our political and social environment.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “As technology has become more and more useful in our society, it has also become more and more essential so now we have very high rates of tech ownership or access. There is a reason the iPhone was initially called a ‘crack-phone.’ Spending time on websites and apps is a very seductive way to avoid and/or ignore painful and difficult situations. I’ve seen very young children ignored while their caregiver texts, plays games or surfs the Net and can’t help but wonder how this neglect is affecting them. Will these children learn to parent their children in a better way or will they do the same thing? I am sure some money-making companies use whatever strategies they can to keep users engaged with their content which exacerbates this.”

The executive director of a tech innovation firm said, “Our current trajectory is negative, and what’s in place will be hard to eradicate quickly. We may be seeing the last gasps of unregulated capitalism, and it won’t be pretty. In the long term I’m an optimist, but I think we’ll see some short-term hiccups.”

An anonymous respondent said, “The increased use of digital technologies has shortened attention spans, led to more shallow thinking and analysis, driven a dopamine-like addiction to instant digital gratification and allowed the growth of digital media where opinions are easily manipulated by unknown forces. These factors are likely to grow worse in the coming decade.”

retired public opinion researcher wrote, “We are a species that evolved by utilizing social contacts for the maintenance of the individual as well as the group. Speech is a social contract as is stabilization of food and shelter resources. If technology limits social contracts, we must evolve experimentally. There is no assurance of survival without successful contracts.”

professor based at a top university in the U.S. commented, “While digital technologies will provide more capabilities, expectations for productivity increases, the information deluge and threats on privacy and security will increase stress. Also, those with resources and control of the technologies and providers will be able to increasingly manipulate the broad populace for their own economic and/or political gains.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “People’s well-being could benefit or be harmed from connectedness; it all depends on the social and cultural frameworks within which we live our digital lives. Given that, and current trends towards the privatisation and market-oriented nature of digital connectedness, these will continue to affect well-being more adversely than beneficially. Even the survey question appeared loaded with cultural artefacts – ‘enhance
their lives,’ ‘improve their productivity’ – these terms reflect a social structure that is predicated on capital markets, individualism and the unequal distribution of social wealth. Yet we know that individual health is most affected by the social determinants of health, and despite some being better off (such as those most adapted to connectedness, and those most adept at using digital tools), where inequality exists, poorer health outcomes for society overall and individuals follow. If digital tools are used to focus on individual health and well-being in a market framework in which inequality is a central feature then digital connectedness will invariably result in poorer health and well-being outcomes across the board. The trajectory we are currently on (with state-to-state variations) premises a continued privatisation of digital connectedness which will also function to further establish and strengthen existing trends of inequality. As individuals employ digital connectedness within this framework they will contribute to its strengthening, further eroding well-being for society and individuals alike.”

An executive for a major internet business wrote, “Well-being will be harmed. Social media and hyperconnectivity may have improved well-being up to some point, but the marginal returns are decreasing and may be negative. More ‘stuff’ on the internet, at higher speed, does not yield greater understanding. It’s like the difference between data and information: more data does not yield more useful information in all cases. It’s not clear to me how quality of life is enhanced when every digital news outlet has a ‘breaking news’ story every day; this simply feeds the appetite to find something ‘new’ on the news or social media, without the information being truly novel or useful.”

solutions consultant based in North America wrote, “The current drivers for technology development – e.g., internet, social media and so on – are out of alignment with consumers’ well-being needs. Unfortunately, engaging apps and digital experiences are much like addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco and even sweet foods and sex. And there has been little progress in creating a ‘healthy’ consumption model for digital experiences. Kids and adults alike, are prone to go for the quick fix, the easy high or pleasant feeling, but not well armed to understand its impact on their health. Until this can be addressed, and the incentives for creating digital experience based on actually providing value or positive outcomes, the situation will only get worse.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “There are huge benefits to digital technology but the addictive nature of social media (Facebook was designed to be addictive as possible for example) means the disbenefits could be profound. Watch a young mother utterly engrossed in her phone and ignoring her small children and you will know what I mean. Humans need real-time, real-life interaction not just social interaction, yet the pull of the phone is overwhelming. More broadly, the platform companies are already destroying the business models of legacy media, and as that continues, civic journalism will become thinner, poorer and possibly obsolete. Journalism won’t disappear. It will simply drift back to propaganda, which is where it started.”

A professor wrote, “Issues related to data surveillance, data privacy and algorithmic justice are not being adequately tackled in law, policy, technology design and education. So while access to technology increases, positive usage of it will not. The agency and autonomy of people will disintegrate if they are not given control and a say in the design of their socio-technical world. Note that this response relates specifically to the U.S. context. Elsewhere, some positive steps are being taken. Europe and the UK have moved ahead with a strong set of data rights for their citizens while U.S. citizens continue to have few rights with regard to their personal data (including metadata). Canada and other countries maintain Net neutrality, while the U.S. shuts down the pipeline to equitable access to information via the Web. In my own research, I am particularly interested in children and youth and their well-being in relation to technology so I highlight here a few broad issues related to young people. 1) Incredibly, as access to digital technologies grows and becomes more embedded in our everyday lives, media and digital literacy continue to play second fiddle to the traditional disciplines in K-12. School libraries, the natural venue for teaching young people the critical information/digital literacy fluencies needed in the 21st century, are closing down across the country due to funding cuts to public schools. This is certainly a counter-intuitive move in this age of digital mediation and data. 2) There is an emerging, rights-based discussion about children’s well-being in relation to digital technology. The conversation has gone global and is framed by the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (as witnessed by reports issued by the United Nations, UNICEF and scholarly writing in respected journals like Media and Society). Unfortunately, the U.S. has not ratified the Convention. Given that technology crosses borders, it is really a shame that the U.S. can’t play a central, credible role in this global conversation; a missed opportunity. 3) Algorithms live in a black box and data gathering is happening from birth onward. The lack of transparency in technology development and data gathering, with seemingly little concern for the long-term effects on children’s development, is breath-taking. Someone has to think of children’s well-being. I do foresee a growing awareness of this situation, and some parents pushing back. But we need a proper movement for data privacy, initiated through public education.”

A well-known professor of human-computer interaction at one of the world’s leading technological universities wrote, “Deterioration in privacy. Slicing and dicing of identity for sale. Identification of individuals as targets for political messaging. I don’t see the institutions growing that will bring this under control. I don’t see corporations taking sufficient responsibility for these issues.”

An attorney based in North America wrote, “Behavioral and psychological impacts of digital life will continue to be discovered and will confirm negative trends.”

research leader at one of the top five global technology companies said, “I chose my career believing that technology would improve our lives. Seeing what has happened, I’ve grown pessimistic. Our species has lived for millions of years in small communities – bands, tribes, extended families. We are wired to feel valued and good about ourselves through direct, repeated interactions in such groups. These tight-knit associations are disappearing as our activity moves online. Relationships are replaced by transactions. If we avoid catastrophe, in the long run natural selection will produce a new kind of human being that is adapted for the world we are creating. That individual will not be like most of us. Living through the transition will be painful.”

An associate professor based in North America said, “I worry about mental illness and increasing social isolation as a result of more time spent with technology, even if that time is social in nature.”

college administrator based in North America said, “Increased digitalization is leading to more sedentary lifestyles in a society already plagued with obesity challenges. Social media use has also led to poor communication skills; even in face-to-face settings people opt to bury their faces in smartphone screens.”

A university administrator wrote, “The writing skills of students have been in constant decline, as they opt for abbreviations and symbols rather than appropriately structured sentences.”

The president of a U.S.-based nonprofit commented, “Increasingly social media is continuing to reduce people’s real communication skills and working knowledge. Major industries – energy, religion, environment , etc., are rotting from lack of new leadership. The level of those with aliteracy – people who can read but choose not to do so – is increasing in percentage. The issues we face are complex and intertwined, obfuscated further by lazy bloated media and readers and huge established industry desperate to remain in power as cheaply, easily, safely and profitably as possible – of course! Those of us who still read actual books that require thinking rather than mere entertainment, must redouble our efforts to explain the complex phenomena we are in the midst of addressing in simple terms that can encourage, stimulate, motivate. My expertise is the energy/economy/environment nexus, which I will focus on. The path to the major change needed is not quick simple cheap or easy. It is hazardous, high-risk, extremely complex, difficult, expensive, fun and fascinating to do and read about. There is also no other effective alternative. As I testified in my summary statement for Atlanta EPA Public Hearing, November 19, 2015: ‘Effective control of rising CO2 is not financially feasible for even large electric power generation companies, using currently available technologies and RPS constraints. These companies and customers are not ‘capable of shouldering heavy substantive and procedural burdens’ (EPA wording) as their visceral connection to global economies prohibits deploying grossly non-economic and reliability-reducing power generation technologies. Space Solar Power is required to effectively address rising global CO2.’ The easiest and best understood path forward is a Congressionally established public/private power satellite corporation – exactly as Congress established the communication satellite corporation, Comsat, in 1962. The price we will all pay for our failure to do this increases every year. http://www.satmagazine.com/story.php?number=1041330761”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “More kids and millennials who are tethered to their devices and have fear of missing out (FOMO). From what I read there are big problems with depression. As the rest of us age, probably not many effects like that. Security/hacking and manipulation online may cause more harm; e.g., the latest Intel bug.”

An entrepreneur based in North America commented, “We don’t know the effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiation. It’s not a mainstream idea to protect people from the negative health impacts of radiation.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “People are socially awkward from using technology constantly. We have less focus – too much multitasking – and not enough real connection.”

A Ph.D. in biostatistics commented, “It is common for people to browse on phones or watch shows before bed. Studies have shown these habits are disruptive to sleep (the light emitted interrupts our bodies’ natural wake-sleep rhythms), which negatively affects our mental and physical well-being. I do not see this problem improving. Studies are also beginning to show the longer-term effects of looking at screens all day, which results in poorer eyesight. The culture of anonymity on the web is scary and seems to allow people to behave in ways they wouldn’t otherwise (see recent news about ‘swatting’ in the online gaming community). Then there is the social media ‘hive’ that allows internet uproar to dictate what happens. There is no room for discourse, grey areas or mistakes. Lives can be ruined by the publicity of a simple mistake (and combined with people sharing home addresses this can also be dangerous). But it can also be powerful in terms of changing the political course of a country (e.g., the initial attempt to end net neutrality, the uprising in Egypt, and now the uprising in Iran). The internet and social media allow movements to gain steam in a way they never could before, but also allow people to feel like they are doing something when they actually are not (e.g., liking a photo on Facebook or favoriting a tweet).”

An anonymous respondent said, “Most direct improvements to well-being have already been achieved by the use of networked, digital technologies, more specifically: the ability to connect with each other in any desirable context, be it personally or professionally – at least in countries where the internet is developed. What we are seeing now becoming reality are the risks and uncertainties that we have allowed to emerge at the fringes of innovation. One is the systemic loss of privacy, which is a precondition for deliberation and a sense of self-determination. Further, we already see how our critical infrastructures – ranging from energy supply to health systems and the internet itself – increasingly are at risk of failing us due to their openness for malicious attacks, but also due to the complexity of interrelated, networked processes. Due to the lack of traceability on the internet, there is no expectation that we will achieve accountability in such situations.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “There is such a thing as too much information. With all the information available, it is hard to know what to focus on, what is actually important and what is useless information. Because of that, we don’t focus on anything, or we focus on the wrong things. Either way, it negatively affects our brains, losing focus in the real world, or causing stress.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “The hatred and widespread commentary on politics and religion will continue to outweigh the benefits of social media (like checking on the status of friends/loved ones in natural disasters or terrorist situations). Online dating will also continue to tear down morals, values and standards that are already lost on the younger generation.”

professor at a major state university in the United States wrote, “People’s well-being will be harmed because addiction to digital technologies may lead to their inability to socialize with the world in an appropriate manner.”

technology developer/administrator based in North America said, “I don’t think we realize the impact of the increased amount of media we consume on a daily basis. Plus, all of our interactions online are being harvested for corporations to know more about our habits and patterns. While being online can help us solve some issues and maybe save time, we don’t fully understand the impact of that big data. Further, one of the biggest issues with people’s relationship to technology is the idea that it can replace all other forms of person-to-person communication. We already know there are negative effects for everyone waiting for a ‘like’ or other similar kind of gratification.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Increasing digital tools have great potential to improve people’s lives with greater access to information. The issue is that more information is not always better. More misinformation and tools that harm a person’s well-being could be more easily disseminated with an increase in digital tools. The advancement in digital tools increases the demand for media literacy – being able to determine correct information versus false fabrications.”

digital strategy director for a major U.S. professional association wrote, “It will be more harmful than not over the next decade because device use will lead to more social alienation, increased depression and less-fit people. Because it’s still relatively new, its dangers are not well understood yet.”

An anonymous respondent said, “More and more will seem possible in all aspects of life. People may perceive that their lives are better but it will be the experience of the lobster in the slowly boiling pot. Digital life will take people’s privacy and influence their opinions. People will be fed news and targeted information that they will believe since they will not access the information needed to make up their own minds. Out of convenience, people will accept limitations of privacy and narrowed information resources. Countries or political entities will be the influencers of certain groups of people. People will be become more divided, more paranoid as they eventually understand that they have no privacy and need to be careful of what they say, even in their own homes. Some people will break free but at the loss of everything they had worked for. The digital divide will become worse, and many will be unable to pay for all the conveniences. To ensure simpler access and control, some political entities may try to make it available to everyone but at a cost of even more privacy. Convenience will be chosen over freedom. Perhaps, or…”

research scientist said, “It is clear that providing alternate realities not based on any ground truth to manipulate the masses is relatively easy to do in the digital realm. Homophily [the human tendency to bond with others who are similar to oneself] is a strong enough urge in humans even without the digital manipulation of the sort we have seen in Facebook, Twitter and other similar social digital portals. These social media outlets exponentially amplify homophily at the risk of nuanced discussion on a topic. I am afraid I don’t see these media outlets policing themselves; insofar as they make money from advertisements, they will not question the source of the finances. They have shown this to be true in the past, and I see no reason to suspect that they will deviate from this in the future.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Digital users who have not lived without technology will not know how to cope with utilizing resources outside of solely tech. Social skills will be the predominant issue. With users relying on devices for companionship we will no longer see people’s faces, only the blue or white screens reflecting from this effervescent gaze.”

research scientist and professor said, “The grand internet experiment is slowly derailing. The technologies that 50 years ago we could only dream of in science fiction novels, which we then actually created with so much faith and hope in their power to unite us and make us freer, have been co-opted into tools of surveillance, behavioral manipulation, radicalization and addiction.”

pre-law student based in the United States said, “Hyperconnectivity can be great while it also poses potential harms to individuals’ well-being or mental capabilities. Though technology brings a lot of ease and comfort to our lives, in the long run it is harming our ability to process information, pay attention, find gratification within ourselves and interact with other people. Digital technologies have imposed many changes on the mental capabilities and emotional states of the people using them.”

university student wrote, “A major trend that can already be seen is information overload. There is so much information on the internet; too much for any user of any intelligence level to competently intake and synthesize. To many, this plethora of resources is a great thing, but many do not realize that they are drowning in this pool of information. The vast amount of advertisements and other promotional content that is forced into the faces of consumers is part of the overload. This is contributing to deficiencies in mental capabilities, for instance a decrease in attention spans. The internet impacts our cognitive abilities and emotional health, often not in a positive manner. The technology industry is mainly focused today on playing into user trends in instant gratification. This trend of tapping into taking advantage of people’s dopamine-inducing click addiction has leaked into almost all areas of society. It has large impacts on the ways businesses are building platforms and the ways that new technological advancements are being programmed and developed and it contributes to many threats on human capabilities. Many people think these affects are nothing to worry about, but they can pose serious threats to our physical and mental health and to the ways human systems are evolving in the next decade and more.”

student at a private university based on the East Coast wrote, “As the internet gradually becomes so much a part of us that it is literally a component of our brains, people will begin to process life like the platforms they use online. The internet and humans’ brains will become one. This makes me quite nervous as to how it will affect our overall well-being. A problem at this point is humans’ habit of comparing their lives to the lives of others. With applications like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, people are seeing millions upon millions of images of seemingly ‘perfect’ people and finding their own lives to be ‘less than.’ Sadly, the public’s levels of confidence and hope may plummet in future years due to this and to the constant attempts by many online messengers (politicians, companies, others) to generate fears or misunderstanding as outright tactics to influence buying, voting and other acts.”

A university student commented, “Hyperconnected life has dangers that are going to multiply and impact more people in the next decade, so we should be aware. When young children grow up spending most of their lives hyperconnected they are risking the development of important social and communication skills. It will be interesting to see how society is changed when those all-digital children become adults. Many people of all ages are experiencing at least some harm to their mental well-being already today. Marketers and others are learning to use newly emerging tools to manipulate people and their emotions – an example is how political players are twisting social media into a confusing setting that makes people too overwhelmed to even care to go out and vote. Things seem bound to get worse. Constant self-promotion by most individuals (can’t show anything other than a good side and perfect life) has also become a huge part of the social media experience. Yet in the coming decades, if we can find a way to ride it all out, there are positive possibilities. Maybe the mental capabilities of humans will increase exponentially thanks to robotics and artificial intelligence. Humans are innovating and inventing new ideas and their uses on a regular basis. In the future, there will be even more advanced technologies created, and maybe even integrated into humans themselves.”

A senior at a major U.S. university said, “In the next decade, many individuals’ personal well-being will be harmed by the pace, content and influences of hyperconnected life. We are already overwhelmed with information, advertisements and content. Teenagers and young adults are heavily influenced by social media and what they watch on television. Jason Silva has quoted another scholar saying, ‘If you don’t have ADD today, you’re not paying attention.’ We are constantly connected, and our smartphones are basically another body part. In the next decade, our ability to stay connected and the technology available to us are only going to increase. We are on the edge of what Maurice Conti calls ‘the augmented age.’ Within the next decade, fast-paced developments in virtual and augmented reality and possibilities such as neural lace and robots put as at risk of losing our sense of reality and losing our jobs. People will begin to feel insignificant because they can simply be replaced by computers. AR and VR will make it easy for them to immerse themselves in online worlds, leading to the loss of social skills, loss of reality and the loss of ‘alone time.’ Nicholas Carr and Tim Leberecht have warned about dangers of people not spending significant time on quiet introspection, the ‘loss of alone time’ and taking time for oneself. Contemplative time spent alone, disconnected is vital for personal well-being. But in the coming decade in our hyperconnected world, alone time is not going to be seen by many as an option any more. I am expecting to see changes in the way we are able to socialize and the ways in which our children develop. Attention-deficit disorder won’t be something that a few people have and take medicine for. It will be the norm. People with quicker minds, who are able to multitask, will be more successful at this new technology. But if we are so immersed in this technology that we use it to avoid other people or ignore problems in the ‘real world,’ this could have harmful effects on people’s emotional states of mind. If we neglect our own inner peace and interactions with others that do not involve digital appendages, we lose those significant relationships and experiences.”

college senior and social media professional wrote, “Digital life has helped start important political movements like #MeToo, in which people shared personal accounts of assaults and thus inspired more social movement toward reducing sexual harassment and assaults. However, there are negative consequences. There seems to be a growth in anxiety and depression among young people in the United States that is at least partially due to their internet habits. Spending too much time in front of screens, absorbing sometimes-stressful information and interactions can be damaging. Just spending hours and hours every day taking in thousands of different short messages can be exhausting. It also seems to be doing more harm than good in the realm of physical activity. While I see friends benefiting from sharing their 5K runs and gym workouts, I see more of them sitting passively using screens most of their waking hours, which have been extended far too much for their own good by screen time that stretches far into the night. Via social media you are always connected to your friends’ and acquaintances’ highlight reels online. They can create the false perception that everyone is living perfect lives and make you feel that yours is a disappointment. For instance, Instagram has a feed of good-looking people doing amazing things. This can breed insecurity in viewers. This insecurity can have negative long-term effects for some people. Another aspect of digital life is the impact on memory. Being digital, today if you forget or you don’t know something, you can instantly look it up. No need to remember anything anymore – just use your phone, your external memory. The need for instant gratification seems to be increasing all the time as well. If a Web page doesn’t load in under a second or two, or a video is longer than a minute or so people move on. Few people read anything longer than a paragraph or even one line – it’s a TL:DR [too long – didn’t read] world. If a person doesn’t answer a text message within seconds, you may become worried and stare at your phone, hoping for an answer. Notifications via audio noises or numbered logos continually interrupt people’s lives, and they pay them more attention than they pay to the real life going on around them. We scroll through Facebook and other social media all the time, mindlessly taking in hundreds of messages and images in minutes and we consume tons of other information in big doses daily.”

The owner of a tech company based in North America said, “Indications are that the impacts of social media, hackers, cybercrime and misinformation are impacting people’s behavior in ways that have not been anticipated and that we are slow to respond to. Indeed, outside of academic pursuits and the occasional media headline, there appears to be little will to address the impacts of social media and misinformation in particular. Overall, we are seeing a very rapid change in our social structures, from how where we get our information to how we shop, access services and socialize. This pace of change is accelerating, perhaps beyond the ability of humans to adapt. Transition to the Internet of Things has begun, and we have little, if any, idea how it will impact individuals or society.”

professor at a major state university in the United States commented, “My belief is that unless extensive regulation and user education occurs, we will see an increase in negative consequences of online activity such as violations of privacy, dissemination of misinformation, crime and displacement of jobs.”

An anonymous respondent said, “When human beings are constantly reminding themselves about a selfish bubble [social media] they’ve lost touch with the truth.”

research scientist said, “There is increasing isolation from human interaction and increased Balkanization of knowledge and understanding.”

professor wrote, “Technology’s beneficial effects (improved efficiency, access to information) are increasingly being overwhelmed by its negatives – distraction, disconnection from real in favor of virtual interactions, and how anonymity unleashes ugly behaviors such as misogyny, racism and overall nastiness.”

professor commented, “People’s well-being will be hurt UNLESS we figure out the cultural and social and political solutions – and religious and economic ones – to life online. Every medium needs to be tamed. Writing had to be tamed, and it will take a while for digits to be domesticated.”

professor said, “Psychological concerns, for instance, depression and anxiety, are increasing at the same time that use of digital technology is, so it seems highly correlational. This seems to be an early point in an ongoing trend that isn’t likely to reverse course any time soon.”

professor based in North America said, “The loss of privacy as data sharing and integration continues will be highly problematic. Government, industry and hackers will all benefit while individuals are impacted.”

professor wrote, “Aritificial intelligence undirected by equalizing policies increases inequality. Corporate surveillance policies underlie business models and governments benefit from the ‘invisible handshake.’ Competition policies at a national level are weak tools to control practices of leading search, social media and broadband companies.”

research scientist and internet pioneer commented, “We have reaped great benefit from digital life over the past decades. My answer compares the next decade to the current situation, not to the time prior to the digital life. The negative aspects of the digital life are becoming more pronounced, and I think the next decade will be one of retrenchment and adjustment, while society sorts out how to deal with our perhaps over-optimistic construction of the digital experience.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Market incentives are not aligned with mental health requirements. In addition, neither our understanding of digital addictions nor, most importantly, the governments’ ability and willingness to regulate will be able to ensure a healthy transition into the new social norm. Perhaps a social backlash and the rejection of current digital behaviors by specific communities will moderate the high negative impact digital technology is having today on the psychological health of most of us. At least that is the hope. Another potential scenario at this point is the continued medication of large percentages of the population and additional focus on symptoms rather than causes.”

A futurist based in Europe commented, “The digital divide is becoming another factor diversifying and increasing inequalities. If current trends continue, there will be more people suffering from expanding and overwhelming digitalization. Certainly, there are positive impacts such as improved and more personalized health care, connectivity, entrepreneurship opportunities, but many downfalls too – in addition to the increasing digital divide, there will be a complete loss of privacy, increasing cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities as consequence of cyber-dependency (e.g., critical infrastructure, bio/chemical (t)error events, etc.).”

professor at a college in North America commented, “The last year has shown that adaptation to the digital realm has, because of the dominance of algorithmic decision-making and speed and reach of digital realms, proliferated cultures of misinformation and hatred. We have not yet adjusted to this. It may take a while for the political realm to fully engage with it and for people to demand tech companies regulate better. I am more optimistic in the long run than I am in the short term.”

An anonymous respondent said, “The science of addictive technology almost guarantees that face-to-face discussions with strangers in the public sphere will continue to erode. These contacts are fundamental. Selfie culture leads to anxiety about how one is perceived. It is bad for society to have so much vanity and insecurity, and there is no evidence it will diminish.”

professor of computer science at a major US university wrote, “Engagement in social media, especially for the younger generation, creates habits that will be hard to be reversed. In particular, engagement in social media takes a lot of time for the individual and gives back small and decreasing jolts of satisfaction for a substantial cost in time.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Thinking through the benefits of digital technologies that have emerged in the past 10 years or so, I see evidence that the benefits to well-being that have accrued from the widespread adoption of those technologies have been counterbalanced by harms. For example, Facebook and other social media allow us to maintain meaningful connection with more people we care about more easily, and to form lightweight communities of interest that can cut across geographical and (to a lesser extent) demographic and cultural barriers. But this connectivity comes at the cost of filter bubbles, an erosion of tacit cultural consensuses that kept us civil to one anther, trust in the authority of institutions and subject-matter experts (especially scientific), and of course, in the unprecedented voluntary release of personal data to platform providers and third-party data brokers. Similarly, the internet itself provides unprecedented immediate access to information and has democratized the publication of information to a broad audience. These features can be huge boons for personal decision-making and social equity, respectively. But they also degrade trust in institutions and make it more difficult for people to assess the veracity of the information they read. Even more significantly, being on the internet – as a ‘passive’ consumer or an active participant/provider – exposes people to increased risks of personal physical, psychological and financial harm (through targeting by both state and non-state actors): doxxing, harassment, identity theft, malware and data collection for profit. A lot of the novel technology platforms and services we’ve adopted widely in U.S. society over the past decade or so increase convenience and immediate gratification of non-essential desires. This feels good, and makes solving some life problems (‘how do I get from A to B without driving a car?’) much easier. But it always comes at a cost in terms of privacy and attention. There are components of human well-being that are not easily translated into a profitable platform or service. For example, an app that helps you be a better father to your children; increases the quality of the time you spend with your romantic partner; provides practical support for an ailing parent who lives across the country; decides whether it makes sense for you to apply for a mortgage given your life goals and financial stability; identifies and addresses sources of anxiety or distraction. These don’t get made or are designed deceptively to nudge people towards a particular outcome that is advantageous to the provider or are provided at the expense of other facets of well-being (especially privacy and attention). Given our current regulatory environment, I don’t see the problems with the current digital landscape getting addressed any time soon. And we’re just now seeing the beginning of the full destructive potential of the digital technologies we’re already embedded in. We might be hitting diminishing returns in terms of benefits accrued from these technologies. When it comes to digital technologies that haven’t been invented or mainstreamed yet, that’s harder to predict. But based on what has happened within the past decade or so, I’m not optimistic.”

The chief of staff for a nonprofit organization wrote, “In the long run, digital will improve people’s lives, but in the next 10 years, it will be an overall negative. We are facing too many algorithms that have not accounted for humanity and are purely profit-oriented. In addition, digital life is on a trend to have a greater negative impact on learning, abuse, bullying, etc., overall than positive. I think this will be corrected, but not in the next decade to the extent that the overall result is a benefit.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Digital communications are taking up a lot of time. The loss of Net neutrality is going to exacerbate inequality.”

professor at New York University wrote, “Like any human invention the internet can be used for good or bad of mankind. Alas, the last years have shown rampant abuse and misuse of this platform. As much as we praised global culture, democratization of tools + access to media my optimism has all but vanished. This misuse has also placed people outside of most countries’ legislation, and I do not see a unified willingness of all countries on Earth to address this problem. Media literacy may help, but only partially. At the same time, I could rather do without a fridge than the internet. Maybe the tools will mature to prevent most misuse. That would require legislation that forces the quasi-monopolies in social networking to heavily invest in R+D.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Well-being is something that can only be actualized by the individual. People will continue to use the internet in ways that resonate with how they feel at a given time. There will always be the ill and there will always be the good. Choice is what counts, and although there may be scientifically proven digital tools available that help people, an individual would need the desire to seek the benefits of it before it can have a positive impact.”

communications professional based in North America said, “Digital life and the constant connections to electronic information feeds cause anxiety and damage to our eyes, brains.”

An anonymous respondent said, “People spend too much time online, often devouring fake and biased items. They grow hateful of each other rather than closer in understanding. Negative and harmful ideologies now have platforms that can reach much farther.”

A professor/teacher based in North America commented, “In responding to this question I considered two axes of well-being: economic and psychological. There is a preponderance of evidence that economic well-being of individuals in developed economies is worse off than it was a decade or two ago. Technology has driven many of the changes, linked to public policies that have led to an increasing wealth gap. There is no intrinsic reason technology *must* have this kind of effect. However, there is a lack of will to change this trajectory. It seems extremely clear that economic well-being will be harmed by technology more than helped. With respect to psychological well-being, the performance of identity in a public and surveilled forum leads to a brittle sense of self that imperils an individual’s psychosocial development and ability to build resiliency. Recent research in teenage depression increasingly makes this relationship clear.”

A professor said, “It was difficult to select that response because I’m an optimist and I hope the tide will turn back to more ‘analog’ social engagement. The fixation on the screen causes social isolation, not positive engagement.”

A government researcher based in North America commented, “There will be an increase in isolation, further dependence on technology and an increase in unearned narcissism.”

An anonymous research scientist commented, “If I had to guess, I would expect that new technologies would further contribute to ‘hyperconnectedness’ and make it even more difficult for people to disengage from technology during leisure/relaxation time and also detract from productivity at work because of so many distractions/competing demands on attention from technology. In addition, new smart technologies and the ‘internet of things’ introduce privacy concerns that have not been adequately addressed. It seems like these technologies emerge and develop at a faster pace than the government/regulatory agencies are able to keep up with, and if companies prioritize innovation and profits over consumer protections it seems likely that consumers will be harmed, likely through lack of privacy protections. Finally, a related concern has to do with cybersecurity and ensuring that new technologies do not make individuals and nations more vulnerable to cyberattack.”

A transdisciplinary faculty member at major research university said, “People’s well-being will continue to be affected by the internet because the software, hardware and structures that are already in place are built to do exactly this.”

A research scientist said, “The US is singularly unprepared to deal with online propaganda due to its adherence to extreme versions of free speech, as such, citizens are brainwashed to believe that pizza parlors have basements where the Democratic Party has child sex slaves.”

A professor said, “It depends on how you define well-being. People may very well experience an increase in subjective well-being. The techno-social world we’re building is increasingly geared toward engineering happy humans. While a life of cheap bliss, of satiated will, may yield more net well-being measured in terms of subjective happiness, it would at the same time be a rather pitiful life, devoid of many of the meaningful blessings of humanity. Brett Frischmann and Evan Selinger address the questions you’re asking in a 500-page book, ‘Re-Engineering Humanity,’ due out in April 2018. One chapter, ‘To What End?,’ directly considers the normative values at stake and the issue of what well-being means. Other chapters explain in detail the technological path we’re on and how to evaluate techno-social engineering of humans.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “People are becoming more and more isolated by social media and it will impact people’s social skills. Also, people tend to think that the internet makes them anonymous and therefore can do/say things that are more hurtful to others, leading to problems like cyber bullying.”

A professor of English wrote, “While there are many positive aspects to a more digitally connected life, I find that it is very difficult to keep up with the volume of spaces where one must go. I spend too much time answering emails, communicating in digital spaces and just trying to keep up. This causes a significant amount of stress and a lack of deliberate, thoughtful approach to information sharing. One cannot keep up with personal and professional email accounts, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest. Truly, it is just too much.”

A blog editor based in North America wrote, “The goal of information technology’s design is just to capture and keep our attention. It’s predominantly not on our side. It’s not even equipped to know what our goals are a lot of the time. But that kind of information would be necessary for it to move us in the right direction. One standard I use is GPS. If a GPS distracted us in physical space in the ways that other technologies distract us in informational space, no one would keep using that GPS. Democracy assumes a set of capacities: the capacity for deliberation, understanding different ideas, reasoned discourse. This grounds government authority, the will of the people. So one way to talk about the effects of these technologies is that they are a kind of a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the human will. Our phones are the operating system for our life. They keep us looking and clicking. This wears down certain capacities, like willpower, by having us make more decisions. A study showed that repeated distractions lower people’s effective IQ by up to 10 points. It was over twice the IQ drop that you get from long-term marijuana usage. There are certainly epistemic issues as well. Fake news is part of this, but it’s more about people having a totally different sense of reality, even within the same society or on the same street. It really makes it hard to achieve that common sense of what’s at stake that is necessary for an effective democracy. The role of the newspaper now is to filter, and help you pay attention to, the things that matter. But if the business model is ‘like’ advertising, and a good article is an article that gets the most clicks, you get things like click bait because those are the metrics that are aligned with the business model. When information becomes abundant, attention becomes scarce. Advertising has dragged everybody down – even the wealthiest organizations with noble missions – to competing on the terms of click bait. Every week there are outrage cascades online. Outrage is rewarding to humans because it fulfills psychological needs. It could be used to help us move forward, but often, it is used to keep us clicking and scrolling and typing. One of the first books about Web usability was actually called ‘Don’t Make Me Think.’ It’s this idea of appealing to our impulsive selves, the automatic part of us, and not the considerate, rational part.”

A research scientist based in Europe commented, “People feel more isolated, despite being in a crowd of people. As humans, we need interpersonal exchanges to feel connected. Our empathy only really ‘switches on’ when we can see the other person, their gestures, hear their voice. We start feeling disconnected from nature and don’t appreciate little things anymore.”

business development director at a large law firm in the Midwest of the United States said, “The increase in sitting and viewing time and the lack of human interaction will have a greater negative effect than the overall great benefit of increased access to more information.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “In the early years the internet was a life-changing phenomenon because only a few people had the skills to publish online and those people were using it with good judgment; truth and honesty was the norm. Now everyone publishes anytime they want. Our sources of truth in journalism have crumbled – mostly because of the internet – and there is no oversight over all the poor judgment, non-truths and manipulative tactics used by corporations, governments and individuals on social media and on the internet in general. There is no middle ground, no centrist views nor compromise. And the government is trying to do less and less to take care if its citizens, so people our really on their own now. They have lots of communication but no truth or justice.”

An entrepreneur from North America commented, “The internet has resulted in a reduction in human contact as a result certain people are becoming isolated.”

An anonymous respondent said, “The amount of time that people spend on social media in particular has affected the quality of time that they spend with their family and friends. This obviously impacts negatively on the quality of relationships. Everyone needs a balanced social life to be on good terms.”

professor at a major U.S. state university said, “Using the internet for positive affects depends the ability to critically evaluate what is being read and provided. This is not unlike print material but it seems that online material is much more quickly accepted and posted/shared/believed without critical evaluation. It is easier to publish and promote material than ever before. Also, overuse of the internet promotes isolation. We think we are connected but are we really? I think of Sherry Turkle’s work when I think about this point.”

professor based in Oceania wrote, “Inequality is growing, many people will not be able to learn or afford ‘essential’ technologies. Pensioners and the poor can barely afford or learn internet now, and its use is often required for dealings with government, banking, for shopping etc.”

research scientist said, “I think in some ways it’s not fair to blame digital life entirely for a lot of the things people blame digital life for. Our increasingly globalized, decentralized way of life contributes to a lot of the alienation people feel, the loss of cultural identity and empathy for one another. But I think our relationship to technology certainly helps accelerate these larger changes.”

An information science professional wrote, “As people become more dependent upon technology they will become more addicted to it. Extreme focus on the screens of the online world does not lead to a peaceful state of mind. The constant stimulation of light-color-sound-animation and the insistent call to proffer one’s opinion are the opposite of restful. I believe we need a mental respite from the clamor of social media, et al. Physical activity also decreases as we sit in front of screens or walk with heads bent over screens. I wouldn’t be surprised if we become a society who suffer physically from poor posture, diminished eyesight and overall lack of physical fitness because we are too engrossed in the internet-based world and too little engrossed in a physical life.”

professor of information studies and digital design based at a major university in Europe said, “I anticipate continuation of the negative health impact because of ergonomics-sitting, immersion and the convenience of access to goods and services without leaving one’s chair. Before this is properly addressed, the problem will continue to worsen for a few years… Anticipate greater stress because of the ability to be connected to innumerable outlets for news of crises around the world. The impact is already felt, but this will likely worsen if trends from the past 60 years are any measure.”

A senior product strategist commented, “What is important to remember is that this is all still nascent, and the smartphones and the internet were essentially unleashed without trials as would be a new drug on a population. This is an enormous question, and I believe it needs our attention as a society. There are the affects of our digital lives, and then there are the affects of those affects on our well-being. An example of that would be the following. My primary communication with my cousin is by text, and an affect of that affect is that her not-even-2-year-old presses the ‘send’ button before my cousin is finished. Because she can. This needs to be unpacked, as our digital lives touch every vertical. What I would suggest to analyze first is the affect on our personal lives and relationships; how the ‘liking’ of a post or photo, might make me feel great, but creates a somewhat false sense of connection. We need to define harm in this context, but there are clues all around us. How many people feel more comfortable texting than talking? (One wonders if social skills will deteriorate over time as we stop using them.) Dare I ask, are we becoming less human in having relationships that are both fostered and supported by digital interaction? When was the last time you heard someone humming to themselves or whistling? It doesn’t happen because we are being entertained by music in our ears. When was the last time you asked someone on the street for directions instead of pulling out your phone?”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “I try to remain hopeful that digital advances we have already experienced and those that are in development will spread to a wider group of people – sharing technology with underserved populations both in the United States and globally has the potential to dramatically improve the day-to-day lives of millions of people. Likewise I am optimistic that we as a society can corral the addictive behaviors, un-socialization and anxiety that accompany these advances and bring them under reasonable control.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Technology is being allowed to develop and advance without adequate regard for its impacts on people, society, the culture of work, interpersonal communication, family relationships, child development and so on. Much as we have medical ethicists in our society, I believe we should have technology ethicists so that financial gain is not the sole determinant of the trajectory of technological development.”

social science researcher commented, “The probable or possible changes to Net neutrality policy in the U.S. are financially, intrusively worrisome. Oxford Review, and other legitimate studies, have already determined that depression and the suicide rate among people using or addicted to the internet, is definitely impacted negatively. Gaming, gambling and excessive online shopping are harmful practices. Lack of face-to-face social encounters, and a lessening ability to sustain in-person relationships are already showing to be an unwanted side effect. There is an over-dependence on social media for news. Negatives also include worries over body image and comparing to others, shaming, bullying and more that affect people at risk. Companies continue to shift meetings and business to mainly online which I don’t feel raise the loyalty or well-being levels of workers. I don’t think the government, market researchers with their snooping and targeted ads are helping to keep the worldwide community, at large, safer and protected.”

futurist based in North America wrote, “The benefits of digital technology are being realized in terms of information gathering and dissemination and efficiency. However, people, particularly kids, are increasingly missing out on interpersonal connections that are vital to the human species.”

technology developer/administrator commented, “Negatives include more isolation and less human-to-human interaction; the rise of use of digital tools as an engine for propaganda and manipulation. I believe these will be and already are overwhelming its positives.”

A professor wrote, “Technological advances will challenge well-being over the next decade because our governance mechanisms will not be effective for the digital age and public accountability will suffer.”

professor of media studies commented, “The industry’s appetite for users and their data is bigger than their concern for people. Technology firms, with Facebook and Snapchat at the helm, use any kind of psychological tricks, including gamification, to attain users and glue them to the screen. Just the mere time spent and the many interruptions is a negative impact for many people. Many studies show that a lot of activities online are detrimental to self-image and mood. Another issue is politics: We have seen many use social media to ‘game’ politics and lure votes instead of contributing to an enlightened debate. There is a lot of potential in technology also, and many good developments happening. But in the short-to-medium term, I am pessimistic.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “People are disengaging from personal interactions and are losing the ability to concentrate. I also worry about the impact on jobs that AI will have and the resulting exacerbation of polarisation in society. I do not discount the efficiency gains but they have not filtered down throughout the economy.”

research scientist based in Europe said, “An environment is being created that we are not ‘designed’ to live in. The health of humans (and organisms of all kinds) is thereby damaged. Due to digitialization products are made in a way that make them more complicated to mend and very often not possible to mend at all. Even if they could be mended by an expert there is no service available. Therefore, lots of energy and material is used for things that are thrown away before they should be, and new products are purchased in their place. This increased speed of circulation increases the request for raw materials the processing of which leaks unwanted substances into the environment that circulate in both local and global ecological, aqua and atmospheric systems.”

senior information scientist based in North America wrote, “The combination of fake news, the echo chamber and weak critical-thinking skills will continue to polarize the population, increase fraud and lead to bad national decisions.”

professor said, “The changes connected with the internet work in conjunction with other political, economic and geographic changes. Over the last 50 years, we have seen a major increase in inequality, with 40% of wealth flowing to the top 1% pf humanity. This has been coupled with geographic inequality that isolates segments of the population into like-minded clusters. At the same time, the revenue sources of advertising and subscription that supported centrist journalism have eroded. Individuals at the median income see their quality of life eroded. And the information available to them to frame their situation is increasingly polarized, reinforcing long-standing cultural attitudes. That is a recipe for deep social tensions.”

An anonymous respondent said, “I fear government and private-sector security measures in ‘protecting’ individuals, and I fear the advancement of AI.”

data scientist based in Europe wrote, “Technology itself does not harm our well-being. However, we are still struggling with defining and understanding social norms surrounding the usage of technology, and many digital products are being designed around continuous engagement. We harm our well-being by being drawn into these technologies without understanding the boundary between useful and harmful.”

professor said, “I’m concerned that people will be even more trapped by always working – with constant connectivity how do you not work wherever and whenever? I’m also concerned about privacy. Even if I personally am not on social media my face and information are because of other people I know. Companies like Google and Facebook know more about me than the government or my family, and I do not control that information. The flip side is that improvements to health probably will occur, especially related to chronic conditions.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Yes, I can shop online easily, I can search for information much faster than in the old days, and I can connect with out-of-town friends and family more readily. But I’m not sure the tradeoff is worth it. I worry that the enormous amount of time people spend on the internet and social media – often as more than a habit or boredom than any true need – outweighs the many benefits of technology. You go to a restaurant and see an entire family of four sitting with their phones, not speaking or looking at each other during a meal together. Parents at playgrounds or waiting for a bus are not talking or interacting with their kids, instead they are just looking at their phones. I worry about the hyperpartisan echo chamber created by social media and ideologically driven news.”

An anonymous respondent said, “It is common knowledge that the internet has, for the most part, led people to increasingly live in ‘echo chambers’ where their own viewpoints are reinforced rather than challenged. The internet also has become a means of circulating ideas and so-called facts that are misleading and often dangerous. On another level, society’s ever-increasing reliance on networked information systems and the Internet of Things has made us very vulnerable to cyber-attacks, hacking and other forms of disruption that can prove individually and collectively harmful.”

professor commented, “Digital communication will continue to erode people’s contact and ability to interact with persons who hold different views than themselves. Cyberspace will result in a bigger gulf between people of different viewpoints.”

A professor wrote, “As life becomes more and more monitored, what was previously private space will become public, causing more stress in people’s lives. Furthermore, some of these technologies will operate without a person’s knowledge or consent. People cannot opt out, advocate for themselves, or fix errors about themselves in proprietary algorithms.”

An anonymous respondent said, “The more research I do on this area, the more I learn that the thinkers who created the internet did not foresee where users would go with their demand. We are faced with unforeseen biological changes related to our new technology.”

professor from North America said, “Among the negatives: There is a loss of interpersonal skills and the ability to connect with others face-to-face. There is increased anxiety and depression, as people view others’ seemingly perfect lives online. There is a disconnection from violence. And people believe in self-selected fake news.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “The digital world has become all-encompassing. I rarely call people spontaneously or at all. My life feels highly surveilled. It’s difficult to describe. I worry much more about losing my phone than losing my wallet. That was not true 20 years ago.”

North American entrepreneur wrote, “Several negatives: An idealized or false sense of reality is often portrayed by individuals online. This creates an unachievable standard for others to try to live up to or at best it creates a comparison that’s unfair and unrealistic but can result an individual feeling as though their lives are not as meaningful or happy as those being portrayed. Time spent online is another factor has an impact on people’s lives. Time spent using technology takes away from time available in the real world with live people in one’s immediate family and life. People will continue to be harmed by misinformation. In general, exploitation of the vulnerability of others overall has great potential for harm.”

professor at a major U.S. state university said, “Potential benefits are mediated by how individuals use technology (e.g., controlling excessive internet use, social media use, drawing boundaries between work/home/vacation, limiting distractions that have the potential to harm well-being, etc.). I teach at the university level, and data show that students’ performance in the classroom is declining while their level of stress is increasing their ability to cope in a healthy manner with stress is not, in part because real support relationships have been supplanted with the perception of digital support relations. With the proliferation of digital devices, I believe that society as a whole faces threats humans have not adequately thought through, including risks posed by manufacturing and disposal of digital devices, privacy and security implications, etc.”

technology consultant and expert on attention and workflow wrote, “Technology is moving faster than wisdom. Computer science is being studied to the exclusion of social science, ethics and philosophy. The current U.S. administration is compromising universities basic research funding. Moneyed interests are ‘trumping’ and compromising civil society. There are bright spots – the work of Saul Perlmutter, danah Boyd, Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman and others – but it’ll take a lot to turn this ‘ship.’”

An anonymous respondent said, “Technology allows and encourages people to live in a bubble obscuring reality. It may feel good but it is not really beneficial.”

A user-experience researcher commented, “Mobile devices are causing people to neglect face-to-face contact with other people. This causes them to be less ‘present’ and much more distracted.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Increasing surveillance and social control by corporations and their political representatives will reduce the standard of living and freedom for the majority of the citizens in a world of rapidly changing climate.”

professor at a top university on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote, “There is polarization. Loss of privacy. Loss of personal security.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Digital connectedness is generally a positive thing when it allows people to collaborate and communicate across distances, access information and be entertained and engaged. However, with the current trajectory of digital technology development we are all being encouraged to rely on technology at a rate that is exhausting. This is making it harder to focus and the world feels more disjointed. Also, the persistent targeting and erasure of personal space and privacy is a major concern – and these concerns are not good for overall well-being. There is too much stress associated with being plugged in all the time or with fear of missing something when not tuned in. There are also huge ethical concerns with the sale of private information for the purpose of increasingly individualized marketing, which itself is another stressor. The bombardment of information and the pressure to keep up and engage, coupled with the decrease in access to commonly shared information and erosion of social skills that can follow are creating massive stress levels that are very damaging.”

political science professor from North America said, “I see signs that emotional and professional dependence on internet interactions can alter or even inhibit physical human interactions.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “There is no good for the public through the elimination of Net neutrality. I am a researcher and fear I will no longer be able to access websites for my work, which will hurt both the profession and my career. Having access to all types of information is part of our Constitutional freedom of information right. Having companies limit what we can access, block sites, make them so slow as to be unusable, and to use this as a way for the big corporations to make oodles of money is not in the public’s best interest. It puts us at the same level as authoritarian societies who seek to mold the way people think. It is an extraordinarily dangerous thing to limit our freedom to access all information.”

retired senior systems analyst wrote, “Well-being is bound to disturbances we resent. It is to fear that the present trend of people effectively taking care of what happens on social media will negatively impact them, because they care.”

Responses from those who say well-being will be more helped than harmed

Those who responded that individuals’ well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life in the next decade were generally hopeful that the positives far outweigh the concerns, however, some of them did include in their remarks some comments about issues of concern that they perceive to be problematic.

A North American businessman wrote, “In the short term, the current designs of the internet attempt to put people in boxes convenient for advertisers, marketers and influencers such as politicians to target demographics and micro-target personalities. As Jaron Lanier has written, this trend, in combination with the transient anonymity provided by platforms like Twitter, seriously dehumanizes users, leading to the prominence of troll activity and the dominance of extremist ideologies such as Nazism online. These trends in internet design are, and will continue to be, detrimental to human interaction. That said, should we survive this current phase and return to a more human- and individual-centric internet design, the overall democratization and dissemination of information will ultimately prove beneficial to people. The availability of information provides the raw material for innovation to more and more people. The propagation of diverse perspectives expands the worldviews of those without the means to change their physical environments. Overall, the closing of information gaps and asymmetries will, I still believe, prove beneficial for people in the long term, providing we return to a more human- and individual-centric design focus on the Web.”

technology developer/administrator based in Europe wrote, “I only recently realised how much has changed over the past 10 years, looking at how smartphones did not at all exist to how incredibly commonplace they are by now. Over-dependence on them and often unhealthy obsession bothers me and I hope that’s something we can trend away from a bit. But overall, it has value and there are still many things left to try/invent.”

An anonymous respondent replied, “Over the next decade, there will be proportionally more digital natives using these tools. As such, they will know how to use them to have a positive effect on their lives.”

An account manager at a pioneering internet-based digital information service said, “The era we live in now is an anomaly and not the norm, but that we’re taking a much needed look into the role of technology in our lives with a new critical eye. All progress requires these periods of self-reflection. Technology, specifically the internet, has disrupted so much so quickly that it’s worth the full review. The U.S. just went through an election where our social networks became carriers of fake news and misinformation. We took some wrong turns on the information highway that showed so much promise in its early years. The consumer Web landscape keeps consolidating to a smaller and smaller number of major companies, the new gatekeepers of the information age. Net neutrality is in jeopardy. Facebook has slowly become a place that doesn’t connect us but leaves us feeling even more isolated. We’re left comparing ourselves to a highlight reel of the lives of our friends, families and acquaintances. Automation in the workplace is leaving millions of people with skills no longer needed. But a correction will or is already taking place. At some point I foresee a new progressive age breaking up online media trusts like the railroad trusts of the early 1900’s. How much will that change things for the better? I believe we’ll all benefit from a more competitive landscape in this area. Advertising, the lifeblood of the information age, is long overdue for an overhaul. Internet service providers can only hold onto a monopoly for so long. If Netflix is the new network, there’s surely room for others following their model. If automation does end up leaving millions of people without work, how much longer do we go on before we redefine the concept of work entirely? What about continuing education? If you zoom out far back enough, our fears are overblown (they almost always are) and we’ll still look at the internet as a net positive for humanity.”

A professor wrote, “We can anticipate major advances in health care delivery, active-wellness monitoring, management of chronic conditions, remote surgical procedures with potential for significant cost savings, patient access and improved outcomes.”

director of state library services commented, “I’m an optimist. I think digital opportunities to enhance well-being will grow, particularly for those people for whom social interaction in the real world is challenging. Digital offers another outlet and means for connection.”

The publisher of a privacy journal said, “A very myopic question. What’s important is developing a means for teaching young people to use the new technology to add meaning to their lives and the lives of others. Who is doing that?”

director of a business wrote, “A less inane waste space of personal time, the internet will continue its diversified growth at the core of work, leisure, social, etc.”

research scientist said, “People’s well-being will, overall, be positively affected because digital tools are often free, easily portable and can automate tasks that would otherwise take up cognitive space. Some potential improvements: less robbery due to digital payment methods, digital reminders and calendars can help people with ADHD by alleviating cognitive load, some digital life items can actually be used other than as intended in ways that may be more positive than the intended social media uses.”

technical information analyst said, “Defining one’s own sense of well-being will always remain a matter of perception. However, with an increasing saturation of ‘digital awareness,’ people’s sense that they are any better connected than anyone else should dissipate. The ‘baseline’ for digital assets ability to help people (exercise reminders, connected transportation, etc.) can then continue to add value over time.”

public policy expert with a major internet company said, “There is increasing pressure on IT companies and network service providers to make our digital infrastructure more secure, more reliable, more affordable and much easier to use. Fortunately, we have many of the technologies needed to accomplish that and they are being deployed. Furthermore, we are seeing new technologies such as machine learning, the Internet of Things, and a wide range of cloud-based services enabling new services and solutions in every sector of the economy. We should no longer talk about the Digital Economy but rather the Economy that is Digital. As the internet and cloud are adopted by even the least tech-savvy businesses, we have the opportunity for every company – no matter how small – to deploy leading-edge tools for e-commerce, customer engagement, supply chain management, work training, sales and marketing, and almost every core function of a modern business. By lowering the barriers to starting a company and enable it to reach global markets, new products and services – and well-paying jobs – will be created (provided government policies promote rather than innovation and trade).”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “If – big if – we maintain/restore Net neutrality, the internet is a primary defense against isolation, in particular for people whose age, abilities, family circumstances and incomes limit their face-to-face interactions to a narrow circle. It allows people to continue to contribute in their fields and communities. The internet allows people to find and rely upon trusted sources for news and information. This is, of course, a two-edged sword. The internet can provide all sorts of reinforcement for existing biases. We can be deluged with misinformation and disinformation.”

A futurist/consultant and engineer based in North America wrote, “The stress and anger right now are a net loss for people’s well-being but I do think that is changing as people and tech companies evolve strategies for dealing with negative aspects. There is a groundswell of complaint about the abuses you are subjected to on social media which are forcing some changes. I do think that click bait-type abuses will always be common and always be a source of significant stress for people. I also think the current state of the world/regional economics and politics influences the level of stress tremendously right now (i.e., Trump presidency is so polarizing).”

leader at one of the leading global internet administrative organizations wrote, “I am optimistic as there are several billon people on planet who are not connected to the internet and will be in the next decade. For those newly connected, there will still be benefit of information access and sharing, personal communications and e-commerce. For those already connected, there will be a better learning curve of using the internet more effectively.”

distinguished advocate for the World Wide Web and policy director based in Europe said, “Technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain have the possibility to greatly improve how we navigate through the world and how the world is structured. If these technologies are developed in a way that aims at increasing the greatest social good, then they have the potential to have an extremely positive impact on our economies, societies and politics. This would mean placing the individual at the center of concern and the problems that technologies are being developed to solve.”

An assistant research professor at a major state university in the United States wrote, “More information is generally better for individuals and communities as they are making decisions about how to use resources and time. The world will be improved with additional details. However, I have two major concerns – the first is that we will have so much information to review that we will stop actually living and doing and just read or review information from other sources; the second is that the information will be used inappropriately either personally or by the community.”

technology developer/administrator based in Oceania said, “The harms brought by technology are considerable, and should not be minimised. They represent both the adjustments that we need to make to accommodate new ways of doing things and structural changes and shifts in power that result. However, the benefits should not be forgotten; for every person who risks ‘internet addiction’ or ‘smartphone overload,’ there are people elsewhere who see quantifiable improvements in quality of life, opportunity, education and human rights as a result of technology.”

post-doctoral fellow at Stanford University commented, “A survey makes nuance difficult to select. Of course there will be many instances of great harm. Of security breaches that threaten to break the internet, of digital surveillance that violates human rights and political dissent, of negative psychological effects, especially to those who are growing up with smartphones and tablets, that we don’t yet understand, of increasing monopolization of power by dominant tech companies, of environmental degradation due to e-waste and server farms? How to quantify those harms and compare them to the gains? Gains in micro-finance for the global poor, gains for political organizers who now reach broader audiences, gains in health research and medicine that would be impossible without digital tech. People’s well-being in relation to their digital technologies will have much to do with their contexts and age – it’s so difficult to answer the question with taking such variables into account.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “The diffusion of knowledge and information is generally a positive thing.”

postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University wrote, “Globalized communication can increase learning and allow better solidarity in progressive values worldwide. This will be great as long as an egalitarian and democratic infrastructure exists to support the sharing of knowledge and ideas. I have a lot of concerns about the ways in which ‘Instagram culture,’ trolling, and the consumption of entertainment media can be alienating rather than connective and can lead to increased objectification of women. In addition, surveillance is a huge issue and absolutely needs to be regulated.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “While there is great harm that will undoubtedly be endured, there are too many benefits to justify an opposing answer.”

medical and/or mental health professional based in North America wrote, “The possibility for harm is there, but I remain optimistic about the future. Up until now we see harm in mental health due to overstimulation by technology, but I think it’s balanced by other things.”

vice president at a major entertainment company in the United States commented, “Technology is not inherently good or bad. As humans we need to be thoughtful about how we use it. We nee to intentionally use it for good outcomes and use our policy, social and political tools to limit negative impacts. For some reason, for a long time, we thought the internet was different and it would only be used for good so we didn’t need to put any effort into systems and structures that would address harms. Hopefully we are now moving into a period where we are willing to take those issues on.”

An internet activist and advocate said, “With more information accessible, people may benefit if they can determine reliable sources of information and will read broadly.”

An internet pioneer and social and digital marketing consultant commented, “Although we’re going through a period where the negative effects of digital life are growing, I believe that over the next 10 years people will learn better self-monitoring, self-care and self-awareness so that they will extract more help than harm from digital life.”

An associate professor at the University of Puerto Rico said, “I am thinking in terms of health-record management and medical diagnosis. Improvements in transportation and safety.”

research scientist based in Europe commented, “Overall, technology affords a number of life-improving innovations. Technology will also contribute towards a reformulation of the social fabric, as online platforms begin to take the role that local communities have fostered and supported.”

An assistant director of digital strategy at a top U.S. university wrote, “I don’t think things will be entirely better – I do believe children and many adults are far too distracted by digital technology. However, the internet has opened so many doors to knowledge and betterment.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “People will have access to others, building communities and useful tools including health care.”

CTO and attorney based in North America wrote, “1) On the better side – tools such as Amazon’s Echo will make life easier, especially for people with disabilities. 2) On the worse side – Privacy will be further reduced and digital crimes will become more prevalent. The erosion of inter-human conversation will continue, along with further reduction in trust in information and tribalization. Advertising will be injected into every nook and cranny. In the longer term the internet will fracture into a world of insulated islands interconnected by well-guarded information bridges. Those ‘islands’ will be things like Facebook, China, Verizon. The internet will lose much of the so called ‘end-to-end’ principle that once allowed innovation to occur without permission at the edges.”

research scientist said, “The dangers are obvious: too much information without the capacity to distill it; distractions and lack of attention caused by focus on one’s phone, Twitter and Facebook accounts, etc.; reduction in literacy. That being said, this was the claim made on behalf of all innovative technologies of the past. There are costs, yes, but I’d like to believe they can be managed if we think hard about how to do that. The benefits include the capacity to find each other and network in new ways; access to information and services at your fingertips; higher-quality entertainment in homes and in hand; finding things with considerable less hassle and travel; new advances in analytics.”

career coach at a major state university in the United States wrote, “While it’s pretty clear that there are downsides to the loss of privacy, increasing access to information across the globe – particularly to communities usually identified as marginalized in some way, is improving quality of life. This is particularly tied to the increasing use/access of smart phones globally. In terms of harms, trolling and profiling seem a broad-scale risk.”

The chief data officer at a major university in Australia wrote, “The advances in technologies such as AI, machine learning and robotics will revolutionize fields such as medicine, healthcare and aged care. It will enable lower-cost access to healthcare and more accurate care. Blockchain will change the way that we pay for goods and services and undertake legal contracts.”

An assistant research professor at a major state university in the United States wrote, “More information is generally better for individuals and communities as they are making decisions about how to use resources and time. This is the world will generally be improved with additional details. However, I have two major concerns – the first is that we will have so much information to review that we will stop actually living and doing and just read or review information from other sources; the second is that the information will be used inappropriately either personally or by the community.”

attorney wrote, “I believe as we figure out more about the harms technology can cause, the more we can work to try to adjust it to ensure that some of the harms can be mitigated. Not that this will not come with new issues that will then need to be studied further, but generally speaking, the more we learn and grow our technology uses, the more we can help people, especially in areas such as medical technology.”

manager of digital and interactive strategy wrote, “While there are negative issues associated with technology, there are also are many pros, among them: easier access to healthcare professionals, digital health accessories to attach to phones and access to information (although it is extremely important to review accuracy, reliability and authority of source).”

A CPA based in the United States commented, “The internet allows access to information previously unavailable. A great section of society now has the ability to learn about any subject on the planet. We walk around with the contents of a global library in our pocket. For individuals unable or unwilling to confide in a physician, the internet is available. Of course, there is a dark side to the web and it is too easy to get sucked into the muck. And policing the web, just like the physical world, seems to lag. Ultimately, the internet is an amazing tool.”

distinguished technologist at a major tech company in the U.S. wrote, “We will see the emergence of AI agents to perform routine tasks and simplify workflows, which should reduce the cognitive loads that people struggle with today when they are active online. To the extent that people are willing to use them, AIs could offer significant relief from distractions that negatively impact attention. Also, the development of chatbots and conversational interfaces will enable people to interact with technology in ways that are more aligned with natural human-to-human social engagement. AI bots have the potential to dramatically change the way that people manage their mental health and well-being in a positive way.”

manager commented, “The ability access an ever-expanding universe of online information will be a benefit. Connecting with people around the world instantaneously will improve communication. The downside is too much information and the lack of ability to manage it. The spurious nature of much information is dangerous, since the population overall has not been given the skills to understand the difference between real information and false information.”

An educator at a major state university in the United States wrote, “My response to the question is only based on the thought that people will become more responsible for their own actions, comments and how they interact with the digital world. I also believe there is a trend for more civil discourse and civic engagement in a meaningful way – for instance, the research currently being done in Nebraska with communities and learning about civic engagement and how to be more intentional.”

data analyst said, “Most technology is designed with the intent of making life easier and less stressful. Computers were created to assist with large computations that would take hours or days. The intent of social media is the ability to connect and share with other people around the world. Like all technologies, these and those designed in the future will have their exploiters who use the technology for further themselves at the expense of others or with the intent of harming other people. This second group, however, is not the majority and only has such power and reach due to the existence of technologies like the Internet. At the same time, there are so many other organizations big and small that use these technologies to improve people’s lives and quality of living. Nonprofit organizations are an easy example. The ability to crowd source and handle logistics digitally anywhere in the world extends their reach and viability. Even a group as small as a traditional family unit can and do use these technologies to share and keep in touch even when they are on opposite ends of country as if they were living down the street from each other.”

technology developer/administrator said, “While there is legitimate concern regarding the negative impact of the pervasive use of digital technologies, the benefits arising from products and services making life easier and safer will more than outweigh the added personal and social costs.”

research scientist based in Oceania commented, “I am concerned about the harmful impacts associated with social technologies, including on people’s ability to pay attention, and the impact of advertising, misinformation, and hate speech. But overall I think the net effect of technology will be positive, with benefits outweighing these issues.”

technology developer/administrator based in Europe said, “1) Favourable to well-being: Access to information and digitally carried benefits of science, technology, society and marketplaces. This will favour sustainable health in an aging society otherwise overwhelmed by the unbalance of mostly aged citizens supported by few younger citizens. This will also materialise into a further automation of what can be automated in logistics, transports, industry, remote monitoring and preventive maintenance. For instance, energy efficiency of the overall operation of society and markets will increase, and in particular the burden of the roughly 30 nuclear power plants in the 2010s (source: New York Times article on the subject) supporting the data centers of the world will be reduced once the shift from energy-greedy centralised cloud (and associated network consumptions) to ‘colder’and energy-efficient edge computing architecture will happen. Communication and digital access for all needs attention, with continuation of policies such as the European Union e-inclusion policy launched in 2007, so that nobody is left out of accessing and benefiting from the digital wave. In particular, fair access to resources will require leadership from policy makers – ensuring that limited resources are shared in fair and equitable form (to be defined in democratic ways wherever depending from society, and in transparent economic ways wherever market driven). E-inclusion, needless to say, starts from UN rights of individuals not to be discriminated against for who they are. In particular, people with different sensorial and cognitive abilities – hearing, visual, tactile, reasoning/education/skills, etc. – need to be supported by adequate interfaces and front-end system designs. 2) Risks to well-being: Risks to well-being may be attributed to different categories of sources: 2.1) Human risks; ‘Homo homini lupus’ – as philosopher Thomas Hobbes said man is a danger for man. It is probably more true than ever that the biggest risk to humans comes from other humans, with either bad intentions (Machiavellian) or good intentions clumsily implemented. In the first case it is about evil design to exploit unduly or damage, in the second it is about a faulty design leading to structural (high probability or necessity of failure) or incidental (lower probability but not negligible because of impact resulting from these) misfortunes. Examples can be found in any area where software is being used at the core of a system interacting with humans in a physically significant way (e.g., transport system): a lift, electrical stairs, buses, etc. It has to be noted that more often that not, humans are part of the cause in system catastrophic behaviours: shifting to manual mode led to loss of life in the example of the Germanwing flight with a suicidal pilot (whereas in automatic mode nobody would have died), and the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In the same way pressing a button can detonate a bomb, or lighting a cord could detonate dynamite, software can trigger loss of life at the passive or active initiative of humans. An example is given by a long-term shut-down of electrical power-supply to hospitals, a disruption of the production and/or delivery of all drugs, a shift-back to massive non-electrical energy use with massive pollution leading to thousands of deaths by respiratory attacks. 2.2) Systemic risks – Systemic risks are when lethal or other significant effects are increased or not addressed by large systems such as transportation, health care, nutrition, communication, etc. To use an example from another category than above, let us highlight the reputation risk, which can be highly amplified by social networks. Imagine someone’s reputation has been unduly tarnished in a neighbourhood, and this person relocates to another neighbourhood, or somewhere else in the world. The undeserved bad reputation might follow. What enters today’s information system worldwide can never be fully erased, even if some policy makers are falsely induced to dream that this is possible. 2.3) Self-inflicted risks – Let us define this category as the one where individuals have irresponsible behaviours putting themselves at risk. This includes over-disclosing one’s private life in an irrecoverable way, such as the owners of the ‘2B’ and ‘Not2B’ UK car plates, who can be found (name, address, pictures, wealth estimate, social schedule) by a simple internet search. Some people are already today beyond any privacy protectability; this cannot be recovered, even if regulation requires it to be possible. To remedy such risks, which expose mostly internet natives who have always been using social networks and information sharing more than older users, education about the risks and preventive measures is the only reasonable approach. Children need to know that there is a hierarchy of risks linked to interconnected digital systems, from loss of comfort to loss of life. An example of this is found in online games designed for children who are potentially intruded upon by ill-intentioned adults. A child can be located and tracked (hacking their phones, GPS in phone, etc.). Once a child is aware, the child acts responsibly. Getting the awareness to children is a must. UK’s operator Orange has published a brochure for parents which can be refered to as a good practice.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Advances in technology will outweigh the issues associated with people’s inability to allocate appropriate time to personal and physical activity. Technology advancements also allow for the creation of personal applications to assist in the tracking of one’s well-being if they so wish.”

An anonymous respondent said, “People will be harmed and helped. Personal and regional wealth will be a determining factor as will the legal framework of the nation of the person and their ISP and any other intermediate networks connecting them to the information or services they need/want. The polarisation of wealth now happening globally is likely to be reflected in the polarisation of services and a shift from the democratic internet neutrality model where the internet is infrastructure which underpins connectivity objectively. Access to the internet is a symptom of the wider economic polarisation which looks like it will continue to get worse because the logical construct of capitalism – especially as it is currently being deployed – is to accrue wealth to wealth and to progressively marginalise the population, making the economy less of a social phenomenon and something which only ‘works’ for fewer and fewer more and more wealthy individuals or entities. The internet is possibly going to have some delay in reflecting that wider polarisation because it is useful to be able to see what people think and do for the companies, governments and money systems that they live among. Mobile phones are core for many people. However in a context where it is possible to be both employed and homeless, access to the internet might be limited for more people. The Internet of Things, as it is currently being developed, has a lot of security implications and risks. There are unresolved tensions between the ownership, rights, legal agency, responsibilities of the company making and selling product/service/hardware/software and the customer household, family, community that the device is interacting with. It seems that the base security levels in IoT devices make them vulnerable to hacking. It is not clear why the companies that make the devices do not see that as a priority. Perhaps they are not internet-born manufacturers? Connectivity is still not universal and so people are being more left behind without it as services become less accessible without connectivity. E.g., access and equity issues where governments assume connectivity where often people who need access to government services might be the least likely to have access. Incomes are more casual and variable meaning people might need to move to follow work. Internet could be useful in that situation. Again it can be helpful if you can afford it while you are in transition between jobs. Net neutrality enables us to use the roads of the internet reliably – changes to those laws will have impact on access and equity for businesses and for consumers. More power to big players. More subjective content. More limited access to objective information. Marketing as fact in a context where you cannot step outside the frame of the media provider’s vested perspective. Subjective search is an opportunity for marketing but also a risk in terms of being able to have a community that can negotiate with opinions which differ from their own in an open and reasoned way. In some ways it is not a net neutral kind of approach to search because it makes it hard to see the information space objectively as a whole, or as a full spectrum. At the same time, I am glad that subjective search means I do not need to see a lot of racist or Nazi or aggressive material. As wages polarise and people become more desperate and angry and divided then is it increasingly less likely to be possible to have open and constructive universal communication spaces? There is a tension between the democratic power of nation-states in service of the people and the interests of big money. This results in governments serving money instead of people or national interests. In this context it is in the interests of money/power for everyone to be divided/angry/unable to organise constructively in a democratic sense because that seems to be something that they see as a cost rather than as a strength of a nation. It seems very short term thinking but perhaps if your wealth is in things which are not related to community well-being there is some reason for it. I do not know it seems Nihilist to me but seems to be happening. People are making a culture of personal sensors which enables them to track health. These technologies offer the possibility of benefits and risks depending on the laws and realities of the access and use for that data by companies or governments or insurers relating to those people. Networked fitness data is becoming a community space for people who use them. If there is no net neutrality there would be less universal experience and maybe the sector of internet might buy into different film or game or writing or art. Difficult to see what would happen to websites like Etsy and Redbubble, et cetera, that use the large viewing population to sell across the world. Not sure where the divisions in content will be. If there are people in one region who buy into a service provider then that content is already ‘shipped’ to that network so there is no real cost to providing the content universally in that area – Except/Expect they would use VPN to make the content only accessible within their business structure. Less efficient. Not sure the increase in control would offer more business advantage. The power of universal access is in the reach information has rather than the purchasing spend of the person on the data directly at the moment. Education sector relies on neutral internet for international relationships and for online content. Political issues can be manipulated by money online through social media, but they can also be manipulated through commercial media so not sure who much the issue is directly caused by internet. Commercial media are buying into online ‘opinion’ perhaps because it is seen as a competitor and so professional media is less objective or committed to objective fact. Reduced income for professional media is also a pressure, which limits their ability to be committed to objective fact because again polarised wealth has specific interests. When the internet distributes memes it is often for shock value and for short to instant content. This increases the volatility of communication and the probability that responses are reflexive and not negotiated ways of talking through issues, which makes us more divided. In a context where polarised wealth is deconstructing the means that communities have – legal, organisational, personal incomes, climate, et cetera, then perhaps it is hard to see how negotiated discussion can map a way through. Universal Basic Income could be a help, but the buying power of the income will be connected to a real and living planet. With an increasing population and in a context of polarised wealth it is hard to see how UBI will be effectively achieved so that the planet will be sustainable – including for other species – and increasing populations will be paid in a way that can offer a secure and healthy living. Off-topic for your question probably, but the polarised/polarising angry economic context and its intractable issues feed into the state of mind of the people who are communicating on the internet, in my opinion. This is why Big Money is anti-science; science and reasoned valuing of ecologies so that we can better fit our planet – words like evidence-based, etc., are the language of the tools of democracy and not the language of divided polarised disempowered people. More strictly internet-related, Manuel Castells has written about different kinds of agency or power in networks. No Access, Access, Consumer, Creator, Coder, System Administrator, Network Owner, Service Owner, Hacker are different kinds of agency. I do not remember if those are the roles but I remember agreeing with him that different kinds of agency in the network mean people have different levels of choice and power. I saw it on a YouTube video; he has a series of them. This one is from 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__F_MFEhIos. This paper might be relevant https://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Castells-Network-Power-2011.pdf ”

An anonymous respondent commented, “People’s well-being will be helped more than harmed because the increase in information available and better ways to track health, both mental and physical.”

professor wrote, “We can anticipate major advances in health care delivery, active wellness monitoring, management of chronic conditions, remote surgical procedures with potential for significant cost savings, patient access and improved outcomes.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “The biggest advantages or potential for advances helping are in the areas of health and support of those who are aging. There is a lot of potential for technology to help with affordances with people who have diminishing capabilities due to aging and mobility.”

An internet pioneer wrote, “There will be both positive and negative change, but I believe that the change will be largely positive. With the inevitable shift from traditional phone form factors, people will likely be encouraged to not bury their head in their Facebook feed. Additionally, this type of behavior has become enough of a problem currently, that there will be ‘an app for that.’”

An anonymous respondent commented, “There is no doubt that technology will continue to change our lives, some for the better, some maybe worse, but I think over the next few years it will be mostly for the better. When you consider the life-saving technology coming our way, the ability to get instant data and make faster decisions, health care will be greatly improved and will far outweigh any harm.”

An anonymous respondent said, “There will be more social contact and social support.”

An artificial intelligence researcher based in North America said, “I expect a lot of small harms, e.g., interacting with Twitter often seems to make many people’s day worse. However I expect a small number of big improvements to win out. For instance, substantially improved dating sites could hugely improve relationships. Being able to do some things online that you previously had to stand in a queue to do can make a big difference. I think we have seen something like this in the past, where internet-based food delivery is amazing for a lot of people relative to the previous options, and for many unusual people, meeting people via the internet has been a huge improvement. Yet, day-to-day, Facebook is ambiguous in its value.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “The benefits of increased access to information and communication outweigh the psychological and, to a lesser extent, physical damage caused by hyper-connectedness. Social media, for example, have allowed us to connect with far-flung friends and relatives and create communities that could not be sustained otherwise. At the same time, they have left us ‘alone together,’ as Sherry Turkle puts it – substituting connectedness for real human interaction and living in the fantasy worlds we create for ourselves and each other in Facebook. My work in educational technology has convinced me that there is huge educational potential in online and technology-enhanced learning and that we have barely scratched the surface of that potential.”

social media manager wrote, “People’s well-being will be affected for good by digital technology due to improvements in health and medical data sharing and communication between healthcare providers, as well as improved ease of access for consumers to health and wellness tools via mobile devices. Specific improvements include health monitors and fitness trackers that enhance compliance with wellness regimes. Potential ills include mental health issues due to social media use from increased social isolation and poor self-image from comparisons with others’ idealized presentations of their lives.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Like any other tools, digital tools will cause harm when misused, will disrupt when driving transition, but ultimately will provide overall benefit on balance – the disadvantages will be real, but the advantages will be greater. The direct communication and connectivity effects are already apparent.”

An anonymous respondent said, “On balance I believe people’s well-being will be enhanced. That said, there is a growing recognition of the potentially harmful effects of an over-connected life, particularly on young people. Research suggests that heavy users of digital tools and social media experience a disproportionate amount of negative side effects, many of them psychological such as increased rates of anxiety and depression. A growing understanding of the impact of digital technology on our most personal relationships, along with education and changes in behavior should help ameliorate this alarming trend. It will take concerted effort. The other emerging concern is the bias inherent in digital tech and the tools that work with it. Algorithms that control our access and user experience reflect the bias of their creators. We are just beginning to understand what this means. Again, with further study I believe the ideals of equity and digital ethics will emerge as guiding principles for the new digital age.”

president and CEO of a company based in the United States wrote, “There is no doubt, the internet is bringing about profound changes in medicine, public safety, education, our economy, public discourse and civic engagement. As technological innovation and creativity flourishes, we will no doubt see even more profound solutions to disease, renewable applications that will help to address our climate crises and dependence on fossil fuel, the architecture of shelters, transportation, and our exploration into the larger universe around us, to name a few. At the same time, we must be cognizant of interests that will exploit our technological access, use, and adoption.”

college student based in North America wrote, “There has been a measurable rise in the amount of young people with anxiety issues and depressive tendencies. This is prevalent on college campuses and college counseling centers are having to add staff and offer programs for mindfulness and positive thinking. Yes, there is no doubt that these things could easily have been brought on by the modern hyperconnected lifestyle. However, while there are certainly many negative effects of hyperconnected life, there are also positives. More people are meeting their life partners and friends online. The internet allows people a larger pool of other humans from which to choose who they spend their time with and it makes it more clear which of them they are likely to fit in with. People who find their relationships to be better fits see an increase in their emotional well-being. Relationships are also better maintained over long distances than ever before. The ability to communicate effortlessly with people thousands of miles away can help many feel as if they are not alone when in physical reality they are not anywhere near the people they know and love.”

director of data scientists at a North American university wrote, “Overall, as we get more advanced in terms of what we can monitor and observe, we will be able to provide important factors that improve overall well-being. I suspect the impacts will be incredibly varied depending on economic status of individuals, etc.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Digital technologies have the opportunity to dramatically improve health and wellness. Digital technologies can help address global challenges such in climate change and sustainability. Digital technology will enable collaboration and connection. There will be new challenges and problems created by those new technologies. We will have to learn to deal with these. Not everyone will benefit and things will be lost but on the whole things will get better.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Digital technologies have the opportunity to dramatically improve health and wellness. Digital technologies can help address global challenges such in climate change and sustainability. Digital technology will enable collaboration and connection. There will be new challenges and problems created by those new technologies. We will have to learn to deal with these. Not everyone will benefit and things will be lost but on the whole things will get better.”

futurist and researcher said, “Especially in rural communities, harms: the price of access, at the expense of shrinking household budgets the price of privacy, at the expense of personal identity and/or anonymity the price of personal security, at the expense of personal rights ceded to service providers Good: expands the potential for local-community social safety nets, expands the potential for learning and education, expands the potential for exercising local-through-global citizenship.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Although many issues have been emerged due to internet related tools/technologies, people would be able to find solutions to mitigate issues. Overall, the internet will help improve our life. It’ll make things more convenient and easy. One issue I am concerned with is hacking/controlling by people or computers, though.”

A faculty member at a North American institution wrote, “Medical apps will be more important. And overall, the internet will continue to improve lives. Agitprop, especially by Putin, is a real worry though for governance.”

The president of a company based in North America wrote, “The internet has had a huge positive impact on the people connected to it as well as humanity as a whole. The negatives are very small by comparison, merely adverse side effects. There is no reason to expect that balance to switch, especially since we are becoming more aware of those side effects and are engaged in fixing them.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Technology will make life better. In every aspect of daily life and society, technology will permeate to get rid of the menial and routine tasks and allow humans to do greater things.”

A futurist commented, “Assuming that the death of Net neutrality doesn’t turn the internet into a series of walled gardens, the availability of the world’s information to common people, especially those that currently have limited access to information, will continue to improve the overall quality of life for the majority of people. Despite the potential misuses and corruptions of that information by bad actors, the ability to find information is critical.”

technology developer/administrator based in Europe said, “I think there is now broad societal recognition of the risks. In the next decade we will address them through a mix of both technical and regulatory approaches.”

An assistant professor of art education at a U.S. university said, “1) It is cost-effective. 2) It does not discriminate against anyone. 3) Users come close easily. 4) Deceptive users get squeezed naturally.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “There clearly will be pluses and minuses to the continued penetration of ‘digital’ into peoples’ everyday lives in the next decade, just has there has been in the last two (or if you want to go back farther, look at the telegraph, the telephone, the radio and the television for points of comparison). The key will be to look at the pluses, minuses and neutrals in a balanced manner, rather than focusing on one dimension or another, or just focusing on one feature of factor to the exclusion of 100s of others. In the popular mind and in the popular press, this is exactly how things usually get evaluated, looking at just a couple of features of consequences to the exclusion (or the outright dismissal) of all the others, or looking with one strong bias (positive or negative) to the exclusion of the other. It may be that on balance, a balance of agnostic evaluators’ average views, the net effect will just be slightly positive. That is what I view as likely. And I believe that if you look at the introduction/proliferation of the TV, much of which I lived through, you’d see much the same thing. I can’t speak for the radio, telephone or telegraph, but presumably they netted positive, with some significant negative and positive consequences too.”

A researcher based in Europe wrote, “Improvement in well-being will be mainly due to generating more achievable information for people. For this, the internet content should be, however, less controlled by any kind of organizations. Today’s trends to filter information (geographically by place of residence, by popularity, by advertising payments) causes harm, because it does not allow people to select meaningful and valuable information for themselves. The internet itself can not do any harm to people. But this manipulation of it can be harmful. For this reason, I would like to see a really free internet. I know, complete freedom can also be difficult for the masses, but, in general, responsibility and healthy consideration of internet freedom of content can only develop freedom. And, it should develop if humanity wants to step to a higher level of society.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Simply being online provides great benefits to people in many parts of the world, and in the next decade, a large number of people will get new access or faster access. Specific benefits they will receive include content that they can use immediately, such as information on how to treat illness or where to get treatment, online courses, and entertainment of many kinds. They will also be able to keep in touch with loved ones who are, increasingly, living in other places. Among the harms, since young, educated, urban, and/or moneyed people have more access to life online, that will deepen divisions between them and those who are old, not educated, et cetera.”

college professor based in Southeast Asia wrote, “Digital technologies will be advanced by engineers for a good cause or to solve perceived problems. This may in turn impact people’s perceptions of well-being, given the increasing technological intervention in people’s work life, such as the acceleration of academic work and the need to fight off stress and stay positive.”

business leader based in North America wrote, “Virtual care, patient engagement, improved outcomes and care continuity are all enabled by digital transformation which favorably impact patients.”

research associate at a major university in Africa commented, “The mere fact that so much information is and will be immediately accessible creates the opportunity for improvement. I suspect that a younger generation may be less infatuated by things digital (games/escapism) and will rather make more use of the internet technology as an enabler and an efficiency enhancer. I believe that the internet will be available where and when information is needed (pervasive) and will not require that the end user is seated behind a desk/using a specific device. Most probably more voice activation will allow users to be active while accessing whatever information is needed. If this prediction is inaccurate and a future generation is compelled to spend more and more hours staring at screens and being physically inactive I am afraid may be less healthy than the current generation of end users.”

postdoctoral fellow at a major university on the U.S. East Coast said, “I still have confidence in the goodness of most people. While there are individuals and groups looking to exploit others on the Internet, most people and companies are working to use the internet for good – to make us all healthier, happier and more connected. However, I’m less optimistic about this claim now that Net neutrality is under threat.”

professor emeritus said, “The battle will continue between appropriate use of the internet and those who will use it for malice. Warfare will continue on a curve that intersects human-machine emergence on both the x- and y-axis. Until battles are largely fought on machine-to-machine levels.”

research scientist based in North America commented, “People will have more access to information and resources. In the past, individuals may not have known how to exercise, stretch, relax, eat properly, cook properly, et cetera. Having these resources available to the masses will promote healthier choices and enable people to become healthier.”

professor of computer science wrote, “Society will mature as our tools mature.”

North American research scientist said, “Connectivity will be growing more important for people with disabilities who may be limited in their access to the society’s resources, including physical barriers for physically disabled/wheelchair bound and communication barriers for people with hearing/speech difficulties.”
An anonymous respondent commented, “More services based on internet are being developed and the number of start-ups is going up. Over the next years, people will be forced in certain ways to use some online services.”

technology developer/administrator said, “Communication has always been central to the mental and emotional well-being of people. Cave drawings, letters that took six months to go by ocean, pony express – people have always spent a lot of effort trying to communicate. The greatest benefit of the digital tech changes is that communication is faster and more immediate than ever before.”

The executive director of a Canadian nonprofit organization wrote, “We are finally recognizing the extent of the digital divide and its implications. So the next 10 years will mean more people who aren’t connected now will be. As a result, their lives will be better. But the global community as a whole will also benefit from having a broader range of people participating.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Human life is better when things are predictable and traceable. Digital technology may help with this.”

professor based in North America said, “This question is less about the impact of the internet and more about whether I believe that society and life in general will improve. Whether it does or doesn’t, the internet will play an important role. It’s obvious that the internet can be used to our benefit or detriment. The question is will we learn how to use it well, and protect ourselves from the ways that it can be misused to our harm.”

professor/teacher who lives and works in Europe commented, “There will be challenges ahead, e.g., increased automation, but there are bigger chances to improve life by more sophisticated means to detect health issues and also an increase in democratic participation, as two examples.”

professor of political science said, “I have concerns about the digital world with regard to privacy and growing incivility of discourse, but I am conjecturing that the net effect will be positive.”

North American research scientist commented, “There will be trade-offs between gains in health and well-being and losses, but some will gain more or lose more than others. For people who spend excessive time on-line, whether at work or leisure, their physical health will be compromised in terms of over use of hands, arms, eyes, and excessive sitting accompanied by less mobility. For people who spend excessive time or are unable to control their use of social media, their mental health may be compromised through social isolation, bullying, or other unhealthy on-line behaviors. This may be balanced by social support groups and helpful information. Insofar as the internet provides access to quality information and positive social networks, there is much to be gained. Two issues are key: how much time is spent online and the quality of content.”

An associate professor at Texas Christian University commented, “The information will be there but it will be up to individuals to process that information and decipher its validity. However, compared to the pre-Internet days where information was controlled and released through the lens of certain points of views or being kept in the dark, it is much better. Education will be a critical component of this and the divide will be between people who will believe the internet to further their preconceived ideas and others who are more educated will be used as a tool to explore and learn.”

An assistant professor at the University of Minnesota wrote, “Digital technologies will play a bigger role in increasing access to health care and improving communications and decreasing isolation, provided that they are implemented equitably and well.”

professor at a major university on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote, “Wider access to internet will link rural and small-town communities to jobs, education, information, etc., hopefully.”
The president and founder of a small internet software company said, “I hope that people will continue to gain more access to services that improve their quality of life, including services that can tie people together. It takes time for society and customs to adapt new capabilities that technology introduces, and I’m encouraged by critical recognition of the problems as well as the benefits of connected life.”

futures thinker and consultant based in Spain wrote, “Extension of the internet will help improve business and administration processes and create new economic activities and jobs.”

An employee at a major U.S. research lab wrote, “Crowdsourcing, microfunding, and micro-fabrications, are all made possible and easy by Internet; and these will in turn make customization and personalization of analog objects cheaper, faster, and better. So in the quality-of-life aspect, especially for long-term patients and their families, things will be better. This is from personal experience. Needing to take care of older parents, each time I see some equipments/gadgets at hospital or doctor’s office that would help certain things easier, I usually can find a ‘consumer’ version on the internet. With the popularity of micro-fabrication, I think this trend will continue to grow, and the quality of ‘consumer’ version will improve, with more customizations, and the price will reach a point that is affordable for patients, and profitable for the small manufacturer.”

professor based in Europe wrote, “Overall, I envisage the internet ‘helping’ rather than ‘harming’. However, this rather blunt answer obscures an important fact: who is harmed and who is helped will be disproportionately organised according to different social groups. I fear that minority groups will face increasing harm as a result of the internet, whereas those who already occupy positions of privilege will enjoy the greatest ‘help.’ Of course, minority groups have, and will continue, to appropriate the affordances of digital technology for their own political and cultural needs, but by and large, the burden of harm will rest on their shoulders.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Over the next decade, artificial intelligence will be the biggest differentiator versus today. It is going to lead to rapid and possibly accelerating advances in design, human health, and hopefully policymaking, to name just a few areas. There is a danger of harm, as well. AI could be used to discriminate against people in ways that are not allowed in the physical world, for example. I believe the potential gains are so large, however, that they will overwhelm the drawbacks.”

The chief technology officer at a major global telecommunications company observed, The question is about harm and help, which is not the same as whether things will change for the better or worse. In many respects, general social conditions will become worse, due to aging, economic stratification, automation and robotics, global levelling (which will have a negative effect in the U.S. and Europe), and global warming. The internet obviously affects – and in some cases may drive – these trends. For example, internet technologies makes it much easier to replace a US-based worker with one in Vietnam – or with a robot. On the other hand, those same technologies allow an elderly person to maintain a social life even as they become less mobile. On balance, I believe that the internet will make people’s lives better than they would have been otherwise, but, in the absence of an obvious ‘exchange rate’ between the various elements of life, I could be wrong.”

An information science professional wrote, “While I can see that harm could come to those who have no self-control, manners or a sense of common decency in the use of digital devices and resources, the vast majority of persons will be able to communicate with others, access information and keep track of their physical well-being more readily.”

professor based in North America wrote, “The informational elements of the internet are unleashing a flow of data access, analyses and new knowledge that has led to many breakthroughs. These will continue and accelerate, albeit with misinformation also playing a role that may be detrimental to democracy. The entertainment uses of the internet will continue to expand. Although many of these will be harmful to people’s productivity, sense of purpose and well-being, in moderation they open opportunities for personal enjoyment that should not be discounted.”

professor at a major university on the East Coast of the U.S. wrote, “As more people come online, principally in developing countries, opportunities for economic growth and greater participation will improve lives. The downside is a whole set of potential vulnerabilities and data security challenges that need to be addressed as mature and new arrival digital populations become more dependent on digital services.”

professor wrote, “Access to information empowers informed decision-making. This may alleviate a structure where those who ‘know’ have power over those who ‘do not know.’”

An anonymous respondent said, “We’re certainly entering a world in which artificial intelligence will take a more central role in our lives. That means our digital assistants will be able to organize our lives, our schedules, our communications, our relationships, our work, our personal lives, in new ways. This will make our everyday lives more efficient and easier to manage. And, voice-activated devices will make interacting with machines easier. These advances won’t make us less busy. But, they will simplify our lives and help make us more productive. We’re on the cusp of an exciting era.”

futurist commented, “Awareness is changing and non-tech expertise is being integrated into the planning of technology being developed. There will still be unintended side effects, but with diverse perspectives from the start we have a better chance of minimizing – and even foreseeing – the potential ill effects and working toward better solutions.”

An internet pioneer wrote, “On a net basis, digital technology is already making big contributions to health monitoring and diagnosis, access to information, education and markets, to job creation and similar markers of human welfare. With each of those positives come negatives, already revealed or still to be revealed. But I believe we will adapt and mitigate the negatives, slowly and painfully over time, while continuing to reap the benefits.”

professor of psychology at a major U.S. university said, “Technology will continue to provide benefits while, for some, creating problems but, on balance, I believe it will increasingly bring more benefits than problems. Many of the problems come from extent of device use, including amount of time and diversity of locations. As the novelty wears off, people will begin to use technology, primarily mobile devices, more responsibly. The benefits stem primarily from applications that connect people to information and other resources and provide accountability with respect to efforts to maintain or improve health.”

An education and outreach coordinator commented, “I am more connected to my family and colleagues than I would be without an online life.”

professor of mathematics based in the United States wrote, “Self-driving cars and trucks will make the highways safer. These will be operated over a network. Collaboration and the growth of knowledge will continue to accelerate. However, some downsides will be propaganda spread freely on social media. How will companies such as Twitter and Facebook combat fake news? ”

A post-doctoral fellow based in North America wrote, “Even though there are harms associated with more digitization, the benefits will certainly outweigh the risks and harms. People are able to access information about anything from anywhere, are able to speed up processes that ordinarily took much longer to complete, and with the advent of new technology will come new and improved ways of conducting business, learning, interacting and living.”

An associate professor at a major university on the East Coast of the U.S. wrote, “People are connected with new treatments, support networks and information, which is more beneficial for overall health. Although there are potential negatives (such as isolation/dependence on digital, misinformation, etc.), these are always true of new media, and I believe that the positives of greater information have always outweighed the negatives.”

director of technology at a U.S. public school district wrote, “Once people have an understanding of the affects of technology they will learn to balance its use with other aspects of their lives.”

A Ph.D. student based in North America wrote, “In terms of material well-being, I think things will improve for people. This is because many of the advancements in digital life are geared toward such an improvement. People should be able to better manage their health, finances, and personal relationships in the coming years. In terms of psychological well-being, it is harder to say. Even now the size of social networks and the use of social media have been linked to psychological distress. It is up in the air as to whether advances will make that worse or better.”

researcher and consulting statistician based in Africa commented, “Poor and underserved people will more and more be able to connect to the internet – and in this way have more options to assist with having a better quality life. E.g. young people from a very poor area in Cape Town, South Africa, mentioned in research interviews how connecting to the internet assisted them in finding work, without having to have transport money to travel to places where work could be found. Some entrepreneurs were able to connect with clients from other countries. Some told stories of how their general knowledge and understanding of world affairs opened their minds.”

retired lawyer and academic wrote, “Information – history, geography and much more is at your fingertips.”

A retired consultant and writer said, “The digital environment enables platforms of near costless coordination – the benefits of which will require a ‘re-imagining’ of work and society in order the harness these benefits. Thus, while every technology can be weaponized and incumbent rent-seekers will fight to remove protections and capture regulation for their own profiteering, the real power of the digital environment will require new forms of institutional innovation, new institutional frameworks and public infrastructures and more.”

data quality analyst from North America said, “Over the years, issues with our technology and interactions thereof have been revealed. With the problems out in the open, both the consumers and producers should be shifting the new technologies on the supply-and-demand side to address these issues. New issues will be revealed, adjustments will be made, and (thanks be to the dynamics of the marketplace) technology’s continual improvement will keep on going.”

A retired professor wrote, “Changes are taking place. Advances are being made. New horizons are awaking and progress is being made in multiple avenues. I see all of this as a positive, as these opportunities open challenges require new ways and new thinking. There will be stumbles and setbacks. This only makes us learn from out bruises and cuts, but in the end progress prevails. The fun and excitement is just beginning. I hope to see it and experience it.”

The chief marketing officer at a North American company commented, “Digital tools increase personal and organizational efficiency and still will offer more benefits adding to our society, outweighing the negative effects. At some point we’ll reach a tipping point – digital benefits vs. negative impacts – but I don’t expect that in the next 10 years.”

An epidemiologist based in North America wrote, “People’s well-being will be improved because of increased efficiency at work and home. People can be more productive at work, and technology will improve convenience at home. In my field of work (public health), technology improvements mean that we can better monitor and respond to health threats, which can improve health and well-being of the entire population.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Although I’m in my 70s, I am impressed with almost all of the new innovations that have come forward in the past, and expect new discoveries to be beneficial in the future.”

A research scientist commented, “Technology amplifies things humans do, it does not take on a role of it’s own. The Trump administration has taken the position that the purpose of the internet is to further the interests of for-profit businesses. Technology isn’t good or bad by nature. Humans’ political actions bend it towards specific outcomes. Things aren’t looking good now, but the outlook could change.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “There are so many valuable opportunities coming from additional connectivity. Whether we as a society can ensure those are available to communities throughout the country (online job applications, workforce training, educational opportunities, telemedicine, telecommuting, access to new markets/customers, etc.) will impact the reach of those benefits. Additionally, learning to balance connectivity with disconnecting will be critical to our ability to use connectivity to enhance our lives rather than negatively impact our sanity.”

U.S. government statistician commented, “Digital technologies will enable more customized and personalized products and services and increase the options for otherwise isolated individuals and groups to participate in society.”

technology developer/administrator based in Africa wrote, “We believe that as technologies improve and scale so are the negative effects, however because of the renewed focus on the negative effects of technology companies may be forced to improve their services to help users”

research scientist commented, “Look the research shows that *how* people use technology correlates to their well-being, not just how much technology is used.”

professor said, “So many of us live away from friends and family and so social media and video calls make it possible to connect regularly despite distance. I also can’t imagine (and my students even less so) going back to doing my work with tools as primitive as Hollerith punch cards, mimeo machines, physical cut and paste on reorganizing a paper. So much of what we do is physically less difficult, but I am aware of the costs too – easy plagiarism, online cheat sheets for students too lazy to read the assigned books, trolling and threatening people with unpopular views, distractions online, etc.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Technology and digital communication have connected us in ways we never before imagined. While that has led to more impersonal, flat and sometimes cruel interactions, it also has allowed us to break down barriers that previously restrained or restricted access to information. We have created entirely new economies and shattered old business models with computers that fit in our pockets. These advancements will outweigh the detrimental effects of anonymous attacks and our hyper-elevated response level to any and all breaking news.”

An anonymous respondent based in North America commented, “The continued improvement in data storage and access will improve our lives in ways unseen. This is on the theory that the more you know the better off you are.”

professor based at a top university in the U.S. Northeast commented, “Here are the benefits: amazing resource for news and need for random information way to stay in touch with distant friends research tools have revolutionized my work changes in the media problems: Russian hacking into US elections could lead to more political abuses financial security risks invasion of privacy reversal of net neutrality regulations could make internet a new space for class bias young people spend too much time on their phones (although much is not internet but texting, and they are more connected than we their parents realize).”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “The technologies can help bring support to people and increase inclusiveness. However, this also places the internet as a source of information/connectivity that can become important to people – and this raises issues about how do we respond when we rely on this information/connection. There are temptations to over-rely on new tech to solve problems. Also, this tech has limited shelf-life – in most cases there is built in obsolescence – we don’t design for uses of 10’s of years, certainly not a lifetime of support. Developments leave people feeling behind – or needing to replace familiar things. As people increase in age this is problematic.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “Digital technology will further impact people’s wellbeing positively because adoption will continue in different spheres of life, there will be more discoveries of how technology can serve people better and more people in underserved regions will enjoy the attendant benefits and opportunities. On the other hand, there will be increase in cybercrime, addiction to technology leading to negative psychological and emotional impacts on people.”

An anonymous respondent said, “People will have better access to information, more efficient public and commercial services, and better productivity. Stress may be increased by pace of life issues and distractions from being always connected, but the people who are not susceptible to the negative side or can manage it will benefit greatly.”

futurist based in North America wrote, “The widespread desire to improve digital literacy should have beneficial effects. The constant drive to be creative digitally should continue. The open movement – open education resources, open access in scholarly publication – will keep growing.”

professor wrote, “I believe that the area of health will be significantly improved.”

political scientist said, “It is not the technology that harms people’s well-being but their unwillingness to manage the tools and keep them in their appropriate place”

professor at a top university on the West Coast of the U.S. wrote, “We will be able to better monitor and control our world around us. With AI we will be able to make better predictions about the future, such as predicting the trajectory of diseases.”

An entrepreneur and business leader from North America commented, “Like any major revolution, digital life and the internet have pros and cons, including unintended consequences. There are people who aim to abuse it, and it would take us time to learn how to increase the benefits vs. the harm. However, I’m an optimist and I don’t tend to get threatened or concerned by deep change or technological developments. Put aside news headlines, the world is becoming overall a better place; global poverty is reduced, hunger and disasters are better contained, ignorance is decreased, our kids are more sophisticated than we were and the list goes on and on. Digital life and the internet contributed to all of that progress. So except of extreme scenarios (e.g., A.I. gets dominance and takes over our freedom), I can see much more promise in digital life/communication than threat.”

president and chief software architect based in North America wrote, “Having access to real-time information about their health will be an important part of facilitating people taking more responsibility.”

An anonymous respondent from North America said, “The artefacts of a digital life now such as wearables are intrusive and disembodied. My watch tells me to standup, when a tweet comes, what my next appointment is and I pay attention. This is mostly one way. Messages I send are intrusive for the recipient. In the future with augmented reality messages will include an image of the sender or a video of the sender saying the message using text or speech using a much more plausible avatar than available today.”

professor of technical communication said, “People will learn to use technologies to their benefit as we under their impact better. With the use of health apps, mindfulness training apps, language apps, and meditative VR, we have more ways to care for ourselves. However, it must be intentional and useful, not used without care and consideration.”

An artist, writer and independent intellectual commented, “I believe it is helpful for more people around the world and in developing countries especially to have access to both information and communication. We are experiencing a moment now when the harms of digital life seem especially apparent: distraction, online trolling and bullying, misinformation passed off as real information. And yet do feel that in a fundamental way the good outweighs these difficulties. It is possible now to learn almost anything online, whether it is a physical skill like knitting, or an academic course offered by a major university. For instance, I’m learning Japanese now, with the aid of online resources and apps rather than in an in-person class. There are obviously serious challenges in how we can integrate the internet into our lives, and serious challenges to sorting out real information from misrepresentations and lies. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic that we can meet these challenges and learn to better use digital technologies, both individually and as a society.”

retired healthcare executive said, “There will be improved access to information and social exchange. People will have immediate access to vast amount of information, but they need to sort through it to ascertain fact from advertising. New codes of conduct should be promulgated, and new systems for validations should be installed, such as professional societies, academic institutions, etc. The commercial sector is not going to police itself because it is driven solely by the profit motive. Bad information can be harmful, and good information can be helpful.”

An information science professional commented, “It all depends on our politics over the next few years. I want to believe that there will be opportunities for health personnel to interact with families-that’s what will be important, because the need will be greatest among low-income families.”

professor based at a top U.S. technological university wrote, “Further improvements in digital technology have the potential of increase individual well-being. Whether this increase in in well-being materializes or not depend on how people use the technology. For instance, new opportunities will arise to assist people with disabilities or old age. Whether these opportunities are exploited will depend, among other things, on how governments encourage the widespread distribution of the benefits of new technology to all, or are content with them being enjoyed by a happy few. Current trends in Washington are quite ominous in this respect (e.g., tax code, internet neutrality, repeal of ACA – all of which have a regressive distributional impact). But I continue to believe that these recent trends can be reversed. And if they are not reversed in this country, other countries will – and will win the day.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Until now, digital life has improved life (even taking on account all the problems), I guess the next 10 years will be the same.”

An anonymous respondent said, “I based my response on two things: technology in the academic workplace and in medicine more broadly. In regards to the former, I think technological advancements can help in the classroom by allowing instructors to develop new teaching techniques and ways to present material to students. Outside of the classroom, I’m expecting advancements in technology to help researchers collaborate and share their results with those outside of academia. In regards to medicine, I think that there are various new procedures and tools that can help doctors diagnose and treat patients in new and (ideally) more efficient ways. Relatedly, technology is already helping those in the field communicate with each other and be more efficient in regards to keeping records.”

A professor at a major U.S. state university said, “Technology integration will further improve physical and mental health, support smart homes and cars, allowing for more free time to be spend with family and friends.”

A retired systems designer commented, “It’s nearly impossible to measure the relative harm or benefit created by the Internet. How does the ease of harassment of strangers compare to the ability to do remote teach or medicine, or the ability to connect family or friends on social media or video conferencing? But I think overall we have more opportunities for good in the future. There will be an expansion of remote medicine, improved information sharing, improved analysis of many types of data from medical images to city traffic patterns. Smart cities that provide more information and accept more input from citizens can shorten the time to identify and resolve problems, from a broken street light to system issues like inappropriate police behavior.”

Responses from those who say there will not be much change in the next decade

futurist based in North America said, “The ‘digital life,’ writ large, will be far more positive than negative for much of the developing world, where access to information – financial, medical, political, etc. – is currently limited. Lives can improve dramatically with an additional dollop of information. In the developed world, however, the negatives will temporarily equal the positives. We’ll see new psychological ‘diseases of civilization,’ parallel to the diabetes and obesity that have accompanied abundant manufactured food. These ‘diseases of digital civilization’ could include depression, social alienation, attention disorders, learning deficits, gaming addiction – phenomena we’re already noting either anecdotally or statistically among the young. That doesn’t mean the digital world is inherently evil. In another decade our species will almost certainly spend far more of our time in the virtual world than today. But this transformation has occurred so quickly compared to previous information innovations (moveable type, the telephone, broadcasting) that we haven’t yet adapted our social and educational systems to support ourselves and our offspring in this new environment.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “There is a collective-action dilemma in which most of us as individuals will continue to find much value in various online services, but the internet and technology as a whole are likely to disrupt and polarize our politics and economics in ways that may well be seriously detrimental.”

professor of public policy at a major U.S. university wrote, “The effects cancel. Yes, there will be improvements brought about by new technology, but the negative effects are far-reaching and consequential. Instead of improving our lives by the new technology, the downsides, especially in social media will offset the gains”

An engineer based in the South Pacific said, “The gain in readily-available information comes at the expense of reduced critical thinking and less interaction with fellow humans.”

director of a technology graduate program commented, “Technological change cannot be disembodied from the values of the people who design and use technologies. Technological change will be a force for social good if values that foster positive social change are embedded in the technologies.”

A technology developer/administrator based at a major U.S. research organization wrote, “There will be plenty of change, but the net effect will be very little change in people’s overall well-being. Real change in the average person’s well-being will be a function of politics, not technology. There will be amazing new services, but millions of people will lose their jobs.”

A professor of English and humanities commented, “The changes from technology will be centered in robotics.”

doctoral researcher in communication based in North America commented, “First, I believe we’ll keep defining what well-being means, what it means to be ‘well,’ as technology continues to change. It is not a static concept. Second, ‘people’ is an overbroad category that is difficult to judge. Benefits and harms are more likely to be unevenly distributed along socio-economic lines. Finally, not all benefits and harms are alike. Can we say that the benefits of the increased safety that self-driving cars offer can be measured along the same lines as the harms brought about by the lack of consumer autonomy that the self-driving environment will require? Are the benefits felt by marginalized communities that find new places to speak and gather online comparable to the harms felt by the factory workers that build the products that allow that speech in the first place? I gave a neutral answer not necessarily because it was the right one, but because I kind of reject the premise of the question in the first place.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Like all technological advances the digital world will be/has been used for both good and ill. That which prevails in the long term depends on many other factors – ethics, economics, politics, etc.”

North American social justice advocate commented, “What is considered well-being is fluid. People are living longer and more people are getting Alzheimer’s. People are living longer and people are outliving their retirement savings. Cancer is diagnosed earlier and more women are living with cancer.”

North American professor of informatics and computing wrote, “There will be many ways in which internet developments will make lives better (access to people and things, facilitation of remote collaboration and less need for work travel, entertainment) and many ways in which they will make things worse (information overload, security and privacy threats, manipulation of opinions).”

An anonymous respondent said, “Over the next 10 years technology use and impact on our lives will increase. We will gain some skills and tactics to mitigate its impact so these will neutralize each other.”

retired web developer wrote, “There will be little change. I liken our digital age to the invention of electricity or the telephone. These were new ideas and people accepted or denied. In the end – we had electricity and telephones. Yes, there were problems with elevators and turbine engines. There was a learning curve and we worked through it. Today is the same. Define better and worse. Are people’s heads in their cell phones? Are answers to questions instantaneous? Are children learning faster? Is intellectual conversation dieing? What is important is to keep an open mind.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Well-being will not be affected.”

A professor wrote, “My impression is that trends in poverty, inequality and segregation have been relatively durable over long stretches of time – defying the promise of technology and technological change. Moreover, digital life as it evolves could lead to fewer – not more opportunities for workers at the lower end of the wage scale.”

technology developer/administrator said, “New tech will improve convenience and efficiency, in energy, transportation, and medicine, which will be all positive. Social networks will continue to stoke attention-deficit disorder, and cybersecurity vulnerabilities will result in events with increased damage. There are so many strong positives, and also so many negatives. Hence the delta will not be that great from today.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “While I believe there may be some decline in the coming years in people’s well-being due to digital technologies, I also believe the nascent topic of the negative long-term impacts will build substantially in the coming months and years, thereby potentially offsetting the increase, as people will begin to take more-concrete steps to mitigate these negatives with lifestyle and other choices. In the same way that mental illness awareness campaigns have increased communication and understanding of the subject, there has been a concommitant rise in people trying to access support services (which has the simultaneous effect of putting a strain on the current limited resources). I have witnessed first-hand a small change already in how friends and colleagues are incorporating digital technologies into their lives and anticipate this will broaden as more research is undertaken and people become more discerning about what they’re willing to give up in exchange for convenience and a perception of community.”

college student said, “Digital life will continue to give and take away from individuals depending on how they use these tools. There are negatives. Many researchers today have theorized that innovations, such as social media and online gaming, have lowered the general self-esteem of many young adults. Other side effects of these developments include a lack of ability to focus on one topic without distraction, and some even develop an actual dependency on their digital devices. One could assume that the average individual’s personal well-being might possibly be harmed by the pace, content and influences of hyperconnected digital life. Humans over time have possessed an ability to adapt to their surroundings, and I would theorize that this trend will continue and living a hyperconnected lifestyle will be another hurdle the human race must pass.”

professor wrote, “As with any complex issue, there are tradeoffs. A lot of developments aid productivity, and yet they can also lead to harm.”

college student wrote, “My friends and I spend much of our lives being immersed in digital worlds – some healthy and some not – every day. The impacts of each technology are both positive and negative. Digital life is amazing. It can also be dangerous. People’s mental capabilities and emotional states of mind have seemed to be changing recently and will most likely change in the future. Can we adapt to digital life in healthy ways? People who are stressed, bored or anxious are using and will continue to use information and services they find on the internet as tools to find an escape. Attention spans have certainly been decreasing recently because people are inundated with information today. We are constantly presented with notifications by our digital devices to the point that any absence of signals from them for more than a few minutes makes us feel anxious. It is difficult to concentrate on work when you know your digital devices give you access to Facebook. Instagram, Netflix, games and more. These are dangerously addictive media platforms. A major issue is that young people seem to be much more insecure today than ever before. People have the fear of missing out (FOMO) when friends post that they are at an event without their friend, they worry they are not well enough liked, basing their self worth minute-by-minute on how many responses they get to their posts, and they have unrealistic expectations for how they should look based on photos they see. Some people are creating and then trying to live up to fake worlds they build with their phones. We have to make sure people’s mental health and well-being come as a first priority.”

teen library specialist wrote, “Over an arc of time humans are adaptable to large variations in their environments and experiences. I do believe large changes (like the internet) cause disruptions that have the potential to improve life. But also these disruptions often impact people disproportionately for the good and ill. The divide between those who can fully leverage technology and the internet versus those who do not have the resources to do so has had large negative consequences. Also the shift to an always-on mentality has had large detrimental effects on many people. But I see both of these stabilizing to a large extent and I believe the net effect over time will be an evening out.”

professor of psychiatry at a major university in South America commented, “I believe technology will improve well-being in some areas (i.e., bridging distances) while reducing well-being in other areas (i.e., increased workload, work hours)”

research scientist said, “I don’t think people’s well-being will change significantly in either direction due primarily to digital tech/internet because there are so many other contributing social factors. The internet helps some and harms some and it will continue to do so. Other societal factors need to be considered in order to make a valid and reliable prediction of any significant change.”
An anonymous respondent commented, “Untrained people get very stressed out trying to keep their digital devices running properly. Also there is a growing divide among digital coping and non-digital. Some things will be easier by far.”

A Ph.D. candidate and information science instructor said, “This question is vague as to what is meant by well-being. Assuming that we are not talking about technological developments in medicine and treatment of illness, digital technology does not affect people’s well-being. We must ask whether an increase in reporting is due to having access to better communication systems (and better access to methods for reporting) rather than an absolute increase in reports of stress, anxiety, etc. Just because we like to blame technology for our stress and anxiety, this does not mean technology is actually the culprit. There is a difference between perception and reality. Assigning a value (good vs evil) to technology is a form of technological determinism. We need more research and better research questions to uncover whether and to what extent technology has an impact on our well-being. For instance, we could just as well claim that digital technology gives us more ways of staying in touch with family, friends and communities of support, and, therefore, it improves our well-being.”

deputy director at a nonprofit based in the U.S. wrote, “More people will be connected to information and to one another, despite the best efforts of authoritarian governments around the world. The degree to which people benefit from this connection will rely on education and whether today’s social media apps and service evolve or devolve beyond platforms that gather attention and amplify outrage to forums that build relationships, trust and connection. People’s well-being is grounded in whether they have positive shared experiences with other humans. Some of the technologies that typify today’s online environment – email, messaging, social networks, livestreaming and on-demand video, access through a desktop computer, laptop or smartphone – have a mixed history. Cohorts that use access for solitary gaming, video consumption, shopping and pornography are more likely to experience harms, from increased feelings of loneliness, isolation, or even radicalization. Cohorts that use access to connect to ideas, build and connect to communities, participate in political activity or campaign, and build shared experiences are more likely to experience positive benefits, particularly in elderly, disabled or rural populations with limited offline opportunities. If the next generation of services, platforms and technologies fosters relationships that then move offline, the more positive outcome is much more likely.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “I don’t think there will be much change in the way humans are affected by technology. We’re always waiting for the next big change. But technology in itself does not change human behavior.”

social scientist based in Europe commented, “People will adapt to it.”

scholarly-communication librarian said, “Whatever happens with the Internet, people will be able to use it for both good and harm. I imagine more advancements in what is known as ‘telemedicine’ where individuals can see their doctors from a distance from their home, including therapists and mental health counselors. I also know that people will continue to build and form communities online with those at a distance, and the technology for connecting those communities will only be enhanced. However, there is always a measure of anxiety brought about from the internet, whether from being harassed by anonymous parties, from feeling a need to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ or from the usual social issues that go along with having any connection with people. I really think that things will change, but people will stay the same. The only thing that I could see having a truly positive impact on the well-being of people is if online resources for addiction (e.g., the opioid epidemic) can be developed that actually work well and are supported by doctors and government.”

blogger and policy analyst based in North America wrote, “In the future, individuals and groups (organizations and communities) will benefit from and be harmed by activities on the internet in fairly equal measure. As is the case today, there is no doubt that there will be outliers at either end of the continuum who say they reap only benefits or are only harmed by being active online. On the positive side of the continuum, users will access art and literature and find answers to questions, they will learn about others, and what is happening in the world. On the negative side, individuals will be bullied and harassed in the extreme. The challenge will be for systems of all kinds to mature quickly, meaning that institutions and social media channels in particular understand their role in online and accept responsibility. An example in the negative realm: institutions (schools, libraries, clubs) and social media channels will have to invest much more in identifying negative behavior and experiences and then develop and implement responses to prevent additional harm. In addition, they will need to take action in a transparent way so that the public: 1) Knows that change is taking place. 2) And others can learn from the change.”

An internet advocate and activist based in the Global South commented, “My guess is that, on average, there will be no change but that the variance will drastically be raised. I mean that some people will see higher positive impact in well-being while others will see an increased level of negative impacts. The average alone is not a good indicator; the variance trend is of great importance and the key to separate the two diverging situations is the level of information literacy. Highly information-literate persons will have have greater positive impacts in their well-being while the lower the literacy level the worst the negative impact.”

To read the 86-page official survey report with analysis and find links to other raw data, click here.

To read for-credit responses to the main survey question, please click here.

To read a PDF with an expanded version of the full Digital Life report, please click here.