Elon University

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

Credited 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 for-credit 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 anonymous 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 for-credit respondents

Following are the full responses by study participants who chose to take credit 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 are the longer versions of expert responses that are contained in shorter form in the official survey report. This section includes many remarks that were not included in the report due to the overwhelming response.

Responses from those who said well-being will be more harmed than helped by digital life

Nicholas Carr, well-known author of numerous books and articles on technology and culture, said, “We now have a substantial body of empirical and experiential evidence on the personal effects of the internet, social media and smartphones. The news is not good. While there are certainly people who benefit from connectedness – those who have suffered social or physical isolation in the past, for instance – the evidence makes clear that, in general, the kind of constant, intrusive connectedness that now characterizes people’s lives has harmful cognitive and emotional consequences. Among other things, the research reveals a strong association, and likely a causal one, between heavy phone and internet use and losses of analytical and problem-solving skill, memory formation, contextual thinking, conversational depth, and empathy as well as increases in anxiety.”

Douglas Massey, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University, wrote, “With the advent and dominance of social media, the internet has evolved in undemocratic ways that were unforeseen at its inception, when it was generally seen as a democratizing force. Wealthy ideological interests, well-funded government actors and shadowy non-governmental organizations have established alternative sources of news and information that systematically pump disinformation into the public sphere in a effort to boost authoritarian ideologies, undermine democratic institutions, influence the outcome of elections or simply make money by playing on people’s darkest fears and prejudices. These efforts have been enhanced by the systematic manipulation of internet tools such as Google, Facebook and Twitter by bots and trolls propagated by many of these same non-democratic actors and interests, sowing distrust of democracy and democratic institutions and pushing public opinion toward authoritarian stances that reinforce the power and control of elites at the expense of the masses, leading to ever greater concentrations of wealth and income.”

Anthony Rutkowski, internet pioneer and business leader, said, “Clearly – as DARPA’s director [noted] in his seminal 2000 millennium article on this topic – the past 17 years have demonstrated how the DARPA internet which was never designed for public infrastructure use, has resulted in all kinds of adverse impacts to people’s lives and even the security of society. It has amplified the most outrageous behavior and alt-truth as the new normal. See details of my position at http://www.circleid.com/posts/20170312_the_internet_as_weapon/ [“The existence of ‘an open platform that enables anyone, everywhere, to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries globally is fundamentally a weapon’… such an infrastructure has inherent economic, operational, and political self-destructive properties that are playing out exponentially every day.]”

Michael Kleeman, senior fellow at the University of California-San Diego and board member at the Institute for the Future, wrote, “The early promise of the Net has been realized but the financial incentives to use it for harmful purposes, including legal and illegal ones, has proven too attractive. ’Digital Life’ will continue to erode personal interactions, reduce the diversity of ideas and conversation and contribute to negative health impacts. Other than the use of data analytics we have virtually no proof that wearables, etc., alter health trajectories. We do have evidence of a radical reduction in privacy, increase in criminal activity (as digital means reduce the cost of major financial and personal crimes), reduction of engagement with and caring for the environment as a result of increased interaction with on-line and digital devices.”

Douglas Rushkoff, a professor of media at City University of New York, said, “Things will stay on essentially the same trajectory. The real reason why digital technology will continue to compromise human cognition and wellbeing is that the companies dominating the space (Facebook, Google, Amazon) are run by people with no knowledge of human society or history. By leaving college at an early age, or running companies immediately after graduating, they fell under the spell of venture capitalists who push growth of capital over all other values. So the platforms will necessarily compromise humanity, democracy and other essential values. The larger the companies grow, the more desperate and extractive they will have to become to grow still further.”

Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member and professor at Columbia University, commented, “It seems likely that some people will benefit, some will see no major difference in their life as it is mostly a functional tool, others will be harmed. It’s like wine: enjoyable for some for dinner, but very harmful to somebody suffering from alcoholism. For the second group, it’s probably no more helpful or harmful than, say, FedEx or fax.”

Judith Donath, author of “The Social Machine, Designs for Living Online,” commented, “*To predict the impact of technology on well-being we need to ask, ‘Who profits from our well-being and who profits from our anxiety? As individuals, we prefer improved well-being; who wouldn’t want to be less stressed, happier, healthier and more satisfied with their life? Many researchers developing new technologies sincerely want to support such goals – indeed, for many that is the primary goal of their work. But, improving our well-being is not necessarily the aim of corporations developing new products nor, unfortunately at this point, of the U.S. government that controls the direction of much technological development. If your objective is to get people to buy more stuff, you do not want a population of people who look at what they have and at the friends and family surrounding them, and think to themselves ‘life is good, I appreciate what I have, and what I have is enough.’ If your goal is to manipulate people, to keep a population anxious and fearful so that they will seek a powerful, authoritarian leader – you will not want technologies and products that provide people with a strong sense of calm and well-being. Keeping people in a continual state of anxiety, anger, fear, or just haunted by an inescapable, nagging sense that everyone else is better off than they are can be very profitable. In short, the individual researchers and developers may be motivated by a sincere desire to advance understanding of mood, cognition, etc., or to create technologies that nudge or control our responses for our own good, but the actual implementation of these techniques and devices is likely to be quite different – to be used to reduce well-being because a population in a state of fear and anxiety is a far more malleable and profitable population. We will see a big increase in the ability of technologies to affect our sense of well-being. The ability to both monitor and manipulate individuals is rapidly increasing. Over the past decade, technologies to track our online behavior were perfected; the next decade will see massively increased surveillance of our off-line behavior. It’s already commonplace for our physical location, heart rate, etc., to be tracked; voice input provides data not only about what we’re saying, but also the affective component of our speech; virtual assistants learn our household habits. The combination of these technologies makes it possible for observers (Amazon, government, Facebook, etc.) to know what we are doing, what is happening around us, and how we react to it all. At the same time, increasingly sophisticated technology for emotion and response manipulation is being developed. This includes devices such as Alexa and other virtual assistants designed to be seen as friends and confidants. Alexa is an Amazon interface – owned and controlled by a giant retailer: she’s designed, ultimately, to encourage you to shop, not to enhance your sense of well-being.”

Susan Price, lead experience strategist at USAA, commented, “Mental health problems are rising and workplace productivity is falling. The tendency to engage with digital content and people not present instead of people in our immediate presence is growing, and small-screen trance has become an accepted interpersonal norm in the workplace. Culturally-induced attention-deficit behavior has already reached staggering proportions, and is still rising. The mini-serotonin payoffs we get when ‘connecting’ in this way are mildly, insidiously addictive and are squeezing out the more uneven, effortful, problematic real social connections we need for true productivity and intimacy.”

John Klensin, Internet Hall of Fame member, longtime IETF and ISOC leader and innovator of DNS administration, said, “I am impressed by the increasing anecdotal and research evidence of people not only using the internet to isolate themselves from others but to select the information they are exposed to in a way that confirms and strengthens their existing, predetermined views. While that behavior is certainly not new, the rapid turnaround and instant responsiveness of the internet and social media appear to be reinforcing it in ways that are ultimately undesirable, a situation that is further reinforced by the substitute of labeling and denunciations for examination and reasoning about facts.”

Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations at the EBU/WBU Broadcasting Union, said, “My predictions are for a negative impact in the next 10 years for three main reasons. 1) Most technological changes occurring today and those that will happen tomorrow are in answer to immediate needs and requests (for example, an app aiming to provide the solution for a given problem). Nobody knows what their impact will be on human behaviours and skills in the long run. Because of rapid change, long-lasting effects could be seen only later. 2) Developments based on disruptive processes are very difficult to regulate because the changes happen too fast; this is potentially very dangerous – especially understanding the impacts on society. There is nothing more dangerous than to create the prospect of a new world where the large majority of people have no idea of their future situation and social status. The last time this happened was during the first industrial revolution. A century of social turmoil and the end of absolute monarchy were the result. Could the digital world bring as consequence the end of democracy? 3) The industrial revolution saw the birth of monopolies and the rise of corporations stronger than the state. Antitrust legislation and the break-up of some of these monopolies were the national solutions. It could be that the appetite of internet companies and of the telecommunications companies will bring the end of the open internet. Could the antitrust solutions of the past be replicable in a global world where national jurisdictions cannot tackle global problems and multilateral tools are ignored or rejected by the stronger states? Not necessarily. After the industrial revolution a new balance of powers was established in modern societies: democracies and a new ‘social contract’ were signed. But it took more than a decade.”

Adrian Colyer, a business leader/entrepreneur based in Europe, said, “The reasons I tipped in favour of an overall decline in well-being are: 1) The increasingly detailed monitoring and tracking of every aspect of individuals’ lives, leading to increased opportunities to exploit/manipulate an individual’s psychological state for commercial gain (history teaches us that not much seems to be able to stand in the way of a potential profit!). 2) The rapid arrival of a post-reality era where trust erodes even further because no image, video or audio source can be trusted anymore (photorealistic faking becoming a readily accessible technology). I think this will have a destabilising effect on society.”

Rosanna Guadagno, a social psychologist with expertise in social influence, persuasion and digital communication and researcher at the Peace Innovation Lab at Stanford University, wrote, “In my professional opinion, the current trends in digital communication are alarming and may have a negative long-term impact on human social interaction. It was naive of social media companies fail to consider and prepare for the prospect that their platforms could be misused for large-scale information warfare (e.g., Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election). Furthermore, these companies have shirked their responsibility to their users by failing to protect their customers from cyberwarfare. This has not only interfered with people’s perception of reality and their ability to tell fact from fiction (I’ve actually conducted research demonstrating that information presented on a computer screen is perceived as more persuasive than comparable printed material). This has caused a lot of disinformation to spread online and has fueled myriad divisive online interactions. In addition to these issues, there is quite a bit of evidence mounting that people are spending more and more time alone using digital communication as a proxy for face-to-face interactions and this is increasing loneliness and depression among people, particularly our young adults. These technologies should be designed to promote healthy interactions. One way to accomplish this would be to switch to more interactive options for conversation (e.g., video chat instead of text-based conversation would reduce miscommunications and remind people that there are other people with real thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind the computer screen). It remains to be seen whether any of the promises made by digital technology companies to address these issue will be implemented. As a faculty member, one issue I’ve also commonly noticed is how little time is spent on ethics and psychology as part of the typical software engineering course curriculum. The ethics of software development and the idea that technology should be designed to enhance people’s well-being are both principles that should be stressed as part of any education in software design.”

Erika McGinty, a research scientist based in North America, wrote, “I believe that the smartphone already reduced the need for everyday interactions with people face to face; having the time and the Web in one’s pocket made what used to be normal exchanges among citizens – asking for the time, for directions, for a particular store or restaurant – unnecessary and even unwelcome or suspicious. With social media and games and WiFi-connected public spaces, including urban transportation like the New York subway, the random, often life-affirming conversations with strangers have all but disappeared, making strangers just that much more strange. This has led to less empathy among city dwellers for the people physically around them. Then there are the issues of privacy, which affect some now and may affect many more in the future. Location tracking and digital data seizure are concerns. The Internet of Things strikes me as enormously ominous in its potential for malicious hacking but more so even for yet more data collection and lack of privacy from corporations/providers and the government. The increasing ability to monitor and control remotely, be it one’s oven temperature, home-surveillance cameras, kitchen lights, I feel is leading to a hands-off mentality where ultimate control is in the hands of third-party providers and one’s personal human agency is reduced. I find this trend to be very troubling in a society of individuals that must rely on one another, not suspect or divide one another. ‘Security’ has become an excuse for much of digital control, in an age when people are safer than they’ve ever been. Loneliness is also a big problem shown in research to be an outgrowth of the shift toward remote relationships with ‘friends’ and workplace and even one’s own home. When Facebook recently launched Messenger for Kids, I laughed at the line to the effect of ‘for parents to interact with their young children’ as though it were a spoof. Of course, it’s not a spoof.”

Daureen Nesdill, research data management expert based at the University of Utah, said, “People will be both positively and negatively impacted by the increase in technology. The negative is in a reduced knowledge and experience with social interactions offline leading to isolation, depression and an increased number of broken relationships within families, couples and groups. To a certain extant it is already happening. A second negative will be the increase in cybercrime we will be dealing with – financial and identity theft, ransom for access, manipulation of autos, robots, etc. The positive will be the increase in efficiency of completing any task from cleaning one’s home to the tasks performed at work. In addition, folks with disabilities are able to be included in more and more activities due to new technology.”

David Ellis, Ph.D., course director of the Department of Communication Studies at York University-Toronto, said, “Much like a mutating virus, digital services and devices keep churning out new threats along with the new benefits – making mitigation efforts a daunting and open-ended challenge for everyone. Over the next decade, the majority of North Americans will experience harms of many different kinds thanks to the widespread adoption and use of digital technologies. The last year alone has seen an outpouring of commentary, including some 20 trade books arguing that our digital habits are harming individual welfare and tearing up the social fabric. In marketing its services, Silicon Valley is committed to the relentless promotion of convenience and connectedness. Its success in doing so has wreaked havoc on personal privacy, online security, social skills and the ability to focus attention, not least in college classrooms. While they may be victims of a kind, most consumers are simply in denial about their compulsive use of smartphones and social media, as well as other services designed by their developers to be addictive – a problem that persists even when legal sanctions are in play, as with texting while driving. There’s growing evidence these digital addictions are promoting depression, loneliness, videogaming abuse and even suicidal behavior, especially among teens and young adults. Instead of feeling obliged to moderate their level of connectivity, however, consumers have come to feel a sense of entitlement about their habits, unconstrained by social mores that previously framed these habits as inappropriate. Indeed, heavy use of digital devices is widely encouraged because of the misguided idea that so-called multitasking makes us more productive. Our digital lives are also at risk from factors even less amenable to personal control. 1) Networked devices are inherently unsafe, causing harm in the form of compromised personal data, ID theft, financial losses and so on. 2) Most of us are at the mercy of multiple third parties when online, particularly commercial firms that have neither the financial incentive nor the legal obligation to take end-user security seriously – as in last year’s Equifax hack. 3) Very few users are willing and able to recognize potential harms and do anything about them. Most don’t know how the sausages get made and don’t want to know. Pew’s survey data indicates that even users who’ve experienced an online breach have little or no interest in improving their own security measures. As more users go online, with more bandwidth and more opportunities to engage, there will be more opportunities for harm. That prospect is well captured in current expectations for the Internet of Things. Industry is putting a hard sell on the unprecedented convenience of ‘smart’ consumer durables, eyeing the countless billions to be made from this next big trend. Too bad consumers aren’t also hearing about the trade-offs, such as the huge compromises to privacy and security that go with the IoT. The risks don’t stop and start with leaky routers or networked fridges. Digital technology in general is uniquely prone to spreading harm.”

Laurie L. Putnam, an educator, librarian and communications consultant, wrote, “If current trends go unchecked, individuals’ overall well-being will be more harmed than helped by digital life… Connected technologies that can be manipulated, attacked or misused will do more harm than good unless we recognize the vulnerabilities and do a better job of managing the risks. Stress levels rise when we lose control over our environment, and if we lose power over our digital lives, our well-being will be compromised. We are caught in a wave of rapidly changing technology, and many people are struggling, unsettled in the present and uncertain about the future. This is not about information overload; it’s about a digital undertow that can pull away our time, agency, and even economic stability. When we live online, our credit card numbers are stolen, our private data is harvested and commodified, our sense of the truth and reality is called into question. Job security – and with it a family’s ability to meet its basic needs – becomes a real concern when plans for automation don’t include plans for workers. It becomes harder and harder to unplug our lives, and with the expanding Internet of Things, opting out will become virtually impossible. We need to find ways to adapt or tensions will grow and our well-being will be further compromised. It’s important to note that the well-being of the individual is connected to the well-being of the community. If the weaknesses of digital technology damage our collective institutions and democratic systems, however unintentionally, the individual will suffer. I expect things will get worse before they get better. But they can get better, if enough of us are willing to put our collective well-being ahead of business interests.”

John Markoff, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and longtime New York Times technology writer, said, “I would be most comfortable with an answer option that was more nuanced. I believe the Internet will both help and hurt people globally in the future. That said I see the continuing inability of both states and communities to come to grips with security and privacy challenges brought by the Net as defining in the next decade. For example if you take the impact of bots on the democratic process in Western nations in the past two years and add machine learning and AI techniques now being widely deployed you can come up with many dark scenarios.”

Tiziana Dearing, a professor at the Boston College School of Social Work, said, “People’s well-being will be affected for the worse by digital technology for three reasons. 1) Because we have evolved as interpersonal, social creatures and therefore are unable to adapt to the behaviors, needs, even maybe the wiring required to thrive socioemotionally and physically in a digital world at the pace that digital change will require. 2) Because digital technology – from design to algorithms – has evolved without sufficient consideration of social empathy and inherent bias. 3) Because we have not figured out how to mitigate the ability that certain forms of technology have created to be our worst selves with each other. Don’t get me wrong. Technological developments hold tremendous potential to cure disease, solve massive human problems, level the information playing field, etc. But our ability to adapt at a species level happens on a much slower cycle, and our human behaviors get in the way.”
Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, said, “I believe things will change for the worse as more and more bad actors figure out how to better manipulate individuals, especially those without education. The Russians have been doing it for years, corporations like Amazon and Google have as well, what is to stop other nefarious characters from using digital screens to sow further chaos among civil societies?”

Kathleen Harper, an editor for HollywoodLife.com, said, “While technological advances improve the logistics of our lives, they severely limit human interaction, which is arguably more important than having Google at your fingertips. Before smartphones, people lived perfectly happy and content lives, so it’s very possible to be fulfilled without the internet in your back pocket. But without essential social skills and human interaction, which we’re essentially trading technology in for, I don’t believe we’ll be as successful on an emotional level. For example, I have cousins who are Gen Z, and they’re constantly on their phones – even during family gatherings when everyone else is talking face-to-face. On some level, technology has a way of giving us social anxiety when it comes to interacting with others in real life. As a result, I don’t think we’ll be as successful as we could be as a species. On the flip side however, when looking at the bigger picture, technology is saving lives. It’s helping us cure disease, fight hunger, and protect the planet. So when thinking about it in a more global sense, I’m not sure if there’s one clear answer. Like so many other things, technology helps and hurts. I’m not personally sure yet if the benefits will outweigh the negatives – I don’t think ANYONE is.”

Mary Ellen Bates, president and founder of Bates Information Services Inc., commented, “We have seen plenty of studies on the negative impacts of social media on users’ feelings of happiness and satisfaction, exacerbated by social media companies (whose revenue is dependent on advertising) developing more and more ways to keep users engaged on their sites. Virtual- and enhanced-reality devices will become commonplace, which further engages people in a low level of interactions with others. I foresee people becoming accustomed to the low-bandwidth virtual interactions rather than the face-to-face meatspace interactions that we humans instinctively crave.”

Fay Niker, postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for Ethics in Society, wrote, “Understanding well-being in terms of human flourishing – which includes among other things the exercise of autonomous agency and the quality of human relationships – it seems to clear to me that the ongoing structuring of our lives by digital technologies will only continue to harm human well-being. This is a psychological claim, as well as a moral one. Unless we are able to regulate our digital environments politically and personally, it is likely that our mental and moral health will be harmed by the agency-undermining, disempowering, individuality-threatening and exploitative effects of the late-capitalistic system marked by the attention-extracting global digital communication firms.”

Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote, “Things are looking fraught at the moment. There are many reasons why, but I’ll just highlight three of them. First, the repeal of the Obama administration’s 2015 rules for Net neutrality is a devastating blow for public policy. As Brett Frischmann and I have argued, Net neutrality is fundamentally about social control. Thanks to the [Ajit] Pai regime at the FCC, Internet Service Providers have more power than they deserve to micromanage how we conduct our online social, political, educational and economic lives. While Net neutrality advocates have identified several disheartening outcomes to be on our guard for, the projected parade-of-horribles only scratches the surface. If we can’t get the information superhighway right, it’s a bad omen for the future where we’ll need tp govern a mature Internet of Things. Second, although analysis of the last U.S. presidential election is shining a spotlight on the problem of botified communication, the focus on internet propaganda obscures the more basic, habit-forming ways that we’re being techno-socially engineered to outsource more and more of our communication – and thus ourselves – to software. Third, despite increased awareness of the value of being able to spend time offline, practical constraints continue make the freedom to unplug ever-harder to achieve.”

Estee Beck, an assistant professor of technical and professional writing and digital humanities at The University of Texas-Arlington, said, “While people increasingly rely upon digital technologies for connection, tracking and easing the burdens of daily life, the surveillance state of the internet – led by corporations and governments – means increased intrusion into the private lives of millions of people in the United States. Rather than allowing people methods to opt out of data tracking or access to their data files each website collects on people to review, delete or challenge, companies like Google, Facebook and others that will emerge over the next 10 years (including Internet of Things companies and artificial intelligence companies) seek to harvest as much data about users for billions in profit with little compunction over invading the minute-by-minute lives of people. Under this framework, internet companies will continue to write the rules of collecting data online, with a lack of U.S. government oversight or regulation. This will lead to a worsening of people’s well-being, as consumers will not have any recourse for adverse actions taken against them in financial, legal, health, educational and social sectors.”

Thad Hall, a senior political scientist and co-author of the forthcoming book “Politics for a Connected American Public,” wrote, “The internet has many positive attributes, including helping individuals organize, communicate to broad audiences, and facilitating conversations about politics and social issues. These positives are important. However, over the next decade, the social ills associated with the internet are likely to grow. One reason is that the wealth of data collected about individuals will continue to increase and these data will be used to influence and shape people’s attitudes and behaviors. The big social media companies – i.e., Google, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat – will continue to be platforms where personalized content will be delivered to selected segments in an effort to shape their behaviors. Some of these efforts will be a part of traditional advertising and persuasion (who Toyota or Nintendo target) but much of this will be political in nature, designed to manipulate voting preferences and social attitudes. The growth in data and data analytic techniques will be accompanied by the growth in new technologies to manipulate audio and visual media. It is already possible to take a small amount of audio from an individual and create totally new, unique audio from it. Video can also be altered as well. It is easy to imagine, in the 2024 elections, candidates being confronted with either audio tapes or video of them saying offensive things, where the audio and video is seen as 100% authentic but is actually manufactured. Social media will allow these seemingly authentic hoaxes to go viral before they can be disproven (if, in fact, they can be disproven). This type of event will bring into question what is actually true or real and further undermine public confidence in the media and in facts.”

Scott McQuire, professor of media and communications at the University of Melbourne, Australia, said, “My concern is the dominant models that have developed around hyperconnectivity. Dominant internet business models that depend upon amassing user attention promote negative feedback loops based on competitive self-evaluation. They tend to commidify personal interactions. New models of data governance and new social protocols need to evolve, but I’m not confident they will.”

Michele Walfred, a North American communications specialist, said, “I cannot imagine life without the internet, and the myriad resources that flood in, almost instantly upon command. We are truly witnessing the Age of Information, and that is a beneficial thing. That being said, I worry that we are developing an addiction to personal devices – the eagerness in sharing and the rush we feel as we anticipate and then receive reactions to personal posts. I am fearful that we are losing interpersonal skills – eye contact – the art of small talk. I’ve witnessed this behavior in younger generations, and, in the midst of their hyper focus on devices, they are vulnerable to being oblivious of what is going on around them, or conversely, distracted by digital divided attention.”

Rob Reich, professor of political science at Stanford University, said, “If the baseline for making a projection about the next today is the current level of benefit/harm of digital life, then I am willing to express a confident judgment that the next decade will bring a net harm to people’s well-being. The massive and undeniable benefits of digital life – access to knowledge and culture – have been mostly realized. The harms have begun to come into view just over the past few years, and the trendline is moving consistently in a negative direction. I am mainly worried about corporate and governmental power to surveil users (attendant loss of privacy and security), about the degraded public sphere and its new corporate owners that care not much for sustaining democratic governance. And then there are the worries about AI and the technological displacement of labor. And finally, the addictive technologies that have captured the attention and mindspace of the youngest generation. All in all, digital life is now threatening our psychological, economic and political well-being.”

Lori Laurent Smith, an entrepreneur based in North America, commented, “If sitting is the new smoking, the internet is the chief enabler. There is a laundry list of diseases that are directly linked to inactivity, with the majority having a fatal outcome over time. Jobs in the digital economy are increasingly more intellectually-intensive (than manual labor) meaning more of us are sitting in front of screens for hours at a stretch for work. Then we come home and check our social media for a few minutes (or hours), slump in front of a screen to Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon or thousands of other video streaming services or maybe play video games with (virtual) friends. The internet lets us remain inactive while we click and buy groceries for collection or delivery – actually buying many, many things – replacing walking around the store or mall with more sitting. It’s also not great for our collective psychology (as research continues to prove). The rising generation (born after 1996) have grown up with the internet and spent their teenage years with smartphones and tablets, meaning they’ve had to construct their identities and discover their interests in a completely new way – in front of an audience of friends, family, teachers, neighbors and trolls. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned about cyber-bullying and ‘Facebook Depression’ (referring to an adolescent spending too much time on social media, including texting). According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide became the leading cause of death among people ages 15-34 in 2016. Ongoing studies among adults are increasingly showing that internet use, particularly social media, is related to an increase in mental health disorders including: anxiety, depression, panic attacks, ADHD and addiction. The last point is perhaps the most controversial; however, it appears to be present in people who spend excessive amounts of time using social media: neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood-modifying experiences and tolerance and concealing the addictive behavior. On the flip side, there is increasing research evidence that people who are overly dependent on digital devices undergo ‘withdrawal’ when they take a break from the internet. Many studies have focused on social networks, particularly Facebook, with its promise of instant social connections and groups of like-minded individuals, have found that instead of enhancing well-being (as has been proven with people socializing offline and joining support groups in real life), they appear to actually undermine well-being and increase a sense of social isolation. And the more social sites a person visits each day, the greater they *feel* their feeling of social isolation tends to be. According to psychiatrists, perceived social isolation (loneliness) is one of the very worst things for our physical and mental well-being. That’s not to say there aren’t great benefits to our well-being from the Internet. Fitbits and sleep monitors help us achieve fitness goals. Apps help us meditate, keep up on our commitments and be on time for meetings. But such a small percentage of the population use these tools consistently, the longer-term effect is overwhelmed by the negative effects from the 1-2 punch of inactivity and poor mental health. While the promise of self-driving vehicles to lower injury and deaths from traffic accidents is important to consider; artificial intelligence/machine learning brings with it more automation including drones to deliver things/run errands, the rise of robots to help look after our homes and family and the permanent rise of unemployment over the longer term. I can’t help but think that the additional time freed up by these miraculous changes will cause us to spend even more time being inactive while we mindlessly scroll through social media-type sites, figure out what to watch (or otherwise be entertained), order everything for home delivery (including every meal) and slowly become aware that our well-being has been compromised by poor mental and physical health.”

Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills known as an international expert on the psychology of technology, wrote, “1) We continue to spend more time connecting electronically rather than face-to-face, which lacks essential cues for understanding. 2) We also continue to attempt to multitask even though it harms performance. 3) We insist on using LED-based devices close to our eyes right up to bedtime even though it negatively impacts sleep and our brain’s nightly needs for synaptic rejuvenation harming our ability to retain information.”

Rich Salz, principal engineer at Akamai Technologies, said, “We have already seen some negative affects, including more isolation, less ability to focus, more ability to be deceived by bad actors (fake news) and so on. I do not see those lessening. Sadly.”

Sam Punnett, president of FAD Research, Inc., said, “There is concrete evidence that the incidence of distraction related to the portability of digital technologies is detrimental and has resulted in significant loss of life. Some jurisdictions (province of Ontario for one) have identified distracted driving to be responsible for more traffic deaths than impaired driving. The adoption of digital technologies have had wide-ranging effects on society as a whole with the adoption of mobile personal communications devices perhaps having the most visible impact. Near-term there is little doubt that there have been many broad benefits to aspects of the economy, the operation of institutions and to consumer convenience. It is becoming apparent that there are unanticipated consequences over the longer term. There is a realization, at least in the realm of consumer goods, mass and social media, that consumers’ data trails may in fact be the product – leading to the conclusion that distraction is our most prevalent commodity, paid for with attention span. The society-wide effects of ‘continuous partial attention’ and the tracking, analysis and corruption of the use of data trails are only beginning to be realized.”

Marcus Foth, professor of urban informatics at Queensland University of Technology, wrote, “Advancement and innovation of digital technology is still predominantly driven by the goal to increase and optimise productivity rather than people’s quality of life or well-being. While proponents of an elusive work-life-balance may argue that you can always switch off digital technology, the reality is that is not being switched off – not because it cannot, but there is now a socio-cultural expectation to be always available and responding in real-time. While there are genuine efforts to improve people’s well-being using digital technology, there are additional negative impacts that overall outweigh the positives. For example, digital technology increasingly allows and fosters multi-tasking, which has proven detrimental effects on people’s mental health. Furthermore, the increasing use of energy (e.g., cloud computing, blockchain, et cetera), rare earth metals, the unregulated mining of cobalt to produce lithium ion batteries, etc., in combination with planned obsolescence cause ever increasing environmental problems (e-waste, climate change, et cetera) – this in turn also has negative impacts on people’s well-being.”

Megan Gray, a regulatory attorney based in North America, wrote, “Misuse and abuse of digital surveillance capabilities.”

Adam Popescu, a freelance journalist who has written for the New York Times, Bloomberg and other publications wrote, “You see it everywhere. People with their heads down, more comfortable engaging with a miniature world-in-a-box than with the people around them. And you see it while they’re behind the wheel driving, while working and performing dangerous and focus-intensive tasks. Forget emotional happiness and the loss of focus and deep thought and the fact that we’re now more comfortable to choose who we sleep with based on an algorithm than we are based on serendipity, intuition, chance,and the potential for rejection by walking up to someone and saying ‘Hi, my name is…’ (And please stop saying algorithm. It’s meaningless. It’s just a computer program, there is no higher power here and we should stop ascribing it one.) The biggest issue with our addiction to smartphones, one none of us talk about openly yet all engage in, is the threat to health and safety. Sure, no one says ‘hi’ anymore when they’re passing by, no one takes a moment to be friendly or reach out, even with just our eyes, because our eyes are no longer at eye-level, they’re down, hiding in our screens. Social media over the past year has been revealed for the ugly wolf-in-sheep’s clothing it is, a monster once draped in the skin of liberty. We see it for what it is. When will we see that it’s not just the programs and toys and apps and sites on our screens that are the problem – but our screens themselves?”

Heather Pollock, a respondent who shared no additional identifying details, wrote, “I fear more social isolation rather than face-to-face relationships. I also anticipate social media having us surround ourselves with people who think like we do and entrenching divisions among people.”

Morgan Weiland, a JD/Ph.D. candidate at Stanford Law School, commented, “Overturning Net neutrality creates structural conditions that undermine people’s well-being online. In the wake of the FCC’s recent moves to undercut a free and open internet, people’s ability to freely seek and share information online will be undercut and Internet service providers have the opportunity to act as gatekeepers as never before. If well-being is comprised of the freedom of expression and the ability to develop one’s self in communities, then those opportunities are now at risk.”

Philip Gillingham, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, said, “People’s lives are becoming dominated by digital technology both at work and at home. This greatly affects what they end up doing in both domains. At work, clumsy information systems restrict and constrict what people do, shifting responsibility for administrative tasks from administrative workers to professionals. Considerable time and energy is diverted to overcoming the challenges of dealing with the system, let alone getting any work done. Outside work, people are always available and connectivity makes it hard to resist social media. Hence we are distracted from what is going on around us. Of course it is not all bad, but we have tended to downplay the negative consequences of many technological affordances. From my observations, we are still in an awkward phase of technological development as the technology is developing more quickly than we can adjust what we do and how we do it. ‘Kid in a candy store’ syndrome is common, but, when you look to children and young people, they have a much more precise and shrewd approach to technology. They are not impressed by smartphones and WiFi and Bluetooth and they are far more ready to accept whatever might be the latest developments. This awkward phase will pass and hopefully we will be able to better distinguish what technology to use, when, how and with what effect, both at work and at play.”

Brittany Smith, a digital marketing consultant based in North America, said, “Digital life won’t help us overcome issues related to global warming and the increasingly atomized nature of social life due to the harmful effects of capitalism.”

Jason Abbott, professor of political science at the University of Louisville, said, “Increased use of digital media has resulted in people being less present and mindful, more distracted and restless. resulting in more stress. As the number of digital platforms and social media applications increase this trend will only continue.”

Erin Valentine, a writer based in North America, wrote, “From personal experience, I have noticed that when technology is not as prevalent in my life I have a greater sense of well-being. Technology brings a larger amount of anxiety to my life, as there is a sense to constantly be connected and working. However, I do acknowledge that technology has been incredibly helpful in my life and has become an essential part of my day-to-day routine.”

Raymond Hogler, a professor of management at Colorado State University, wrote, “We’ve already seen the negative consequences of the internet and related technology. Trump became president by effectively lying across media platforms. It’s pretty clear now that Russians captured a large segment of internet communication, and media companies have failed to develop adequate responses to those developments. It calls into question the integrity of our entire political system. Congress refuses to acknowledge and deal with the problem, claiming that the 2016 election was legitimate. We live with the consequences.”

Anita Salem, a human systems researcher based in North America, commented, “As we become more virtual in our relationships and activities, we will see decreasing physicality and our physical resilience will continue to deteriorate. We’re already seeing youth with weaker bones and health deficiencies tied to this reduced physicality and poor diet. Reduced physicality, the physiological effects of using electronic media, the defocusing caused by multi-tasking, and the pressure of keeping up with the flow of information will create widespread anxiety and alienation. This will cause increasing depression, suicide, and addiction. Add to this the increasing power of corporations and you end up with populations ‘chasing the dragon’ who are easily manipulated and controlled for the benefit of the elite.”

Jonathan Irvin, a retail manager based in North America, said, “The intrusion of digital and on-line into more aspects of daily life has already begun to erode the cohesion society needs to function. Future developments in digital distractions will exacerbate the current trends in which people are increasingly isolated from one another except for narrow interests, attitudes or political stances. Our ability to see each other valuable members of society is being eroded and we see those who have different backgrounds, nationalities, religious convictions, political affiliations, etc., as ‘others’ who are not to be trusted, much less embraced as fellow human beings.”

Lucretia Walker, a quality improvement associate for planning and evaluation social services, said, “I’m worried that long-established social norms which allowed humans to connect with each other in a real way will be lost. I’m concerned about the real loss of and invasion of privacy and the fact that our every movement is recorded and accounted for. As a member of an oppressed group here in the U.S., the thought of all the ways that information can be used to further oppress strikes a chilling fear in my heart. People are willingly and also unknowingly sharing very personal information that is being entrusted to large corporations who don’t have histories of putting social good over money. It astounds me that so many think that companies will prioritize the customer over profit when nearly every person has had at least some experience with trying to unsubscribe or opt out of something or another. For example, when banks were forced to roll back their mandatory arbitration requirements in credit card agreements, they required that you write and mail a letter by a certain date; the same banks that are capable of paperless billing and online transactions. Do we need to wonder whose interest is served there? Whose interest will be served when so many companies know so much about everything about us? I work in New York in a human service non-profit where the city of New York is engaged in a Medicaid Redesign Pilot where part of the goal is to save Medicaid dollars by implementing a program called Health Homes. The stated goal is to help coordinate care of individuals with multiple chronic health conditions, and those are the goals stated to the client but of course the primary goal is to reduce emergency room utilization and hospitalization and overall to save money. To participate, the clients are required to sign a consent that allows the sharing of information with many people until consent is withdrawn. The problem is that other city agencies such as the department of homeless services have an unwritten rule clients MUST be engaged in Health Homes in order to stay in city shelters. This is never actually stated to the clients but is instead told to the agencies administering services who then must try to push and prod the client to agree. This is one of the ways that vulnerable people can find themselves with limited agency when faced with ‘choices’ and I can only imagine all the other ways that technology and information sharing can be harmful. I’d love to show you how encompassing the consent form is from my orthopeadic doctor! I think about the use of smartboards and other classroom technologies that track and analyze everything about our children and how this information could be used against them in the future, and I also worry about the increasing push for children to attend online schools and how this will wreak havoc on social skills and normal development. I see technology replacing more and more jobs, and those who don’t have technical or specialized skills being forced to try to earn a living in low-wage, service-related jobs. I’m concerned about a future when I currently see throngs of people ‘engaging’ alongside each other when no one even looks up from their device when talking to you. This unawareness started with everyone carrying mobile phones, and social courtesy seems to have evaporated, as people started out talking loudly and obliviously into their phones wherever they were and this has progressed to the point that people at dinner together in a restaurant are busier taking photos of their food than eating it or talking to the people they’re with. I will also mention my real concern about the fact that almost no one actually prints pictures anymore. Will the cloud storage companies be around when my grandchildren have grandchildren? I could barely transfer the small VHS camcorder tapes to the newer technology CD; now many devices don’t even have CD drives. My three children are 34, 29 and 17 and I have two 9-year-old grandchildren, and I still have old technology for simple things like photos on film, floppy discs from the first Sony Mavica camera, and on and on. Everything is etheral now; nothing seems concrete. I do love that because of this technology I can access information instantly and anywhere but I cannot deny that I can’t seem to access my ability to focus on anything for more than an instant because of it.”

Robert Stratton, cybersecurity entrepreneur, coach and investor, wrote, “I’m reluctant to attempt to be prescient over a 10-year period, but I’ve worked at the intersection of the internet and people’s lives since I was helping to build it in the early 1990s. There is a confluence of factors that, taken together have caused me to assess some grave future potentials. While the combination of increasing individual habituation to social media platforms and some gaming technologies is not without risk, it is a mistake to assert that those are the sole or even primary nexus for potential deleterious impacts. While there may be beneficial uses for this technology… we cannot ignore the question of what happens when addictive technologies are coupled with very plausible but erroneous content, particularly when generated by skilled actors with specific goals. Additionally, there are decentralized, distributed actor groups with information operations capabilities that I will assert now rival those of nation-states. Things are not what they seem. We now live in an environment where digital audio and video can be generated with modest skill to produce video that is functionally indistinguishable from photography while being essentially wholly specious. Most internet users and virtually all of the news media seem to operating on two errant assumptions: 1) People mean what they write on the internet. 2) People are witting of their roles in events that occur due to their actions. I would respectfully assert that anyone with a basic knowledge of intelligence tradecraft would agree that these are naïve in the modern environment. Additionally, there are now generalized programming APIs that provide the ability to make essentially ANY application or website habituating for its users.”

Izumi Aizu, a senior research fellow at Tama University’s Institute for InfoSocionomics, wrote, “There will of course be much positive impact by digital technologies, not limited to the internet, however, I am afraid that there will be more harmful influence and impact caused by the use of digital technologies, especially in the way people think and behave (may not be the way they produce). In other words, there may be a greater divide in social life and less solidarity and social bonds than ones we have today may be generated, perhaps subconsciously and in the gradual long-term effect. People may become less tolerant, not as willing to understand and accept others who have different values, and seek instead more power and money within their own groups. This may happen – globally and locally – I’m afraid.”

Beth Kanter, an author, trainer, blogger and speaker based in North America, wrote, “I spent the year before this publishing a book on the topic of self-care leaders of nonprofit organizations and creating a culture of well-being in the nonprofit workplace, interviewing and surveying nonprofit professionals. I am now also teaching workshops for nonprofits on the topic of Technology Wellness. Because nonprofits are under-resourced and often their programs are under attack, these people are spending endless hours online, with news alerts going off, sleep interruptions, no boundaries regarding after-work emails and requests. I interviewed countless nonprofit leaders who made themselves sick, ended up in ERs and hospitals due to stress, with use of technology and social media as a contributor. I am seeing some change in some nonprofits where they are focusing on wellbeing and encouraging employees and staff to understand the drawbacks of overuse of mobile phones and online technology and constant news alerts. As a social-change activist and someone who has strongly believed in the power of networks and social media to create good, the last year has been really disheartening. I have had more conversations about a wish to quit social media, especially Facebook, but realizing that it has become a roach motel in a way. There are some new platforms that are trying to focus on civil society and positive action, but they lack critical mass. I am concerned about Facebook getting rid of transaction fees for nonprofits to encourage more use but not offering ad grants and other support. I could go on and on. I’m blogging about this now ‘Technology Wellness’ and general well-being for nonprofits.”

John Dorrer, a consultant based in North America, wrote, “I am deeply concerned that current policies as well as the future policies of the Trump Administration will put greater control of the internet into the hands of private and corporate providers. This will not only escalate cost of access but also limit access to content. Once again, we are taking taxpayer-funded, government-generated innovation and turning it over to corporations who will run the market and exploit the public. We are already suffering from such an indignity with prescription drugs. Our publically funded research and development should be also able to secure public returns. However, our bankrupt political institutions and emaciated regulatory apparatus will not serve the public.”

David S. H. Rosenthal, retired chief scientist of the LOCKSS Program at Stanford University, said, “The digital economy is based upon competition to consume humans’ attention. This competition has existed for a long time (see Tim Wu’s ‘The Attention Merchants’) but the current generation of tools for consuming attention is far more effective than previous generations. Economies of scale and network effects have placed control of these tools in a very small number of exceptionally powerful companies. These companies are driven by the need to consume more and more of the available attention to maximize profit. This is already having malign effects on society (see the 2016 presidential election). Even if these companies wanted to empower less-malign effects, they have no idea how to, and doing so would certainly impair their bottom line. Thus these companies will consume more and more of the available attention by delivering whatever they can find to grab and hold attention. The most effective way to do this is to create fear in the reader, driving the trust level in society down (see Robert Putnam’s ‘Making Democracy Work’ for the ills of a low-trust society).”

Mario Morino, chairman at Morino Ventures, LLC, wrote, “The reason I am more pessimistic than optimistic about the impact of the internet on well-being is the pervasive damage that is being caused by the promulgation of untruths, misinformation and the targeted damaging or destruction of digital information and its application. The concern is exacerbated by the lack of counter-efforts and what appears to be a public either not grasping or simply overwhelmed by the universal threat this poses.”

Andy Williamson, CEO of Democratise, said, “The internet and digital tools are tremendous forces for good, for the individual, our communities and societies as a whole. However, this will only be the case if we learn to integrate the positive aspects and to be more discriminating (and challenging) of the negative. The misuse of media for political gain or profit is nothing new but highlights the magnified effect of digital media and its immediacy. Today, we are living with future-pushing technology. If we can’t develop a broad new set of skills, become information-savvy and manage the damaging effects of digital life then the overall outcome 10 years from now is going to be poor.”

Tom Massingham, a business owner based in North America, wrote, “The expansion of digital technology will diminish the traditional human interaction people need to thrive and the volume of false or misleading information available will grow and lead to misunderstandings, conflict and divisiveness.”

Jan Schaffer, executive director at J-Lab, wrote, “Overall, people will be more harmed than helped by the way the internet is evolving. People’s trust in basic institutions has been hurt, perhaps irreparably, by conflicting accounts of what is true or not, online. People’s productivity at work has been hampered by the distractions of social media. People’s social and emotional intelligence have been impaired by the displacement of personal interactions with online interactions. The one place where people’s well-being may be helped is health care, with the growing use of telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. This, of course, may come at the cost of personal privacy.”

Vicki Davis, an IT director, teacher and podcaster based in North America, said, “As marketers and businesses focus on making their products more ‘sticky’ and addictive, unsavvy consumers don’t realize the addictive nature of the dopamine hits that they are getting through the social media sites they use. In an attempt to keep a Snapchat streak going or to perform for the illusion of a growing audience, this generation could easily live a life one inch deep and a mile wide instead of a deeper life with deeper relationships and deeper productivity. The future of society depends upon our ability to educate people who are willing to get out of the zone on their phone and live life in the real world. For example, I take a digital Sabbath once a week and put my phone down every Sunday. However, many students I work with seem to show some sort of withdrawal symptoms after just a few hours away from Snapchat or Instagram. The greatest innovations often happen with uninterrupted thought. This interruption generation must learn how to turn off their notifications and find satisfaction in solving problems that aren’t solved in a snap but take years of dedication. Without tenacity, self-control and some modicum of intelligence about the agenda of social media, the interruption generation will miss out on the greatness that could be theirs.”

Janet Salmons, Ph.D., principal at Vision2Lead, commented, “I am concerned about corporate takeover of internet access and online content. The loss of U.S. Net neutrality regulations will spur this trend. I am concerned about the issues of digital privacy and protections for data such as banking, credit cards, etc. With more corporate ownership and power over the internet, risks for misuse of data or hacking due to lack of proper protections are exacerbated. I am concerned about the vulnerability of users who lack basic digital literacy, are unconcerned about posting personal information online, and are unable to discern fact from propaganda. When these issues start to impact elections and policy-making, citizens are more vulnerable to authoritarianism. Similarly, I am concerned about the domination of the Web by social media companies. Many users do not venture outside the familiar platforms such as Facebook, giving them too much power. (See my blog post: ‘Social Media or Social Web?’ on Discover Society http://bit.ly/2ziYiQr.)”

Jennifer deWinter, associate professor of rhetoric and director of interactive media and game development at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, said, “There is a general belief that civic engagement is moving online, and that online spaces offer civic spaces for free speech and engaged debate. Simultaneously, however, corporations run these platforms for profit, and civic spaces do not exist in the way a town center does simply because algorithms over-determine which civic spaces I have access to. Further, I have increased concern about social connection, ethos and empathy in online spaces. People need meaningful social connection to process many of the experiences that they have, and those social connections can be used for transformative change of the individual, group or community. However, such transformation needs people to be invested in social connection – once the problems become uncomfortable people should not be able to walk away easily. When I think of human experience as ontological experience, this post-human connection divorces us from ontological and places us into a pseudo axiological epistemology. That is, to say, that we do not focus on embodied, lived experiences that often defy words but are instead focused on algorithmically determined moral knowledge and facts (whether those be real or fake news). As I think through this question more, I also think that well-being for some part of the population is of course supported by these technologies, but then I reflect on the promise of networked information. The great promise of fast internet speeds, file sharing and online conferencing was that people would be able to live anywhere and work in collaboration. However, what we see is a continued process of urbanization where the cost-benefit of infrastructure upgrades to information technologies has bigger bang for the buck and the continued death of non-urban communities that do not always want to be tuned in. The pressure to be always on normalizes human activity and human interaction in ideological ways.”

Meg Mott, a professor of politics at Marlboro College, said, “I believe the internet is harming well-being. My answer has to do with the disturbing trend amongst college students, who operate as if all questions should be answered online. The devices make it so easy to find answers elsewhere that students forget to ask deep questions of themselves. This lack of uninterrupted introspection creates a very human problem: the anxiety of not knowing oneself. The more the culture equates knowledge with data, and social life with social media, the less time is spent on the path of wisdom, a path that always requires a good quotient of self-awareness. This becomes evident in classes where a portion of the grade is derived by open-ended writing assignments. In order to write a compelling essay, the author needs to know that the process of crafting a question is more interesting than the retrieval of any answer. Instead, the anxiety is attached to getting the ‘right’ piece of data. I am of the mind that a lot of the anxiety we see in college students is the agony of not having a clue about who they are. This hypothesis is now supported by Jean Twenge’s research on the impact of Smart Phones on the Millennial and post-Millennial generations. Were I to answer more optimistically, I might point to Indivisible as an example of an Internet-based organization that uses social media to organize towards retail politics. Students who go door to door and really listen to different points of view are much more likely to draw on an embryonic self than students who only read polemical blogs and engage in diatribes on line. This face-to-face political process, where basic assumptions are challenged, requires students to think on their own, to answer the big questions without relying on a device. Maybe political urgencies will force this generation to look inside for the big answers.”

Manoj Jinadasa, senior lecturer at University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, said, “There are many ill effects; ranging from mental disorders and moral consequences, in addition to cyber crimes, digital misconceptions. My PhD, currently reading at Newcastle University, UK, is focusing on this subject; especially mental and sexual health. On the top of that, lots of time-wasting is happening in the use of social media. Mental effects will be broader ”

Riel Miller, team leader of futures literacy at UNESCO, said, “We are in a transition from the frontier status of Wild West to something else. Think cybercitizenship and recourse in cyberspace. Take for example the fact that P2P currencies, easily implemented with Public Key Infrastructure and the trust infrastructure of fiat currencies in 2000 but blocked by central banks, now are back on the agenda as crypto-currencies begin to undermine a number of justifications for advances in transaction systems. Same goes for verifiable identity and ownership of identity on the Net. Cyberscitizenship was mooted in OECD papers I wrote in the late 1990s, now the harm to credibility and verifiability and responsibility are becoming clearer through antics like those of Trump and bots, trolls, etc. So, well-being will be harmed because people need the Net for many reasons and it won’t be able to meet those needs properly without an appropriate global infrastructure that nation -tates inherently oppose and multi-national organisations won’t address. So the Net will be dysfunctional and inadequate for some time.”

Flynn Ross, associate professor of teacher education at the University of Southern Maine, wrote, “Social media is a tool that has great potential for connecting, networking and empowering, and it is a tool that has great potential for dividing, isolating and oppressing. Similar to other tools throughout history, the collective ‘we’ must choose how to use these tools in our individual lives as well as designing policies for how the massive data harvested from these tools may be used.”

Dewayne Hendricks, CEO of Tetherless Access, said, “I believe that overall the effects of living a digital life will get worse for most folks. I say this as I think it is important to consider just how much of that digital life is provided/controlled by cyber monopolies. Those entities will have an ever-increasing ability to control/shape the factors that make up that digital life. I see individuals for the most part having less control as time passes.”

Melissa Rach, a content consultant based in North America, commented, “Honestly, it was a very hard question for me to answer. I’ve been working on the internet for 30 years and there are two sides to the same (bit)coin – hope and fear. I answered ‘more harmed than helped’ because I see how technology is becoming isolating for teenagers and young people – people who are more comfortable texting than interacting in real life. That seems like a big problem for the future to me. Additionally, I see communities on the internet becoming more and more segregated and isolated from each other, which is also very scary (see: current political environment). However, there are definitely areas of promise – advances in medicine, global health, environment – that, I think, can only be solved with a globally connected community.”

Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, author, editor and journalist, said, “’Speak! I charge you!’ Can I choose to be silent to the demands of digital technology? Not really. Is it good for me? Does this strange intelligence enfold and hold me, or does it drive me to distraction, delusion and despair? Should I remain an isolated and dogged individual, retired in the rural heartland, content in seclusion, or should I dare to speak to the universal? Should I even care? Mr. Rainie and Professor Anderson’s latest survey, asking us to imagine the future of the internet in terms of personal well-being and general happiness, reaches me on the edge of an existential chasm of seemingly disastrous portent. I’m probably not alone at the edge. I’m thinking we are doomed. I may be reaching an end, but am I so self-consumed by the digital universe I’ve crafted that I can no more see the good in the ones and zeroes? Proposition: We have become so connected on the shimmering surface of things that we no longer have time to think beyond the fragments, most of us. We struggle to tear our attention away from the endless avenue of screens to slow down, look one another in the eye, and share a genuine moment or two of humanity. Have you tried to carry a conversation lately? The smallholder’s individual website, the dream that propelled the World Wide Web just before and after the turn of the century, has fallen into digital deafness and self-imposed silence. Why? The mega-scroll of a few big players – why bother to name them? – under the banner of ‘social media’ breaks down the ability to focus beyond the moment or look deeper than a page or two. No amount of so-called original content or innovative creations can break free of the stranglehold on expression imposed by the major players. Choose one or two of their handful of platforms or choose absolute obscurity. The middle ground is disappearing. Search engines no longer honor original content but tout the latest deal, the purchased top ranking, the most manipulative keyword. OK. I’ve already waxed TLTR. The Web contracts and constricts, offering candy and symbol instead of meat and potatoes, pushing distraction and deflection upon We the Masses to exert greater and greater control over thought and emotion through digital life and, ultimately, over individual freedom. Can you honestly claim our lives as a community and as a nation are happier and less stressful because of the smartphone, the digital subscription, the algorithm and the voice-activated assistant? So, if you’re content to scroll your fellowship on the run, activate in a rush the monthly digital draft from your account to theirs, catch your news in cynically filtered fragments, and sink into the oblivion of binge media and increasingly fantastic cyber-realities, then yes, digital life will get better and better for you. You can even go rogue, be anonymous, and troll those sumofabitches to kingdom come. Here in the rural heartland, retired and withdrawn and licking wounds, we stand on the ledge and look into the darkness and prepare for the end.”

Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked Information, commented, “‘Digital life’ encompasses very, very many things. It is very clear to me that tools for communication, navigation, ride hailing, translation and transcription, shopping of various types, investment and money management and (assuming that the security problems are addressed, and also challenges of respecting the choices and decisions of individuals) various aspects of health management can enormously improve peoples lives and well-being. I am very concerned that most individuals will not learn how to deal successfully and find the right balances in the use of entertainment and particularly social media platforms; these can be tremendous time-consumers, and, as has been said many times, in today’s social media, the user is the product, not the customer. In addition, our digital lives are conducted in a largely uncontrolled environment of ever-increasing surviellance and ever-more-pervasive deceit (propaganda and advertising).”

Gail Brown, an instructional designer based in Australia, wrote, “This problem is one where anyone can be anything or write anything on the internet. Many people, especially younger people, believe what they see or read. An online relationship is not a ‘real’ one – yet many teenagers believe that it is. NOT everything online is trustworthy, yet many of us, adults as well as teenagers, are easily duped. This ‘fake reality’ is more ever-present over time, and takes away from real relationships, true information and communication, especially with those people most important in our lives. Sometimes, the internet can be helpful, and sometimes it’s not – and people need to learn the difference. In today’s world, this education and learning is not happening, nor effective.”

Rich Miller, a practice leader and consultant for digital transformation at Telematica, Inc., wrote, “Until a variety of countervailing forces are initiated by governments and, in particular, the legal systems, the impact on personal well-being will continue to degrade. As commercial liability laws for software, applied to consumer and to business systems, come into being and are enforced, I can foresee a slow-down in the problem and possibly a reversal. Similarly, the effective enforcement of data privacy law that is well-crafted will also serve to counter the problems. In both examples (commercial liability and data privacy), I hold out little hope of well-crafted law and effective enforcement in the next four to six years. This leads me to conclude that we are probably close to 10 years before substantive improvement and a net-positive contribution to personal well-being.”

Miguel Alcaine, an ITU area representative based in Central America, said, “In general, people will suffer more stress out of their inability to manage in a balanced manner their hyperconnectedness. If we as a society discover how to teach the new abilities required, especially to children and youngsters, we will be on the right track.”

Mark Glaser, founder and executive director of MediaShift.org, said, “Technological advances always seem to have unintended consequences. Social media at first was an incredible way to keep in touch with colleagues, friends and family around the world. But over time, people realized that what they were seeing was edited and filtered so you saw only the best, and feelings of envy come quickly, and that our own lives aren’t as great. Many studies have shown that the more time people spend on social media, the less happy they are. This problem is even more severe among teenagers who prefer to spend time alone on their phones rather than in person with friends.”

Mike Silber, general counsel at Liquid Telecom South Africa, wrote, “There is obviously a continuum of impact of digitalisation on well-being, from harmful to helpful. In the developed world, the continuum seems to be somewhere in the centre, with benefits being balanced with harms, including harms from manipulation of public opinion, crime and malicious behaviour as well as societal ills. However in the developing world, the balance is far more to the positive effects of digitalisation! For those of us in the developing world, the benefits far outweigh the potential negative impact: instantaneous or near instantaneous communication in countries where the physical road/rail networks are poor. The possibilities for commerce, influencing public opinion, access to news, health and emergency assistance are massive. Yes, the same risks exist as in the developed world, however they are only likely to become a significant concern in the medium to long term. The immediate future of digitalisation in the developing world is very positive.”

Stowe Boyd, managing director at Work Futures, said, “We need to start by taking a step back to address this question. Well-being and digital life seem so intertangled because of the breakdown between personal and public life – the rise of publicy (sic) – that digital tools have amplified. One significant aspect of public life is our relationship to work. The growing concern about well-being and its many manifestations is the inexorable rise of overwork. Other aspects of public life – our connection to community, political involvement, religious organizations – are becoming digital, as well, and we have more opportunities to diminish the personal and private sides of our lives as these become more polarized by the digital sphere. I recall Paul Valery’s quip, ‘The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.’ In this case, we need to wake up to the proximate cause of the drive for well-being, which is the trap of overwork and the forced march away from living private lives.”

K.G. Schneider, dean of the university library at Sonoma State University, wrote, “Anonymized discourse, it turns out, is not a civilizing influence, nor is having one’s every thought broadcast in real time the best way for us to interact as humans.”

Scott Johnston, a high school teacher, commented, “In a manner similar to how we have become physically weaker because of the mechanical revolution, the computer revolution (enhanced by the effect of the internet) will make us mentally and creatively weaker. Because we can rely on it having the information when we need it, we will let the internet be our repository of knowledge and memories. The effect of this is that important ideas will not be in cohabitation in the single mind, which means that the valuable happenstance of the collision of ideas leading to new thoughts will become beyond our minds’ capacity.”

Jason Hong, professor at the Human Computer Interaction Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, wrote, “Many years ago, the famed Nobel laureate Herb Simon pointed out that ‘Information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.’ Simon presciently pointed this out in 1971. However, back then, the challenge was information overload. Today, we now also have organizations that are actively vying for our attention, distracting us with smartphone notifications, highly personalized news, addictive games, Buzzfeed-style headlines and fake news. These organizations also have a strong incentive to optimize their interaction loops, drawing on techniques from psychology and mass A/B testing to draw us in. Most of the time it’s to increase clickthrough rates, daily active users and other engagement metrics, and ultimately to increase revenues. There are two major problems with these kinds of interactions. The first is just feeling stressed all the time, due to a constant stream of interruptions combined with fear of missing out. The second, and far more important, is that engagement with this kind of content means that we are spending less time building and maintaining relationships with actual people. Having good friends is the equivalent of quitting smoking, and today’s platforms are unintentionally designed to isolate us rather than helping us build strong relationships with others.”

Tapio Varis, a professor at the University of Tampere, Finland, wrote, “Things will change for the better in the applications of digitalization to areas like health-care and medical operations. Equally global knowledge sharing and emerging civilizational challenges improve the quality of life for all. However, this happens only if the public policies and peace are strengthened and digital arms race avoided.”

James Scofield O’Rourke IV, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, said, “Increasing dependence on digital life, the internet in particular, has removed an important level of person-to-person, human interaction from daily life. The internet, of course, is enormously valuable in facilitating commerce, education, social development, medicine and so much more. The young among us, however, do not see it in that way and do not use it in that way. The ‘anonymity’ provided by the internet offers an opportunity for the cruelest among us to criticize, terrorize and intimidate those who have no way to protect themselves. For every opportunity to connect with a friend or share a photo with an old classmate, there are a dozen opportunities to badger, intimidate and threaten others, all at [seemingly] no cost to oneself. Many things important to each of us – from our privacy to our personal security – are jeopardized by flaws in data gathering, storage and transmission. No one among us is secure. If our banking, educational, medical and personal records are subject to hacking, theft and demands for ransom, how are we now better off? If our postal service is now threatened by the existence of a digital service that seeks to eliminate it, how are we better as a society? If internet-enabled devices are built into every aspect of our lives – our telephones, our home entry systems, our security systems, our communication and photographic systems – how are we better off? If we are unable to prevent hackers, thieves and blaggards unwilling to work at an honest profession from cracking into our lives and taking whatever they wish, how has this technology improved our lives? I cannot protect anything I value, not because I am unwilling or unable to secure it, but because I’ve given it to others: my doctor, my banker, my university and the people I must trust; what measures can I take? What shall I do to protect what belongs to my family? The most valuable asset I have in an age of mass data accumulation and transmission, ironically, is my own anonymity. If I commit as little as possible to a digital database, if I install as few cameras and as few devices as I am able, then perhaps others will see me to be of little value and pass by. We must come to recognize these threats and balance them against the value provided by digital technology and the few, massive organizations that provide the devices, services and opportunities we all seem to value most.”

David E. Drew, Platt Chair in management of technology, Claremont Graduate University, wrote, “I am in the middle of writing a book about this subject. Computing technology is both an aid to us and a growing threat. In the next decade, the balance will shift so that the damage that is done by computing outweighs the benefits. The threats include the damage to human verbal and emotional interactions, especially among the young.”

Gabriel Kahn, professor of journalism, University of Southern California, said, “This past year, two issues became crystal clear: 1) The internet is an oligopoly, and competition is an illusion. 2) These large tech companies operate with no sense of ethics. They have tremendous power and they operate in a largely unregulated environment.”

Leora Lawton, lecturer in demography and sociology and executive director of the Berkeley Population Center, University of California-Berkeley, shared these reasons digital life is likely to be mostly harmful: “1) The long-term effects of children growing up with screen time are not well understood but early signs are not encouraging: poor attention spans, anxiety, depression and lack of in-person social connections are some of the correlations already seen, as well as the small number of teens who become addicts and non-functioning adults. 2) The effects on children don’t disappear in adulthood. 3) The risks to financial well-being. From cybercrime, to individual wealth (the elderly population is particularly vulnerable) to economic well-being through impacts on trade, new technologies have become new ways to steal. 4) The extreme data collection of individual information. 5) The electricity consumption (can be dealt with, but it’s not) plus other forms of electronic waste that are not good for the planet. 6) The distorting political influence has already been seen. This is a new form of warfare. War is not good for children or other living creatures. 7) Cyberterrorism is a distinct possibility and thus far not too widely seen but I expect it will grow. That said, all the positive benefits of the internet will maintain.

Daniel Schultz, senior creative technologist at the Internet Archive, commented, “Digital literacy and best practices are not innate, it all needs to be taught. Risks and protections are also not fully understood around use of technology; what is a healthy balance of utility and risk? How do social feeds impact world views, et cetera? As we learn more, people with the resources and general network of support will be more likely to benefit from those lessons in the short term, while the average technology user will be at the mercy of where best practices can fit into capitalistic forces. Over the next decade I hope that we will identify better practices. I believe that it will require advocacy by organizations who want to make healthy technology use a mission, and to hold creators accountable for building those best practices into their tools. I do not expect that effort to be large enough to protect most users. For a case in point, look at the negative impacts of blue light. There were open source tools on the market to lower blue light on machines as early as 2009 but it took almost a decade for that technology to get built into iOS. Only the most educated and most technical, who also happened to be brought aware of the negative health impacts of blue light, were protected from the health hazards – and even today I would imagine the vast majority of technology users are still unaware. Extrapolate that to every single known and unknown health risk posed by technology and we see the potential for a serious technology-driven casual health gap.”

Philip J. Salem, a respondent who shared no additional personal information, wrote, “1) Chatter is increasing, and conversation is decreasing. People are losing their abilities to sustain human communication. What happens on social media is most often a sequence of messages authored by different sources. In many instances, people will author a message and leave. Expression has replaced communication. 2) People are losing their ability to process with any depth. That is, we scan a lot, and we do not probe much. 3) The latest generations are risk-averse, especially with social relationships – friendships, romantic relationships. The slightest hint of hurt leads to leaving, no response, etc. Again, less depth, but broad, shallow relationships. 4) There has been a loss of community. The formation of sustainable civic groups has decreased with an increase of ephemeral activist networks. 5) None of this is irreversible, but it requires greater mindfulness to improve. 6) Some who are already skilled at a behavior have improved and will continue to improve those skills through Internet use. The internet, like all technology, acts as a catalyst to amplify already existing differences. The skilled will increase skills as the unskilled fall further behind.”

Charles Ess, professor, department of media and communication, University of Oslo, said, “While it is very difficult to predict with any confidence, there does seem to be something of a clear shift away from the techno-optimism (if not simple hucksterism and hype) that underlay much of the enthusiasm for digital and computational technologies over the past twenty years or so (if not more). One marker of this is in the theme of the survey – ‘well-being’ – a key theme in especially virtue ethics, and one that has come more and more to the foreground as broad conversations, debates and research focus less on utilitarian and instrumental analyses oriented towards efficiency, profit, speed, etc., and more on classic concerns with what constitutes a good life, flourishing and how far our technical and digital worlds, as increasingly diffusing throughout and defining our lifeworlds, both help and hinder. A good number of the concerns are now well known and well researched. Broadly, for all the good that these technologies do – and they do do much, without question – it is no longer dismissed as just a ‘moral panic’ or Ludditism to express concerns about loss of social skills (specifically, the virtues of patience, perseverance, empathy) that increased dependency on ICTs for communication seem to bring in their train (ala Sherry Turkle, 2011, but many more since). The recent spate of former social media designers and inventors who regret their contributions – e.g., as stealing attention, as fostering politically toxic filter bubbles and fragmentation, etc. – is also telling; as is the now open secret that the top executives in Silicon Valley, at least two of whom are Montessori products, send their own children to non-digital school environments (while happily continuing to sell devices to any every educational institution around). Surveillance and privacy issues are paramount here as well, as more and more of us seem to realize that good lives – as including friendship, intimate relationships, familial and other ties – require private spaces in which to flourish, whereas such privacy is increasingly scarce, as the Internet of Things diffuses ever more completely in our homes and cities. In my experience and research, the so-called‘death online’ research points to especially critical cleavages between mourning and grief via social media and related technologies vis-a-vis grief and mourning with one another as embodied and co-present. Some studies, in fact, document young people finding the online experience to be so off-putting – ‘fake’ in many ways – that they move off of major social media platforms and, in their words, more and more into real life. These experiences appear to be part of a broader shift towards what some have identified (since about 2000 or so) as a ‘post-digital’ era – i.e., one in which we attempt to find a better balance between the digital and the analogue (as contested and problematic as these labels are). There are some indications of heading towards a better balance, at least in some areas and domains, as analogue film, vinyl, paper, etc., are making comebacks, both in more popular fashion as well, e.g., the pedagogy of critical reading and writing. Indeed, there is rising interest and development in ‘virtuous design’ – design that aims towards experiences of eudaimonia (contentment), not simply towards instrumental or utilitarian values. More broadly, I discern a growing interest in ‘slow design’ or slow tech, which likewise aim explicitly towards fostering human well-being and flourishing. Whatever may come of all of this, it at least indexes a more critical stance towards new technologies that may be salutary and beneficent in the long run. Well-being is not really that complicated, as we know from both positive psychology and global virtue ethics traditions. There are many ways to achieve an experience of contentment and satisfaction through the development of one’s potentials, e.g., the habits and skills that foster both individual creativity and collective sociality. And there are ways in which new technologies can be designed precisely to support and foster these developments, as the growing ‘slow tech’ literature demonstrates. The dystopian vision (here I think Neil Postman’s ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ remains trenchant and prophetic) is one of a kind of digital-neoliberal feudalism, as most of us may become more and more inextricably enmeshed in a technologically determined lifeworld, the designs of which aim at efficiencies for the sake of maximizing profit (primarily for the benefit of the few) at the cost of human autonomy, creativity and sociality. I think the forces pushing in this direction are enormous and very difficult to resist, much less redirect or restrict. But it may be that as all of this pushes more and more of us into ever greater unhappiness – i.e., a lack of a sense of autonomy in our lives, of well-being and flourishing in both individual and shared ways, an increasingly obvious oligarchy only thinly disguised as democracy – there will be sufficient push back to make at least significant changes for the better. None of this will happen by itself, of course. We will need vision and direction – in the rising importance of virtue ethics broadly and specifically in design. (And, within the Scandinavian context, at least – especially as inspired by the death online phenomena – there is an emerging resurgence of existentialism, now as transformed by digital and technological contexts, that likewise points in such more positive directions. This may gain greater purchase as well, as suggested in recent work by John Durham Peters, for example, but this is too new to make any sort of prognosis about.)”

Lynn Schofield Clark, an associate professor at the University of Denver whose work includes the Teens & The New Media @ Home Project, commented, “For more than a decade, I have been involved in research that has focused on young people and parents who experience some form of marginalization, whether that is from racial/ethnic or gender discrimination, socioeconomic disadvantage, dislocation and disruption, experiences with incarceration or differently abled lived experience. It has been an amazing privilege to observe and work with people as they have harnessed internet-related technologies to address collective problems, and I have witnessed the ways that such work contributes immensely to well-being. However, I believe that much of the advances in well-being I have observed have occurred in spite of rather than because of societal changes related to the internet. We are experiencing a tremendous widening of inequalities due to the U.S.’s collective inability to utilize its democratic institutions in a way that reinforces the common good. We face difficult challenges ahead, particularly with the demise of Net neutrality, the continued concentration of ownership in the internet-related media industries, and the current mode of distraction that obscures the realities of climate change and other forces of globalization that contribute to inequities worldwide. Still, I think that improvement in life circumstances is possible. I believe that the resources for positive change and for increased well-being are available to us, but they lie in the human spirit rather than in the systems we have created. To secure well-being for the greatest possible number of people, we must work together to align our systems with a vision that underscores everyone’s right to live with dignity and respect. This will take a strength of collective will that is sometimes hard to see. But I know it exists, because even among communities that are hardest hit by today’s injustices, there is evidence of resilience, strength and the determination to survive and thrive.”

Craig J. Mathias, principal for the Farpoint Group, wrote, “The internet and the Web were intended to be tools, not the core of a lifestyle. And yet, for many, the internet today is just that – an essential element of their lives. This is not to say that the communications capabilities of the internet are not of value, but many of the ‘services’ enabled by the internet, particularly social media, have become substitutes for thoughtful interaction and intelligent discourse. Social media has become so filled with vile, hateful and poorly-formed (and worded) ‘speech’ that I will no longer participate. Consider also the personal productivity lost as so many consider participation in social media to be a right and an essential element of their lives. Twitter interruptions, unsubstantiated comments (there is clearly an insufficient editorial or fact-checkering function at work on the internet today), way too much advertising and just plain rubbish lead me to conclude that that more people will indeed be harmed than helped by many of the services available on the internet today. The answer? Self-discipline and good manners. Both are in increasingly short supply on the internet today.”

David R. Brake, an independent scholar and journalist based in North America, said, “As surveillance of self and others becomes ever more ubiquitous, both corporations and governments will be using algorithms to sort people in ways that (on past form) will be unaccountable, either because corporations keep algorithms private for commercial reasons or because the algorithms are themselves too complex to fully understand and explain. One new danger is that a ‘meritocracy’ will arise of people whose behaviour has been deemed to show moral worth or simply credit-worthiness, and if you are on the wrong side of this you will have little or no opportunity to appeal against algorithmic judgments. Worse, you may even be unaware that these judgments are happening. Interpersonally as well, once people’s moral lapses and errors of judgment are increasingly uncovered (and everyone has them) it may become difficult to get people to serve in political office for example and bullying will become easier.”

Ian Fish, an enterprise manager, wrote, “The response is from the point of view of valuing the perception of personal well-being as it applies to someone of my generation now. The ethical boundaries and ways of thinking that I enjoy now are likely to change and it seems unlikely that I will consider many of them to be an improvement even if they improve my physical well-being. This is because I value my privacy above, for example, the benefits of pervasive surveillance allowing me to thrive in my own home at a much greater age than is likely now.”

Mike Caprio, innovation consultant for Brainewave Consulting, said, “I believe that commercial enterprise and governments corrupted by corporations have adversely affected digital life in many major ways. There are not enough government-funded public-service and utility aspects of digital life; only a few forward-thinking municipal and civic entities have managed to make services that help people fully available to everyone. Mobile devices and the majority of digital services are walled gardens designed to maximize profit by trapping people inside and fostering compulsive addictive behaviors, just like casinos. There are not enough open-access mobile *computer* alternatives to the non-programmable, mobile passive consumption-focused devices. The majority of people on the low end of income, class and racial disparities are completely at the whim of the ‘cloud-based’ providers of digital services, who ultimately censor their communications and filter their digital realities to serve them advertisements. These digital services are also designed to empower the most nefarious and malicious people to target people by race, gender, sexual orientation or political affiliation for discrimination and harassment and propagandizing. All of these factors trend towards growing oppression of groups of people who have been historically downtrodden.”

David Golumbia, an associate professor of digital studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said, “Of course digital technology has many positive and negative effects on well-being. Evaluating the net impact of either of these, let alone both together, is nearly impossible. I answered that it would have more negative effects presuming that our attitudes and policies toward digital technology, and the practices of digital technology companies and advocates, remain largely the same over the next 10 years. Today, there is overwhelming evidence that digital technology companies take advantage of legal loopholes they themselves designed (especially Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the U.S., a regulation the major technology companies have turned on its head so that it shields them almost completely from responsibility for many of the worst effects of their technologies). Many of the wishes of the executives in these companies that are framed as making beneficial changes to the world need to be examined much more critically. Some of them are just naive (for example, Mark Zuckerberg’s belief that ‘community’ is an inherently positive value), but others are more directly pernicious (examples are too numerous to mention). There is a strong desire among many in Silicon Valley, whether for their own monetary gain, or deeply-ingrained hateful attitudes, or both, to tear apart much of the most important social fabric. There are signs, today, that some people are starting to raise questions about these basic assumptions. Until we understand how fundamental they are, and how much they need to be brought under democratic oversight in a way that so far only the European Union seems to have much ability even to consider, the harms digital technologies cause will continue to outweigh their benefits.”

Meredith P. Goins, a group manager at Oak Ridge Associated Universities, wrote, “From a workplace perspective, I am watching some of the digital natives (Millennials and Gen Z) have more stress and pressure on them due to the internet. There is pressure on them due to social media to show just the positives of their lives and ignore the negatives. I see them emotionally hurt because they were not included in a photo or mentioned in a tweet. As a Gen Xer, I am very grateful that there was no social media during my undergrad years. I would hate having my life put on stage at such a young age. As you can guess, I made a few poor decisions in my early 20s and don’t need the world to have pictures of them or a conversation about them. As for the pressure, some of my staff actually believe that the Hollywood stars really care about their comments. I don’t have the heart to tell them that these social accounts are probably ghostwritten. I also fear that the internet is dumbing down our population. Emojis are great, but if you can’t talk or write to me or my customers with real words I’m not going to hire you. If you are already on my staff, I am sending you to business-writing classes and making it a part of your employee evaluation. Writing skills have diminished greatly. There is a time and place for everything, and it feels as if we are going backwards by writing in hieroglyphics (emojis) instead of creating flowing, convincing prose. From a mom’s perspective, I fear for my 12- and 15-year-olds and the Internet. I worry about who will stalk them online. Worry what their online reputation will look like (employers look!) and how they will handle all of the peer pressure of social media. I also fear their addiction to games, both on their phones and on their PlayStation. They don’t know how to not be connected. Where is the free time to think? To read? To write in a journal? To brainstorm and be creative? To be outside! As a librarian, I force my children offline through time limits on all internet-attached things (including the TV) and lock them down at night. After 8:30 p.m., the only access to entertainment they have is a book. Sure, the internet is phenomenal and truly helpful for connecting people and sharing data, but I worry about the data that is stored. How will ‘Big Business’ make money off of my personal opinions? My photos? My voice? How do we know that hackers aren’t going to take further data from me (yes, I was a victim of one of the big hacks in the last year). Most important to me is that I need to own my own data. My medical records should be mine. My social media history should be mine. Any data on my minor children should be mine, not big business’s. I also worry about Net neutrality. Again, big business is going to make companies, non-profits and educational institutions pay for the right to upload content quickly. What about all of the great ways that educational institutions, schools, universities and museums, use the internet to share their collections, knowledge and skills? They will be deeply hurt by this ruling. To find a positive, I believe that the internet of things can be beneficial for those who have physical and mental limitations. For example, being able to control your house via a cell phone is very handy for the older population, or for those with mobility issues. Also, the ability to quickly translate languages while you are traveling via babblefish, etc., has been extremely important for my family. For example, my mom, who’s in her 70s, was on a cruise and her significant other had medical issues and they had to disembark in Nicaragua. Not being fluent, they couldn’t converse with the medical staff without a translation tool. The phone was much handier than going out to find a Spanish/English dictionary. Another positive? My children can take online classes via a Duke program during the summer without having to travel or leave the house. This will help them catch up on items they didn’t do well over the last year while also expanding their ability to work with others via distance learning. All teamwork comes down to communication, either in-person or via an electronic tool. Due probably to being an extrovert, I personally prefer in-person communication and will always do better with complicated statements in-person rather than over the telephone or internet.”

Paul Abel, Ph.D., a research scientist based in North America, wrote, “There seems to be an increase in the amount of ‘screen time’ at the sacrifice of time spent on ‘physical activity,’ especially among youth in affluent countries. If such a trend increases without digital-physical activity convergence, it seems likely that health and wellness will be negatively affected.”

Aram Sinnreich, an associate professor at American University’s School of Communication, said, “The framing of the question is somewhat reductive, but given the either/or choice, I have to guess that, in general, people’s lives will change for the worse over the next decade because of the internet. There are several factors I am taking into account here, that include: 1) The increasing prevalence and power of internet-based surveillance of citizenry by state and commercial actors. 2) The catalyzing power of digital technology in exacerbating the gaps between haves and have-nots. 3) The as-yet-undertheorized and unchecked role of digital disinformation in polluting the democratic process and news dissemination channels. 4) The increasingly savvy and widespread use of the internet by crime syndicates. 5) The increasing vulnerability of our social infrastructure to internet disruption and hacking. 6) The environmental consequences of the internet, recently exemplified by studies analyzing the electrical power consumption that goes into Bitcoin transaction processing. This isn’t to say there aren’t many benefits to the internet, or that its impact won’t net positively over the longer term. But I don’t see any likely benefits outweighing the threats I outlined above over the next decade.”

Stephen McDowell, professor and associate dean at Florida State University’s College of Communication and Information, commented, “Some major social and public policy issues associated with digital services and environments will need to be addressed to enhance well-being – challenges for speech, privacy, intellectual property and security. Since many areas of social, economic and political life are increasingly mediated in digital environments, some settled expectations will need to be renegotiated.”

Kathleen Hayes, a technology specialist based in North America, commented, “I already see social skills deteriorating because folks have their face in their phone rather than interacting with each other. The up-tick in fake news is disturbing and doesn’t bode well for a well-informed public.”

Andrew Graner, a technology consultant at Graner & Associates Information Service, said, “Digital advances will both take away from the labor force, as people’s jobs are replaced by robotics and computerized machines and also because the people who have to run and maintain those machines and robotics will have a much larger workload, adding to their stress level, In addition, the information overload will lead to more stress-related medical problems.”

Llewellyn Kriel, CEO of TopEditor International, said, “Digital life is a reality and will increase throughout all facets of human life and across the world. Human beings need time to ‘evolve’ into ‘digital beings’ at ease with ‘digitality,’ able to interact with it as well integrate it into their lives. These processes will take time. Some groups, especially younger generations will find this easier, but will also need guidance when they feel uncommon sense of alienation, disjointedness and emptiness. It will take at least two decades for ‘digiality’ to become part of human existence – just as it has taken two decades for humanity to become comfortable with cellphones. The ever-present danger of course is the constant growth of the digital divide – primarily between rural and urban dwellers (and not rich and poor as commonly thought of).”

David J. Wierz, senior principal of The OCI Group, commented, “There is the question of interpersonal engagement as well as personal attention. The issue becomes the extent that using technologies enhances the ability to interact and do so in a thoughtful, reflective manner and the extent to which it depersonalizes, perhaps segments such engagement, leading to a perspective limiting in scope as well as depth of consideration.”

Kate Thomas, a writer/editor based in North America, wrote, “It’s abundantly clear that the more aggressive content online has tipped a few people over the edge. I only see this getting worse unless more is done to improve (and slow down) content production, as well as moderate content that subtly or not-so-subtly encourages tribalism and violence. Unfortunately, major social media corporations have discovered that anger and insecurity keep people glued to their screens. As long as profit is more important than people, digital life will only grow more destructive.”

Nikki Graves, an associate professor at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, said, “We currently live in a culture that fosters attention deficit disorder because of hyperconnectivity. I have been teaching at the college level since 1993, and I can see a definitive decline in students’ ability to focus on details and in general. Additionally, I believe that the research on the relationship between hyperconnectivity and this has merit.”

Jack Ivers, a respondent who shared no additional identifying information, wrote, “The coming loss of jobs due to artificial intelligence will combine with the loss of self-esteem we’re beginning to hear about. This could undermine the well-being of a large portion of the country. Medical advances could boost overall well-being, but not enough to make up for job loss and mental health issues.”

Danny Gillane, librarian, Lafayette (LA) Public Library, said, “Some studies have shown that smartphone ownership and social media participation has resulted in more depression in adolescents. I don’t see how moving into adulthood changes that, especially as it becomes more difficult for young people to find good jobs with benefits, to buy homes, to save for retirement, to start families. The internet and social media will provide ample amounts of information reminding them of these things, and the internet and social media will provide a lot of information about how their generation is failing, being left behind, worse off that previous generations. Add to this hacking, identity theft, the digital divide and the end of Net neutrality, and I can see how much better people are not going to feel in the future thanks to technology, specifically the internet.”

Mark Maben, a general manager at Seton Hall University, commented, “I have increasingly observed in my students the negative impact their digital lives are having on their well-being. This is especially true when it comes to work and social relationships. As interactions become primarily digital and non-verbal, misunderstandings of tone, intention and meaning are occurring with growing frequency. This in turns creates more tension and conflict between individuals that likely would not have occurred if the communication had been face-to-face. In addition, I am seeing use of digital technologies give rise to more anxiety, stress and depression in students and colleagues, especially those who are heavy users of social media. While some digital tools are making us more productive, the growing levels of connectivity within our culture are harming the happiness and health of those who have a difficult time managing their digital intake.”

Greg Pierson, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, said, “The ‘always-on-always-connected’ world in which we increasingly live is driving quantity over quality interpersonal communication. People don’t engage in meaningful dialogue. A quick ‘like’ or meme is the extent of many ‘communications.’ I fear that the long-term impact of this will be overwhelming negative.”

Matt Larsen, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “I think we are going through an adjustment period where technology is being integrated into the lives of users at a very rapid pace, and this pace is leading to a loss of mental well-being even as physical well-being improves. I am hopeful that social media in particular can be integrated into healthy social structures eventually, but the transition will be difficult.”

Serge Marelli, an IT security analyst, “There will be good and bad, as usual. I am not quite convinced yet that the benefits will compensate the issues. People will be more stressed. Digital life, and ‘digital everything’ leads to a permanent state of mental, emotional ‘excitation.’ Our minds and attention are constantly requested (by smartphones, social nets, etc.). There are less and less periods of mental inactivity that allow for mind relaxation. Some will learn to switch off, at the possible cost of partial social exclusion (I see it in my life, many do not understand that one is not permanently available), while others will place social pressure above their life, and pay the price. I would expect we will see more burnout syndrome or effects.”

Steven Polunsky, a research scientist at Texas A&M University, wrote, “One way to describe how we behave is the OODA cycle – when something happens, we Observe it, Orient it to our personal context, Decide what to do and Act on that decision. The internet is easily weaponized to short-circuit that process, so we receive minimal information and are urged to act immediately on it. Unless behavior changes and adapts, this tendency will lead to greater dissatisfaction among Internet users and those affected by their actions, which may be a wide audience.”

Paul Manning, a cybersecurity manager, commented, “The social interaction on the internet does not expose you to the requirement of continuing to have to interact with a person to accomplish a project. This robs you of the valuable life skill of compromise, giving a little of your position to get movement forward on a joint project. Also, the speed of interaction as well as the lack of subtle clues visual and aural that contribute to full-spectrum communication will contribute to an overall decline of true social interaction, leaving people with shallow relationships that cannot or will not stand the winds of difficulty in life (long-term illnesses, loss of confidence in ability or self, life-changing events). Last I read, the more of a social network (not cyber social – but real-life social) you have the better your over all physical and mental health.”

Mauro D. Ríos, director of the Internet Society Uruguay Chapter, wrote, “Internet es una plataforma de convergencia entre medios que lleva al individuo a un ambiente digital que aún no dominamos en los aspectos más profundos de las ciencias sociales, podemos ser muy bueno usuarios de las herramientas, pero no hemos logrado advertir realmente los impactos en la sociedad como base de la vida en comunidad y como base del desarrollo de los países. Se han derrochado horas y litros de tinta para estudiar y determinar impactos económicos, comerciales, por supuesto los impactos en la evolución y mejoras tecnológicas, pero estas conclusiones muy bien fundadas superan con creces el gasto en estudiar como el hombre como Ser y animal social se está viendo impactado. Por supuesto somos algunos interesados en el tema que hemos logrado desarrollar estudios, teorías, conclusiones y hasta libros, pero a la hora de provocar impacto en los tomadores de decisiones, solo hay cierto eco en la academia, los sectores sociales, muy poco impacto en que el sector político escuche y mucho menos en la industria de las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación. No hay dudas que la tecnología y por supuesto Internet provee un campo fértil de beneficios para sus usuarios, es un factor clave en el desarrollo de la economía moderna, es la impulsora de mucho del bienestar del ser humano en su vida cotidiana, un facilitador, un amigo diario, pero por otro lado es una herramienta poderosa que tienta a las intenciones perniciosas de muchos intereses detrás, privacidad, seguridad, manipulación, terrorismo, ilegalidad, etc. Todo transcurre en Internet, empoderamos al ciudadano pero los exponemos a nuevos riesgos o acortamos la distancia de esos ciudadanos a riesgos conocidos. Proveemos digitalización de la interacción con los gobiernos y empresas, pero descuidamos la privacidad y la seguridad sobre la información personal. Existe un equilibrio extraño entre beneficios y riesgos, un equilibrio que constantemente debe ser monitoreado y debemos tener la capacidad de responder cuando el riesgo se convierte en amenaza y crisis. No es posible negar Internet en ninguno de sus aspectos, y abogamos por la mayor de las libertades para la red, pero por otro lado debemos asumir que no es una plataforma inocua, al igual que un martillo, su uso y la mano detrás determinarán su valor positivo o negativo en cuanto al impacto social. Sin neutralidad en la red, sin un conjunto de normas locales en los países y un marco regulatorio internacional normalizado entre todos los sectores, que privilegia al individuo como el objeto de cuidado, de resguardo y de respecto, nos exponemos a mayor intervención en nuestra vida, violación de nuestra privacidad y afectación de nuestros derechos. El futuro de Internet pareciera encaminarse con pasos dubitativos en los aspectos que he planteado aquí, así como da pasos firmes a una tecnología más sólida, estandarizada, mejor en todo sentido, por otro lado en lo que al individuo se refiere, no hemos sabido acompañar las enormes posibilidades técnicos de utilizar esta red de forman perniciosas, y estamos resegados en el cuidado del individuo, por desconocimiento, por desidia, por retrasos, por falta de inversión de tiempo y dinero, por falta de voces que griten y oídos que escuchen.”

Frank Odasz, president of Lone Eagle Consulting, commented, “Harmed or helped depends on what individuals learn about using the internet for personal growth amid corporate profit motives designing social media to manipulate human vulnerabilities. I’ve just read articles on this for a few hours and won’t cite specifics here, but could. Algorithms designed purely for profit motives are well documented; corporations are using consumers as data sources to sell to advertisers. My lifestyle – BA in psychology, MS in instructional technology, 33 years being a part of the early evolution of e-learning, community networking, and more – I signed up immediately on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, but KNEW their push technologies would do all they could to capture my attention by attempting to engage my peers with my self-identity. So, I’ve not given them my time but have monitored their evolution of snarky tactics since the beginning. Harmed or helped going forward depends on whether tech giants make the choice to measure via new metrics the consequences of their actions. Example: If 47% of workers now freelance online, and 47% of jobs overall will disappear by 2025 due to AI and robotics, then the big question is who will help unlock the latent human potential of all learners, once online. Telecommunications companies, governments and traditional K-12 and higher education lag behind the technosocial evolution that 100 million teenagers are leading. Putting profit before corporate social responsibility is putting short-term profit goals ahead of long-term Win-Win opportunities empower people to love learning, to collaborate effectively, and to learn to innovate by monitoring the creative innovations of others. My article on this; http://lone-eagles.com/rural-broadband.pdf and my NTIA Montana workshop list of related resources, pilot projects, and my other published articles apply here, http://lone-eagles.com/ntia-big-sky.html The future can be a win-win where corporations make trillions by truly empowering others instead of limiting their creativity for new startups and more. The [Peter Diamandis/Steven Kotler book] ‘Bold’ has the basic theme, but not the individual and local dynamics to create significant measurable outcomes to build upon. My suggestions have been recursive short-term local-pilot projects, which I’ve conducted in Alaska Native villages for Connect Alaska and NTIA (technical assistance subgrants). Former FCC staffer Robert McDowell cowrote the Arctic Economic Council report that states that broadband can be used to control or emancipate. Barrow just connected to 30-terabyte undersea fiber cables. My video presentation from the May 2017 Arctic Broadband Forum is at http://lone-eagles.com/arctic.htm. Note the link to my YouTube playlist of Alaskan village innovations and my Spring 2017 four-video presentation, particularly the one for Broadband Communities on digital inclusion. As you might surmise ‘this is complicated’ but www.oneweb.world is but one of many global low-earth-orbit microsat networks, any one of which can create innovation-engine dynamics to incentivize moral and growth-oriented individual, group and local community measurable outcomes. Measuring what motivates people as THE key issue; measurements define success, and what gets measured gets done. I’ve written a lot on this, presented at national and international conference for decades and FYI – no one still wants to even talk about this at any level. Hence, my Lone Eagle personal learning adventure continues with everything I’ve created posted online without restriction. I’d fall out of my chair if someone actually called to talk. I pitched a conversation to Tristen Harris after watching two of his TED talks; his site is worth a look; http://www.timewellspent.io/”

Marc Brenman, managing partner at IDARE LLC, wrote, “Privacy is already disappearing. Public discourse is already coarsening. Hateful individuals find each other and form groups more easily. Cybersecurity threats continue to grow. Artificial intelligence and robotics are putting people out of jobs. At some point, AI entities may decide they don’t need people on earth. Autonomous weapons can make misjudgments.”

John Sniadowski, CEO of Riverside Internet, Wales, commented, “Where you live and your social status will determine whether you are harmed or helped. The great masses are being milked by multinational companies such as Facebook and Google and others queuing up behind to exploit. Huge numbers of people are being excluded because of poor access, or bad or no education and wrongly influenced by fake news, social media pressure and thought-control by governments through surveillance and access control, e.g., the great firewall of China. Individuals will be helped by access to connected technology such as telemedicine, etc.”

Antoinette Pole, an associate professor at Montclair State University, said, “Recent reports note the deleterious effects of technology on mental health. Increased anxiety and more teen suicides might be attributed to technology. Furthermore sitting and being inside has a pernicious affect on the mind and body.”

Mamie Anthoine Ney, an information science professional and director, wrote, “We are still in an era of significant technological change that is so rapid that people are just not able to keep up with the pace of change or know how to fully adapt to change. It is just a part of our human nature. I do not think that another decade will allow us to solve the issues of civility, proper use of time and understanding the content of all that technology brings us. We are in a time of political discomfort that is drawing attention to much of what is bad about technology, rather than the good that it can do for us. Just think about how much we currently hear about uncivil tweeting, sexting, scamming and more compared with how technology can alleviate medical problems (3D printing of prostheses), connect rural areas to the rest of the world (cell service drones over Africa), and bring friends and families closer. If we were better able to concentrate on the good, rather than the ‘evil,’ the current state of upheaval could be conquered in less than the next 10 or so years.”

Richard Lachmann, professor of sociology, State University of New York-Albany, said, “The internet is a convenience and provides access to information while undercutting social ties and creating anxiety among younger users. The benefits already have been achieved but the costs in sociability and psychological well-being will continue to accumulate.”

Deborah Coe, a coordinator of research services based in the U.S., said, “Our current research on the lasting effects of summer camps on kids draws from existing studies of negative effects that digital media have on children’s well-being and studies which show that each successive generation (worldwide) is becoming less involved with the outdoors and less aware of environmental needs. These are alarming findings. We hope to show that taking a break from electronics and spending time in nature can start to reverse some of those effects. However, my personal observation is that social institutions (including education, religion and government) are seeing exposure to nature as less relevant, not moreso. This worries me greatly.”

Stephanie Mallak Olson, director at the Iosco-Arenac District Library in Michigan, wrote, “I have concerns about privacy and safety. I also see a lack of face-to-face interaction. People text to people sitting only a few feet away without making any eye contact. Many young people (ages 14 to 25) I know almost panic if their mobile devices are out of reach. They see their ‘phones’ as their main conversation devices. I am also concerned about the accuracy of information that is made available to the public through the internet and am concerned that the likely ‘sources’ for facts are often glossy and appear legitimate when they might be totally wrong/inaccurate/dangerous. I am concerned about Net neutrality issues recently discussed (and legislative action taken) that might create situations where certain priorities are placed on data based on dollars paid or political actions taken. I am worried that providers might throttle or regulate how much is viewable, at what speed and at what cost. I want the internet to be open and ‘free’ and am hopeful that actions will be taken to help people understand what is accurate information. Already the costs to access databases are on the rise and I am thankful for libraries and other resources for the cost-saving measures they take to provide information. I see a future of people so dependent on their connections via devices that they are isolated/lonely/lack social skills and are unable to cope in teams. There is something to be said for putting it down and having conversations ‘in-person.’”

Tanja Cupples Meece, a homeschool educator based in North America, wrote, “People will be less likely to trust anything that they here or read as coming from the mouths of important people or organizations. They may also become more lazy; obesity is already a problem in the United States, and I foresee it increasing in the future. Many people spend more time checking their social media or networks rather than getting outside and talking to their neighbors or walking.”

Responses from those who said well-being will be more helped than harmed by digital life

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.

Oscar Gandy, emeritus professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “It was difficult to select a response in that I am usually rather pessimistic about the impact of technology on the quality of our lives. I won’t say I am excited about the future, but I do have a sense that the connectedness that digitally networked objects, places and things that respond to queries actually help more than they harm. I also am a bit more hopeful that really smart people are raising questions and seeking policy responses to limit the harms that come from captured transaction-generated information. Time will tell, of course, whether the regulatory developments in the European Union will influence, let us say, counter-balance those in the U.S. and China.”

Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, wrote, “The core digital and biological sciences and health technologies are continuously expanding new capabilities across heath and well-being digital ecosystems and personal digital ecosystems. Meanwhile, the lack of large-scale system interoperability between tech systems and services trying to gain business or strategic advantage by gaming or controlling connections, APIs and formats, the disparate access to resources among excluded communities and pervasive cyber vulnerabilities across all layers and nodes of our digital networks, are inhibiting the value of digital systems to improve public well-being.”

Vint Cerf, internet Hall of Fame member and vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google, commented, “I am persuaded that we will have more tools at our disposal to improve our ability to do knowledge work, to discover relevant information, to keep ourselves and others informed. Machine learning will be part of that toolkit. Autonomous software running in the background (think: Google Alert for example) will also prove useful. Automatic translations (spoken and written) will improve our ability to conduct international business or maintain relationships. New businesses will form around these advanced information-processing capabilities.”

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, wrote, “We are becoming more aware of the dangers and shortcomings of a digitally connected life. That said, we can’t forget the many people who’ve built new connections or rebuilt old ones through online tools. We’re at a moment of waking up to downsides and figuring out how to address them – this isn’t a moment to back away from the internet as a space for interaction.”

Paul Saffo, a leading Silicon Valley-based technological forecaster and consulting professor in the School of Engineering at Stanford University, said, “Heraclitus put it eloquently over two millennia ago – ‘nothing new comes into our lives without a hidden curse.’ The greater the marvel, the greater the unexpected consequences. Five centuries ago, the advent of the printing press utterly atom-smashed the social, religious and ultimately the political order of Europe. It ushered in a half century of chaos and conflict. But it also opened the door to the Enlightenment and the rise of representative political orders. The optimistic internet visionaries of the 1990s were neither naive nor mistaken. The expected future always arrives late and in unexpected ways. We are in for a wild period of disorder, but beyond is a sunny upland.”

Louis Rossetto, self-proclaimed “troublemaker” and founder and former editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, said, “For all the negative effects of digital technologies – and there have been many – net the effects have been overwhelmingly positive. Across the planet, people in every culture, in every economic group have seen their lives improve dramatically, directly because the development and deployment of digital technologies and networks.”

Alf Rehn, a professor of innovation, design and management at the University of Southern Denmark, wrote, “Whilst it is true that an increasingly digital life will come with its own health issues (addiction to gaming and social media, broken sleep patterns from too much time at screens, and so on), the overall impact will still be a positive one. AR has already gotten kids moving more (Go, ‘Pokemon Go’!) and this will only increase, and new fitness solutions will help even us couch potatoes to get up more. The Internet of Things will enable better health tracking, and a ubiquity of sensors will nudge us into better behaviors. Next up: The internet of healthier diets (or ‘Who put a tracker in my liquor cabinet?!?’).”

Shiru Wang, a research associate at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said, “Two sides coexist. On the one hand, the internet will significantly improve social communication and economic opportunities (e.g., e-shops) of the world population as a whole, especially when the former digital have-nots are able to access the internet. On the other hand, the redundancy, information explosion, the tendency of the internet’s dominating one’s life will continue bothering the ‘post-Internet’ generation, if not becoming worse. But I believe that there will be an inverted ‘U-shape’ on which the digital communication technologies benefit the overall well-being of the world population. We have not reached the peak point yet.”

Fred Baker, an internet pioneer and longtime leader with the internet Engineering Task Force, wrote, “My sense is that society and social impacts will change over time with the development of digital technologies, and overall, those changes will improve people’s lives. I think this, as much as anything, because of what I have seen as digital life has developed in the past. First, the degree to which one uses digital technologies is a choice; second, I most such choices are of mixed value. However, people have the opportunity to benefit from them. An example comes to mind. I was sitting in an airport chatting with a colleague. My phone alarmed, indicating the arrival of a flight-status message. I looked at it, put the phone away, and stated that the flight status had changed in whatever way it had. My colleague commented that the same message came to him on his watch, and he observed it with a glance that didn’t disrupt the conversation. I choose to not wear a smart watch, because as much as I use electronics, I object to them taking over my life. He, however, did choose to wear a smart watch, and appreciated that it fit well with the way he conducted his life. It’s a choice that we made in different ways, with different impacts on our lives. I still don’t wear a smart watch, but I imagine he does, and we each have our reasons. So, will there be innovations? Yes, definitely. Will they impact us negatively or positively? Yes. And I would imagine that the ones we will talk about will be the negative impacts, not the positive ones.”

Bill Lehr, a research scientist and economist at MIT, wrote, “I am, on balance, a technical optimist because technology is essential to address the problems faced by society, for which – in a number of dimensions – technology has also been a big contributor to the problems. For example, ICTs have contributed to economic growth and are an accelerator and amplifier of changes, including changes for ill. ICTs will help Africa develop and potentially leapfrog traditional growth trajectories… ICTs are essential to realizing a greener energy future, and I am optimistic that they can be, but if they are not then climate change is likely to get worse faster. It is time, however, that technology recognize that few mostly good things are all good and that there will be growing increase in awareness of negative effects of ICT and so the perception may be that, on balance, things are getting worse; it may just be that we become more sober in our optimism so positive trajectories are lower.”

Internet Hall of Famer Bob Metcalfe, a professor of innovation at the University of Texas-Austin, wrote, “Connecting is a good thing. We have not yet developed the tools to deal with the sudden connectivity of the Internet, but even still, reduced economic frictions are leading to better lives. The road is bumpy, but we are moving toward freedom and prosperity for all. Now we look down on echo chambers, but that’s just sour grapes. I have been using Block more to curate my own echo chambers, and I feel progress there. You should not feel obligated to listen to anybody who insists on bothering you with their opinions.”

Daniel Weitzner, principle research scientist, MIT internet Policy Research Initiative, commented, “Human beings want and need connection, and the internet is the ultimate connection machine. Whether on questions of politics, community affairs, science, education, romance or economic life, the internet does connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships. Of course, so of those connections are dysfunctional and require interventions (policy, technical or social) to avoid creating more harm than good. Unlike broadcast media, which can only connect institutions to individuals, but not individuals to individuals, there are actual people on all ends of the connection. I have to feel confident that we can continue to gain fulfillment from these human connections.”

Paul Jones, a professor of information science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and internet pioneer, wrote, “Humans need tools. Humans need and want augmentation. And as the saying goes ‘First we make our tools, then our tools form us.’ Since the first protohuman, this has been true. But soon our tools will want, demand and create tools for their own use. The alienation of the industrial age has already given up the center stage to the twisted social psychology of the service industry. Next, will our tool-created overlords be more gentle and kind than the textile factory, the sewing room or the call center? I believe they will be.”

Larry Roberts, internet Hall of Fame member and CEO, CFO and CTO at FSA Technologies, wrote, “The internet and other digital tools are starting to eliminate the stressful and costly need to commute into work each day allowing several extra hours each day to most of us. This also applies to travel to meet with people as video conferencing eliminates most of the need for travel. This also greatly eliminates stress and save huge amounts of time and cost. The use of email for sending PDF files is another large speedup in getting work done. There is so much more one can accomplish each day for one’s business, shopping and play that the world is speeding up. We just need to keep from letting the speedup force us to become more stressed.”

Eileen Rudden, co-founder of LearnLaunch, wrote, “More is being written and absorbed by the public on how to manage digital distractions and avoid ‘digital addictions.’ A book such as ‘The Distracted Mind, Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World’ by Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen is a good example. The broadening of access to information and education and work to all of the world’s populations by the internet will continue to create a net new benefit to humanity. Our challenge will be to avoid ‘digital mobs’ and to avoid people only being exposed to information which is close to what they already think.”

Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, said, “Improvements in access to information, services, knowledge will in some cases enhance personal, business and cultural empowerment. However, the opportunity for misuse and negative utilization is also a constant and needs to not be ignored.”

Garland McCoy, president of the Technology Education Institute, said, “Knowledge is good, shared knowledge better and collective knowledge best! As with everything, moderation is key; you want to avoid total immersion in what will clearly be an always-on environment linking your brain directly to the internet. So you will need to enable some ‘off’ switches – which may or may not be legal to obtain in the future. Obviously from the government and private-sector perspective they would like to keep you connected at all times to monitor your every thought and move or to sell you something you just thought about.”

Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, commented, “Every new technology goes through a phase of euphoria, followed by a phase of retrenchment. Automobiles were a fantastic replacement for horses, but as their numbers increased it became clear that they had their own health and cleanliness issues. The same is true of the internet. A few years ago, freedom of the press went to those who owned one. Now everybody has a platform, no matter how crazy they are. But we will learn to live with this by developing better technology, better media and better critical awareness.”

Jerry Michalski, founder of the Relationship Economy eXpedition, said, “The next decade is likely to be a shit show. Whether the internet will increase well-being or not on the whole is unanswerable. In pockets, it’s addressable, and right now I think the positive pockets outweigh the potential negatives. For example, learning can now cost nothing except a person’s effort. People who fear one another can become familiar and dispel their fear. Plans for how to improve the world are easy to share. Resources and movements can collect energy and scale online. Meanwhile, spin and the destruction of facts could take us into nuclear wars, the next nationalist nightmares or climate catastrophes larger than we’ve imagined. How do you sum all that?”

Hanane Boujemi, a senior technology policy expert based in Europe, commented, “In order to benefit from the internet in the future, safeguards to inherent consumers’ rights must be guaranteed by existing legal mechanisms and possibly a code of ethics based on which the internet industry ought to adhere to. Users are to be made aware of the implications using their personal data and they should also respect the rights of the others while interacting in the virtual space.”

Bob Frankston, a technologist based in North America, said, “The internet is not a thing but rather a product of the ability to use software to program around limits. It enables the creation of systems of technologies that work in concert. But the benefits will be limited to point solutions as long as we are limited to solutions that are profitable in isolation, until we invest in common infrastructure and have open interfaces.”

Ralph Droms, a technology developer/administrator based in North America, said, “New internet technologies will allow people to remain independent longer as they age as well as contribute to augmenting and improving daily life. Some people will find that their employment opportunities are reduced or changed.”

Stephen Downes, a senior research officer at the National Research Council Canada, commented, “The internet will help rather than harm people’s well-being because it breaks down barriers and supports them in their ambitions and objectives. We see a lot of disruption today caused by this feature, as individuals and companies act out a number of their less desirable ambitions and objectives. Racism, intolerance, greed and criminality have always lurked beneath the surface, and it is no surprise to see them surface. But the vast majority of human ambitions and objectives are far more noble: people desire to educate themselves, people desire to communicate with others, people desire to share their experiences, people desire to create networks of enterprise, commerce and culture. All these are supported by digital technologies, and while they may not be as visible and disruptive as the less desirable objectives, they are just as real, and far more massive.”

John Henke, a consultant based in North America, said, “Technological progress is inevitably bumpy and sometimes unequally distributed. However, just as the best remedy to bad speech is more speech, the best remedy to the problems that arise with new technology is more technology.”

Shel Israel, CEO of the Transformation Group, said, “There are many well-founded concerns about the possible psychological and cultural damages that may be caused. But there is a very large mountain of evidence in how it will help the well-being of people. Just in immersive technologies, such as AR and VR, we are seeing improvements to the care and treatment of all sorts of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, autism, non-opiate pain treatment and more. There are also clear improvements of surgery caused by use of the internet and immersive technologies in training medical practitioners.”

Brad Templeton, software architect, civil rights advocate, entrepreneur and internet pioneer, wrote, “That we need to do a better job mitigating the bad effects does not stop the good effects from being worth it. There are still scores of ways we all find it hard to imagine how we did things in the past without our digital tools.”

David Weinberger, a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for internet & Society, said, “It is difficult and possibly impossible to evaluate a change of the magnitude that we are living through, for our values themselves are changing. For example, it is changing some of the most fundamental formations of sociality. We worry that our children or our colleagues are spreading themselves too thin across a loose network of ‘friends’ – putting the word in quotes to indicate our concern and disdain. At the same time, we are spending more time being social in these thin networks, and we carry our friends and acquaintances with us through our lifetimes in ways we never could before. Perhaps we’ll look back and pity the millennia when we were limited to a handful of friendships formed among people who happen to live close to us, and when we had to say final farewells to friends when we move away. This is not to say that everything is working out great so far. For example, bullying and intolerance are flourishing on the Net, and there is no future state in which that is a good thing. We can blame this on the Net, or we can say that we have uncovered a nastiness in the human social makeup that needs to be addressed by norms, morality, art and education. Or both. But if I’m going to call out some negatives after saying that we can’t evaluate what we are becoming, I feel compelled to point out some of the hopeful values that have already emerged on the Net. We are more social, more creative, funnier and more collaborative. This is a flourishing of our social nature so deep that it is transformative. It is important to remember the positives we see on the Net or else we will shut it down for fear of the negatives. My secret hope is that in this transitional stage we are poking at every extreme to explore the boundaries of the possible, and will eventually – before too long – file down the most hurtful edges.”

Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz, principals of Pathfinding Smarter Futures, commented, “This question has neither a black-or-white answer, nor a single answer. It all depends. The impacts of digital life on people’s overall well-being – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, spiritually – will be mixed. As author William Gibson once said, “The future has arrived – it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” So too, a sense of well-being isn’t evenly distributed either online or off, depending on many personal, social, economic and cultural factors. In addition, ‘digital life’ and ‘real life’ are becoming ever-more blended and ‘intertwingled’ (Ted Nelson), so it’s difficult to isolate the impacts of digital life. Given those complexities, here are some questions to go deeper: What dynamic balance of digital and real life is the most beneficial for an individual in her specific situation at a given time? How would the ways she lives her digital life help her achieve her goals and aspirations? How would the ways she lives her digital life hinder or harm her relationships with herself and her body, her friends and family, her community, the natural world and so on? More importantly, how can she learn to be more aware of what actually contributes to her ongoing well-being and then learn to use digital and other tools more skillfully to that end? So then taking into account these two descriptions of well-being, here is some of our thinking about how and why individuals’ over-all well-being will be helped by digital technologies. An increasing number of apps, virtual workshops, online support networks and the like emphasize aspects of positive psychology, work-life balance, de-stressing, personal and spiritual development, and so on. Mindfulness is going mainstream, according to the media, and Googling ‘mindfulness apps’ results in 1.7 million hits. A few mindfulness apps also include biofeedback. Mindful use of digital tools in one’s life can support and enhance well-being. Better yet, design of digital tools that encourage and reinforce more mindfulness, rather than obsession with whatever is on the screen, would be a big benefit. Some digital designers are speaking out about the ‘addictive’ qualities of smartphone interfaces. Key online articles [by Farhad Manjoo, Stu Goulden, Bianca Bosker] describe what makes interfaces and apps so addictive and what people can do to manage the negative effects. Former Google design ethicist Tristan Harris is now the executive director and co-founder of Time Well Spent. He writes, ‘We are building a new organization dedicated to reversing the digital attention crisis and realigning technology with humanity’s best interests… we are advancing thoughtful solutions to change the system.’ Harris is a graduate of B.J. Fogg’s Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford. Fogg is a behavioral psychologist whose insights about how people change habits and behaviors has led to him to develop the field of Behavior Design over the past 20 years. On his website (https://www.bjfogg.com/) Fogg writes, ‘Technology itself doesn’t magically change behavior. People creating products need to understand how human behavior works. Teaching people the psychology of behavior change is core to my work these days. I’ve created a set of models – how to think clearly about behavior. And I’ve created a set of methods – how to design for behavior. These models and methods work together and comprise Behavior Design.’ With people like Tristan Harris, Justin Rosenstein, B.J. Fogg and their many colleagues working to develop better digital technologies and supporting business models and organizational structures that contribute to personal and societal well-being, we are more hopeful about the positive impacts of digital life in the future.”

Michael Roberts, an internet pioneer and internet Hall of Fame member, commented, “Very timely question. Today’s NYT has good feature on how care for elderly falls mostly on women and especially daughters. Offsetting workplace gains, etc. Other recent Net commentary expands on the big potential of digital assistants, robots, etc., to ease burdens of the elderly, encourage more independence, achieve better medical care outcomes in the home, and so on. The importance of this is underlined by the expanding numbers in 70+ population. Other commentary rebuffs this potential, asserting that sacrifices of privacy and ‘selfness’ are too great. An example cited is the ‘always-on Echo’ as a terrible intrusion. This question touches on a potentially watershed issue. Good for you to focus on. There is a more generalized but equally important issue, which is displacement of manual work by automation. Only in the last 1% or less of human evolution have our bodies been able to pursue highly sedentary lives. I am part of the fitness culture in Portola Valley/Stanford area, which has made running, biking, swimming, etc., an integral part of lifestyles for more than 40 years. However, nowhere near enough folks see the light on fitness, and the negative health and lifestyle effects are everywhere around us. Darwinian selection will certainly prevail, and there are already too many humans on the planet. But it is discouraging, to say the least, to ‘solve’ this problem by attrition! The offset, of course, is the remarkable adaptability of our genome. Plus, we now have CRISPR and other techniques that are likely to allow hands-on manipulation of genomes despite lots of noise about ethics, etc. From deep in his leather armchair, the sedentary-life fan says, ‘We’ll just tweak the DNA to avoid ill effects from not sweating it out on the running path!’ The above is a roundabout way of getting to the core of your question, but my point is that ‘harm’ no longer can be defined in terms of history, either intellectual or physical. The spectrum of future human activities and lifestyles has been expanded immeasurably by 1) knowledge about ourselves, and 2) our newfound ability to replicate in digital automatons vast amounts of what used to be considered human work. Given a sufficient time horizon, a century or two, it is reasonable to assume humans can define whatever set of physical attributes and associated lifestyles they wish. The bottom-line issues are how to guide choices and achieve consensus, along with how to preserve quality of life while those goals are pursued. These are tough issues. Looking around at the end of 2017, one sees a human world of horrendous inequality and suffering, along with the worst political crisis in a very long time. My personal view is that the talent and energy contained in technology-oriented parts of society will push ahead, and, on balance, we will think we are better off 10 years from now, with 2027 technology, than we are today.”

Seth Finkelstein, consulting programmer at Finkelstein Consulting, wrote, “While I understand why the question is phrased as it is, I wish there were an option ‘… some aspects will be helped, some aspects will be harmed.’ I believe the overall result will be beneficial, but I fear that outcome being used as a way of ignoring costs. It’s too common to have any harms excused as an inevitable consequence of technology, when it’s really a matter of policy. That is, a net benefit can be composed of many large positives and negatives. Consider if this was a century ago, in the midst of a major social transformation where much of the population shifted from rural to urban living. And we were being asked ‘Will individuals’ overall well-being will be more helped than harmed by *city* life?.’ Note further, ‘city life’ encompasses a wide range itself. Some cities have far more crime, poverty, sickness and general overall human misery than others. In many United States cities, owning a car is almost a necessity, but that’s often not true in European cities (n.b. technology vs. policy – no immutable destiny!). ‘City life’ varies extensively in terms of housing affordability or the availability of social support. And some folks don’t like cities at all, for various reasons. Being physically close to many people means medical assistance can be available in minutes. It also means criminals have many potential targets. Similarly, ‘digital life’ can mean easily connecting with someone sharing your particular problem. But it also means an easy connection for anyone who has a problem with *you*. The flip side of ‘supportive community forum’ is ‘social-media hate mob.’ Having a world of knowledge at your fingertips also means having the world’s distractions a click away. Doing business all over the globe bring being able to be scammed from foreign lands. Consulting with experts in another country means offshoring labor is practical. All of these effects, and more, do not take place in isolation, but are profoundly affected by governmental actions.”

Pamela Rutledge, director of Media Psychology Research Center, said, “Much of the reaction to technology echoes historical concerns at many junctures throughout recorded history where technology disrupted social, behavioral and commercial patterns. With every new technology, we have to learn the new rules of engagement. This only comes from understanding what the technology can and can’t do and how that impacts our goals, behaviors and choices. To benefit from cars, we had to learn to drive, establish rules for the road and understand the benefits and dangers of such technology-enabled power. Today’s technologies are no different. There are inherent and undeniable benefits, such as increased productivity, wider access to information, healthcare and education, greater and more resilient social connections independent of time and distance, the inability to hide bad behavior for those who abuse power and the psychological sense of empowerment that derives from increased agency. This does not mean that there aren’t challenges to be managed, like equal access, privacy, misinformation and new avenues for criminal behaviors. Technology isn’t going anywhere and it is without agenda. The choice of what and how to use technology is our own. As with cars, we need to learn to be good drivers. We need to develop new social literacies and behavioral rules that are adaptive to a digital world. However, these are recurring problems with every type of social change. Well-being is a psychological state that comes from feeling like you have the ability to take action, have impact, that you are capable of navigating your environment to meet your basic needs, and that you have meaningful social connection. Technology enhances all of these.”

Steve Stroh, technology journalist, said, “When I was a teenager, I had an experience with cancer in my family. In college, I volunteered at a Cancer Information Service funded by the National Cancer Institute. It was a small call center where we could answer basic questions from (mostly very scared) people about cancer, treatments, outcomes, etc. The problem was that the sources were limited to very generic information from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society (and related organizations). In short, we couldn’t offer very much useful information. With the internet… the sky is the limit with being able to research your health issues, not just ‘big issues’ like cancer, but many health issues which affect much smaller populations, including finding fellow sufferers of particular diseases. The downside is, of course, is that people can find their way to ‘quack’ cures and outright frauds (not immunizing your kids comes to mind). But, at least, the GOOD information about your health can be accessed on the Internet.”

Lisa Padilla, CEO, NewPath VR, wrote, “Technological advances with help wellness by far outweighing the negative effects. Although, for example, there will be cases of video game addiction, there will be exponentially more people helped by way of wellness applications being created today by developers who will create games that decrease anxiety, remap understandings, resolve relationships, condition for prosocial behavior and empower users with self-compassion, to name just a few.”

David Cole, a respondent who shared no additional personal details, wrote, “The rise of computational engagement, for all its risks, brings with it the awareness of the need for – if not, for the moment, the experience of – deep transparency. People in the field know we should be using two-factor authentication, but how many of us do so on all our accounts? We know we should be reading our user agreements more closely but how many of us do? As bureaucratic and administrative as these examples may sound, ultimately they are about connecting and managing relationships with people and with services. Mindful application of technology in our lives continues to deliver remarkable efficiencies and experiences. I have deep faith in our ability to redesign an internet that is not based on clicks and impressions and the bundling and resale of profile information.”

Chris Udochukwu, a CEO based in Africa, commented, “Before the advent of the automobile, humanity existed, worked and produced goods and services. With the emergence of the steam engine and automobile, the industrial age/revolution began. It was a journey of no-return. There were fatal consequences and accidents, many people died, many more others survived, life changed, new professions emerged and there were new health concerns – including new lifestyles and new diseases. But life must and does go on. Today, globally, the Knowledge Olympiad called the Information Society (IS) has begun. Success in this digital domain and platform-centric battlefield is via speed-enabled intellectual property wealth creation in cyberspace. It is imperative for new national assets (data) to be protected, especially with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), which requires strategic intervention at all critical levels of development. Africa/Nigeria stands at the dawn of technology opportunity and will benefit immensely if government and corporate policy encourages the ICT industry and security stakeholders to lead the advocacy and promotion of IPv6 adoption as a gateway to sustainable development in the continent. This will not only protect national corporate wealth but spur innovation, create employment for our youth, improve our global e-readiness status, improve our national security concerns and accelerate global competitiveness. Currently, we live in a world where the internet has been weaponized; the global security landscape has changed forever. Our digital/cyberspace is amassing data and intelligence information at the speed of light! Cyberspace has been weaponized at the nano-levels. The new way of war is the e-Knowledge Weapon Olympiad. Just as it was with the emergence of the steam engine and automobile, the internet is has come to stay and will take causalities from unprepared communities, societies and nations. There is no going back from this unpredictable digital tunnel where no one controls the compass. The internet is taking humanity into a life-long adventure like never before with enormous benefits. The flip side is that we will lose personal privacy at all levels, with massive interventions of machine-to-machines capabilities, robots, etc. The internet will free us of the fear of over-population of the planet Earth (when we approach 12-15 billion) by accelerating our urge to innovate and create undersea and stratospheric shelters for mankind. The challenge remains that no one knows the precise shape of the pregnant digital future, because what we have at this stage is just the tip of the iceberg. As for the internet, the future is today and we are the chosen ones and there is indeed no limit to what the human mind can do and achieve. The greatest harm is NOT about digital addiction and time-bomb modification of human health, but that of losing our humanity. Yes, the internet will make us lose our humanity and moral values. Our forefathers were more humane than we are today, and tomorrow may be far worse. This will happen when there is no more water to drink and no sand to build; then we will adapt to the promise of the internet and Internet of Things at the nano-scale.”

Micah Altman, head scientist for the program for information science at MIT, said, “Most of the gains in human well-being (economic, health, longevity, life-satisfaction and a range of choices) over the last century and a half have come from advances in technology that are the long-term results of scientific advances. However, these gains have not been distributed equitably, even in democracies. Many advances from the fields of computer science, information science, statistics and computational social science are just beginning to be realized in today’s technology – and there remains a huge potential for long-term improvement. Further, since information is a non-consumptive good, it lends itself to broad and potentially more equitable distribution. For example, the relatively recent trends towards openness in scientific publication, scientific data and educational resources are likely to make people across the world better off – in the short term, by expanding individual’s access to a broad set of useful information; in the medium term, by decreasing barriers to education (especially higher-ed); and in the long term by enhancing scientific progress.”

Eelco Herder, an assistant professor of computer science whose focus is on personalization and privacy, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, the Netherlands, wrote, “In the Western world, the overall impact of changes in digital life will remain more or less the same. Our body of online knowledge will increase, social media will further develop in one way or another – making it still easier to connect with family, friends and caregivers; health-monitoring tools and analytics will further mature. These positive effects will probably partially be canceled out by increased self-medication, higher stress levels, increased inequality online and offline and many other already known negative effects of increased interaction with social media and digital tools. I do hope and expect that in developing countries the overall effect of better means of communication and increased awareness will be positive.”

Ross Rader, vice president for customer experience, Tucows Inc., said, “I am an optimist, and despite the fact that we are seeing more harm from the impact of digital technology on people than ever, we are also seeing more good. The bad gets all the headlines, and not a day goes by where we don’t hear more about the negative impact that technology has on people, but we also can’t forget that we live in a world where it is conceivable that a person born with mobility challenges might never need to rely on the kindness of others to buy them groceries because they will have access to their own self-driving automobiles. My son is in this position and the benefit he receives from technology is incalculable. Something as simple as ‘Alexa, turn on the bathroom light’ is a game-changer for many.”

Jordan LaBouff, associate professor of psychology at the University of Maine, commented, “When I look at the history of technological developments, they are usually towards improving public well-being. While those innovations definitely come with public health risks, we have so far been OK at recognizing those risks and working to reduce them. There is no question that life will be *different* in significant and probably initially uncomfortable ways because of the development of internet technologies, but it holds so much potential that it will improve well-being. It already has in many ways – access to healthcare and resources, development of social support for people who might otherwise feel isolated and alone, etc.”

Fernando Ortega, a director of the National Council of Science, Technology and Innovation of Peru, said, “New tech developments will allow the concentration of human efforts (including work) on more complex activities leaving the routine activities to machines. This will generate new jobs and enhance the opportunities to new companies emerging from innovations. The key factors for a successful economy will be technological education, telecom infrastructure and a promotional environment for the creation of new ventures.”

Pete Cranston, a Europe-based trainer and consultant on digital technology and software applications, wrote, “There’s a top-1%, first-world response, which is to bemoan the impact of hyperconnectedness on things like social interaction, attention-span, trolling and fake news – all of which are real but, like complaining about the marzipan being too thick on the Christmas cake, are problems that come with plenty and surplus. There’s a rest-of-the-world response which focuses more on the massive benefits to life from access to finance, to online shopping, to limitless, free research opportunities, to keeping in touch with loved ones in far-away places (and think migrant workers rather than gap-year youth).”

David A. Bernstein, a retired market researcher and consultant, said, “The well-being of individuals will improve over the next decade as a result of greater integration of personal wearable technology and the internet. I see a day in the not too distant future where diabetes, heart conditions and basic diagnostic tools will be made closer to the patient through these. The distance and time between practitioner and patient will hopefully be greatly reduced.”

Jeremiah Foster, open-source technologist at GENIVI Alliance, said, “We tend to describe technological changes in utopian or dystopian terms, largely because on reflection the changes wrought seem so momentous. In aggregate, many lives are improved – some dramatically, some incrementally – by changes in technology.”

Olugbenga Adesida, founder and CEO of Bonako, wrote, “The digital revolution has led to radical changes that many could not have imagined only a decade ago. Despite the radical shifts so far, the digital revolution is is still at its infancy, especially with respect to its potential impacts on socioeconomic development in the developing world. The potential is high in various fields, from health, livelihoods, and education to governance. While the potential for harmful effects will always be there, the use of the emerging digital tools in development will be transformative. It will affect all sectors, from the way economic activities are organized, the way we deliver social services (education, health, etc.), to the way we govern ourselves. The critical challenge is whether Africa and the rest of the developing world will become active producers of the emerging technologies or remain primarily consumers.”

Richard Sambrook, professor of journalism at Cardiff University, UK, wrote, “Digital development holds many risks and unknown consequences and will undoubtedly have unforeseen negative effects. But overall AI, automation and technology have the capacity to greatly improve our lives and our well-being if managed well. The challenge for society and politicians is to adapt rapidly enough to ensure new developments are harnessed for good and potentially damaging effects are mitigated. We see this currently underway with the social and political response to widespread mis- and disinformation which was not adequately foreseen but which is now clearly under scrutiny and stronger management.”

Ana Cristina Amoroso das Neves, director of the Department for the Information Society at Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, said, “The current state of play and evidence show clearly how the evolution of emerging technologies is more than helpful to human beings at all levels of their existence, adding to people’s well-being and allowing them to age well with dignity. The internet brings overwhelming opportunities to the world and the society we live in. Nonetheless, international cooperation is needed more than ever to develop a human-centric Internet, and not the other way around. The internet and emerging technologies should serve people’s well-being and not use people merely as a resource and data producer for technology evolution. It is all about ethics and how to use technology to make lives better. Only under such philosophy and public policy will there be a win-win situation.”

Alejandro Pisanty, a professor at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and longtime leading participant in the activities of the Internet Society, wrote, “The benefits of digital life will continue to outweigh the deleterious effects for a long time and for increasing numbers of people. At the very least this is a sampling and baseline issue: A fresh billion people will soon gain access to the most basic benefits with little or no significant damage from the negative side effects. Fighting the negative effects will require an increasing, active and focused effort at the design, prevention, awareness, defense and remediation levels. Losses in privacy and in the misinformation arena will easily become irreversible. Education is required but it cannot be focused only on the digital tools; critical-thinking and ethics, from the ground up, will be demanded.”

Maureen Hilyard, IT consultant and vice chair of the At-Large Advisory Committee of ICANN, wrote, “People’s well-being will be affected for good as long as they know how the internet and all things digital can help their lives as well as how and where to access the information that they want and need so that they can become better-informed and better-educated. Specific harms will result if digital users do not discriminate between what they use or what they put on line – fake news and cyber-bullying are issues that need national legislation to deter people from harming others. And there are always those who hack e-commerce or personal information sites; this can deter people from using these facilities to make it easier for their lives, to be able to buy or to do other transactions online. Improvements can occur if governments provide for the information needs of those who would not necessarily get the chance to access the internet because of affordability issue. It creates a digital divide when those who already have high-quality jobs and incomes get liberal use of digital access while those who really need access to online learning and information are left far behind. Children in developing countries need access to information about people, places and opportunities that they may never see in their lifetimes that they would be able to experience through the internet. Some may even be able to make their dream happen for them and experience what they had only previously learned about through virtual means, but they first have to see and to dream that they, too, may have the same opportunities.”

Eugene Daniel, a young professional based in the United States, said, “Quite simply, the usefulness of the internet (connectivity, sharing and gathering of information, cultural and technological advancements, etc.) will outweigh its dangers (identity and monetary theft, hacking, criminal connectivity, etc.). Of course, this assumes certain beliefs about the internet, including the ability to handle increasing capacity. Overall, there are so many corners of the world that still have not been exposed to the wonders of the internet and its resources – and, by that understanding, the potential of their investment would outweigh any negatives, in my opinion.”

Brenda M. Michelson, an executive-level technology architect based in North America, commented, “We need to improve how we build and introduce digital products, services, information and overall pervasiveness. On building, we need to diversify the teams creating our digital future. 1) These future builders must reflect society in terms of race, gender, age, education, economic status and so on. 2) As digital is integrative – technology, data, arts, humanities, society, ethics, economics, science, communication – the teams must be composed of individuals from across professions and backgrounds, including artists, scientists, systems thinkers and social advocates. On introduction, we need (desperately) to build information literacy and critical-thinking skills across the population and improve curation tools without impinging on free speech.”

Nalaka Gunawardene, science writer and ICT researcher based in Sri Lanka, said, “Digital tools/technologies come with some potential problems, but on the whole I consider them more beneficial in a developing country like Sri Lanka where a third of the 21 million population now regularly uses the internet. The spread of digital and web tools during the past decade has had far-reaching impacts on our families, society, culture and politics. For example, they undermine our feudal and hierarchical social orders, enabling a meritocracy to emerge. They disrupt conventional business models in our unimaginative media, creating new opportunities for digital startups to innovate. They create new spaces and opportunities for youth to participate in politics and social reforms. Digitally-armed young people are challenging the status quo in schools, workplaces and civil society. These larger benefits far outweigh misuse and excesses of digital technologies.”

Akah Harvey, co-founder, COO and IT engineer at Traveler Inc., said, “We are already experiencing the many advantages that are brought by developing technologies that address our local problems. Most of these directly improve the well-being of people in this part of the world (Africa). However, the uneven speed at which we get to adopt to new tools is a challenge in society. If developments are not evenly experienced by most of the population it can be a problem in the sense that there could be discrimination by those who master the tools first and then gain an upper hand over those who are ignorant of what’s happening or have not been given the opportunity to experience the positive effects of the change.”

Colin Tredoux, a professor of psychology at the University of Cape Town, commented, “Digital innovations have the possibility of improving people’s lives. This seems undeniable. A more important question is whether such innovations can be delivered across lines of inequality. I think the most likely outcome is that the developed world will benefit tremendously from things like health sensors built into smartphones, remote medicine, AI driven diagnosis of medical imaging etc., but I doubt that the same will be experienced by the developing world. Even within wealthy countries like the U.S. and England, for instance, I fully expect the advantage to accrue unequally, to those who already have much more than the rest of the population.”

Richard Jones, an investor based in Europe, wrote, “The current development of IT tools in areas such as search, data mining and its feedback, voice interface and AI, AR and VR immersive experiences, drone and camera, blockchain and all applications thereof (such as value exchange and transaction enablement and accounting), smart-home management, remote education, mobility, etc., generally disintermediate, quicken and extend the possibilities for use of one’s time. There is undoubtedly a challenge to accommodate this effectively into mentally stable patterns of behaviour as it tends toward a quickening of pace akin to burnout but some of this can be accommodated by digital natives whereas silver surfers will be flummoxed by having to rationalise rather than accept or simply be confused and feel out of control. Digital natives will generally have better habits and acceptance, but, having said that, the technology does appear to have the potential to spin out of control by either cyber warfare, chip design errors, systemic collapse due to some unforeseen problem, etc. Put simply, this is like any great change: a period of heightened uncertainty about direction and outcome so much so that the world order and the very survival of humankind and the planet are issues in flux.”

Tom Wolzien, chairman at The Video Call Center LLC, said, “Growing utility coupled with public awareness/political response to privacy and transport issues will result in a marginal net positive.”

Kyle Rose, principal architect at Akamai Technologies, Inc. and active IETF participant, wrote, “I suspect that any significant negative changes to well-being – of which we can see examples in the echo chamber of social media, in the compulsive and almost addictive behavior of users of social media and in the harvesting of personal data for consumer manipulation – will result in either regulatory or private behavioral changes that will mitigate their impact. Positive changes resulting from the greater opportunities for learning and exploration, communication and collaboration for which the internet provides a foundation, on the other hand, will persist. The net effect will be positive.”

Larry Irving, co-founder of The Mobile Alliance for Global Good, wrote, “I’m well aware of the downside of the internet, and I’m very concerned about negative consequences from digital technologies. That said, I believe that the internet and digital technologies will improve quality of life and enjoyment of life. The opportunities in health, education, commerce, agriculture, finance, sustainability and even government will compensate for the very real negative potential consequences.”

Peter Lunenfeld, professor and vice chair of the Design Media Arts department at UCLA, said, “In the more than a quarter of a century since the advent of the World Wide Web, and the decade of smartphone-driven social media, we’ve explored and exploited a lot of the worst that the digital can bring into our lives. The next decade will see a pendulum swing to more conscious and deliberate use of emerging and extant technologies.”

Jon Lebkowsky, CEO of Polycot Associates, said, “Digital convergence and transformation has been revolutionary and disruptive, accelerating change and creating instabilities and confusion to some extent. Digital literacy is evolving, but it is not well-distributed so far, and we’re just beginning to see a profound darker side, a weaponization of information in digital environments, exploitation of vulnerabilities for theft of information and a growing threat of cyber warfare. It’s hard to be optimistic, but I believe we’re in a transitional phase – a phase that will last one or more generations. Digital literacy will evolve, as will global understanding of the implications of technology developments. Though we’ll always have issues and bad actors, I believe that we’ll catch up with technology and diminish the negative impacts. I’m lately focused on cooperative business, and I believe there are promising developments in that space – democratic worker co-ops forming, along with multistakeholder cooperatives facilitated by digital platforms. I’m also feeling hopeful about the impact of the ‘internet of trust’ that the blockchain promises to deliver. We’re way early in the development of that technology, but it feels promising. Our way out of current moral challenges will definitely include/require systems of trust.”

Larry Roberts, Internet Hall of Famer, original ARPANET leader, now CEO/CFO/CTO of FSA Technologies, Inc., said, “The improvement in allowing the majority of us work at home will greatly improve our lives. This requires bandwidth and speed per home that many do not have today. Besides being able to do all our digital work online, this requires easy and cheep video conferencing with our co-workers, customers, and outside contacts. Savings in office space, an office computer, our ability to mix business with other home demands like signature deliveries and eliminating the stress and time lost in commuting are a few of the benefits. They represent significant cost savings and also an improved quality of life.”

Barry Chudakov, founder and principal of Sertain Research and Streamfuzion Corp., commented, “The first thing that will enhance our well-being—this helps to resolve our sense of bewilderment—is to provide some context for where we are. We are at the beginning stages of blending and merging our identities and consciousness with digital tools and platforms. I believe people’s well-being will be affected for good by changes in digital life. But more than being helped or harmed, we all will find ourselves having to adjust and re-adjust to new realities of presenting ourselves and responding to others on screens and in newer digital venues. This will likely alter our sense of who and what we are as we move from a fixed sense of self and identity to experiencing self in a flow of presentation and response.

“To consider how our well-being will be affected to changes in digital life, it is useful to outline what those changes are likely to be:

1. There is here. Products, tools and experiences will become more immersive thanks to VR (virtual reality) and other advances. Remote and near will become quaint concepts as we connect to almost any place from anywhere.

2. Reality gets realer. More products, tools and experiences will seek to enhance, or bring something new, to improve sell, or convince us. This will include adding to digital encounters with relevant information, data, images and enhanced viewing for every experience from surgery and sightseeing to, of course, sex.

3. Bots as pals. Bots, virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc.) will become more prevalent, more “real” to us, more companionable—and we will come to rely on them.

4. Everyone knows me. Recognition technologies (face, emotion, voice, etc.) will become remarkably accurate to verify, explain, and define who we are. These will also generate data profiles that will re-define and supplant more intuitive insights or perceptions.

5. Showing up is a show. Presentation of self in everyday life will increasingly move away from face-to-face interactions as we rely on tools and platforms through which we show and express ourselves.

6. We are all living in Toy Story. We will increasingly surround ourselves with intelligent technologies—things that think. Intelligence will be invested in all objects as the Internet of Things becomes everyware.

7. Digital reorg revamps older structures. Social structures globally will be affected—rocked—by connectivity, cooperation, and reorganization that follow the logic of newer digital tools and platforms, not older frameworks built by alphabets, literacy, laws, and religious injunctions from holy books.

8. Life is an abstraction. The abstraction of everyday life will continue as algorithms, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, data tracking and profiling—combine to reduce people and experience to conceptual abstractions.

9. Data determines. In every area of life, from medicine to marriage, data flows and data summations will begin to guide our choices and decisions.

“Changes in digital life will land us in a quandary where two seemingly opposite things can be true simultaneously: digital tools will help us fight disease, increase productivity and assign menial and repetitive jobs to robots and algorithms. Yet these same digital tools alter our sense of self and our relationship to others. They may make us feel isolated, insecure, or lonely because we spend more hours in screen time rather than face time. We are headed for increased competition for focus and attention, with a greater likelihood for blending and confusion of self and identity, especially among younger minds.

“The hints of what to come are there before us now. Two examples: online dating: in 2017 30 percent of U.S. internet users aged 18 to 29 years were currently using dating sites or apps and a further 31 percent had done so previously while 84 percent of dating app users stated that they were using online dating services to look for a romantic relationship. Online shopping: 51% of Americans prefer to shop online; 96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase in their life, 95% of Americans shop online yearly, 80% of Americans shop online at least monthly, 30% of Americans shop online at least weekly; Ecommerce is growing 23% year-over-year.

“Those who grew up with older media will look at the Internet and digital tools as a takeover of reality. Younger minds will see and feel the Internet as immersion that equals reality.

“Today our digital life still has one foot in older traditions; we must prepare for the not distant future when digital life (and this will be someone’s business model) becomes The Truman Show.

“The internet and digital realities are simulations: we must be hyper-vigilant to ensure we are seeing the reality and not the sim; simulations are more easily manipulated and more easily manipulate us.”

Phill Hallam-Baker, an internationally recognized computer security specialist and principal scientist, commented, “As with any transition, there are winners and losers. What we hear from most are the losers, not just because people tend to complain more about what they have lost than what they gain but the small number of losers tend to lose much more than the vastly greater number of winners. Newspapers have been the biggest losers from the Web. While it may appear that the Web has turbocharged the yellow journalism of Rupert Murdoch, the fact is that in the UK he was vastly more influential in the 1980s than he is today. The only difference then and now being that far more people are aware of what he is and the type of journalism he stands for. I got involved in the Web in 1992 precisely because the establishment media was delivering ‘fake news.’ The major press barons of the day were the pension stealing fraud Robert Maxwell, the embezzler Conrad Black and Rupert Murdoch. The establishment media has always projected its own corruption onto the Web. The difference between them and us is that print media only stands for the freedom of the man (and they are almost always men) who owns the press. The Web allows anyone that same freedom. So the worst of the Web is every bit as bad as the establishment media. But the difference between Breitbart and The Sun (UK) is that Breitbart can’t pretend to be anything other than a partisan hack rag full of lies. Over the next decade we can expect the Web to do to broadcast television what it has already done to print. So what? We don’t need NBC or CBS or ABC and we certainly don’t need Sinclair. Broadcast television in the US was based on the business model of providing the greatest number of eyeballs to advertisers. Much of cable has the same model and will die as well. People often ask me why the BBC has produced so many spectacular comedy jewels like Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, The Young ones and so on and despite a vast number of really talented comedians, the US has not. This isn’t a surprise, BBC comedy serials were commissioned in seasons of six episodes. The business model of US broadcast television demands seasons of 26 episodes because once you have the audience in their seat, the object is to keep them there as long as possible. And the easiest way to do that is to deliver the same repetitive product again and again. Nobody can be funny and original for 26 episodes a year. None of the BBC gems completed more than 24 regular episodes. They were brilliant because they were fresh. Seinfeld was funny but never challenged, surprised or astonished us. The new model for television entertainment could hardly be more different. HBO, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu don’t need to produce new content to fill the screen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have the back catalog for that. In the new business model, the key to getting viewers is to provide a small amount of content that people really, really like. Which is why HBO will have spent a billion dollars on Game of Thrones by the end of its run. Network TV did manage to pull in major movie stars for guest appearances and occasionally one would attempt to front a whole serial. But it was always clear that the actors were doing this for recreation or for the money, it was rarely suggested that these appearances were a major part of their career. This is certainly not true of the high budget productions being built for the new digital platforms. ‘Westworld’ is not going to be remembered as a footnote in Anthony Hopkin’s career. While what people watch for recreation might appear to be frivolous, in the new economy it will be anything but because the new economy is going to be eliminating the need for a vast array of current work. We are not yet at the point where a universal basic income becomes necessary to recycle the wealth back into the economy, but we are approaching that point. The transition from the 20th century economy to the 21st is going to be unpleasant but in the end the only losers will be the small portion of the 1% who believe that they can only win if someone else loses. At its core, the Web is all about power. In the old economy, only the owners of the press had control and only the advertisers had real influence. The objective of the establishment media was to perpetuate the status quo and they produced content that never challenged it. In the new digital economy, that is all changed, the people are beginning to understand that they have the power. The old establishment understands this threat and is scared. That is the reason that they are trying to roll back net neutrality. Too late.”

Kenneth Cukier, senior editor of The Economist, wrote, “Many people are frazzled by the always-on internet, but this is a feature of our embryonic understanding of how to adapt it to our lives; it’s still early days. Over the next 10 years, the industry will get better at making it more subtle rather than distracting, and people will develop the social norms and personal behaviors to interact with digital technologies less frenetically.”

Theodora Sutton, a Ph.D. candidate at the Oxford internet Institute, wrote, “There are a lot of people working hard on new technologies that will improve the well-being of the general public. Health and quality of life are set to improve due to technological change. A harm that doesn’t seem likely to change in the near future is the way that technology companies demand our attention and personal information. Unless guidelines are implemented to restrict this, users will continue to be exploited. However, there are issues here. Well-being with regards to technology is a loose term and a topic that is often associated with moral panic. Some people are concerned that the presence of digital technology itself is detrimental to well-being. I think people will continue to feel concerned about the authenticity of their life experiences when digital technology is involved, and if that constitutes part of well-being for them, they will feel digital technology has been harmful.”

Richard Padilla, a retired system administrator, said, “Without the abuses of technology, any technology greatly benefits users in the improvement of their general and daily requirements. But with said abuse the negative issues associated in the use and development of technology usage hampers users ability to develop.”
Eric Keller, an adjunct professor and political leader based in Tennessee, commented, “Due to interconnectivity, spread and speed enables people to connect with past friends and stay connected. For those who are isolated physically it creates social capital. It does without saying it increases business/medical/political/etc. effectiveness.”

Mary Griffiths, associate professor in media at the University of Adelaide, said, “People’s well-being will be affected negatively and positively. As always with new technologies, what will be disrupted is unpredictable, because people’s use and choices determine impact and effects. The internet casts just as much bright light in life as dark shadows in others and will continue to do so. My first illustration: the impact on democratic relations between peoples in a nation, and the internet -enabled platforms for resolving controversial issues collectively. The first example comes from Australian political and civic life in 2017. A public debate and national poll was run by the government on (finally successful) amendments to the Marriage Act to include same-sex marriage. When the expensive snail-mail poll was announced – because federal decision-makers shied away from initiating the necessary controversial parliamentary debate – there were predictions of its usefulness and potential negative effects. People feared that hate speech would mobilise and increase and that even more harm could be done to the vulnerable in society, particularly the young. For many, as demonstrated by multiple prior polls, same-sex marriage was a simple and important civil equity issue. However, access to the nexus of social media platforms/heritage media made the digital debate a vocal battle between conservative and religious values. Predictions were right. Social media platforms afforded homophobic haters a platform which, duly reported, caused enough distress for others to use Twitter, Facebook, email alerts and so on to form support groups for the LGBTI community, family and friends. The fact that it was a national poll (not a binding referendum) did not matter. The fact that it was expensive snail-mail did not, in the end, matter. Voluntary participation was high, indicating general engagement. How was engagement sustained? Political advertising across platforms is one answer. However, the disruptive modes of communication, which some argue ‘separates’ those with differing opinions into ‘choirs,’ brought out and amplified polarised viewpoints and set them up as a real contest of ideas. In a short time frame, those viewpoints were challenged in-depth on all media platforms; from my media observations, the extended discussions and multiple internet-enabled locations for debate meant that claims could be identified, canvassed and rebutted in a more focussed way than previous ‘hard’ public issues have been. Transparency and a single focus in a pre-Parliamentary public conversation altered the tone of the later, much-viewed Parliamentary debate on the final Marriage Act amendments. On the internet news sites, each member of Parliament’s opinion was recorded prior to the amendment debate, despite the vote being a conscience vote. This may have resulted in individual interventions to representatives on both sides of the matter. Unexpectedly, many representatives showed leadership in the final televised debate. While the whole snail-mail process was derided by those who wanted Parliament to have more courage as lawmakers and there was a sense of ennui before it ended for those not emotionally committed to either side, it was a moment which seemed to make the majority of Australians feel engaged in democratic and political culture, as if, despite the nastiness of 2017 politics, something was put right. The ‘search’ and ‘replay’ functions of news sites, non-governmental organizations, religious and sporting organisations played critical roles in public commentary and private engagement. Turning to another topic – ‘smart cities’ – and staying with the democratic theme: the transparency, contestation of ideas and educated decision-making illustrated in a public debate on same-sex marriage (above) are not so evident in smart city planning. Accountability and transparency can depend, for their success, upon the expectation of sharing knowledge about potential impact on individuals. But the Internet of Things and smart technologies, by the speed of their development, may put most personal decision-making beyond the ken or expertise of citizens. Big data collection, stewardship, re-use and mining present significant ethical and educational issues for connected populations. Smart tools and spaces are proliferating. As with ensuring the health of democratic governance of a controversial law and people’s well-being, it is surely the case that intelligent decision-making – specifically, transparent and accountable design-thinking for and with the people impacted – is a critical future challenge for governments, corporations and media. This requires a new raft of competencies for public servants and IT innovators in the civic domain.”

Avery Holton, an associate professor of communication at the University of Utah, commented, “As with many previous technological evolutions, we are in the midst of the good and the bad of digital and social media. What connects us also divides us, and a large part of the division seems to be mis- and disinformation. These are not new forms of discourse, but the ways in which they spread and infect are new. So while we wrangle with what they are, where they come from and how they affect us, we are simultaneously experimenting with ways to vanquish them. Beginning in 2015, we saw many advances in identifying types and sources of such information. At the tail of 2017, we witnessed Facebook’s effort not only to identify mis- and disinformation, but to also provide more factual alternatives. So, in the next year or two, we will likely see the tide turn against this type of content as well as those who spread it. Taking away the power of mis- and disinformation, or at least lessening that its impact, will relieve some levels of stress and reinvigorate to an extent the empowering feeling of digital and social media.”

Sonia Jorge, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable internet and head of the Web Foundation’s Digital Inclusion Program, said, “Humanity is constantly evolving, and the internet is yet another variable affecting the way we evolve as humans. As with anything we have faced through human development, it brings opportunities, allows for new ideas to grow, it brings challenges and certainly also not such good ideas, specially as people and institutions push for ideas that violate human rights and individual ability to determine one’s agency. There are many benefits from internet access and these are well documented, but it is indeed concerning that so many of the harms we see increasing are a reflection of those we also see in the offline world, harms coming from humans that disregard basic rights of all individuals, their privacy, their freedom of expression, their ability to communicate freely, among many others. The good news is that we do know and are learning quite fast about what can be done to prevent those harms from increasing and affecting people’s well-being, physical and mentally. But we need proper policies, agreements and safeguards in place to ensure that the internet continues to evolve in a way that benefits humanity, that is based on human rights principles. We cannot allow the Web and the internet to become tools for further abuse, manipulation or violations of human rights. That the internet is a tool used by those who have always violated or tried to violate human rights, it is a reflection that we as humans have not been able to develop frameworks that protect humans offline or online. Human well-being can indeed be improved if people can communicate and communicate privately as needed, if they can have new ways to find opportunities, and be sure their data is secure, if they can benefit from music, art and be sure they are not being followed because of their tastes. Without such safeguards and knowledge to use the technology, access to the internet could indeed become more harmful. We must continue to question ourselves about what is the ‘web we want’ or what is the ‘internet we want?’ The internet my colleagues and I work to protect and expand everyday is one that can contribute to any woman, girl or boy’s well-being, one where they can feel safe, be themselves, feel secure, and is affordable and reliable regardless of one’s background, location, income, etc. An internet that is a positive variable to the evolution of humanity.”

Daphne Keller, a lawyer who once worked on liability free speech issues for a major global technology company, said, “There are so many angles on this issue that it is hard to select one response. I assume we will see declines in well-being in terms of people’s real and perceived privacy, for example. And we are certain to see speech-related harms. On the one hand, online content ginning up racism, extreme populism, or bias will likely expand. On the other, ill-conceived attempts to control this ‘bad speech’ will lead to the suppression of lawful and valuable ‘good speech.’ Laws and public policy in the European Uniion already incentivize platforms to remove legal information and expression posted by ordinary internet users. I predict that trend will expand to other democracies around the world. I think/hope that these harms will be outweighed by improvements in well-being in other parts of the world. Many people in developing countries or oppressive regimes are only beginning to experience the internet’s very real and very positive transformative power. Internet access can improve material prosperity, education, access to support for LGBT and other minority groups, government accountability, and much more. It’s currently fashionable in the U.S. and Europe to see the internet as a force for harm. That’s not wrong. But we should not let that blind us to the incredible benefits the internet has brought us in the past 20 years, and the benefits still to come – not just for us but for people around the world. Nor should we let our current pessimism lead to new laws and technologies that will serve as tools of censorship and surveillance in the hands of human-rights-abusing governments – wherever those governments may be or come to be.”

Mary Chayko, a professor at the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, wrote, “People’s well-being will be both helped and harmed in substantial measure as they continue to use and depend on digital technologies. We will be positively impacted when useful and credible information and opportunities flow through our networks, and negatively impacted by false or demeaning exchanges and interactions – and in the modern social media era there will always be plenty of both. Access to education, literacy, physical and mental health care and financial (and other key) resources help tip the scale to the positive; efforts to increase their distribution widely and equally are therefore critical to the well-being of societies and individuals.”

Gianluca Demartini, a senior lecturer in data science at the University of Queensland, commented, “Digital tools will introduce several positive aspects in terms of well-being. People will quickly adapt to the negative aspects like stress and harm to productivity.”

Anne Collier, consultant and executive at The Net Safety Collaborative, said, “There are so many ways that connecting more and more of the world’s people make things better for all of us – growing and broadening collaboration, helping marginalized or isolated people find connection and get help, spreading opportunity and growing awareness of other perspectives and cultures, to name just a few. Yet we fixate on the negativity in media and political news. There are a bunch of reasons for this: Negative information is ‘stickier’ than the positive, and it’s harder for our brains to go from negative to positive than the other way around. We are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information coming at us 24/7. The pace and pressure of life in our society. Not being aware that it’s the news media’s job to report the exception to the rule, not the rule, not to mention ‘what bleeds leads.’ No one’s telling us that all the negativity we’re exposed to is not the norm in our experiences, that we should think twice before making what editors deem a ‘big story’ our story. Instead of suspending our disbelief, we need to exercise it! It’s ways too easy to ‘believe the worst,’ which is something in itself that’s good to be aware of.”

Stuart Elliott, a visiting scholar at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, said, “As with any powerful new technology, the internet brings important new benefits but also various risks and side effects. As a society, we’re still in the process of understanding and reacting to the risks and negative side effects. We would expect this to take time – on the order of a decade or more. As we understand the risks and negative side effects, we’ll develop ways of addressing them, ranging from individual behaviors to group norms to government regulations. In general, it’s reasonable to expect these various reactions will allow the technology to have a net positive effect.”

Greg Downey, a professor specializing in the history and geography of information technology and associate dean at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, “Over the next decade I expect that digital tools will increasingly pervade our home, work and leisure environments, not only in obvious ways with more devices and screens present on more bodies and in more social settings at more times of the day and week, but also in subtle ways that are often invisible to end-user experience (as infrastructure is, by definition). And more and more of us will find our work lives tied not simply to using such digital tools, but to maintaining, extending and repurposing those tools as well. Unfortunately, given our current individualistic social norms, clashing cultural narratives, and anemic state regulatory structures, I do expect that this intensified digital infrastructure will continue to be mobilized in ways that increase social polarization: enabling individuals and corporations with easy access to capital to continue to overaccumulate resources with effects that exacerbate economic inequality; allowing individuals and homogenous groups easier escape into self-reinforcing, exclusionary, unquestioned and divisive news and cultural systems of information; and making possible physical social distancing through two-tiered housing, transportation, shopping and education systems. These are longstanding, problematic dynamics at work: a transnational system of neoliberal, extractive and financial capitalism seeking only to maximize short-term profit; century-long structures of racial/ethnic discrimination that remain ingrained in community landscapes and cultural practices even as they are finally removed from law; the seemingly endlessly emerging advocates of intense religious/national sectarianism; and a fragile natural environment which has already been irrevocably altered by the last two centuries of human activity. However, I retain hope that this digital infrastructure will also continue to open up new and unexpected possibilities which, at the same time they provide a way for powerful and destructive groups to continue to reproduce that power and destruction, will simultaneously offer new opportunities for improvement, empowerment, enjoyment and engagement from wider swaths of individuals, groups, and communities across the planet. These technologies inspire us to see new possibilities for both individual and collective action. They reveal and demystify the very problems they help exacerbate and provide us innumerable new opportunities for addressing those problems by mobilizing diverse sets of data, diverse individual perspectives and diverse cultural narratives. On the whole, I remain optimistic that our growing digital infrastructure of invisible but human-mediated sensors, algorithms and interfaces will help us enhance energy conservation, health care delivery, transportation safety, citizen interaction, workforce engagement and educational access, as well as providing exciting, creative and transformative entertainment and social experiences. These are hopeful but not utopian predictions – similar to patterns we’ve seen over the last century of information infrastructure development, from the slow but steady global and local diffusion of wired direct communications (telegraph and telephone) to the more rapid and transformative diffusion of wireless mass communications (radio and television). None of these new information infrastructures resulted in the dismantling of inequality or an end to war (as was repeatedly predicted for each), but each helped contribute to a gradually increasing global standard of living and cosmopolitan condition of mutual understanding. Our current digital information technologies of data processing and algorithmic action – born largely out of the fervor of global warfare – have helped more of us across the planet to understand more about the nature of the universe, the patterns of social behavior, and the legacy of past cultures than was ever possible before. As a researcher, writer and educator myself, I have to believe that humanity can continue to mobilize these knowledge tools to do more good than harm.”

Bill Woodcock, executive director at Packet Clearing House, the research organization behind global network development, said, “Over the past 25 years we have, as individuals and a society, gained immense benefits from some technologies: satellite navigation; open source software; the online indexing, searchability, and archiving of public documents; global transaction clearing; ubiquitous portable computing; overnight door-to-door delivery. All of these things have made it possible for people to engage in further role-specialization and participate in a more-efficient society. The cost of this has been increased fragility, interdependence of systems and a vast loss of privacy. I believe that the economic instability and losses in economic equality we’ve seen over the same period are orthogonal to the technology.”

Devin Fidler, a futurist and consultant based in the U.S. commented, “Network technologies are destabilizing forces, no question, and they are not impacting everyone in the same way. At a fundamental level there must be more cultural, entrepreneurial and policy focus on actively ‘humanizing’ these new tools. Beyond this, while it is fashionable (and often even useful) to point out all the ways that technology is negatively impacting people, it is worth remembering that at this very moment many, many, more people around the world are being given new opportunities in the wake of internet growth than are having them taken away. Expect continued ambivalence from the global ‘winners’ of the original Industrial Revolution, just like the ambivalence of the noble gentry ‘winners’ of feudalism before them. They will continue to see their traditions broken and their status challenged.”

Silvia Majó-Vazquez, a research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said, “Digital life will provide a richer news domain for societies where diversity of news sources will help to debunk false information.”
Morihiro Ogasahara, associate professor of sociology at Kansai University, said, “AIs and algorithms will help people to make choices more quickly, more beneficial and less stressful. Although such automization of choice does have risks that may erode their free will, it will be able to help them to focus more valuable decisionmakings on things other than trivial matters.”

Mícheál Ó Foghlú, engineering director and developer, tools and signals at Google Munich, said, “All technology can be abused, but on balance internet technologies have, and will continue to, benefit us all.”

Maureen Cooney, head of privacy at Sprint, commented, “As we move forward with our use of digital and wireless devices our ability to more seamlessly use these devices to help us with daily life tasks and to be efficient with resources through Internet of Things products and services will expand. The possibilities for good include enhancing the lives of all ages in learning, communicating, feeling connected socially to others, and certainly can help the elderly and disabled as challenges would otherwise potentially isolate them or hinder their independence. I have confidence that as we use smart devices, we will also learn how to best use them and to be smart in our device behaviors and platform management, better mitigating risks about digital stress and phenomena such as the susceptibility to ‘fake news.’”

Sa’ar Gershon, an online education administrator and statistics Ph.D. candidate based in Europe, wrote, “Technology has already reformed many aspects of our lives. The downfalls of this reformation have little impact on most affected people (in terms of privacy issues, and tech-crimes) and the overall state of the human beings in almost every aspect of their lives is better than it was 20 to 30 years ago. Percentages of illiteracy, famine, plagues have all declined rapidly and still are. The last to adopt these changes are national institutions and governments (many are operating on tech that is decades old) and yet they are advancing slowly to a more modern era, with some implementing very high-end tech for civil uses. These advances are within reach for many, and the reach is growing fast. One line of doubt: the potential to cause risk has increased due to the network’s global proportions and technology operations centers and capabilities falling in the hands of few.”

John David Smith, coordinator at Shambhala Online, said, “People’s basic intelligence will adjust to figure out how to make the internet serve their needs and improve their lives.”

Louis Schreier, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “The increasing integration of digital and network technologies into diverse fields, from health care to automotive systems, will enable a larger portion of the world’s population to receive the benefits than is currently possible today. The applications and systems providing those benefits are based upon and enabled by the underlying digital and network technologies and will increase in both number and functionality of said applications and systems. While many advanced applications and systems will be developed for professional use, others will be consumer-facing and deeply integrated into consumer technologies, putting them directly into the hands of the consumer, potentially linking the consumer to other systems as well.”

Heywood Sloane, partner and co-founder of HealthStyles.net, said, “The Internet of Things offers new tools to enable steps for monitoring and managing care, fitness and the wear on virtually any items that require maintenance. It enables gathering massive amounts of information that hold the potential of testing insights and hypothesis with a high statistical significance in a fraction of the time it once took. Applying that to our biology and the physical world around us holds huge potential. Either offsetting or perhaps helping are positive social interactions between people. Much of that will depend on how well we learn to discipline ourselves, protect facts and evidence from distortion and carry common courtesy into the virtual world. Will we learn how to effectively bridge the gap between the dramatic images that drive communication in virtual worlds and the ‘body language,’ empathy and respect that drive communication in the physical world?”

Walt Howe, a retired internet consultant and U.S. Army education specialist, said, “Improvements in new technologies, services deriving from artificial intelligence, ubiquitous and always-available information and, particularly, advances in medical technology will have an enormous impact. The rate of change is accelerating, and it will create many changes in lifestyles. Education and training for life will take new forms, too, as a constant need to learn new skills will be ever-present. Education will necessarily be lifelong, not completed in one’s 20s. Learning how to learn is as important as the specific skills and insights one learns at any time. The concept of privacy will be changing, too. What we protect and how we protect it will not remain constant, any more than anything else. Change is in itself disturbing to many. Learning is defined as change in behavior, and those who reject or resist change will have real problems adjusting to a constantly changing world. Those who embrace change, anticipate it, create and work with it will be most successful. A serious question, which must be dealt with, is the ability of governments to function in times of rapid change. I hope new generations of leaders learn to embrace change, too.”

Dan Ryan, professor of arts, technology and the business of innovation at the University of Southern California, wrote, “I suspect that for most of the next decade we will be in the more-better, less-worse part of the social-change gradient. That’s based on the idea that there are still a whole bunch of folks who have not yet reaped what’s already there and an expected ‘second wave’ of ‘for the general welfare’ work that’s ongoing and upcoming. There are, I think, gathering negatives but I’d predict most of the decade will pass before they hit home.”

Richard Bennett, a creator of the Wi-Fi MAC protocol and modern Ethernet, commented, “We’re still very early in the adoption of digital tools in politics, news gathering and social interaction. An initial bubble of optimism has given way to pessimism as we realize that these technologies were oversold. I suspect that fake news and ideological insularity have always been with us, but weren’t as easy to spot as they are now. We will ultimately develop the critical-thinking skills necessary to enjoy the benefits of information abundance, but it’s probably going to take another generation. We really have no choice as we’re not going back to print media and three TV networks anytime soon. Digital tools have made major impacts in medicine and food production. These developments will continue to improve as long as the fear-mongers don’t succeed in killing them, too.”

Frank Kaufmann, a scholar, educator, innovator and activist based in North America, commented, “People are constantly improving, so technology naturally supports that. Unfortunately our race is blocked from true progress until people embrace the secret to dissolving and removing dominating self-interest. Tragically technology exacerbates that.”

Eric Royer, a professor based in North America, said, “The internet has created avenues for individuals to learn about disparate topics and become interconnected with individuals around the world. The net benefits of the internet tend to outweigh the costs associated with access to unfettered information. The internet has revolutionized the way in which we conduct our lives and the way that people connect to elected officials or seek to influence political outcomes (as seen in the Arab Spring uprisings). With that said, there are concerns related to the internet fueling political polarization and unequal access to digital communication.”

Sara Kiesler, professor emerita and National Science Foundation program manager, commented, “There will be winners and losers, as occurs now, and for individuals, some aspects of life will be better and some will be worse. Winners: entrepreneurs who invent new services or products and successfully reach new customers; formerly isolated seniors who keep in touch with family and recruit them to visit in person; happy people who find a loving spouse online; language learners who practice (almost) every day online; people who can work at home instead of commuting two or three hours a day. Losers: people without the resources to take advantage of online health, education or financial services; people who use the internet as a substitute for in-person social interactions; people who believe everything they read, hear, or see online and never question these opinions. Better aspects of life: convenience of shopping online, streaming entertainment, telework efficiency, improved government services, more efficient everyday life and social interaction. Worse aspects of life: insufficient interpersonal (in-person) interaction; manipulation via algorithm of thinking and opinions; lack of privacy and increased distraction; proliferation of online harms with insufficient defences; global warming and population increases threaten food sufficiency, natural environment, and wildlife, and increase conflict and threat of warfare.”

James Blodgett, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “We are social animals. Opportunities to socialize are generally a plus. One aspect of socialization is intellectual. We have more opportunities to connect with others when there is a vast network of potential contacts, and where people can cluster based on varied interests. Of course, socialization can produce bad results. Individuals can be shy, and some can be scammers or trolls. However, those seem less bad in a virtual environment than similar activities in physical space.”

Lisa Nielsen, director of digital learning at the New York City Department of Education, said, “Well-being will be impacted positively because people are becoming more and more aware of how to successfully manage their digital lives. In particular this is also being addressed more frequently in schools with curriculum from Common Sense Education, EverFi’s Ignition, and Google’s Be Internet Awesome. Additionally, the International Society for Tech & Education has standards aligned to this goal and supports students in becoming ‘Empowered Digital Learners.’ There is also a parenting component that accompanies many of these programs. There is more awareness and mindfulness of what it takes to have a successful digital life.”

Gary L. Kreps, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University, wrote, “Digital health information systems have the potential to significantly support individual and public health promotion by providing needed health advice (recommendations and reminders), answering important health questions, minimizing health care/maintenance errors and delivering timely support to solve health problems.”

Laurie Orlov, principal analyst at Aging in Place Technology Watch, said, “One of the most disruptive technology changes is underway – as significant as the browser, smartphone and tablet. ‘Voice First’ technologies (examples: Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Siri) will be quality-of-life enhancements and enablers, for older adults in particular. Price points for devices, at $50 or less, make it feasible to speak a request or need, including communicating with family, friends and service providers. The opportunity is to reduce social isolation in the home, easily access information and services and provide new ways to improve general quality of life.”

Adriana Labardini Inzunza, commissioner of Mexico’s Federal Institute of Telecommunications, said, “I am leaning towards an optimistic prediction when it comes to the use of internet and well-being. The outcome for each individual will very much depend upon the place, education level, socio-economic condition, age and individual skills and disposition to technology. For educated citizens with a good appetite for knowledge, language skills, learning new skills, productivity and shortening distances, IT will be an incomparable tool and ally only if the individual has also awareness of data-protection tools and privacy-protection issues as well. People with poor education and awareness who lack the resourcefulness to gain skills, culture and empowerment education will have more difficulty in using IT to empower themselves. Most everyone has an option today to gain some level of education, accessing information that was once unavailable to those in marginalized communities in poorer countries. The internet has brought easier access to information to billions, connected people afar, laborers and employers, citizens and governments, buyers and sellers, writers and readers. Those who have an education that is both analogue and digital can be skilled researchers and keen users of technology for productivity. It requires education, principled thinking, awareness and discipline to use the internet as a tool for development rather than a new way to waste time, alienate the mind and body, consume unnecessary stuff and become more indebted. In Latin America for instance, so far, internet is not making the impacts it could in increasing the productivity of people, of small businesses, of governments. It is being used in many small towns more as a tool to socialize, consume or video chat, not to fight poverty. In many other places it has brought the opportunity to obtain an online education and to become visible to customers who require individual services of plumbers, smiths, carpenters who can be hired upon an SMS or a call, which means earning a livelihood. What is badly needed is that parents, teachers, mentors and others work to guide and raise awareness of the healthy uses of IT and bring up children who know how to play, run, exercise, care for nature, live in contact with real human beings and limit the use of devices in childhood and adolescence because it is important to train mind and body and emotions in a physical world and learn how to protect oneself from phishing, fraud, spam, sexting, e-bullying and other forms of abuse of IT. Technology is agnostic, it is humans without a civilized way of living, without empathy, principles and culture who may make evil uses of technology. Technology can become an ally in communities that train and provide for local champions at schools or to work at community centers or SMEs and NGOs – people who guide local people toward an intelligent and empowering use of technology to learn, be more competitive, get relevant information and produce – not only consume – digital products, works of art, services or goods and other innovative ways to improve the well-being of community members.”

Hassaan Idrees of Karachi, Pakistan, said, “People will be helped more than harmed by digitization. Already, important discoveries and developments in areas as diverse and impactful as genomics, cancer and stem cell research, energy access, curriculum delivery and health solutions have been, and continue to be shared. I foresee continued positive developments in this regard.”

Frank Feather, a business futurist and strategist with a focus on digital transformation, commented, “Every technology is an extension of human abilities and capabilities. To succeed, it must be technically viable, economically worthwhile and politically and socially acceptable. It must be used wisely and for good not ill. Overall, while each technology causes certain disruptions, over the long term, if well administered, every innovation improves the overall quality of life. So it is with the internet and digital technologies. These technologies will continue to enhance education, aid in research, foster a simpler lifestyle and work processes, and they will create far more jobs that they eliminate. They also will enhance life and commerce by creating wealth, higher productivity-induced incomes and shorter workweeks. They will enhance the leisure aspects of life, and also make it easier for people to connect worldwide, eventually helping to overcome differences in values and cultures.”

Rob Frieden, a professor of telecommunications and law at Penn State University, said, “On balance, access to digital technologies and the literacy to use them will enhance social quality of life. These technologies provide new and better tools for individual and societal transactions, including education, career development, tele-health, e-government. I do not consider it wishful thinking to believe that many people can more effectively use these technologies than what pre-Internet technologies offered.”

Nathalie Coupet, an internet advocate based in North America, said, “The internet will have positive aspects in people’s lives as far as it can be harnessed. It facilitates meaningful communication in an Information Society, but also creates ‘thought silos,’ stress and isolation. There is no substitute for human interaction, and public policies should be designed to increase human interaction in public places.”

Neil McIntosh, managing editor of BBC Online, said, “Digital technologies have brought myriad improvements.”

Sheizaf Rafaeli, a professor at the University of Haifa in Israel, wrote, “Digital tech and arrangements are generally neutral. It is what we make of and with them that matters and shapes the future. We (people) are adaptive. In the long run, we are reasonable, too. We will learn how to reign in the pitfalls, threats, bad guys and ill-meaning uses. These will continue to show up, but the march is towards progress. Better, more meaningful lives. Healthier, more-supportive environments. It is a learning process, and some of us, sometimes, get an ‘F’ here or there. But we learn. And with digital tech, we learn faster. We converse and communicate and acknowledge each other like never before. And that is always a good start. Bad things, like greed, hate, violence, oppression will not be eradicated. But the digital is already carrying, delivering and instantiating much promise. This is not rosy-colored utopian wishful thinking. It is a realistic take on the net effects. I would rather trade places with my grandkids than with my grandparents.”

Katharina Zweig, professor of computer science at TU Kaiserslautern, said, “For those in poorer countries, access to health information on the internet will greatly benefit them – given that the internet access will rise and will be affordable for all. For those in richer countries, who are often burdened by overweight and inactivity, sensors in our surroundings (‘wearable health,’ personalized training software, apps alarming us to take a break or counting the caloric intake, etc.) will help us to get healthier. This bears the risk of too much control by governments, insurers and so on. So, I expect an increase in health, but it might be at the expense of privacy if we do not design better and less centralized systems.”

Piotr Konieczny, a professor of sociology at Hanyang University, said, “Throughout history, technology has made us better off. While nothing is white and black, and one could find exceptions, the big picture is clear. Anyone who disagrees is welcome to live the life of ‘noble savage’ – watch half of his children die of starvation and disease and die himself before reaching the age of 30, uneducated, sick and likely murdered.”

Yvette Wohn, director of the Social Interaction Lab and expert on human-computer interaction, New Jersey Institute of Technology, commented, “Technology is both good and bad, thus well-being can as easily be improved as it can deteriorate. Technology is part of our lives now, it is here to stay, and the thing we should be discussing is not if technology/internet is good or bad but when does it have negative/positive effects, why, and to what people in what situations.”

Stephen Abram, CEO of the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries, wrote, “First, while big data collection may prove harmful without rugged privacy and use restrictions, the benefits of very large digital collections of DNA and search and surf behaviour will prove very consequential to medicine and all other fields. That said, big data will be challenged by the intersection of free expression and spreading of hate and falsehoods. Propaganda and lies dismissed as mere fake news is a real issue that must be addressed in the context of free expression, libel, slander, hate speech and democratic processes. Second, the internationalization of communication and sharing of information has the proven potential to make positive change. Again, that said, the beneficiaries of contaminating the pool of information are the actors in political and commercial circles. For the world to be positively impacted by digital life, we need to concentrate on addressing these critical issues based on our Western democratic principles to allay concerns of severe manipulation by commercial and political interests bringing Big Brother to life.”

William Schrader, founder and CEO of PSINet, wrote, “When we planned the commercial internet at PSINet back in the 1980s, we dreamt of all knowledge being at everyone’s fingertips instantly, along with distance learning, distance medicine (including surgery) and happiness and peace. We blew it, so far, on happiness and peace. Yes, we knew that the weak would use the commercial internet to steal, hurt and manipulate to harm. Every communications medium does that. That is what we accepted. If Man is Good, then the commercial internet will eventually enable happiness and peace. But, if Man is Evil, we will have more of what we have had for the past 20,000 years. It’s your choice, each of you. There are good and bad things with which people choose to engage. I suspect that the weaker people will choose the bad things and the stronger people will choose the good. The problem is that we all flip from weak to strong, depending on life’s situations. The unstoppable connectiveness of today’s developed society means that, on the bad side (in my opinion), you can find two, four or eight people sitting at one restaurant table and all of them are on their mobile phones! No one is living in the moment and looking at each other and talking, and they took time to travel to be with these others! The other argument is that perhaps a silence fell upon the group and someone took a table picture and posted it to social media, and the rest took the queue and did whatever we do when we pull our mobile devices out in this situation. Once one person does it, rules are shot. This is a tiny example of good vs. bad. The real bad is when the president of the United States uses social media at zero dark thirty to demonstrate his misogynist personality to the entire world, and, as a result, those who happen to respect any president take that same posture. The real good is when people decide to release themselves from that which has captured them (be it Web addiction, substance abuse, obesity, depression, sadness, laziness, self-deprecation, etc.) and choose to search the ‘Inter-Web’:-) for help by learning tai chi, taekwondo, yoga, reading the classic books (online free from local library) and simply finding work that may pay poorly but gives them satisfaction. Psychiatry will be fully automated on the internet, with quality psychiatrists standing behind those systems.”

Adam Nelson, a technology developer/administrator based in North America said, “We don’t know what ‘good’ is but we do know that technology will extend lives and make it simpler to do more. The challenge will be with governments and other powerful forces leveraging technology for their own gains. Similar to rice and wheat being controlled for gain over previous millennia, the control of information will be paramount. This is why protecting the internet is so critical to liberty.”

José Estabil, CEO of a biotechnology startup, said, “Technology has greatly helped society in many areas, and not in always predictable ways. Whether in the U.S., in the Middle East, in China, in marginalized neighborhoods and even in Cuba, we are still in the early stages of this change so it is often hard to understand its immensity. I once heard something about rearing children that reminds me of the growth of technology: The days are long but the years are short! Technology fundamentally posits ‘utility’ as its organizing purpose and its expression is all about creating tools that can free the human spirit to pursue other endeavors with the limited amount of time we are granted. Some confuse technology with morals. Others elevate (or denigrate) people that are fluent in it: sometimes technologists create echo-chambers and exacerbate these perceptions. Would one think about the combination of concrete and transportation, or roads, as good or evil? No. Or ink and paper, or books? (Well, roads and books were huge technologies in their day.) My point is that it takes a long time for society to see a technology for what it is; and why books, or reason, continue to be problematic for a few. I am hopeful, however, that the latency required for society to come to understand the utility of a technology is decreasing. I do worry that as we rely more and more on technology, two factors become more important: 1) Assuring resiliency in our networks and the energy that supplies them. 2) Assuring that access to technology does not become a privilege instead of a right.”

Perry Hewitt, vice president of marketing and digital strategy at ITHAKA, said, “This has been a rough year for internet utopians. The technology that was supposed to break down divisions has heightened them, and we’ve seen everything from election tampering to the demise of Net neutrality. And the practice of using technology for citizen surveillance has not been limited to repressive governments but has become part of the tradeoff of engaging with popular platforms. My lens is education – the capacity for the internet to provide access to knowledge to the most people at the lowest possible cost. And while there are threats to this access, there remains vast potential for learning. We’re far from the MOOC [massively open online courses] hype cycle peak of 2012, with many lessons learned along the way, and I am bullish about the internet as means to deliver lifelong learning to the many who need it.”

Christian Huitema, a technology developer/administrator based in North America, said, “I am optimistic. Yes, we do see negative side effects of social networks in particular, and various forms of automation in general. But I believe that society will adapt and that digital services perceived as unhelpful will be replaced by better and more convenient services. Given time, this process should lead to improvements.”

Kathryn Campbell, a digital-experience design consultant, said, “There is no question that continuous connectivity and attention-enticing content is producing shifts in our behavior and even our cognition. I find it much more difficult to focus for long periods of time now, especially when I am online, which is most of the time. I also find it hard to disengage. However, the benefits of connectivity are enormous. Those who are physically and/or socially isolated can now interact with a wide range of people. All those with internet access can inform and educate ourselves according to our interests at little to no cost. Data on diseases can be pooled and analyzed in ways that were cost and time prohibitive in the past. Overall, the forces that connect us draw us closer together in myriad interesting ways.”

Amali De Silva-Mitchell, a futurist based in North America, said, “Currently there is a focus on increasing access to services, products, information, education, voter registration, public policy engagement, etc. which is value added to the public. However, the public will get stressed if there is limited or no low-cost or free access to ICTs and affordable or free physical-object technologies (tablets, etc.) so as to benefit all citizens equally. Knowing how to access ICTs will also impact the stress level of citizens, and will include knowledge of the online laws, expectations of service, being treated with respect, etc.”

Glenn Grossman, consultant of banking analytics at FICO, wrote, “In the next decade, digital abilities will improve life and work with higher-quality services.”

Barbara Clark, Ph.D., said, “One has to think about the Gutenberg press. To control the impact, the Catholic Church created the Imprimatur. The Gutenberg press eventually allowed the common person to have access to textual information. Fast forward to the internet, which opened access to global information – most importantly the ability of the common person of any age to create text, video, voice and animation. While we, as a society, currently struggle the ramifications of this new Information Age, the coming years will only allow us to grow intellectually and help create a working global society.”

Daniel Ferreira Mena, a research scientist, commented, “I have been using computers and teleworking for the past 50 years. The digital era we are living in surely is beneficial for most people.”

Shahab Khan, CEO of PLANWEL and director of strategic development and international collaboration at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan, said, “The answer can be found if we consider the advent of the internet in our life. It has really transformed it for the better, even if we call it a double-edged sword. The point is that the world cannot remain stagnant, and the digital revolution –with the advent of AI, robotics, AR/VR and all of the tools of the 4th Industrial Revolution – will greatly enhance our lives for the better.”

Narelle Clark, deputy CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, said, “Increasingly regulators are finding ways to enforce previously accepted norms of requisite content quality – in areas such as unrealistic health claims on health apps, for example. Data-governance regimes are also becoming more widely accepted and enforced. While we will continue to see poor (and even appalling) examples of data mismanagement and misuse, new products and product development approaches are starting to take privacy and good data management principles into account. With the regulators discovering better ways to enforce these matters we should start to see improvements in product quality, and as a result better outcomes for consumers of digital products.”

Victor MacGill, a North American futurist/consultant said, “It is certainly not a black-and-white answer. Among the good things to come will be improved health, transport, safety, communications, equal access to vast stores of information, education, community action and coordination. If we lose Net neutrality, then equal access to information is threatened. Of course there is also still a digital divide. And uses of the internet cause health problems and social-communications problems. Immediate access to information is convenient but it adds to the stressfulness of life. AI is closely linked to the internet, and that will change our lives; they will be unrecognisable when machines can do so many things better than we can. The internet directly and indirectly provides livelihoods for many millions, yet many will also lose their jobs through AI. Economics is more volatile because of the speed of transactions, and now AI getting in on the deal. Maybe I am just an optimist, but I think on balance there will be more benefits than disadvantages.”

Ian Rumbles, a technology support specialist at North Carolina State University, commented, “Digital technology in first-world countries will improve life by making tasks easier and faster. Improvements will include improved health by monitors and signals giving early warnings of potential issues. In the third world, digital technology will improve access to information and communication. This will provide young people great opportunities to improve their lives and, potentially, the lives of their parents. Mind you, there are negatives to the direction of our technology. There will be increased accidents due to distractions; families are becoming less social, which impacts the ability to be good parents; there are new addictions. The increase in digital technology means we are all more susceptible to hacks.”

Srinivasan Ramani, a retired research scientist and professor based in India, said, “I do believe that people are smart enough to avoid overloading themselves by abusing their communication and productivity tools. I have a developing-country point of view about what can happen. Millions of pathology lab visits are made per year in a country like India. I believe that this information should be collated and made available to all those interested over the Web. For instance, I should know if there is an unusual prevalence of Dengue or conjunctivitis in my city during a given month. My doctor should know what micro-organisms are predominant that month, so that his/her first-guess medication could be more appropriate. I should be able to use the Web to decide if I should choose to live in a given city or not [based on data]. I should be able to see on a street map on the Web a prominent icon marking every place of a death from a recent traffic accident; such transparency is essential to ensure that city traffic managers do their work well. Servers on the Web dealing with fitness trackers should guide me to suitable action – for instance, alerting me when my heart-rate monitor detects any dangerous possibility. The Web was not created merely to make billion-dollar companies become 100-billion-dollar companies. The Web should also focus on socially valuable functions and not confine itself to powering more and more expensive toys for adults. I do believe these things will eventually happen; citizens’ demands might make them happen in their own lifespan.”

L. MacDonald, CEO of Edison Innovations, wrote, “More and more applications and information will continue to inform. Freedom is a function of knowledge available. You must know what is going on to make useful judgments. Countries with less freedom will suffer under authoritarian regimes. It is hard to compete in business and technology if knowledge cannot be freely shared.”

Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program, said, “No doubt there will be some amazing advances attributable to digital technologies in healthcare, transportation, energy and just about every other aspect of our lives. This is not to say there won’t be negative consequences. Many problems will arise, in part because of advances in hacking identities and cyber warfare. It just comes down to whether one is a cyber-optimist or pessimist. Certainly, there will be increasingly significant impacts both ways.”

Marshall Kirkpatrick, product director, Influencer Marketing, said, “I believe digital technology will provide more opportunities for understanding ourselves, others around us and the world at large. I believe many, though not all, people will continue to take those opportunities. Awareness is a prerequisite for well-being, so the internet could prove an even bigger boon for those of us who embrace it with our humanity.”

Bart Knijnenburg, assistant professor, Clemson University, said, “I had a hard time answering this question. Outside the U.S., and especially in emerging markets, I hope that internet innovations can significantly improve people’s lives. I see the current advances in Internet of Things as merely superficially useful rather than truly transformative. Bringing devices online will seem enticing, but initially just be a cognitive burden. In the long run, though, these experiences may become more adaptive to our daily routines and actually relieve some of our daily burdens. As for other online services, I am afraid that the recent ruling against Net neutrality may unduly increase the power of large corporations in deciding the future of the internet. I don’t think these corporations have improving our well-being as their highest priority.”

David J. Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication & Leadership, Lucerne, Switzerland, observed, “With increasing connectivity, free flows of information, participation and transparency, not only social services, but many products and services will become more personalized, efficient and intelligent. Of course, this will not occur everywhere, for all, or at the same rate.”

Fred Davis, a futurist/consultant based in North America, wrote, “There are a number of new transformative technologies that have the potential to increase people’s psychological and emotional well-being. The one with the most potential is VR. It has been shown to increase people’s capacity for empathy. This alone is profound. VR has been shown to treat depression more effectively and quickly than medications or talk-only therapy. VR has been used to treat anxiety disorders, phobias, social anxiety and PTSD. I know of a VR app for self-compassion targeted at quieting your inner-critic, also known as negative self-talk. It uses cognitive behavioral therapy. Other VR apps reinforce pro-social behavior and help relieve stress. 25% of the U.S. population has a mental illness at any given time, and 50% will have one during their lifetime. Being able to develop treatments and therapies to address these issues could have a very positive effect on people’s well-being.”

David Wells, a CFO who lives and works in North America, said, “Digital connectedness –videoconferencing, texting, social media, etc. – allows us to stay connected to our friends and family in important ways that blunt the negative aspects of mobile markets. We move away from family more than we ever have, and these tools bring more benefit than harm. As we learn to better integrate these into our life, we can mitigate the more harmful aspects that are the worries of today. Remote health diagnostics and monitoring will allow us to spend less time visiting doctors as we age. This is just starting but has tremendous room for growth. Our children will learn to use the internet in new collaborative ways.”

Allen G. Taylor, an author and SQL teacher with Pioneer Academy, said, “People’s well-being will be increased in ways that cannot be imagined at present. New capabilities and resources will be applied to the challenges that people face, enabling them to better cope with those challenges.”

Laura M. Haas, dean of the College of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, wrote, “Technology will advance quickly to address or circumvent harms as they develop. People will adapt, learning to avoid negative use of technology. I see, for example, many younger people choosing to shut off their phones in social settings, or dramatically reducing their use of Facebook, etc. While not everyone will change, I think today’s issues will be addressed in a variety of ways. I am also a realist, though: I believe as technology advances, new harms will develop. Any tool can be used for good or for ill, and today’s technology is so complex that we cannot anticipate all uses – or side effects. But although these two may balance out, I cannot say things will be ‘about the same.’ I expect the positives and negatives in 10 years may be quite different than they are today. Hence, I lean towards (and work towards) the positive.”

Alex Halavais, director of the MA in Social Technologies, Arizona State University, said, “Of course, some will be worse off, and some better off. But on the whole, we are moving to an era in which digital technologies can take on ever increasing tasks, and this will challenge us to rethink how we organize the distribution of goods, how we work and how we make use of our time. The transitions will not be easy; old social structures will do a poor job of managing the rapid changes brought on by automation. But on the whole, it will make people’s lives better, removing sources of toil and creating more abundance and choice.”

James Galvin, a director of strategic relationships and technical standards, said, “Long-term I believe that technology is good. It both improves the quality of life and it makes it possible to bring a better quality of life to those who more directly and necessarily need it. Unfortunately, in the short-term, it also creates a society divided according to those who have technology and those who do not. This divide increases as those who ‘have’ keep moving forward and those who ‘have not’ struggle to keep up and catch up. This is perhaps the most significant challenge we all need to consider and work together to resolve. Another short-term issue is that among those who have technology, the dynamics of personal interaction have changed dramatically. On the one hand there are greater numbers of connections between more people for more reasons than ever before. On the other hand we tend to interact more with our technology than we do with each other. I don’t think we fully understand the impact of this change on ourselves or our world. We need to consider this issue more deeply and make sure this change is for our mutual good, rather than bad.”

George Lessard, information curator and communications specialist with MediaMentor.ca, commented, “Things will be better because both printing and broadcasting have an overall beneficial influence on society. Since the communication and recording of knowledge seems to have been associated with the survival of humanity since we started doing it, my bet is on the internet and social media continuing this trend. When I worked for Nunavut’s Department of Education in Arviat Nunavut, I met an elder named Mark Kalluak. Mark was the first Inuit to translate the Bible into Inuktitut and he printed it himself in Nunavut. We were speaking one day about an email he had received from a Scandinavian country and how things had changed over the decades since he had been born on the tundra in an iglu [Eskimo hut]. In earlier times, he said, ‘The knowledge we needed to live was still passed down in the traditional ways.’ His father showed him how to hunt and survive. But, he said, “When we were shown writing, we realized right away that what took a lifetime to pass on to our children could be witten in a book and that knowledge would never be lost with the passing of an elder.’ The same is happening with the internet and social media. Yes, we need to be a little more careful of ‘fake news,’ but we went through the same thing with pricing and broadcasting. Overall and over some time the overall effect will be positive… Even stories from long ago can make us see how far we have advanced from nomadic life to modern world in a very short time – for example, from living in cold iglus to living in warm modern houses; from traveling by foot or dog team to traveling by plane to southern Canada and other parts of the world. Learning and applying what you learn can lead to a better life. I think the Inuit people know this more than anything else…”

Georges Chapouthier, a retired research scientist who lives in France, wrote, “It will be more and more easy to communicate, more and more easy to find information on the Net (rather than in libraries or in the press), more easy to exchange among people, thus freedom to be informed should also be increased.”

Ildeu Borges, director of regulatory affairs for SindiTelebrasil, said, “In the next decade there will be a democratization of the internet access in the poorest countries. The people affected by this democratization, who will have access to this technology for the first time, will be largely positively affected by this.”

Tom Barrett, president, EnCirca Inc., wrote, “The internet will improve people’s well-being by providing people the information and tools needed to improve their health, safety and financial well-being. These benefits will advance society in many ways by disrupting old, established ways and occupations. There will be some harm for the fraction of people whose livelihood is disrupted or made obsolete by new technologies, but the vast majority of society will benefit from the changes.”

Chris Morrow, a network security engineer, said, “Overall, more access to information in a free and open environment will improve people’s ability to learn, interact and expand their knowledge base. Additionally, fostering innovation through access to information and markets outside the person’s immediate area will expand their ability to succeed.”

Jeff Jarvis, a professor at City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, said, “Eventually most every advance in technology yields an advance in well-being, once we are given time to figure it out.”

Bradford Hesse, chief of health communication and informatics research at The National Cancer Institute, NIH, said, “Although technologists and social scientists will continue to monitor the unanticipated, adverse consequences of digital transformations (e.g., safety issues, social media trolling), data suggest that in at least one area – the area of health and medicine – these digital technologies should provide an overall boost to citizens’ well-being. At the end of 2016, the President’s Cancer Panel (a legislatively mandated body) released a report titled ‘Improving Cancer Outcomes Through Connected Health.’ The report detailed areas in which digital technologies are poised to accelerate success against cancer in line with then Vice President Joe Biden’s conceptualization of a ‘Cancer Moonshot.’ For example, data already suggest that by building an electronic safety net for patients in therapy it is possible to improve cancer outcomes, reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, and boost patients’ quality of life. Advances in the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing and biomedical informatics are begin to allow scientists access to petabytes of data volunteered through biomedical sensors from patients in clinical trials. The resulting insights from these data will help biomedical researchers to create a public health environment that is more predictive, preemptive, precise and participative than its industrial age counterpart. Lifespans will continue to lengthen, as a shift toward a data-driven view of population health will help ensure that the benefits of this new medicine are delivered equitably across all populations.”

John McNutt, a professor at University of Delaware’s School of Public Policy & Administration, commented, “While any change has the potential of having negative consequences for part or all of the population, the overall impact of digital life and digital technologies is very positive. Sadly, some focus on difference from the past as an irredeemable negative. This often relies on an idealized conception of what the past was like.”

Colin Tong, a research scientist based in North America, wrote, “Harms are more likely to occur to people who is lack of self-control, especially for children. Special education regarding to related issues should be well done for children to minimize the harms in the future.”

Joe Raimondo, digital CRM leader at Comcast and former CEO, said, “We will be able to decentralize a great deal of resources and infrastructure. The overlaying circumstances might be dire – famine, extreme events. But the capacity to coordinate will be enhanced from where it is today.”

Fabian Szulanski, a professor at Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires, said, “Well-being will be helped. The democratic distribution of knowledge and decision-making; remote access to health monitoring and to doctors and health workers; communication platforms for bottom-up peaceful and generative conversations; socialization of disabled people; communities of wellness; PTSD and depression treatment; and the 3D printing of everything, including medicines, are just a few examples.”

Doug Breitbart, co-founder and co-director of The Values Foundation, said, “The internet and the connectivity it provides offers greater and greater numbers of people access to information, education, social connection and affinity with others, and the potential to distribute, empower, enfranchise and unleash individual human generativity on a scale of unlimited potential.”

Ted Newcomb, directing manager of AhwatukeeBuzz, wrote, “We will better focus technology on being a tool for specific tasks that enable us to more effectively communicate and collaborate with one another. 5G will enable mobile devices to work as effectively as PCs while offering wider public usage, making the smartphone the device of choice.”

Meg Houston Maker, author/editor/journalist, wrote, “Stress and anxiety are constants in any society. Digital services and communications do create their own exigencies and demands, but they can also make navigating modern culture easier, faster and (sometimes) cheaper.”

David Zemel, foundation director at the Grace and Franklin Bernsen Foundation, said, “For those who are discerning readers and generally unwilling to accept statements at face value (without substantiation), the internet and social media in particular can be very helpful. For those who don’t check and know sources, it will tend to further erode and fragment the community; feeding readers with only the data the reader wants to see irrespective of whether it’s true, accurate, verified or even unpopular. It may actually lead to more isolation; putting people in peer-designed silos instead of fostering debate and challenging readers to think more about what they read and with whom they converse.”

Renee Dietrich, a retired professor, commented, “Information will be easier to access. Things continue to speed up. Online services for shopping for food, clothes, etc., have already changed retail. I can learn about and monitor by health more easily. Learning has/is changing. My concern is about individuals being able to interact with people of other races, values, religions, etc., in a community setting. The digital divide will grow along economic lines. Individuals with poor skills and low ability to learn will be left behind in the job market. However, there will be greater opportunities. Trust issues with accuracy of information will increase since it seems anyone can say most anything on social media without checking facts. I like that individuals can video events as they happen, both personal and public, and there is no waiting for an ‘official’ report and response. The changes could be serious for older seniors since many still do not use social media well. It is an exciting time.”

Ian O’Byrne, an assistant professor of education at the College of Charleston, wrote, “I believe that technology, most notably these digital spaces and places we inhabit, has the potential to both help and harm our well-being over time. These technologies can prove to be helpful as they connect individuals on a global scale and allow people to inform and educate themselves on a level previously unavailable. Social connections across affinity spaces can be created to allow us to find like minded individuals and learn together regardless of where we exist geographically. In many ways, I we’ll move to a model (if were not there already) in which we have much more in common with connections in these digital, social spaces, than we do with neighbors in our own local area. The challenge is that these technologies can also be extremely harmful, and I believe they will only become worse. Many of these digital, social spaces are playing fast and loose with our data and privacy. Our social signals are sucked up by algorithms that double and triple down on this to give more of the same to our feed. Within this black box of an individual’s customized, aggregated feed is the potential for propaganda, hate and disinformation to spawn. Where family, friends and possibly community would previously be there to step in and try to normalize these perspectives, an individual can be indoctrinated online by their own bias and move against their well-being and the well-being of society without the individual possibly even knowing. Ultimately, the determination about whether this helps or hurts people in the long run will be determined by an individual’s willingness to understand, problematize and strive for balance as they interact with these technologies. We need education, specifically in critical thinking and evaluation of these texts and spaces to empower individuals to ask questions and problematize their own thinking.”

Adam Montville, a vice president at the Center for Internet Security, said, “Well-being seems a broad topic with many facets. It is easy to say that an increase in screen time, sound bites and bite-sized political memes do not bode well for humanity. Technology can be used for those purposes, but it can also be used to treat disease, discover cures and increase productivity so we have more free time to spend with family and friends in leisure. The choice, it seems, is up to each of us. Do we want to stare at cat memes all day long (who doesn’t love a good cat meme?) or would we prefer to engage technology in a more meaningful way? One perspective that gives me hope is watching my 8-year-old son use technology. Instead of learning touch screens after learning about keyboards and mice, he went – along with countless other children – the other way. We bought him a Lego Boost for Christmas, because he already loves his Osmo coding. I am truly excited to see what the next generation invents.”

Ellen Detlefsen, associate professor emerita at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, commented, “Digital access to health and lifestyle information will help older people and rural citizens to access more and better information about issues affecting their daily activities, resulting in better choices.”

Paul Rozin, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “Digital advances promise a net advantage in regard to the quality of life, but there are major risks. I hope that, as in the past with, for example, new medical treatments, we can contain or counter the risks, while profiting from the benefits. The plus side is obvious in terms of accomplishing mindless tasks (with possible negative implications for the work force), advances in diagnosis, access to information, reduction of some types of drudgery. What worries me is the increasing dangers of world catastrophes resulting from meddling with systems that can have very wide impacts, the lack of vetting for irresponsible but attractive views, the invasion of privacy and the curtailing of what to me is a central and sacred aspect of the human condition: direct interpersonal interaction. Bad actors, like harmful bacteria, can have a much wider impact now. We have to find a way to limit this.”

Richard Chobot, a consultant and author, wrote, “We are growing the Internet of Things. This will increase quality of life and help individuals manage in many life areas. I am mostly interested in medicine and home care. However a lack of attention to cyber security increases vulnerabilities (e.g., I have a pacemaker and have noted articles relating to hacking these devices). More information results in an increased burden on individuals to evaluate sources. There is a proliferation of questionable information and current search-engine algorithms do not help users to discriminate.”

Thomas Viall, president of Rhode Island Interactive, commented, “One only has to look at the past to see the many ways a ‘digital life’ has improved our lives. We can grab a ride share in minutes, see what nearby restaurants have the best reviews and stay connected to our friends and relatives across the world. In the future we will be healthier because of intelligent monitoring, our homes will be more secure and connections between smart things will make our lives easier.”

Cat Allman, a respondent who shared no additional identifying information, said, “In spite of the bad press about how the digital age is destroying social interaction as well as the genuinely concerning number of ‘attack surfaces’ available to bad actors and general misuse with the increasing penetration of the digital into daily life, I still think digital life offers us all a previously unknown sense of both the vast scale of life and the innate similarities between us. While the internet can be used to isolate us into angry pockets, it does bring us together.”

Cliff Zukin, a professor and survey researcher at Rutgers University, commented, “It’s an optimist’s view, that we hang around on Earth. Digitization speeds things up, the pace of change, the diffusion of innovations. The more available information is, the lower the cost of information, the greater the potential for equalization and growth in less-developed societies. The pessimist’s view is that increasing digitization allows for colossal failures on a scale imagined only in science fiction (Azimov’s ‘Trilogy,’ for example.) A failure of/attack on the energy grid; the homogenization of humankind and loss of individual cultures; the diversity of analogue life as something that cannot be manipulated or taken over by terrorists de jour through hacking. Digital unites everything, and there may be something to be lost in that happening.”

Denise Brosseau, a lecturer at the Stanford Business School, commented, “As digital access continues to spread to the far corners of the planet the good will far outweigh the harm as people have access to online courses and information about their health as well as platforms for connecting with others to support their health and well-being. Telemedicine is also poised to explode, providing access to healthcare to far more people than ever before.”

Richard DeVries, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, said, “Quality of life will improve as medical advancements and healthcare innovations allow people to live longer, more productive lives. New ethical dilemmas may result regarding the definition of quality of life and well-being issues, however clear thinking and consensus beyond academic and strictly profit-motivated voices need to be taken into account to resolve such disagreements. If this is the approach taken, technological advances will find a balance between the various constituencies providing market-driven incentives for innovation and agreed upon ethical standards by which new technologies may be broadly implemented for the greater good.”

Michael Hanke, a retired newspaper editor, commented, “During the next decade, most people will learn to better prioritize what they do digitally and to integrate the prioritization within their daily lives, thus providing more balance. Also, digital tools will increasingly be controlled by voice.”

Karl Ackermann, a writer and researcher at WriteSpace, LLC., commented, “The impact will help people ONLY if society prepares for high levels of unemployment. The safety net will need to include an income for those who are not likely to find work in a highly automated world.”

Leah Robin, a health scientist based in North America, said, “People will benefit in having bigger and more global social networks and having the ability to collaborate and band together to address rare interests like orphan or rare diseases. People also have the potential for meaningful and positive social interactions. Digital bullying and harassment are the downsides as well as identity theft, breaches of privacy, and lack of data privacy. In all, however, I anticipate more positive than negative.”

Ruth Ann Barrett, information curator at EarthSayers.tv, wrote, “I have been a part of the development of technology since the late 70s and am an alumnus of HP, Computerland and Sun Microsystems. I have worked to bring the power of computation into our hands at an affordable price and an ease of use. An advocate of decentralization I was influenced early in my thinking by Admiral Grace Hopper. It is a principle I find very helpful in guiding problem-solving as well as advocating for citizens at the neighborhood level to have access to power and to be the power. This is the orientation that led to my optimistic response to this question. My site, earthsayers.tv, voices of sustainability, is a labor of love and an example of how the Web can be in the commons and free of advertising. Recent actions, however, regarding Net neutrality and consolidation of content providers make for real worry as the telecommunications industry, in particular, continues to charge excessive rates, provide mediocre (at best) customer service and is in need of regulation. As to how people use the technology that is in their hands.”

Leo Klein, a web coordinator at a large academic institution in the U.S., said, “The internet and online communication in general have improved people’s lives from the get-go. Our whole definition of ‘innovation’ is having a positive impact on the way people learn and communicate. There is no reason why this innovation will suddenly reach an end point. Indeed, it is the attacks on Net neutrality in the U.S. that will reach an end point as soon as the current regime is sent packing.”

Robert Touro, an associate professor at Colorado Technical University, commented, “The internet is the greatest invention and technology of the 20th century. It has changed the way people function, think, communicate, learn, collaborate and conduct business in the now. The internet will continue to stretch the boundaries of everyone in good and bad ways, but hopefully the good will outweigh the bad and add capabilities for one and all that we cannot even fathom in the present.”

Buroshiva Dasgupta, professor of communication at Karnavati University, India, said, “It has and will increase mental agility. It will add speed to our normally placid life. Our emotions will be more organised, more enlightened.”

Laura Guertin, a professor of earth sciences at Penn State-Brandywine, said, “Although there are definitely some ways I can see digital technology causing harm (rapidly changing the way people communicate with one another in an uncivil manner, used to steal online identities and access financial resources, etc.), I have to hold out hope that we as a society will be better off with digital technologies in assisting with medical breakthroughs, natural hazard warnings and disaster recovery and overall digital applications to create a sustainable planet for future generations.”

Joe Hernandez, a training system developer, wrote, “Generally speaking, having a greater access to information, digital resources, connecting with others has the potential for both good and evil. I would prefer to believe that all can benefit from information and activities that will contribute to a greater good. Having access to others, to how-to information, to learning, can indeed be a good contribution to the well-being, in particular when it can be accessed so easily as over the internet. Assuming that the availability of the internet will continue growing around the world along with access for underdeveloped, low-income peoples, the wealth of information and connecting to others has a great potential to be beneficial.”

Andrew Czernek, a former vice president of technology at a personal computer company, wrote, “Well-being will be improved by more-responsive technologies that respond to voice and not just keyboards. We’re already seeing the positive impact with products like Amazon Echo being an intimate part of the household. In addition, we have the hopes of seeing more accessible medical information and care, even the possibility of reducing medical costs via direct home access to patients. However, NO security technology has proved to immune to compromise and attack. And now we’re starting to see technologies in the home that can listen to private conversations and even see into personal lives. This will be the major issue holding back the benefits of new technology.”

Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney, a director, said, “Provided we can continue to close the digital divide, the opportunities for free and low-cost education and for connecting previously isolated communities and individuals are immense.”

Jessamyn West, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, said, “The internet is not without its problems, however, economies of scale allow communication between and among people at a much higher rate than ever before. These allow people entry into arenas such as civics, volunteering, support services and simply enjoyment and entertainment. They allow people to interact with more sorts of people than they ever could before. They give people with disabilities a more level playing field to interact in more ways. At the same time, human decisions in this arena – particularly in the area of keeping people safe and keeping people’s information private – is one of the more challenging areas where small missteps borne out of inattention, lack of caring or just bad choices, can have even larger repercussions than previously possible. I believe things are improving because I have faith that people can help improve things; I do not think these changes can come about without concerted actions and attention from people who care.”

Gina Neff, an associate professor and senior research fellow at the Oxford internet Institute, said, “The next decade will see extraordinary gains in how data and technology are brought to solve health problems. The main challenge for practitioners is how to integrate insights from data into the everyday decisions in healthcare. The challenge for researchers now is to help guarantee that those gains benefit the people in society who need it most.”

Greg Shannon, chief scientist, CERT Division in the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, commented, “Most innovations will have positive benefits for consumers and citizens – otherwise choices would have rejected the innovations. Yes, there will be growing pains, unexpected consequences and occasional exploitive innovations. Yet, on the whole, it will be positive. Fewer car accidents. More-efficient and effective medical treatments. More-personalized services and products. Unfortunately, the well-being benefits for individuals will vary and the cognitive load may be high in order to maximize benefits and mitigate negative effects. What we need is more social/cultural capacity to adapt to change, to cope with change, to leverage/benefit from change. It will be all too easy for some to be vastly confused by, afraid of and (fruitlessly) resistant to digitally-enabled change. Trust is a key issue. To whom do each of us make ourselves vulnerable and are we comfortable with that? For whom are we trustworthy? These are choices we implicitly make every day in non-digital contexts. The digital world provides new and confusing needs to place trust in anonymous transactions, digital companies and creators or new technologies. This need to expand one’s sense and understanding of trust will be challenging for all of us, especially given the lack of trust indicators online that we rely on in the non-digital world (Note: This was written while I was sitting in sessions at the 2017 Internet Governance Forum).”

Adrian Schofield, program consultant at the Institute of Information Technology Professionals-South Africa, said, “Every advance in the capacity for technology to improve the lives of people has been met with predictions that the advance will cause more harm than good. The technology would take away jobs, kill people or be used to enslave them. The fact is that the human species is multiplying at an exponential rate thanks to technology. Digital technology is no different. Of course, technology can (and does) do much harm but only because people abuse the power it gives them.”

Jane Gould, Ph.D., an author and futurist, commented, “We are just beginning to learn how to use our smartphones to design mental health applications that make people feel more connected and less vulnerable. There have been strides in using the phone to monitor physical health; the next frontier is mental health.”

Stuart Umpleby, a professor and director of the research program in social and organizational learning at George Washington University, commented, “During the period of transition old and new methods of living and working exist side by side. People who adopt the new methods usually do so because they find them helpful. However, in some cases people may be required to use the new methods by employers or significant others, such as children. I can communicate frequently with people in other cities and other countries. Such communication would be much more difficult and expensive with prior technology. I prefer email to phone. Phone calls interrupt my work. With email, I receive fewer calls. The new technology has financial incentives that encourage fake news and disrupt elections. Measures to control these negative consequences need to be developed. We are still learning about them.”

Ed Dodds, a digital strategist at Conmergence, listed several network advantages, writing, “1) Telepsychiatry. 2) Rural churches re-imagined as job-training and start-up accelerators. 3) Silver senility tsunami care-giver training in place via internet tutorials. 4) Folks with disabilities enabled to work remotely (less transportation hassle).”

Eric E Poehler, associate professor of classics at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, commented, “Digital technologies are deeply bound up in the information revolution we are experiencing in our current historical moment. For context, I look at how the industrial revolution largely overcame the problems of large-scale mobility for people and objects, which in my opinion has been (though acknowledging terrible impacts as well such as world wars and global warming) a net positive for human well-being. Similar to physical objects, the scarcity and immobility of information has been a detriment to societies and I believe we will see a net benefit from its proliferation, especially once we can reintroduce a means of trust into information transfer. The letter, the telegram and the telephone all had meaningful positive impacts on our lives and it is today impossible to imagine going back to a social world without them. As individuals, we will experience greater well-being in many cases from new means of engagement with people, ideas and things. The pace of innovation will often feel exciting, but sometimes disorienting. On the other hand, our larger social structures, such as economic and political systems and normative cultural expressions, will see significant disruption due to this same pace of change. It is unknown what the impact of these more seemingly fundamental structural changes will be, thought I suspect they will appear and feel negative in the present for many. Although I believe, on average, that the future of the internet will be positive in relation to our well-bing, I am also sure that negative impacts will fall upon groups who have been previously marginalized. We will surely replicate our failures in this new digital landscape unless we remain vigilant to the notion that we are creating this digital world, including its implicit biases and explicit injustices.”

Karl M. van Meter, founding director of the bilingual scientific quarterly “Bulletin of Sociological Methodology,” said, “First of all, you have to clearly define what precisely you mean by ‘well-being’ and how it is to be measured. There are several established observational methods available. Secondly, which ‘people’s well-being’? People in the U.S., in Western Europe, in Eastern Europe, in the “third world”? And thirdly, over what time span: next year, next few years, next decade? If it’s the latter case (next decade), then it’s much less current opinions and behaviors that will determine the result than national policies and laws concerning the use of the Internet. More specifically, an entrepreneurial and profitable-business oriented policy close to what the U.S. government seems to want will probably results in lower public well-being since ‘public well-being’ is not the objective of such a policy. The same can probably be said of Eastern Europe, with the addition of more authoritarian policies concerning anything having to do with political expression or organizing, which by contrast is widely permitted in the U.S. That is not the case with Western Europe where political expression or organizing has to respect different limits concerning topics related to racism, sexism, holocaust denial, inciting violence, false publicity and many other sensetive topics. The ‘third world’ in many ways is divided between those with internet access and those without, and therefore ‘well-being’ is similarly divided, but I would suppose that government policy would be determinant over the period of the next decade. In general, an improvement in ‘well-being’ at a population level will probably only be possible through the internet if it is apprehended as a tool for that purpose, like any other tool that can be employed for that purpose such as improved health care or poverty reduction. But like any other tool, it can be misused, as seen with the use of Twitter and Facebook by Russian interests in the election of Trump, the Brexit vote, and several other public campaigns. Moreover, the correct use of this ‘tool,’ the internet, can only be based on education at the level of population. Stated the other way around, the uneducated use of the internet will clearly not improve a population’s well-being and can clearly be destructive of society and its social and institutional structure in the short term and much more so over the long term. I hope this helps.”

Daniel Berleant, author of “The Human Race to the Future,” commented, “When human groups encounter new environments they must adapt. Historically, this has been true for physical environments and social environments. Similarly, digital technologies provide a challenge for humans to adapt to. Of course, the process of adaptation will result in problems that arise, including maladjustments that people must learn to overcome as well as other challenges. Some people will be harmed but few will return to their old environment. As societies learn to exist in this new environment, humans will become better able to live in it. We will learn to cope with the new aspects while using the new opportunities it presents to enjoy improved quality of life. Thus there will be pluses and minuses, but over time the minuses will diminish while the pluses will increase.”

David Klann, a technology consultant for the broadcast industry, said, “I sense that technology will become increasingly ‘buried’ inside other ‘things’ in our lives. This embedding of technology will enable devices, software, AI, etc., to improve our lives without forcing us to directly attend to the technology itself. For example, take GPS-driven mapping applications: these will continue to evolve and become part of the vehicles as autonomous navigation improves; we won’t be spending time focusing on the apps, the apps will do the navigation for us without much (or any) intervention.”

Adam Powell, manager, Internet of Things Emergency Response Initiative at the University of Southern California, wrote, “Technologies that succeed enable us to do more things more quickly and more easily, so that’s a plus. The negatives – notably a decline in security and privacy – are already here in such strength that it’s difficult to imagine it becoming that much worse. Of course the bad actors are really creative.”

John Pike, an expert on intelligence, space and defense policy and director of globalsecurity.org, commented, “The good news is that the internet has and will vastly increase and improve access to knowledge and facilitate purchase of goods and services. The bad news is that wealth is being concentrated, so fewer and fewer people can afford all these amazing goods and services they can see online. There is as yet no online equivalent to Henry Ford’s $5-per-day wage.”

Valerie Bock, principal consultant at VCB Consulting, wrote, “There is tremendous promise in the use of individual data to craft more effective healthcare solutions. We will be able to tailor diet, exercise and therapies more exactly to individual needs, rather than adjusting from averages, as we do today. I see social norms developing to help us use technology in a way that serves our human connections rather than detracting from them. The work of danah boyd and Sherry Turkle, which examines how children and adults are shaped by their interactions, is getting wider attention, and will likely inspire further work on this issue. In the meantime, parents are grappling with issues like, ‘Should I insist that my children make their requests of Alexa politely?’ and reporting to one another on social media on the strategies they are employing and how those seem to be working out. Just as families of a generation ago learned to employ the home answering machine to preserve the dinner hour, families of today are creating digital-free zones of time and place to manage our strong attraction to digital devices and social media and build their connections to one another. This is not to say that there are not real threats to well-being posed by the erosion of privacy, which is a central feature of current digital developments. The total surveillance society described in Orwell’s ‘1984’ has been packaged by corporate digital interests as a consumer convenience and is being welcomed into our homes rather than imposed on them by a hostile and oppressive government. The more-pinpoint targeting of consumer desires enabled by these technologies threatens to overwhelm the defenses against over-consumption that we developed in the TV age.”

Michael Glover, a software engineer based in North America, said, “There are thousands of benefits, large and small, which can be social, economic, etc., and which touch all parts of our lives. The popularity of the internet is testament to this. In the end, information is a common good, and the internet makes it easier to share.”

Jim Rutt, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “While the effects of digital life may well have been negative over the last 10 years, I am cautiously optimistic that as the S-curves top out on adoption of social media and smartphones we’ll start to develop social norms to minimize the harm and maximize the benefit.”

Guy Levi, director of innovation at the Center for Educational Technolgy-Tel Aviv, said, “Overall life will be improved, however that does not mean that there will be no harm. There are going to be many harm issues regarding social life, empathy and more. But the opposite will also be part of the future, the internet will promote empathy as well as create lack of empathy. We will need to find ways to tolerate these trends. Nevertheless, the positive trends will be more important.”

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois-Springfield, wrote, “As the Internet of Things continues to expand, artificial intelligence applications become more integrated into the Web, virtual reality is refined and mixed reality is combined with geo-location, we will see a wide array of applications and uses that enhance the online experience. These technological advancements will combine with the network to disseminate services and create collaborations that we have not yet fully imagined.”

Matthew Tsilimigras, a research scientist at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, said, “We are now beginning to appreciate the potential for harm and possible solutions to address the harms brought about by the increasing presence of digital life. The next decade will see a net improvement in people’s well-being when it comes to digital life as this knowledge becomes widely disseminated and actions are taken by cultural, commercial and legislative forces. However, this will likely be uneven between different countries and socioeconomic levels, and is highly dependent on the continued existence and expansion of the open and citizen-centered internet we know today. Workforce- and employment-related tasks will change in unpredictable ways, but a strong social safety net and skill-retraining opportunities will shield vulnerable people from massive upheavals in forward-thinking countries. Digital life is a potent avenue for skill retraining and helping populations in places like rural America either gain the skills that their communities need to thrive in a 21st century global economy or retrain in anticipation of moving to urban centers. In either case, digital life allows for a greater ease of maintaining meaningful social and familial connections in situations that may have physical co-locality disrupted by changing economic forces. The increasing ease of use of mobile devices has greatly expanded the people reached in positive ways by digital life. For instance, almost everyone has heard the story of the elderly relative who found traditional computing devices impossible to use, but now reaches out using a touch-enabled mobile device. The existence of online resources for mental health and the normalization of discussions about mental health does much to help alleviate stigma surrounding these issues. Similarly, digital life by means of mobile devices allows for a better tracking and maintenance of one’s physical health, and this may be further augmented by the ease of exploring new dietary options and recipes. However, the digital divide is still present and we run the risks now more than ever of alienating and subjugating those without to a bleaker, and bleaker second-class citizen status if access to high-speed, reliable internet is considered a luxury rather than a right.”

Gail Thomas, a North American professor, wrote, “Digital technology is an increasingly central aspect of our lives. It appears to have both positive and negative effects. My own academic studies in the U.S. Navy show that digital technology can provide positive social support, increase productivity, and enhance well-being. For an example, social media/smartphones allow young sailors to stay connected with their friends and family as they travel to remote spots in the world. It allows them to keep abreast of worldwide news, read books, watch movies, hear music, pay their bills, and connect to hobby groups, just to name a few activities. An example of its negative effect is when some officers’ social media accounts were hacked and adversaries threatened the officers and their families.”

Salvatore Iaconesi, an entrepreneur and business leader based in Europe, said, “Different things will happen to/for different kinds of subjects and I really feel that it is not right to fit them into the same question by asking if digital life will be more harmful or beneficial. For some digital life will mean curing cancer, or finding a beautiful job or another wonderful thing. For some others it will mean becoming a data cow, ready to be farmed as a product for corporations and politics, fed with information and milked with data. The two modalities really cannot be mixed.”

Karen Yesinkus, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “We are quickly approaching the end of the first era of the internet and the evolution of digital apps and services that it has brought to everyday life. The incredible proliferation of devices and apps has contributed to a higher quality of life for the majority of people using them in both personal and business settings. This era has created many winners and ultimately many losers in choices, services and ideas offered to the public –which has been and continues to be overwhelming and disruptive. I believe the next decade will usher in a new era of digital life that is more settled, secure and ever-more integrated into daily life that will impact the quality of life positively and in ways yet to be seen.”

Mike Meyer, CIO of Honolulu Community College, wrote, “The digital world will continue to enhance communication and expand diversity for our population in general. It is difficult to identify all the ways that this will happen but it will create new types of social structures that are not tied to geography. This is already well along. It will allow direct exposure to different real and virtual communities while enhancing direct involvement in new types of government to administer these communities. For the first time in history since the era of small Greek city-states we may be able to create actual democratic governments with resources to support regional populations without the problems of representatives who are subject to bribery and manipulation. While this can be active involvement on the part of each resident it can also be achieved by modeling decisions based on the information maintained on each person’s actions, contacts, reading, entertainment, etc. This was used to directly influence the 2016 election without people’s knowledge, but if personal data were turned into a recognized asset and each individual paid for the use of their data each individual could use this data to provide a working model of their opinion. This could be overridden or allowed to stand in formal decisions by local government. This is just one possible line of development that was never possible previously.”

Scott McLeod, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver, wrote, “Digital advances bring both positive and negative affordances. On the whole, however, progress in targeted genetics, nanobiology, artificial intelligence, bots, the Internet of Things, mobile computing and other technological advances will help make us healthier, improve our lives and lengthen our lifespans.”

Christopher Bull, a university librarian, said, “Perhaps the future is a mixed bag, considering so many sites support ‘fake news.’ Every crazy idea will have its supporters. However, by and large there is enough material on the internet to form a better and more knowledgeable future.”

Ginger Paque, a lecturer and researcher with DiploFoundation, wrote, “‘Things won’t change for the better or worse. They are what they are, and will be what they will be. However, we, the users, are learning that we have to manage our online lives, and take responsibility for this part of our life. We are learning to teach our children, to evaluate needs and priorities, instead of automatically accepting new technologies that are thrust upon us. We might not read every word of the fine print – and too many of us click ‘I agree’ too easily – but we will demand terms of service and privacy policies in plain, comprehensible, transparent user language and we must begin to make appropriate choices. We are learning that ‘free’ services are not free – we make sacrifices in return – so we must consider the options before we decide. We will take control of our data, and start making better choices, even though sometimes we really don’t have control (e.g., in the U.S., ISPs can sell our browsing data not only without our permission, but without our knowledge). We must learn the power that the consumer wields, and we are learning we cannot trust our lawmakers to make wise decisions for users. As consumers/users wield the power of choice, providers will have to pay attention or lose customers. This may be an optimistic outlook, but it’s the only path we have. We haven’t always made wise choices in the past, and we won’t always make the right decisions in the future. But if we don’t learn to protect ourselves and our children, we don’t have a future. Logically then, we must, and we will become better consumers. Another main area of concern revolves around the sociological implications of online presence, both in how that ecosystem itself works, and how it affects our offline sociology. Again, while a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this survey, it’s coming to a ‘do or die’ point, the same way offline sexual harassment has. I believe that we are learning to get our priorities straight and learn to blend our online and offline lives in a positive way to our own advantage.”

Edward Tomchin, a retiree, wrote, “I am by nature an optimist so the future always looks good to me. But more specifically, with the advent spectacular advances in science, technology, medicine, the Internet and, yes, even politics, we seem to be maturing into responsible adulthood with all the duties and rewards attending to such a raise in our quality of life. I see a future where all our needs and a lot of our desires are met by machines, freeing humanity to explore our creativity, our innovativeness, our unending quest to see what’s over the next hill or past the next universe. There is a tremendous amount of hope available for humanity if fear weren’t so dominant. The simple fact of our existence compared to the century past is more than ample evidence for our forward thrust. The 20th century was wall-to-wall war encompassing the two world wars and one long cold one which included coming face to face with armageddon in October 1962, and we’re still here and moving toward the future. Confidence in our ability to rise above the worst problems we can throw at ourselves should be easy to achieve given our history. We’re constantly on the leading edge of creating a world and then learning how to live in it, we are constantly having to make laws and regulations to stay ahead of our own failings. Those are not easy tasks, but we’ve succeeded at them remarkably.”

Dana Klisanin, futurist and psychologist at Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, wrote, “In the next decade things will change for the better in regards to digital life and people’s well-being. We are now entering a phase when a larger number of people are beginning to take seriously the various impacts of digital technologies for good and ill. This ‘being conscious’ is the first step to taking control over our digital lives. The coming decade will see the advent of more ‘Digital Detoxing’ and ‘Mindful Unplugging’ but people will also be learning how to use digital technologies to benefit their lives. By the end of the next decade we will see a more balanced approach in our digital lives – that, all on its own will be an improvement.”

Mark Patenaude, vice president and general manager of cloud technologies at ePRINTit, said, “Digital transference over the last decade had little guidance or mentors to help modulate the overabundance of useless, immoral and fake information. Laws, governments and society in general are starting to understand the past effects of social media and mass media marketing techniques. Society will advance to a stage that new technologies will provide us with significant advances in security, privacy and content that becomes believable. Commentators will, like a tenured university professor, become more logical and less politically motivated. The perceived dangers of advancing digitization are very real and people should be wary and cautious. Being afraid and skeptical will push our technologists to come up with ways that protect what we need protecting.”

Claudia L’Amoreaux, a respondent who shared no additional identifying background, wrote, “It’s not black-and-white. It’s grey. If business as usual continues, people’s well-being will be harmed. Just today I had a parent tell me that she removed Facebook because she realized she was looking at it all the time. She realizes and regrets that her daughter recalls a too long stretch of time in life when her mother was always looking at her phone. She’s one of the reflective few who can see how it’s impacting the quality of her relationships and act to make a choice for improved well-being. People are up against designers trained in persuasive technologies and brain chemistry. It takes tremendous awareness to hold a steady course and navigate an always-on, always-amazing, always-something-new-and-fascinating, always-terrifying, always-important Ocean of Information and Entertainment. Children are not getting the guidance they need that will lead to healthy self-monitoring. We don’t understand or appreciate the connection between insight, creativity and reverie. When is the last time you even heard someone use the word ‘reverie’? It’s too easy to click or utter a voice command to the various virtual assistants awaiting. We’re not helping kids enough to discover practices to help them understand what they’re feeling when they’re stressed, anxious or lonely, and how to address root causes in ways that will lead to sustainable well-being. With childhood anxiety increasing and kids with powerful smartphones in their hands 24/7, we’re creating a destructive positive feedback loop that drives them continually to their phones, perpetuating the cycle. Experiences available are compelling and educational, therapeutic and healing. But we need to take more care with transparency about the downsides and consider how to support people, especially parents and children, in when and how technology is helpful, and when and how it can harm.”

George Strawn, director of the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine Board on Research Data and Information, said, “New tools and services will enable even more data, information and knowledge to be available to people. On the down side, many jobs will be automated, and it’s not clear if or when new jobs will appear.”

Jacob Dankasa, a North American researcher, said, “There will be increased innovations in developing tools that will help people solve more problems. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. If there are more technological innovations that will help the blind, the deaf, the dumb and the physically incapacitated people to improve relationships and interactions with normal people and one another, it will surely enhance people’s well-being. In other areas of health, developing cures for incurable diseases through innovations in technology will surely lead to a much happier life. In education, more human improvement than less will emerge through technology.”

Bob Brookshire, a professor of information technology at the University of South Carolina, wrote, “Advances in telehealth will enhance quality of life. Being able to access healthcare providers at a distance, improving compliance with prescription medication, remote monitoring of symptoms and other advances will improve healthcare.”

Michael Everson, publisher at Evertype, commented, “If ways forward can be found to ensure and bolster trust about the veracity of news information, that would be very useful. But in terms of online interaction with public and private bodies, things are already so much better than a decade ago that I feel hopeful about the future.”

Jeremy Blackburn, a computing sciences professor who specializes in the study of the impacts of digital life, wrote, “1) People will continue to be manipulated via targeted (mid/dis)information from a variety of sources. 2) There will be an increase in online harassment attacks that will be mostly ignored due to their statistical weight (Google/Facebook/Twitter/etc. do not care if 0.1% of their users are attacked, even though the raw numbers are substantial). 3) There will be an increase in extremists and their ability to recruit and radicalize vulnerable individuals. 4) There will be an increase in information silos, eventually resulting in extreme polarization of information acceptance. 5) There will be decreased concern about individual impact in the face of big data and large-scale machine learning (e.g., a 1% increase in revenue due to scale is worth it, even if it means a few people here and there will suffer). This will eventually cascade to large-scale suffering due to network effects. 6) There will be an increase in the acceptance of opinion as fact due to the democratization of information. No one knows if you are a dog on the Internet, and no one cares if you are an expert.”

Arthur Bushkin, a retired business leader, wrote, “Even if an individual does not personally use online technologies, for whatever reason, he or she will still benefit as society as a whole benefits (e.g., increased knowledge through research, et cetera).”

Responses from those who said they expect little change in digital life’s impact on well-being

Amy Webb, futurist and professor of strategic foresight at New York University and founder of the Future Today Institute, wrote, “If our current habits continue unchanged, it’s easiest to map pessimistic and catastrophic scenarios. People will be surrounded by more misleading or false information, not less. We’ll see more YouTube and Twitch stars testing the thresholds of what their audiences are willing to watch, which means ever more salacious, incendiary content, disturbing images and dangerous behaviors. Government officials and political leaders at all levels will add to the vitriol online, posting quick hits that don’t advance democracy in any meaningful way. Eventually regulators, hoping to safeguard our well-being, will introduce laws and standards that differ from country to country, effectively creating a splintered internet. Regional splinternets will likely cause more harm than good, as the big tech companies will find it impossible to comply with every legal permutation, while our existing filter bubbles will expand to fit our geographic borders. Our well-being is directly tied to our sense of safety and security, which would be upended in these scenarios. But the good news is that these scenarios haven’t happened yet. We can decide that we want a different outcome, but that requires making serious changes in how we use and manage information today.”

Sy Taffel, senior lecturer in media studies at Massey University, wrote, “People’s well-being will be both improved and harmed by digital technologies over the next decade in complex and contradictory ways that make simple good/bad statements an unhelpful oversimplification. The world will continue to become more automated, digitally connected and filled with an array of digital devices as the Internet of Things really takes off. There will be significant improvments in areas such as health care, education and entertainment, particularly driven by advances in machine learning and AI, however, there are likely to be signficant issues around surveillance, loss of work, algorithmic discrimination and environmental damages associated with digital technology.”

Jenny L. Davis, a lecturer at the Australian National University’s School of Sociology, said, “’People’ is too broad a category as technological advances will most certainly have different mental health effects across varied users and conditions. And I think, more importantly, ‘good’ versus “bad” assessments are counterproductive to much needed analyses of the complex relationship between growing media ecologies and a diverse collection of people who are affected by these ecologies. I appreciate the value of simple and general questions, but technology studies has been overrun with ‘good’ v.’bad’ debates and these debates derail understandings about the web of relations between people, social structures, and technological implementations. With that said, I do agree that it is important to address the relationship between technological advancements and mental well-being. This must be addressed primarily as an issue of design rather than user practice. That is, we should ask how technological infrastructures and interfaces evoke particular emotional trends, and for whom. Social media, which has been my area of research, has the potential to provide both comfort and provoke stress. Based on a recent literature review from the Facebook team, it seems that active social media participation is good for mental health while more passive consumption can make people feel bad. One way that social media may help mental health (and avoid ill-health) is by designing interfaces that encourage active participation and create opportunities for all users to receive affirming feedback. It is also important to note that social media (and the internet more generally) may be a crucial tool for creating social ties for people who, for whatever reason, struggle to connect with their geographically immediate social networks. For instance, elderly adults, people with mobility impairments, people with autism, those with stigmatized sexualities etc. may find social support online thus avoiding isolation and the mental health consequences therein. I bring this up to drive home the point that when we talk about ‘effects of technology’ it is always critical to ask ‘effects for whom?’”

Deborah Lupton, a professor at University of Canberra’s News & Media Research Centre, said, “This question … reduces very complex issues to simplistic terms. At the moment, people’s interactions with the internet sometimes support their well-being, and at other times, may detract from it. There is no reason to assume that this complexity will change over the next decade. As an example, I am thinking of a blog post I read the other day concerning a person living with a significant mental health condition. She remarked that she finds social media platforms a place where she can communicate with others sharing her condition and find support, and that she is not alone in her struggles. This online interaction promotes her well-being and recovery. However, she also notes that she sometimes finds mainstream social media undermines her well-being, as other friends and family members do not always understand her condition.”

Anthony Nadler, assistant professor of media and communication studies at Ursinus College, said, “There’s no fixed course determining how digital technologies will be developed and integrated into daily life and social rituals over the next decade. This is not simply a matter of technology developing along a set trajectory of discovery and advancement; rather, these outcomes hinge on decisions that will be made by key actors – technology companies, regulators and sometimes large groups of users or others affected by technologies who will mobilize to have an influence on technology design or norms. So technologies’ impacts will be influenced by political choices and the contest among different social groups fighting for clashing priorities with technological development, use and regulation.”

Diana L. Ascher, co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute, wrote, “There are different types of wellbeing. Some of the effects of digital technology will negatively affect well-being, while others will improve it. For example, the ability to conduct research on rare genetic diseases will lead to innovative cures that will make a huge difference in the lives of many. Yet, the repercussions of a(n inevitable) genetic data breach will have serious – and inequitable – consequences for millions of people. Imagine being denied insurance because your cousin sent his blood to 23&Me to trace his ancestral roots. Researchers like me are concerned with ensuring that digital technology innovators are equipped to make design decisions that promote ethical and equitable information practices – finding balance between the potentially terrific gains and portentous losses.”

Uwe Hasebrink, a research scientist based in Europe, commented, “I would have selected a fourth option: ‘There will be much change in people’s well-being from the way it is now, however helpful and harmful aspects will be more or less balanced.’ Digital life will change the way we understand and experience well-being. Digital life per se is not a factor determining helpful or harmful effects on well-being. Instead, social, economic, cultural and health conditions shaping people’s everyday life remain the key factors for well-being. These conditions are increasingly linked with digital technologies, that have the potential to improve or even worsen bad conditions or to limit or even improve good conditions.”

Yasmin Ibrahim, an associate professor of international business and communications at Queen Mary University of London, said, “It is not about harm or good outweighing the other but the unexpected, unforeseen and ambiguous which will confront us in the digital age as we increasingly and intensely appropriate digital technologies in our everyday lives. The issue is that we will not be able to anticipate or fully work out the ramifications of the internet in our time.”

Esther Dyson, philanthropist and founding chairman of ICANN, wrote, “The effect will diverge. For those who have the capacity to use the tools well, the internet will be valuable and life-affirming, connecting them to others and doing all the good things promised. For those who are vulnerable and prone to addiction, the internet and the tools and companies on it may well intensify and exploit those vulnerabilities.”

Jamais Cascio, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, said, “In the wake of the various accurate observations about the harm induced by various forms of social media, it’s easy to forget that the technologies also have had (and continue to have) measurably beneficial effects on multiple communities and groups. This duality is likely to continue, with the dangers mounting even as new kinds of benefits emerge.”

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International – a London-based nonprofit – wrote, “We finally have a dark realism set in about the internet we’ve built and come to rely upon. When I say internet I’m referring to the commonly used systems and companies upon which we rely on and the governments who have come to dominate with their interests. Will it grow worse or better? It will be exactly the morass we are in now and that’s not a good or bad thing. I am certainly not neutral about these matters: I have a firm dislike of our situation at the moment but it’s good that we’ve finally come to appreciate the problems with a few firms dominating, and advertising-driven model, a government-driven interest to conduct surveillance, and insecurity down to lack of investment and domination by aforementioned interests. So this storm will continue because we’ve only started to notice it.”
Michel Grossetti, research director at the French National Research Center, said, “On average, the effect of should not be very important. But inequalities are likely to increase between those who know how to use these technologies and others.”

Darlene Erhardt, senior information analyst at the University of Rochester, commented, “Digital technology is a tool and as such it can be used for good intentions or for bad. There are obvious physical ramifications on persons using technology that may have been unanticipated, such as the refresh rate of monitors and people trying to read them, teens getting carple tunnel syndrome in their thumbs from texting, the distraction when driving while tending to a phone/texting/etc. or crossing crosswalks without looking for oncoming traffic while texting, using electronic signatures in place of hand written ones (eliminating teaching cursive writing in schools, writing by hand uses a different portion of the brain than when typing on a keyboard), the effect of staring at a computer screen for hours (eye strain and focus), the effect of the blue light emitted from devices at bedtime and sleep; cyber bullying and stalking; foreign interference with national elections. On the flip side, advances in technology have evolved to such that there is nanotechnology available now that can improve recovery from hip replacement surgery (time-released nano film infused with antibiotics placed on the joint during surgery), developing technology to assist in ‘tuning’ brainwaves while sleeping in dementia patients to help improve memory and brain functions, technology that helped map the route for aid relief that was being delivered during an emergency hurricane disaster and finding people faster; there are technological aids that are being developed to help detect health conditions earlier to aid in treatment and better outcomes long term. In Science it’s not just a matter of if we should do something but should we do something. The same thing applies to technology. We certainly can create awesome, cool tech toys but we also need to pay closer attention to the moral/ethical/societal implications, benefits and effects. If that’s not at the very core, the foundation, then the cool new stuff that gets created has a greater likelihood of being used for negative things.”

Steve Jones, a long-time information sciences researcher, said, “I’m struggling with the notion of ‘digital life’ and how it is distinct from ‘life’ more broadly. As you probably know I tend to believe there is good and bad in virtually all technology (digital and otherwise) and that much depends on its design, development,and use, and that makes it difficult to generalize.”

Usha Vyasulu Reddy, an ICT and development consultant based in India, wrote, “The factors that determine the well-being of an individual or society, go beyond to psychology and to issues of human society, ethics and values. True, with rumor, innuendo, etc., on the social media, one feels that there will be an impact. However, as research has shown with legacy media, i.e., print, radio, and television and films, existing problems are exacerbated, depending on the pre-existing psychological and social make-up of individuals. Hence, digital technologies will also begin to reflect the best and the worst of society, and will eventually find their own place in the society’s scheme of things.”

Jim Hendler, an artificial intelligence researcher and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, wrote, “Some people will be harmed, especially those losing jobs in areas that can be automated or where less people can do the work now done by more. Others however will be enhanced – for example, it is easy to predict significant improvement in medical care throughout the world and in literacy/education. Thus, we will see a time of massive readjustments, taking a long time, but the answer to this question will mainly depend on which side of these things people end up.”

Yoram Kalman, an associate professor at the Open University of Israel, wrote, “Overall, new technologies empower people. It is true that new technologies can also be used to allow corporations, governments and other entities to negatively impact people’s well-being, but these entities can do so regardless of technology. It is just another tool. My assumption is that people will learn from their experience and find ways to maximize benefit from technological innovations and to minimize harm to themselves and to their loved-ones.”

Dana Chisnell, co-director of the Center for Civic Design, wrote, “The next few years will be difficult and complicated as society meets the challenges of dealing with a political climate that is very different – and likely to get more complex and more difficult to parse – from decades past. For at least the next few years, individuals will struggle with using social media to understand their world, and social media won’t make that easier. There are dozens of projects happening to try to make the internet a better place, but it’s an arms race. And it will take many years to understand how to negotiate that race and come to some kind of detente.”

Justin Reich, assistant professor of comparative media studies at MIT, wrote, “People’s well-being will assuredly change in the years ahead, and technology will be implicated, but it’s easy to mistake the superficial connections with technology to deeper causes. Gig employment will cause great anxiety, but that has much more to do with the attack on organized labor and worker protections than the more superficial appearance of technology systems that take advantage of these weakened protections. Also, people’s self-reported average happiness and well-being doesn’t change much. Technology will make some things better, others worse, different for individuals and different groups.”

Peter Levine, associate dean of Tisch College at Tufts University, said, “Although I am skeptical about the purported benefits of digital media, I think well-being is fairly stable and not likely to shift dramatically unless ‘real-world’ events such as wars and recessions intervene.”

Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said, “Like most technologies, the overall benefit is positive, otherwise people would not adopt them. The internet and its continuing evolution is no different. With all the popularity of ‘internet-is-harmful’ books, articles and talks these days, they overlook the amazing good that it provides for most people. As the internet has matured and become more ubiquitous we have all too often taken for granted the amazing improvement in our lives.”

Isto Huvila, a professor at Uppsala University, said, “The digital life will undoubtedly bring a lot of changes to many of our daily practices some of which are for good, some of which are for bad – and perhaps most importantly, many ‘good’ changes will have effects that are not necessarily good and vice versa.”

Kelly Quinn, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, wrote, “Digital life will impact well-being in both positive and negative ways, leading to no overall change in life quality in the next decade. The effects of this lifestyle may not be felt equitably among all individuals, however. My own research with older adults, for example, demonstrates that social connection may not be enhanced as easily in later life stages through the use of digital technologies as we might expect. Thus, heavier reliance on these digital tools to maintain relationships may not enhance the lives of older persons in the same way as those at younger ages. This is one example of the way in which the effects of digital life may be inequitably be distributed within societies, resulting in greater benefits for some and more negative consequences for others.”

Bouziane Zaid, an associate professor at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, wrote, “People’s well-being will not change, whatever good or harm exists today won’t change. The question implies technology is more powerful than it is. It also implies that well-being was achieved at some point in time with or without technology. Various spiritual traditions taught us that to be happy requires suppression of ego, kindness, doing things for others, having higher goals, etc. Technology is a tool, it’s not neutral, but people do with it what they please. I believe in the social shaping of technology.”

David Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College, wrote, “People’s subjective well-being (their life satisfaction and happiness) has tended to be resilient and stable over time, despite, for example, their greatly increased disposable income and purchasing power since 1950. We humans have a remarkable capacity to adapt to changing circumstances – tomorrow’s digital future will be exciting when introduced, but soon just a normal part of our lives. One caveat: Humans evolved with face-to-face communication. Moreover, new research shows that the human voice humanizes us more than does our written communications. Thus, along with the potential of social media to connect us in new and more extensive ways, there is also an offsetting cost when it entails lessened real-time, face-to-face relationships.”

Eugene H. Spafford, a professor of computer science at Purdue University expert in security, ethics, policy and social impacts of computing, wrote, “The answer is not so binary. Those people with a good education, time and good technology to access the internet, and the ability to distinguish bias, will likely have a better quality of life overall. However, those with poor education, little financial resources (and thus limits to access), or who are easily fooled by what they seen online, will continue to be a disadvantage. Thus the digital divide will continue, and may be exacerbated.”

Alice Tong, a writer based in North America, said, “I don’t think there will be major impact to people’s well-being because in the future the needs will be different. We cannot use today’s benchmark for the future because technology evolves in sync to users’ needs. Progress is a double-edged sword.”

Mark Richmond, an internet pioneer and systems engineer, wrote, “We have already seen the impact of lessening attention spans, 24-hour ‘news cycles’ and all of the social interaction breakdowns that result from the way things have become. I am hopeful that these declines will not continue. But I am pessimistic that the damage is already being done. There is no way to unwind the clock, nor to put this particular genie back in the bottle. Our best hope is that society, people in general, will adapt and evolve to better deal with the new reality. Society will never be the same as it was 50 or 70 years ago. It will be better. But what form ‘better’ takes, I don’t yet know. I am hopeful that the new reality of ever-expanding connectivity can overcome the filters of repressive government, the language barriers and the cultural barriers that have kept people at odds for so long. The future may be brighter because of the same tools and technologies that have made it seem dim. My best hope is that this wonderful way of communication and interaction will somehow be used to improve the use of other technologies that can better the world situation. Believing that things can be done better is the first step in figuring out how to get it done.”

Sakari Taipale, Academy of Finland research fellow at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland, wrote, “The net impact of the internet on people’s well-being in future might more positive than negative, but it is more important to understand that the positive and negative effects of the internet do not spread evenly across to social groups. While the majority of young people and adults are likely benefit from more personalized and interactive online services, utilising the big data, algorithms and AI, there is a significant proportion of population in all developed countries who will encounter more problems as there are less and less alternatives for online service. These groups include, e.g., a rapidly growing population group of the ‘oldest’ old (with physical and cognitive limitations), migrants with limited language skills (especially outside English-speaking world) and people who require simplified language (e.g., plain English). This is to say, the internet will change things for the better for the majority of people, but there is a large group of people who will encounter more difficulties in their daily life.”

John Skrentny, a professor of sociology at University of California, San Diego, wrote, “There are great possibilities for innovation in computer and internet technologies to improve peoples’ lives, especially in health apps, including behavioral health apps. But these will be counter-balanced by negatives – many of the incentives in innovation are for surveillance technologies to micro-target advertising, and these tend to divide people and encourage negative emotions and, ultimately, worsen health. So we take steps forward and backward at the same time. The wildcard in all of this is whether the government will begin to watch citizens and punish behaviors deemed to be unsupportive of government activities, as is already being done in some countries.”

Martin Shelton, a user research scientist for a top global technology company, commented, “In the Western world, we’re more productive than ever before. Our lives are longer than ever before. But so are our working years. This is kind of a unique place in history. By taking advantage of these newly discovered years, we have the capability radically improve our lives by pursuing more fulfilling work and interests. But mostly, we work until we can’t any longer, often on problems of questionable value. If you want an example of a place where we’re not best applying our collective resources, look no further than the technology industry. Our most brilliant technologists are being put to work on encouraging you to click advertisements.”

James M. Hinton, an author, commented, “There is a general attitude that technology is to be praised or blamed for the well-being of individuals within society. A particularly common criticism has it that the smartphone’s ability to access the internet and social media has isolated people from their immediate surroundings, and that this has, in turn, lessened people’s well-being through a dearth of meaningful, immediate face-to-face connections. The problem with this viewpoint is that it neglects the very real case that long before the internet, or even the computer, these things already took place. Rather than a phone, individuals on buses and trains would read newspapers or books rather than converse. Our tendency to limit our interactions to a select few, regardless of whether they are close at hand or available through instant communication across continents, is a fundamental human action that is entirely independent of the technology used to create it. The methods may change, but the human element remains the same.”

Carol Chetkovich, a professor emerita of public policy at Mills University, said, “We have seen dramatic examples within the last year of how the internet can be used for profound damage (Russian interference in the U.S. election, spread of bigotry, misinformation, Balkanization) and for positive efforts at change (helping to inform, organize and mobilize people to advocate for humane policies). The internet is a tool; I see no obvious reason to think it will result on balance in either positive or negative effects on our well-being. It’s all in how we use it.”

Ian Peter, an internet pioneer and voice of the people, commented, “There will be benefits and problems. One of the biggest problems will be addiction; that could have associated health problems (e.g., the obesity epidemic which began with widespread television addiction) and associated mental health problems (particularly as regards ability to concentrate and engage socially). But on the other hand, there will be benefits: widespread global communication breaking down national barriers, exposure to differing viewpoints on issues, etc.”

Deborah Hensler, professor of law at Stanford University, wrote, “People’s well-being is directly affected by their economic and health status and by the organization and governance of the society they live in. Increasingly, as well, human well-being will be affected by global climate change and institutional response to that. The internet provides a means of communicating information and an instrument for activism but, as we have seen particularly in recent years, it is also a means of communicating misinformation and manipulating opinion and, of course, activism can pursue goals that injurious to human well-being as well as those that are beneficial. Ultimately, the internet is merely an instrument; it does not operate in a vacuum and its effects depend on many other factors.”

James Meese, a lecturer in digital and social media, commented, “Broader structural economic and environmental issues will have a much more significant impact on people’s future wellbeing than digital technology. The overarching social connection that digital technology provides in a truly global world is inherently empowering. That being said, the design horizons of social and digital media technologies are limiting and inherently demand people’s attention. The industry would do well to take on board Amber Case’s principles of calm design.”

Simon Biggs, a professor at the University of South Australia, said, “It’s not that there will be more or less harm but that developments in digital technology will increase opportunities for both harm and benefit. We will be able to use such systems to enhance our memory, our capacity to reason and generally augment our existing capabilities. Technology has always facilitated this kind of development. But there will be unforeseen consequences, most likely in domains associated with social relationships and personal psychological health. We have already seen issues in these areas emerge as people enmesh themselves with digital systems and a number of commentators have illuminated them (Sherry Turkle, Ian Bogost, Donna Harraway, Katherine Hayles and others).”

Adebisi Adekanmbi, a research student at Obafemi Awolowo University, commented, “I believe it will still be people living in this world, and the available things will not change our attitudes, rather, it is our attitudes that will change things. Thus, from a broader perspective, life will remain on the same scale.”

Marshall Kirk McKusick, an internet pioneer and computer scientist, said, “There is a balance between improvement and harm caused by digital technology. On the improvement side, people are empowered by the expanded information that is available to them. On the harm side people tend to silo into groups that only espouse their point of view and to be socially isolated as their actual contact with others is diminished because of their time spent online. In recent years the harm seems to be outweighing the improvement, but I am hopeful that as the causes of harm are identified that they will be mitigated so that we can swing back towards net improvement. So overall we will net to a middle position.”

Eric Allman, research engineer at the University of California-Berkeley, commented, “In the early days of the internet we imagined a world where people would be able to communicate more easily and hence deepen their understanding of others. Unfortunately that’s not how it worked: it allowed extreme views to find havens that were essentially echo chambers, making interpersonal understandings go down, not up. In the next decade I believe progress will be made, but not before it gets even worse than it already is. Similarly, the rise of AI is going to put a lot more people out of jobs, including many people who think they are immune right now. At least in the U.S. I don’t believe the social safety net will be able to cope with the rising demands. Also, the rise of the ‘surveillance state’ is going to seriously challenge our freedoms. Conversely, there are amazing breakthroughs in areas such as medical diagnosis and treatment that are predicated on AI and related technologies. Assuming we can fix the medical conundrum (where only the rich are afforded access to the technology) this can be a boon to people worldwide. So my overall answer is neutral. I believe that if we try hard enough we can fix or ameliorate part of the problem and gain the benefits. But I’m not sure that we have the will to do so, since it will require some of the rich people to get less rich, and for now they are less impacted by the problem. So as someone who tries to be optimistic, I’m in the middle. By the way, I understand that AI is not the internet. But Big Data relies on the internet, and AI relies on Big Data, so I thought it was a fair topic.”

Sam Lehman-Wilzig, retired chair, School of Communication and Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, wrote, “The effects of the digital world will be complementary and complex, depending on several elements and variables: 1) Age groups: the younger cohorts will continue to overuse social media; the older cohorts will become more aware of their deleterious effects and moderate their use. We also might see the start of government regulation, or the least, educational campaigns to limit some of the negative effects. Another, completely different online area is government services that can be offered digitally. That exists today; it will become much larger/better in the next decade. 2) Online vs offline digitality: I have already discussed the online situation. However, offline digitality will be largely positive in many critical fields: health (more Big Data from the field will lead to better service and therapeutic solutions); urban planning and transportation will benefit greatly from sensors in all public places, leading to more efficient use of public spaces and resources. One could go on, but the principle is the same in almost all areas of life. The main sticking point will be privacy concerns. However, the digital generation seems to care less about this than older folk, so that overall privacy issues will not much hinder digital progress on the public front.”

Simeon Yates, professor of digital culture at the Univeristiy of Liverpool, wrote, “Digital Media are neither one thing, nor have one impact, nor one direction of impact. At the same time what we think of as ‘good/bad impact’ is in part socially constructed. Overall then I expect there to be pluses and benefits – augmented support for older people, better health monitoring, improved access to health information, safer cars, etc. At the same time we will see new health hazards and risks – stress from technology over-reliance and overuse, changes to work and life demands, job losses from automation, etc. As always with digital media the devil is in the detail and often in the unintended consequences where specific impacts can be measured.”

William J. Ward, president of DR4WARD, said, “Overall there will be no change. Many people will become more immersed in their digital lives and suffer the negative health and psychological consequences of a sedentary life disconnected from a physical reality. At the same time, an equal number of people will wake up and recognize they have been wasting too much of their time on an imagined digital life. They will reinvest their time and efforts into positive physical activities and face-to-face human relationships and interactions, finding a balance or equilibrium where digital use declines to a more healthy and helpful level.”

Christopher Wilkinson, a longtime internet policy leader based in Europe, wrote, “There is a great deal of inertia in social behaviour. I expect a subconscious backlash about the amount of time and expense associated with full deployment of the digital society. To date, positive results have been mitigated by concerns about security and extensive bugs and errors in various applications. Furthermore, many users in Europe do not yet benefit from adequate bandwidth to take full advantage of some services on offer.”

Su Sonia Herring, an editor and project coordinator based in Europe wrote, “The digital life current generations are experiencing is unique in the sense that the transition from automation to digital will only happen once. And we are the humans of this transitional period in time. In the near future, societies will have already adjusted to the integration of the digital in all aspects of life, managing to navigate it better by building on past experiences and learn with time. Not to say everything will be picture-perfect, just that digitization marked an era just like industrialization or the invention of writing and humanity will learn to adjust and make the most of it. The thing we need to worry about may not be so much digitization but the dataism for commercial or political interests. The way billions of people’s data is mined, packaged and sold, whether with or without consent, will shape the future. Algorithms that directly or indirectly influence our lives and make crucial decisions shaping it are mostly protected as ‘trade secrets,’ while the endless volumes of data we create as we are living our digital lives is monetized. Surveillance capitalism is growing in undiscovered territories, and we as digital individuals and societies need to be informed and vigilant about how we (via our data) are being traded as products while we have minimal say about the terms and conditions. People will adapt well to digital life but I am not so sure what will come of surveillance capitalism.”

Eduardo Villanueva-Mansilla, an associate professor in the Department of Communications at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, said, “I’m referring to the conditions outside of the developed world. While there are many interesting developments that may bring better life quality to many, there are still serious gaps in affordability and availability that should be considered. It is not just a question of digital divides, but rather of how the developments are geared towards people that are not just connected, but that have access to all the services and devices required to fully enjoy digital enhancements. Also, the awareness of hindrances and complications is still low, and compounded by the relentless marketing of digital services providers.”

Andie Diemer, journalist and activist user, wrote, “There are so many ways technology impacts our life, and in so many ways it’s total reach is unknown and impact undefined. To me, at the moment it seems like the benefits of technology are more tangible than the negative aspects, and therefore I don’t think things will dramatically change for better or worse than the current time in 2018. The use of modern-day technology hasn’t been around that long, hasn’t been studied for longitudinal periods and is still evolving at a rapid pace. It seems there are endless ways where the upside and positives are tangible and immediately beneficial; whether in everyday use (like being lost and finding directions on Google Maps), medical achievements, entertainment or live-saving emergency alerts. It’s difficult to point out the negative aspects of digital life in such congruent and specific terms as the positives. We know some things – like looking at blue light before going to bed are unhealthy – but we don’t exactly know how the wavelengths of a cell phone affect our mental or physical state. It will take decades and dozens of studies to confirm specific impacts before we can even determine a solution. The persistent use of technology in our lives has not yet been studied over the full duration of an average human lifespan. We don’t have the data to help us understand how to make the healthiest decisions for us, as individuals and as populations. The total impacts of aspects of technology haven’t been fully felt or reported as of this time, and some results are only starting to fan out. As a society it is best to be aware that there are drawbacks that can’t be physically seen or touched, and that our judgments with tech need to be constantly evolving. It seems as though self-driving cars will be here shortly, saving time and traffic and lives, but also allowing the government or another entity to track your every movement, and creating the potential for hacking and mass devastation that plugging into a grid system could provide. And we have only started to scratch the surface with AI, which is a prime example of something that could have an immediate positive payoff (increased automation/production/profits) and long-term devastating consequences (does a society where robots outperform humans makes humans almost obsolete?) It is crucially important for our families, communities and governing bodies to come together to set perimeters before we evolve to a point where we won’t be able to return. It just takes one company, one person, to unleash something that can never be stuffed back into the box that will alter the lives of most people on the planet. If we aren’t able to physically see how dangerous technology could quickly unfold, it could be almost impossible to get any large groups of the population to act beforehand to install regulation.”

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

To read the anonymous responses to the main survey question, click here.

To read a 250-plus-page Expanded Version of the Digital Life and Well-Being report click here.