Elon University

The 2012 Survey: What is the likely future of Generation AO in 2020? (Anonymous Responses)

Responses to this 2020 scenario were assembled from Internet stakeholders in the 2012 Pew Internet & American Life/Elon University Future of the Internet Survey. Some respondents chose to identify themselves; many did not. We share some—not all—of the responses here. Workplaces of respondents who shared their identity are attributed only for the purpose of indicating a level of expertise; statements reflect personal views. If you would like to participate in the next survey, mail andersj [at] elon dotedu; include information on your expertise.

Milennials Survey Cover Page Anonymous responses to a tension pair on the future of teens-to-20s youth in 2020

This page includes anonymous survey participants’ responses to a question about people’s perceptions of the likely future of teens-to-20s youth by 2020. This is one of eight questions raised by the 2012 Elon UniversityPew Internet survey of technology experts and social analysts. Results on this question were first released by Pew Internet Director Lee Rainie and Imagining the Internet Director Janna Quitney Anderson in February 2012.

Many of the experts surveyed by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project predicted this generation will be good at connecting, collaborating, and working quickly, they also expect their characteristics to include a thirst for instant gratification and quick fixes and a lack of patience and deep-thinking ability due to what one referred to as “fast-twitch wiring.” There is a palpable concern among these experts that new social and economic divisions will emerge as those who are motivated and well-schooled reap rewards that are not matched by those who fail to master new media and tech literacies. They called for reinvention of public education to teach those skills and help learners avoid some of the obvious pitfalls of a hyperconnected lifestyle.

>To read the official study report, please click here.<

>To read the responses of participants who took credit for their answers to this question, click here.<

Following is a large sample of the responses from survey participants who chose to remain anonymous when sharing their thoughts in the survey. Some are longer versions of responses that were edited to fit in the official report. About half of the respondents chose to remain anonymous and half took credit for their remarks (for-credit responses are published on a separate page.

Survey participants were asked, “Explain your choice about the impact of technology on children and youth and share your view of any implications for the future. What are the positives, negatives, and shades of grey in the likely future you anticipate? What intellectual and personal skills will be most highly valued in 2020?” They answered:

“Multitasking is a myth. Difficult concepts take time to digest and work out. Young adults are becoming less and less able to do this. They should all be forced to whittle a whistle while sitting on a porch with nothing but the trees and birds for company.”

“With deregulation, consolidation of media ownership and control, and the acceptance of capitalism as natural and inevitable, learning styles and attention spans are headed toward the inability to think critically. Trends in education, social activities, and entertainment all make more likely a future of passive consumers of information.”

“The commercialization and short-term social advantages of texting and using the Internet will not produce increased capacity to access comprehensive information using the resources available via the Internet. There needs to be much more effort directed at producing curriculum and providing training for primary and secondary school as well as college instruction to provide students with the skills to make optimal use of the variety of Internet sites and online learning opportunities. There is so much concentration on using mobile devices for entertainment and socializing that I am increasingly concerned that more and more youth and young adults may already be less informed and less capable of critical thinking.”

“Better technology gives us access to much more information than in the past, which has the potential to allow us to more fully answer deep, complex questions. But doing that effectively requires two things: 1) The desire, ability, and patience, to cull through that information, seeking the most relevant and well-supported arguments and 2) The willingness to ask and seek the answers for complex, deep questions. This is rarely done; most issues are talked about in shallow terms. Teaching young people to form complex arguments, a fundamental skill, is the same whether old or new technologies are used. The technology doesn’t matter, the requirement to do it does. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is not considered important in our commercial society. The focus is on profit, or fighting for resources, and complex arguments are generally ignored in favor of simplistic reasoning.”

“Re-wiring of the brain is being documented and this will have an impact on presentation of information to the rising population of workers. Less content will be proffered in purely text-format. Systems will cater as much if not more to those who learn via auditory or visual presentations. The real-time Web will support those learning styles more satisfactorily than previous centuries’ reliance on reading of text.”

“The ability of the individual to sink deeply into meditative reading and learning will be diminished in a period of the real-time Web. Accelerating delivery of information that is always being updated in time may make it harder for each of us to break away and think our own thoughts. Such constant broadcasts don’t make it easy for the individual to step away and work through an issue or concern without interruption.”

“I already see the effects of this in myself and my peers (I am 27). I feel like I was on the cusp of this Internet/electronics obsession and it has affected my ability to concentrate over the years. My friends are less interested in genuine human interaction than they are looking at things on Facebook. People will always use a crutch when they can, and I believe the distraction will only grow in the future until young people (and the not-so-young) are entirely dependent on technology as a primary means of communication and information processing. I do not believe most people will develop the same level of interpersonal skills as they would otherwise.”

“The ability to pay attention to long and complex messages has been a dying skill for some time. A new kind of intelligence is emerging, one that favours series of short simple bursts of information over longer and more densely packed elements of information. The latter outcome is likely if we do nothing to build the skills of interpersonal communication and knowledge sharing skills. If we do not encourage young people to think deeply then what will cause them to do so? If we do not encourage them to delve more deeply beyond the 140-character snippet, then how will they learn to think? We run the risk of enabling a lost generation of thinkers.”

The real issue is what place will there be for that generation in our society a few years down the line? The children of intelligent and supportive parents won’t be too much affected by the negative trend, nor will the minority with a personal drive to achieve something in particular (art, science, or whatever); both these groups are likely to be hopeful about their futures. However, the young people from intellectually weak backgrounds who have no special driving interest in self-development are all too likely to turn out exactly as the purveyors of a debased mass-culture want them to be: shallow, impulse-driven consumers of whatever is being sold as ‘hot’ at the moment, which will not be their fault, given their inadequate education, lack of real prospects of happiness and health, and subjection to millions of advertisements crafted to make them dissatisfied with the present and eager to spend money on items sold as status symbols or gratifiers of every desire. Judging from the failure of political will to properly fund public education, my guess is that students will have more or less the same poor experience of learning that has plagued us for decades now.”

“Around 2020 we’ll see lots of articles/studies that come to both conclusions, but most of the under-35 crowd will evolve with the tools they use and make great use of them.”

“Communication, transactions, and business are moving at the speed of light, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, iPad—all things that were not around ten years ago—have changed the way many Americans interact. Gamers are solving molecule mysteries in record time. Technological advances will only help multitasking teens prepare for the jobs of the future.”

“The quality of our education system isn’t producing more critical or big thinkers—to the contrary, the lessons are based on steps to ‘the’ solution rather than understanding a problem first. Additionally, our public media focuses on short messages to the exclusion of understanding. As teens are exposed to more and complex tech and info changes, they won’t be situated (through learning from older generations, from friends, or from their learning environments) to take best advantage of their new ‘wiring.’”

“It all depends on the whole-life picture of each of the teens. Are they in control of the Internet, or are they using it as a crutch, diversion, time-filler, and lazy-man’s way out? I am optimistic that the balance will yield good results, and that people, not the Internet, will rule.”

“My understanding of current research suggests that the human mind is changing as it continually interfaces with digital technology. It is likely that as children grow up with the technology and continue to access it at a younger age, their brains will be more likely to adapt to the demands of digital technology.”

“I do not think either of these choices reflects the truth of the teen mindset. Research indicates that the way teens ‘multitask’ is that they are able to switch quickly from one task to another. They are not able to simultaneously work on different tasks. The long-term effect of this rapid switching between tasks is unknown. However, if we accept the hypothesis that deep thinking requires sustained cognition, a scattered approach to thinking would seem to reduce the ability or at least the habit of deep thinking. The ideal approach would seem to promote the advantages of rapid thought transitions for tasks where that process works well, while at the same time encouraging a separate track in which youth at times learn to set aside distractions for periods of time that are long enough to concentrate on single subjects and issues.”

“I am pessimistic about the current trajectory of mass technology use without better research on how changing the communication platform affects us. Clearly it does. Some of that’s wonderful, but then we see the decrease in critical thinking and the way popular tools allow us to move at a pace that reinforces rapid cognition rather than more reflective and long-term analysis. I fear that market forces and draconian policies will drive the technology/media interface.”

“In 2020, eight years from now, technology will have advanced and other media tools will be in fashion. I do not see a trend, right now, of Internet media tools encouraging deeper thought, connections, and reflection. But I think there will be a massive break in media consumers. Many will begin to question the superficial qualities of their information. Many will reject social media and entertainment-as-news. Two media-consuming classes will be forming at this time.”

“Although the current market appears to be focusing on entertainment and social networking that contains little of lasting value, it is already evident that many users are capable of generating meaningful and important venues and sites that have strong potential. I find it dismaying that the entry of these methods of communication and connectivity are so far dominated by commercial interests, but I think that educational, scientific, and other more enduring uses will expand the capabilities of young adapters to expand their knowledge and awareness of circumstances and viewpoints of diverse populations and interests.”

“Human beings are far more flexible than we tend to assume, adapting quickly to new technologies. For example, only in the last blink of an eye, from an evolutionary standpoint, have automobiles, airplanes, and other high-speed machines existed. Despite the fact that nothing like them previously existed, we quickly adapted to being able to control machines that propel us at speeds unimaginable to our recent ancestors. The challenge of the Internet isn’t cognitive, it is the ethical and almost spiritual challenge of easy ways to exchange gossip and other counter-productive information, which tugs us away from the profoundly creativity-stimulating exposure to new points of view now available. We are evolving tools and habits to select what is valuable from what is not, but we clearly can go either way, and some—perhaps many—will go the route of gossip and distraction. The good news is that it doesn’t take very many highly creative people to transform a society; those who figure out how to bring new creations out of Internet chaos will surely lead the rest in new and good directions, even as others lead us elsewhere.”

“My negative answer assumes that this nation will fail to adopt national policies to promote digital literacy beginning no later than middle school. If our young people learn to master the Internet and these devices—rather than being mastered by them—I see a different, more positive outcome. Our educational system (particularly public education) needs massive reform if this nation is going to remain competitive.

“Curriculum needs massive reform if we are going to turn out masses of productive, well-equipped workers and thinkers. Digital literacy needs to be an element of these reforms. Without it, there are greater risks from widespread connectivity than I’d like to see.”

“Decision-making will yield better results and those who are adept at integrating knowledge will be very successful. However, a wired world will be very addictive and those young adults who do not have a clear goal and a desire to achieve something will be caught in a downward spiral from which escape will be almost impossible. They will fall further and further behind. The result will be bimodal. The result will be positive overall, but a new type of underclass will be created which will be independent of race, gender, or even geography.”

“Society will change to fit this new way of communicating. Being able to navigate multiple streams of info will be a critical skill. We will lose much in the process. I wonder if we will even be able to sustain attention on one thing—going to a classical concert or film, for instance—for a few hours. Will concerts be reduced to 30 minutes to allow for email breaks? Will feature-length films become anachronistic?”

“I believe access to information can be a boon. Distraction and constant stimulation can be a detriment. Net results are only that. My true answer would be that individuals will achieve both more and less, depending on the individual.”

“Face-to-face social interactions will continue evolve with many of the current social norms being eliminated. Communication in all forms will be more direct; fewer of the niceties and supercilious greetings will exist. Idle conversation skills will be mostly lost. The communication norms that are adapted online (direct, brief, and entertaining) will be incorporated more and more offline. Devices will continue to be part of social interaction offline, being used at parties, gatherings, and as reference tools in all conversations. Information will be accessed as needed with the information being incorporated into conversations and/or included in conversations as a result of debates or curiosity. All learning and continuing education will benefit—I do believe that commitments and long-term relationships will suffer as attention spans are shortened, and health issues such as ADHD will continue to rise.

“If those trusted with educating young people do not balance tasks that require deep thinking and reading in tandem with leveraging networks of intelligence, the negative outcome is more likely.”

“Critical tasks such as grammar, spelling, and professional-level writing are falling victim to the next generation’s reliance on the Internet. More importantly, the world’s youth will never gain the capability of finding correct, valid data and information because their belief is that all information is on Google (or other consumer search engines) and it is all free. Already today, some leaders at Fortune 500 corporations as well as at small businesses and startups believe that what shows up on the first page of a Google search yields the answer to a problem or provides the valid data from a trusted source on which to base an informed decision. I believe this will lead to nations making poor policy decisions and industries losing their competitive edge, leading to constant turmoil in the global economy.”

“The results of being wired plus the cuts and changes to our educational system will hurt young people moving forward. They will already be biased toward quick bites of information and the changes to the educational system and further focus on testing will mean that teaching will not adapt to cultural and technological changes. The biggest loss will be an ability to see long-term impact of changes. Others will include damage to critical thinking and the inability to retain information (which could hurt decision making).”

“The way that children and young adults manage knowledge is going to be different from the way knowledge is processed now. Their education and training will be directed toward how to mine information on different levels. Some of these changes will result in a disregard for the way knowledge was used in the past to inform decisions, as these pre-Internet eras will be regarded as ‘antique.’ However, I think there will be a clearer case made for looking at the use of knowledge for the benefit of the collective vs. the individual, and this distinction may be the driver for improving participation in a democratic society.”

“I took a calculus class in college where the answers were in the back of the book. Knowing that they were there was helpful—I could try and re-try a problem until I had thoroughly worked through the formulas and reached the correct answer. Recently, I’ve worked with students who consider the Internet to be like the answers in the back of the book. For some, looking up an answer, finding it, and copying word for word is the fullest level of engagement that they will have with a subject. Negative outcomes will happen if the tasks they are given are not adjusted to the change in ways that teens and young adults are finding information.”

“I am a teacher, and have seen a number of the negative consequences listed in the second paragraph. However, I think overall there is more reason to support the first view: I have seen students use portable (smartphone) technology in class to dig deeper and challenge me on matters related to the subject I was teaching. Albert Einstein once asked, ‘What’s the point of memorizing something if I know where to look it up?’ Now we all have access to the power to look up a vast array of things almost immediately and at any time.”

“Generally speaking, we have seen a decline in the ability to discern quality information with the rise of social media. As online media becomes more prevalent, it increases the amount of reading an individual is subjected, too. More and more of it is headline-oriented, and less and less of it is text-rich. Sources are validated less, and this is already creating problems with poor media reporting, much less the general public’s consumption of data. Mobile and tactile media continues this trend, leaning toward shorter media, less text, and more video. While this is a natural trend, there is no emphasis on quality or on educating people and youth on how to intelligently discern what is fact, what is fiction, and what is actionable. Further, they are not being taught how to create quality information either. Adding to the face-to-face issues, we have already seen how Millennials and Generation Xers will text to each other in a room rather than talk. Relationship break-ups are now occurring via text message. There is a general devolution or devaluing of face-to-face interaction that technologies inherently bring; I am sure the telephone was no different.”

“There is already at least one study substantiating the down side of this excessive multitasking tendency. It also has become common to have difficulty holding a conversation with kids that is not interrupted by their texting activity.”

“This would differ person to person, but it’s my belief that people are capable of processing much more information that we currently do. On an evolutionary level this can be seen in linguistic and audiovisual communication. Humans can simultaneously read and understand both, whereas other animals cannot.”

“The augmented reality we are beginning to experience today is already showing its dark side: shallow, intense, short-lived relationships; the inability to think critically (someone else always has the answer, or tells you what to think); low memory abilities, etc. The ease at which authorities can be bypassed erodes our civil society. Cheating and corruption is rampant. Productivity continues to fall not grow as each new wave of technologies fails to live up to its potential. People are obsessed with mundane things. Consumerism becomes the main fuel for our emotions.”

“The answer really depends on how well we change the way we teach, if we do emphasize the skills students need to learn, i.e., how to use the Internet well, to think deeply, to reason rationally, to utilize systems thinking, to engage in personal mastery, to recognize and open their own mental models, to learn in teams, to create shared visions, and to plan strategically—the first scenario should come about. The skills needed are listed but are not likely to come about without intervention by our schools.”

“Their ‘differently wired’ minds may yield generally baleful results, but not really for the reasons you suggest. We have landed in an electronics age where communications technologies are evolving much more quickly than the minds that are producing them and the social structures that must support them. We are not taking the time to evaluate or understand these technologies, and we aren’t having serious conversations about what effects these new tools have on us.”

“The frantic parsing of information and messaging will certainly change the fabric of how we interact and communicate with each other. It will manifest itself negatively and most prominently in the home, where parents and kids will spend less time developing meaningful and bonded relationships in deference to the pursuit and processing of more and more segmented information competing for space in their heads, slowly changing their connection to humanity. Though it will be seen as ‘generational’ difference it will be far more specific in its division.”

“Really it’s not the Internet to blame for my negative answer—it’s the parents’ and America’s educational system. If parents were more involved with their teens and their education I would have answered differently.”

“Systems such as these self-adapt; some people may be better off and some worse off as a result of the new skills and challenges of the Internet. The people who succeed more in this environment are likely to be more successful. It’s a bit Darwinian—the environment has changed, and those who adapt survive. To the extent that specific tools are harmful, they will be less used or will be adapted as well. The tools were created by us, and we will continue to adapt to our own best interests.”

“Games online develop their strategic capabilities. Collective intelligence enables them to work faster and to challenge the information found on the Web. They have multi-use devices with which they can organize their lives. They don’t spend hours anymore in front of the TV set.”

“I agree more with the second paragraph but as people grow older (and wiser) they change. The human brain is elastic and change is likely in response to conditions and perceived goals.”

“There are already signs of difficulties in handling multitasking, once presented in the 1990s as a novelty and a right. Now, it has been proved by research that the human brain cannot concentrate on more than one, or—at the maximum—two, topics in any given time span. Moreover, with education abandoning values of the past, and educators seeking to offer readily absorbable knowledge to youth, they deprive them of exercising their brains in deep thinking, analysis, and synthesis. Youth tend to spend more time online than with their friends and family. They do not have social skills, as every schoolteacher can testify.”

“The challenges of 2020 are likely to be more complex, with solutions requiring more connectedness across a greater continuum of knowledge. A wired generation will have some ability to appreciate that. What I fear they will not have as much of is patience to know the elements of the solution well enough, in enough depth, to assemble them in the complex order they will need to be assembled. Deep thinking requires an attention span; without practice it is impossible to develop the attention span well enough to do that kind of thinking.”

“For me, the paths to these different answers diverge at education. How will we incorporate these changing technologies as part of the educational (formal and informal) opportunities provided to our children? If we embrace the opportunities, then we will have to train our children to multitask and find answers to deep questions through effective search. But if we continue to distinguish between the offline educational world and the online social world then they will continue to operate in separate spheres for our children and we will find them engaged interactively but not productively.”

“You’d have to ask Richard Dawkins, but I think it’s more likely that the changes you refer to are cultural rather than structural, evolution being a fairly slow process. (And I say this in spite of Baroness Susan Greenfield’s research on wiring and young brains). The Internet and technology in general have the potential to create the kind of self-directed learners in the first scenario but technology alone won’t do this. Due to the cultural habits (and the cultural norms and values in general) I think it very likely that we’re all going to end up being more distracted, shallow, fuzzy thinking, disconnected humans who cannot think or act critically. But this won’t be because of the Internet, it’ll be because of the loss of values and resourcing of things like education and civics and the ridiculous degree to which popular media, etc., are influencing our culture, values, etc.”

“The different ‘wiring’ will actually help prepare those teens for competing in a fast-paced, multitasking business world.”

“I am a teacher. I have horror stories about lack of attention. I am not sure that the physiology will change, but I am sure about how the current generation orients to traditional text—reading it or writing it. I have also seen the loss of interpersonal communication competence. What has emerged is an overly dramatic face-to-face style and a greater unwillingness to engage or cope with differences. It is extending adolescence.”

“To understand a topic in depth takes time, reading much information (books, research papers), reflection, discussion with other humans who have read the material in person or email. The tweets format, the short abstracts, the lack of organized premise or hypothesis, information supporting the premise, history of the topic will lead to information but not knowledge. These short social messages are more like advertisements. The brain needs time and organization to process and act. I think the future, if dependent on short format in brains that are not yet fully ‘wired’ until about 25 years of age, is bleak indeed. Each brain has its unique, particular intelligence which has to be learned and connection with a collective intelligence does not substitute for this individuality, experience, learning, analysis, and understanding. Facts to knowledge to understanding—not a wired collective of tweets and opinion. I don’t know what will be valued in 2020. What I see know is a lot of distraction and inattention and lack of civility. I use my Kindle a lot, and what I really understand is it is harder to go back and find the page and analyze—like the change from scrolls to bound pages. As Walter Ong said, we are returning to an oral culture, not like the literate one which has given us science.”

“I see more adaptation than stultification in digital natives. No comment (yet) on what I see in digital immigrants.”

“I do believe that the brains of teens and young adults will be wired differently, and in my experience of working with young adults, I find them to be highly distracted by electronic messaging and unable to verbalize thoughts and articulate needs and requirements in any depth. They have become a multiple-choice generation with little original opinions. Skills that will be rarely found but highly valued in 2020 will be: Cogent writing, articulate speaking, and follow-through.”

“On balance, I’m an optimist, so I’m picking the good outcome. That said, to the extent that the premise is true, it will enhance performance at some sorts of tasks, mostly involving coordination, and reduce it in others, mostly involving deep conceptualisation. My instinct is that a majority of tasks for a majority of people in both the social and commercial worlds are more coordination- than conceptualization-based. So on balance we’re good. But that doesn’t mean we’re good all over. I also doubt that we’ll run out of conceptualisers—if only because if most people are doing it one way, always somebody who just can’t help but do it another, which is kind of how we got here in the first place.”

“While I believe in positive outcomes for many teens and young adults (possibly the majority), I’m concerned with a number of teens and adults being ‘left behind,’ showing largely negative outcomes. Education can make the difference.”

“An attempt to accomplish multiple tasks at the same time results in diminished performance on all of the tasks. Multitasking effectively results in attention deficit. Attention deficit, while it may currently be fashionable, is recognized as a cognitive disability with negative impacts on personal performance and society as a whole. It is often necessary during an overbooked schedule to rapidly transfer attention between competing interests in order to make the best of a non-optimal situation, but the schedule is still overbooked and the overall results are still non-optimal. People may be able over time to adapt to and become less affected by stress associated with distraction but their work will be lower quality.”

“If we don’t change the way we teach young people and get better at holding them accountable for their actions, the second scenario may very well may be the outcome.”

“Neither is 100% accurate. Chances are we’ll get something in between the two scenarios, though with a slight tendency towards the first.”

“Of course this will impact a lot as the sociological and cultural need will force them to adopt or change accordingly.”

“I have been surprised at the actual research on multitasking. While I think I multitask really well, I realize that it also distracts attention from full engagement, and the research on this seems undeniable.
The negative results are not due entirely to multitasking but technology exacerbates the trend. (I am a professor and teach freshmen). I think issues with the educational system and the way they have been raised are also contributing factors. Many don’t come to learn and lack intellectual curiosity. See the book Academically Adrift, which details some of these issues.”

“The Internet provides curious kids with the opportunity to get answers to many of their questions far beyond the knowledge of trusted adults. While this firehose of information may result in a shortened ability to sit still, the benefits far outweigh this. Access to knowledge will provide kids with opportunities no generation before them has ever had.”

“In general the Internet can produce positive outcomes, but a lot will depend on how we teach and educate the young generation to use the technologies and take only the good part of them.”

“My experience with college students suggests to me that their critical skills are diminishing; they can’t make connections or see issues and events in terms of systems, prior choices, or institutions. Instead, any item/event is the equivalent of any other item/event. It is quickly displaced or disconnected from other items/events, and just part of a massive flow. Students don’t read books. They rarely read long articles. When they do read, they don’t read for arguments. Instead, they skim the middles of pages, perhaps moving their eyes up and down if something interests them. They don’t work on retaining what little they read, or even seem to think that taking notes is necessary. Their reasons seem to be that they can always find out whenever they need to. The future will belong to those who can focus. This will be an increasingly small and rare group of people.”

“Based on the digital natives I have employed, I don’t see the ability to do deep-dives, researching issues in depth. They move quickly, but they are sloppy in their outcomes. Their work productivity is negatively affected by their need to go to their Twitter decks or check text messages.”

“I simply don’t believe the ‘brains of teens are wired differently’ argument. I’m not seeing good research about it; all of the inquiry along those lines seems to be driven by an assumption posed in the popular press, which is not a good theoretical jumping-off point for any study.”

“Just as now, both classes will have substantial memberships, the proportions differing depending on the country and its social and economic structure. However, I also feel that the proportion of ‘good’ results will be much higher than they are now, especially in more developed countries. Populations in developing countries are already much more aware of the advantages the Net provides. As is widely cited, personal creativity and organizational (e.g., interpersonal) skills will be more valued than ‘knowledge.’”

“We still have a way to go to learn effective use of all the information and misinformation at our disposal. Independent thinking skills that allow us to separate BS from facts are critical but lacking. In general, social skills are lacking, too.”

“Overall, human progress is positive and this kind of progress, while not necessarily fully understood by older generations, will be harnessed by young people and used to generate more innovation and, hopefully, will result in great strides for humanity.”

“Lamenting that youth is wasted on the young is a recurring theme in social commentary that predates social networking, and the ‘baleful results’ outcome sounds like the latest variant. Independent of the source of distractions, there are always those who will be distracted (or choose to be distracted) and be subject to external criticism that they are frittering away their potential. There have always been plenty of people who successfully avoid spending their entire time being distracted, and there’s little reason to believe that the new distractions provided by social networking will play out any differently—those who want to be successful will find a way.”

“Brains are ‘wired’ different with both positive and negative results. The breakdown will not necessarily be by age but by other factors.”

“The positive outcomes shall depend, mainly, on an adequate renovation of traditional education to encompass new uses of technology.”

“The outcomes of this development will be generally positive, but will imply that the bits of infrastructure which enable this access to collective intelligence will become even more critical than they are today: not just the network layer, but the services themselves. Additionally, as there does seem to be some correlation between situations that are mentally and socially stressful in terms of the number of connections being attended to, and the incidence of schizophrenia, there may be some associated uptick in incidence of schizophrenia.”

“The divide between the ‘helpful’ and the ‘baleful’ results though should be closer to a mix of helpful and problematic behaviors across the complete spectrum of young adults. Whether a specific individual can develop the skills to thrive using the Internet without becoming dependent will depend more on the individual and less on the offered environment. It’s probably true though that the spectrum between competent and incompetent will be broader. My observations have been somewhat superficial—I don’t interact daily with current teens. But I do note that the various representational parodies I’ve seen with respect to teen life and being attached to their phone seems to have a basis in fact.”

“The real question buried under the assumptions within this question is: are young people no longer thinking deeply and no longer able to put together complex arguments and thoughts? I do not think that the highly interactive, interrupt-driven, always-on, information-rich society that young people are growing up in is causing a decline in deep intellectual activity. Rather, I think it is the culture at large, driven by the generation before this youngest generation that devalues science, facts, intelligence, reasoning, and intellectual achievement in favor of emoting, celebrity, athletic achievement, fighting and winning, and faith. Also, the culture of praise over criticism leads to a society where to tell someone they are incorrect is at best a social faux pas and at worst reasons for demotion, dismissal, and poor teaching evaluations.”

“Humans adapt well to technological change, generation-to-generation. However, there are evolutionary traits and preferences that are hard-wired in, and that’s where the danger lies, not in teenagers wasting their time writing SMSs rather than novels for the ages, but in marketers’ ever-increasing ability to tap in to addictive and deep-seated psychological traits that are common to all of us, to convince us to play just one more round of Angry Birds, or have just one more scoop of salted-caramel ice cream. The pervasive network allows people to build more quickly on the foundations laid by their predecessors, but it also allows more efficient delivery of increasingly-addictive media that caters to our troop-of-apes-on-the-savannah social needs for popularity and attention.”

“The evidence for the second answer is already in schools. The problem is less that the brains of teens and young adults can’t undertake critical thinking or interaction, it is that they are not rewarded for doing so. Even more than in the 20th century, there is less time for problems to be worked out, whether they are of a personal, political, economic, or environmental nature. When you (individual or collective) screw up (pollute, start a war, act in a selfish way, or commit a sexual indiscretion as a public person) everyone either knows very quickly or your actions affect many people in ways that are irreversible. Intellectual and personal skills that will be most highly valued in 2020 are those that reinforce keeping many balls in the air. Solitary scientists and artists will figure out different ways of interacting. Some segment of the population may move ‘off the grid.’”

“I know of no evidence that multitasking increases capability or competence on average. Brains may indeed develop differently, but to date, this appears to result in shortened attention spans. The existence of the greatly expanded research and knowledge resources seems to be ignored by many, certainly compared to the amount of attention invested in social media, where users seem to increasingly self-identify with like-minded contacts. However, there is some small percentage of individuals who can multitask effectively, do utilize Web-based resources deeply and use social media to explore the world’s differences. These individuals are likely to rise farther above the average person than today or in the past.”

“I lean toward 50-50, depending on how we fund education. Social networking is like faith: a powerful agent that can be harnessed for good or left to spin into bad. Our country isn’t interested in investing in tomorrow’s youth. We’re too busy invading foreign countries, posturing about our national debt load, etc., to actually focus on taking care of young people. I work at a small institution that cares about its students, but I’m not sure we can counteract the Great Neglect taking place.”

“Both of these outcomes require that the ‘wired’ assumption has some validity. Retention of information is far less necessary if the answers are readily available. On the other hand, the ability to access information quickly becomes a skill in its own right. Some people have always lacked deep-thinking capabilities and face-to-face social skills; for these the Internet is a great boon.”

“Both answers are correct for different percentages of the population. We are ‘wired’ as a result of our evolutionary experience, and the Internet is not going to fit into that wiring for most of the general population. However for a small but significant portion of the population, the Internet will advance the cognitive functions in an extremely positive way. This portion will lead the advance, and the remainder will follow.”

“In general you will find differences—probably statistically significant differences but the effect size will be small. In addition there are always differences—the important finding will be which people will experience negative effects and which  will not.”

“The teenagers I work with are already starting to show some of these characteristics. They are easily bored and have a short retention time.”

“As a teacher of undergraduate classes I’d say both of the choices are correct. Students seem ‘lazy’ (perhaps they/we always did to their/our elders). They have great difficulty concentrating and so tend to move on to another topic or issue when the concentration becomes too difficult. But I’ve noticed my own ability to concentrate diminish to the point where I literally have to get up from what I’m focusing on if the focus requires more than 10 minutes at a time. The answers that students produce, while the students may be adept at finding them online through Google, tend to be shallow and not thought through very well. However, to say that somehow they aren’t as smart as earlier generations is a crock—many write quite poorly on academic assignments but are fine when blogging and producing diaristic accounts that ask them about themselves—an outcome, doubtless, of the lifetime focus on ‘me’ that many middle-class and upper-class kids now experience as the norm.”

“I am reminded of cautions about whether children of my generation might believe, by watching cartoons, that one could run off a cliff and defy gravity. We kids knew better. My own young adult children seem to be able to approach the array of new resources available to them as extensions of their immediate environment—almost as extensions of their own senses—in contrast to my generation’s approach to them as separate. I look for answers on the Internet the same way I might have approached a reference book. They search in the same way they might hunt for Easter eggs. But in the end, they process that information as humans, and are able to engage constructively in political discourse. They are, I believe, better informed, even if informed differently.”

“Actually both options will occur in different segments of the population. The thing to do starting now is to foster the better result through policies and education. These have to be concerned with more than the Internet or technology—TV programming, libraries, the power of business-oriented media, etc., all have to be dealt with. Further, a stronger-than-ever effort is required for the beneficial option to extend access to more people, more countries, more sectors of societies.”

“This is too polarized a choice, of course. I don’t think brains will be ‘wired’ differently but I do think that on the whole the changes in learning behavior and cognition will be positive.”

“The negative option neglects improvements in school-based education programs that encourage young people to effectively manage systems and the content made available to them.”

“I chose the first option, even though there are many pitfalls in the new type of learning epitomized by the new Net generation as described in the second option. Nevertheless these negative traits can be tackled by better curricula.”

“The collaboration and social networks of the Internet are bringing younger generations together, it gives them the ability to understand, share, and respond to opinions of others. In education they are able to use technology in group activities to conduct school-related work. These are all positive signs of the impact of the Internet, there are negative aspects but not yet to that extent.”

“Humans are financially rewarded for business success, most as employees, some as entrepreneurs, thus young adults will find ways to leverage their new skills to advantage and the long-term effect will be positive for society.”

“Very much doubt the ‘deep’ experience, but there’s no question they will collaborate effectively in personal and work-related tasks. They are the supreme ‘worker bees’ in socialized communities, but at the cost of their individuality and cognitive and reflective skills. There will be a backlash by 2030 and the following generation.”

“Similar to Goldhaber’s attention economy thesis, youth will be captured by the most resourceful, most innovative, and entertaining (see Neil Postman’s Entertaining Ourselves to Death thesis) logos, designs, metanarratives and will not be able to synthesize beyond the surface.”

“Human beings vastly overestimate their ability to multitask. New breakthroughs come only from sharply concentrated conscious effort or unconscious inspiration, not from fractured, multitasked attention.”

“The arguments about cognitive impairments appeal to me. Also ‘deep thinking’ in my view, requires pondering ideas, and I see constant multitasking as discouraging that and rewarding reaction over strategic thought.”

“I wouldn’t reserve the second scenario just to youth; people sure are dumb.”

“While I would prefer to be optimistic, I see no reason to believe the current trends will reverse. Today’s ‘tech savvy’ adults (aged 20—45) on average have weaker communication skills than previous generations, shorter attention spans and—perhaps most importantly—don’t seem at all worried about it. How/why should we expect the next generation to be ‘different’ (implication = more evolved/better) when they’re raised in a culture increasingly focused on instant gratification with as little effort as possible?”

“In general, I think it will have positive outcomes. They will have more abilities to multitask, look for and merge information from different sources. However, a shorter attention span and the ability to distinguish among trustable/not trustable sources will challenge current ways to learn in classrooms and provide/elaborate deep analysis of news or history.”

“With information readily available via external sources, on-boarding knowledge will become less important. Searching for an answer to a complex question has become easier than learning the answer itself.”

“People in general are very adaptable to the needs of the times. While transition is not painless, each generation tends to adapt and improve. What generation in the past has not been the subject of concern from the previous generation?”

“As an educator, I see that rather than critical thinking skills and search strategies leading young people to information, they rely instead on the algorithms developed by computer programmers that yield the most convenient, accessible, or popular information on a topic. While this discovery itself is not bad, the steps of the research process—and their importance—have been forgotten. Increasingly, teens and young adults rely on the first bit of information they find on a topic, assuming that they have found the ‘right’ answer, rather than using context and vetting/questioning the sources of information to gain a holistic view of a topic. Discusses based around Internet content tend to be pithy, opinion based, and often only shared using social media with those who will buttress—rather than challenge—political, ideological, or artistic beliefs.”

“I started teaching in 1964. Students could write and express their thoughts well. That no longer seems the case.”

“I think this is a very researchable topic with the new techniques for brain study. It would be great to have more real facts about this issue as it is an important one for scholarship and society.”

“Digital natives will develop new ‘high-tech’ communication skills that will supplement their traditional ‘low-tech’ communication skills. New digital users (second-generation users) can also develop these advanced communication skills without diminishing their traditional communication competencies.

“People adapt to technologies. To say that the results will be negative is similar to those dire predictions during counter-culture movements. Nothing bad has happened so why now?”

“I lean toward the belief that ‘fast-twitch’ wiring among today’s youth generally leads to more harm than good. Much of the communication and media consumed in an ‘always on’ environment is mind-numbing chatter. While we may see increases in productivity, I question the value of what is produced.”

“Teens and young adults in 2020 may well be less socially, economically, and politically capable in some ways than their forebears, but rapid access to information via the Internet is not the culprit. The Internet merely serves as the memory of society, taking on (to some extent) the roles filled by elders and libraries in earlier cultures. The problems of the young are traceable not to the ease with which information can now be recalled but rather to their difficulty in knowing when information is needed, what information to recall, and what to do with the information they get. Inability to think critically, to distinguish the significant, valuable, and authentic from the trivial, degraded, bogus, and deliberately deceptive, is the real affliction of society in 2020, and the Internet is not to blame for this growing incapacity.”

“As always, two-value predictions are frustrating. What I’d say is answer A, but re-framed as, ‘Just as the printing press was pressed into service for less introspective and more networked modes of cognition, with the help of institutional prostheses like peer review and published correspondence, so new modes of massively networked collaboration will be developed to balance the negative effects of distraction, as we are already seeing with massively collaborative mathematics, or the development of open source software.’”

“There’s a real tendency to overstate the negative impact of Internet technologies in a way that causes us to miss their benefits and also see everyday folks as being duped or having a kind of false consciousness. It’s important to be vigilant for negative impacts of these technologies, but also not to cast the future in negative terms.”

“I chose the first selection because it falls on the side of a future where happiness, communication, and learning can fuse with technology to better the world. I am not a doomsayer. However, even choice one changes the world; we will not step through to the future without recognizing and dealing with the impact of technology tools. We may blame technology, however it is easy to see that it is not technology but human actions that create and define our society.”

“The advantage of learning how to gather information outweighs the drawbacks of lack of instant socialization.”

“The world is becoming more complex and the young need to learn how to deal with it.”

“It will be a mixed bag and neither of these statements effectively takes into account the likelihood that either set of outcomes may be unequally distributed throughout the world’s population.”

“I don’t necessarily believe this is our society’s fate, but it is possible that our current education system will not adapt to new technologies, tools and ways of thinking, resulting in these negative outcomes. This stresses the urgency of changing how we teach youth in formal education settings. We must adapt our teaching strategies to incorporate new technologies, tools, and social media that align with future careers and youths’ interests and ways of learning, while also pushing students to use technologies for high-level thinking.”

“Actually I’d have chosen something in-between, but I think the outcome will be somewhat closer to the first choice.”

“I come down on the side (I’m well over 35 at the moment) of negative outcomes because most convincing studies I’ve seen, plus my own observational experience, put the lie to multitasking in the first place. I’m not at all convinced that search, while necessary, is sufficient for answering ‘deep’ questions. There will always be people who use the tools at hand more effectively but there is no reason to believe this will be widespread.”

“As a cognitive neuroscientist, I do not choose the first scenario because I accept the evidence it rarely leads to improved results, but rather the opposite, and I think the wording of the second is wrong because aside from wasted effort on multitasking, I do not accept the dire results that are listed. I am confident brains will change, but not confident in what ways.”

“Many websites that search engines find do not have content that is capable of providing ‘deep engagement.’ The economics of the Internet will continue to make it more profitable to show a small amount of content along with a bunch of ads. Strong content is expensive to produce and hard to make money on. People will get used to consuming information in small short factoids. It is hard to string all the factoids together into an understanding of the bigger picture.”

“The basic problem I see is a growing inability to focus in depth on any one issue or problem, to plan in depth, or to execute over time. Seems to bode ill for getting things done.”

“The brain has dynamic limits that are a protection to the system. The capitalists’ illusion of an endless brain capacity (and its productive results) is nothing more than a myth. Multitasking raises productivity at a level, but beyond that it produces stress and disperses attention.”

“Human beings generally adapt in positive ways to their changing environments.”

“The explosion and availability of information created each day only widens our knowledge of various subjects and does not deepen them.”

“There is little evidence to back up the suggestion that teens/young adults’ brains are ‘wired’ differently in any biological way as the word suggests. However, those who have greater knowledge of information and communication technologies have an advantage; I view this as a positive thing.”

“The changes will be profound on a cognitive level, but I do not agree to the either positive or negative way of thinking. I’m afraid that right now the outcomes seem to be rather negative (despite of positive effects such as the Arab revolutions or the indignant ‘Occupy’ movement).”

“To make profound discoveries, it is crucial to have a wide breadth of knowledge in order to understand the context of your specialty. As more information is created and shared faster and faster it would be impossible to maintain a coherent world-model without advanced multitasking skills.”

“Asking about how brains are being ‘wired’ differently is absolutely undefined. The Reeves and Nass book The Media Equation shows that people respond to computers much like they do to people. Social norms about whether it is polite to cut off a face-to-face conversation for a phone call may change, but ‘wired’ differently? I don’t think so.”

“I have been working with teens in the high school setting for over 20 years and I am very worried for our future generations with the advent and ubiquity of ‘instant and constant connectivity’ to everyone. The description in the second scenario is what I see on a daily basis. Evolution is too slow for our brains to adapt to this new paradigm by 2020. Every day I see young people becoming more and more just members of a collective (like the Borg in Star Trek) rather than a collection of individuals and I firmly believe that technology is the cause. I also believe that this phenomenon, which is at first merely seductive, eventually becomes addictive and is going to be very difficult to undo.”

“The use of Internet is one of the best things ever happened to humankind. But the use without proper education is probably going to make young adults sheep. They are just using the Internet without learning how to do it properly, without learning to filter what they read, without learning the real meaning of checking more than once what you read or see. This will result in development of the Internet as the greatest propaganda tool ever created. It’s our responsibility to teach young ones the importance of personal relations rather than Internet ones. But unfortunately there are no ‘teachers’ today for the proper use of the Internet. The results in ten years will be catastrophic if we don’t do anything.”

“Our brains won’t be wired that differently in so short of a time. But our behaviors can change in response to our environment. If we’re brought up in an always-on society, I think we adapt to that. I also think that’s positive overall, because that’s the environment we’re living in.”

“Among my own peer group today (the young adults), much more attention is given to the topic-of-the-day than to deep, philosophical/moral issues, and I don’t see this trend reversing. There’s a decent chance something could come around in the next five years to create radical social and cultural change the world over, but it’s hard to predict what and even harder to expect it on a short timeframe when the competition has trillions of dollars at their disposal to prevent such radical change from happening.”

“It will have positive and negative effects, but I think the balance will tip toward the negative, as water goes in the path of least resistance. It’s pretty hard to focus and sustain one’s attention and deep concentration and reflection. It will get even harder for those who grow up in a soundbite, short social message culture.”

“The challenge is that we could teach these growing children to use their brains to the best effort, but schools won’t adapt to teaching such skills. In fact, the hard-core lack of using this technology in the classroom is what makes this a negative outcome.”

“The way the next generation will handle and use the Internet will depend upon the social environment they grow up in. It’s the same as for TV: if parents do not care to educate their children to use the TV responsibly, it’s harmful. Otherwise TV is a great invention to broadcast information quickly and support freedom of speech. It is not possible for young people to ignore the Internet. They have to learn how to use it to find a good job. In general I’m positive about the development of the Internet as something that is helpful and makes life easier.”

“Young adults are still young adults. Young adults are comfortable with a superficial use of computer and Internet-based tools. They sometimes use the tools to find answers to deep questions, but may also spend more time engaged in frivolous activities than we adults might wish. Has the use of the Internet transformed young adults into human beings with more knowledge of the world? Are today’s young adults more caring, compassionate than young adults at any other time in history? Are they making better decisions on a day-to-day basis than young adults at any other time in history? Based on my observations I say the answer is ‘no.’”

“It is likely we will have a mix in our society in these respects: very talented multitaskers and very shallow ones. The crucial variable in determining the fraction of each will be how society adapts to the impact of new technology such as tweeting, social networks, and ubiquitous Internet. As well, whether the new technology morphs in ways that reach out to personal social engagement and focus nurturing.”

“To be honest, I can’t really say with certainty that I think outcomes will be positive, but I certainly don’t think that overall young people’s use of technology will have negative consequences for society. We need to be more worried about how search engines and other tools are being increasingly controlled by corporations and filtering the information we all access.”

“In 2020 the brains of multitasking teens are not ‘wired’ differently—both of the above scenarios are making a particular to some extent baseless assumption that there will be substantial changes in learning behavior and cognition in just under a decade where we already know that changes in such things are on a much slower process. The Internet is not a magic pill and neither is technology—changing us without our own accord.”

“I don’t believe in the Internet idea of ‘multitasking,’ there is work showing it isn’t true, and I don’t believe that the training the human brain might receive by hours of Internet use will actually wire it any differently than if people were doing hours of any other thing.”

“Long-form cognition and offline contemplative time will start to be viewed as valuable and will be re-integrated into social and work life in interesting and surprising ways.”

“There is already evidence of an impact on how the brains of teens and young adults are wired, with rapid cycling through tasks being one result. Whether this produces baleful or helpful results in the long run depends in part, I think, upon the focus of the educational environment in which they are raised. To the extent that quick, test-oriented results are inculcated as the objective, the results may indeed be baleful, as speed rather than understanding of meaning and substance are rewarded. To the extent that critical thinking is fostered, and stress is placed on learning how to evaluate the materials that are located in order to promote the ability of young people to identify biases and the essential value of the material, I think that the results may be beneficial or benign. Ideally, a balance will promote the use of technology to promote the pursuit of knowledge without eroding the development of understanding. In fact, I think we will achieve muddled results. Some young people will be more adept at finding the answers to deep questions, and will be able to locate essential material quickly. Others will be distracted and distractible, but impoverished social skills will only be a product of the failure of schools (particularly early education) to promote healthy play and interaction. As it is now, distraction during online activity (e.g., research) is often tied to social communication.”

“People will adapt to technology and use it effectively. But there are risks to the overuse of technologies that promote brief, impersonal interactions. The key will be to ensure that their environments provide deeper and more complex interactions with others.”

“Teens’ adeptness with finding information will lend to positive outcomes with respect to problem solving. Now, whether on balance this style of learning lends itself to positive or negative outcomes depends on whether these tools lead to better decision-making. For better decision-making to ensue requires a lot of non-tech work in the fields of education and digital literacy, which do not necessarily require lots of investment (of time or money) in technology.”

“My answer is the first scenario but it will not happen without training and adult engagement. The other interesting thing is that it’s not a matter of ages and stages anymore. Piaget or any other child development person would have said that a 2-year-old should be pushing a ball, not playing Beethoven on an iPad. Some of the early maturation in the physical sense has been attributed to hormones in food. So what is the catalyst for earlier development of digital skills? Left uneducated about the digital life, the outcome by 2020 is more likely to be ADD distraction, but with practice at ferreting out information across collective intelligence we’re closer to answer one. The answer, as usual, is in our own hands.”

“You can’t convey more than superficial information in 140 characters.”

“I don’t think brains are going to get rewired in 2020. What will happen is that habits for use of information will change. If current trends are projected, we should expect to see less critical thinking and more messaging that resembles headlines rather than thoughtful reflection.”

“The Internet is a research tool and a communications medium. While it is true that some individuals find it hard to incorporate the Internet into the broader context of a healthy lifestyle, I believe most individuals are sensitive to different styles of communication and the need for using the different tools available to them in appropriate ways to obtain useful results. The underlying human and physical realities of life do not change on anything like the timescales of Internet evolution, and it is therefore natural that young people learn over time that the Internet and the modes of communication it affords have their place within a wider social construct.”

“I’m not aware of any evidence that shows that people’s brains are ‘wired’ differently as a result of exposure to the Internet. Certainly, they are more familiar with the tools, and may use them in different ways than those with less exposure, but nowhere have I seen anything but unsubstantiated claims that it changes the thinking process itself, no matter what people think.”

“Technology continuously changes how we interact with and operate. Consider the mass production of books, which also dramatically changed how we learned and operated and was also demonized for it. There is little doubt now that the mass production of print was a turning point for human culture, and I consider the change occurring today to be no different. The changes in human ‘wiring’ are merely a continuation of a process that has been in motion since our ancestors first began to make tools.”

“In order to be able to find answers to deep questions, a significant amount of deep thought should be spent on considering them. Constantly changing work/family/social contexts will prohibit teens from taking the necessary time and they will only be able to rely on finding other people’s answers on the Internet. This in itself is not bad, except that many newly arising questions may remain unanswered.”

“The young generation seems to be moving away from real life, toward a virtual life, tempted to the social networks and entertainments belonging to the virtual world.”

“I am a college professor and new media enthusiast—within reason. I welcome the opportunity for all sorts of information to be easily available to the public, but I do feel that digital media contribute to a decline in traditional literacy—seen most obviously in less-than-stellar students—and I also feel that they contribute to shortened attention spans, shallowness in critical thinking, and a decline in civil discourse. Many, many times I feel that the right to go online should be as licensed and controlled as the privilege of operating a car.”

“As a middle school educator, I am hopeful for the more positive speculation. Currently, my students act in the second mode, but I would hope maturation and reality imposes on them the need to learn to learn in a multi-input environment.”

“Kids now have higher IQ’s and faster brains. Taking the lead out of gasoline, paint, and solder has had a good impact. Having better brains and intelligence pays off as they mature. I believe it’s one reason the crime rate is so much lower with this generation.”

“The effects will be more telling than just the Twitterfication of that generation. There have been articles written about how they’re losing their sense of direction (who needs bearings when you have Google Maps or a GPS?). Who needs original research when you have Wikipedia? Why are we creating a multitasking world for ADD kids?”

“I don’t think the brains of students raised with technology are fundamentally different than those of adults who use technology. As a young professor, I find that students are more invested in finding a quick answer rather than delving into deeper issues and exploring contradictions and shades of grey.”

“I have been engaged in the intersection of politics, law, and technology for several years. I have noticed an increasing weakness of critical, synoptic thinking. Perhaps this is simply the normal change of perspective by aging observers as they look upon a younger generation. However, I have found a significant lack of historical or cultural knowledge that would help the next generation of Internet governors avoid Satayandra’s observation that ‘those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.’ My sense is that this lack of broad knowledge may arise more from the de-emphasis of a broad-based liberal arts education and the emphasis of narrow scientific/technical education than it does from the Internet itself.”

“I chose the first option primarily because the second is reminiscent of all hand-wringing over the detrimental effects of new media. The rhetorical ‘what about the children?’ is counter-productive and reactionary, which serves to negate any positive attributes of social networking, etc. That said, I don’t think that the Internet and text messaging are a utopian free-for-all, just that the positives outweigh the negatives.”

“No one knows what to look for without education outside the Net to help them navigate the Net. Kids today only benefit from search and database mining when they know the right questions. These conditions are under threat by the decline of public education and funding for the fundamental preparation that makes the potential of the Internet come alive for anyone.”

“We are still just beginning to understand how a teen’s brain reacts to technology and whether the brain is structurally capable of making the complex decisions necessary to navigate such a powerful device (see Gary Small’s iBrain). So my response is based more on optimism than hard evidence or facts.”

“Overall, we will find this a win as new thinking styles often reveal new truths. I think we’re more likely to find problems in 2030 as we’ve mined this style of thinking.”

“Many young people, such as my graduate students, are used to five-word responses to messages, which isn’t terribly helpful.”

“It is always true that younger generations invariably adopt newer social and technical techniques earlier.”

“Multitasking has more to do with cultural backgrounds than technology. Uneducated grocers in Asia are better multitaskers than modern highly educated youngsters.”

“I don’t think the Internet causes brains to be ‘wired differently.’ I chose the ‘positive outcomes’ scenario because the ability to multitask and find information quickly generally outweighs the negative effects of too much distraction. I also think people are not as good at multitasking as they think they are—students who claim to be able to check email and Facebook and shop online while paying attention to a lecture are deluding themselves.”

“We have just held a superb symposium at Melbourne University for 200 students (from 32 countries around the world) to launch the Global Interdependence Movement. Check out the website, and especially the students’ insights into the meaning of interdependence:

“Both answers can and very well probably are correct to some extent, but it is my hope that the first one is the most common.”

“People of all ages are adjusting to a world where ‘facts’ are immediately discoverable, and judgment between ‘competing’ facts becomes a primary skill. I remember a college roommate who could ‘out-fact’ us all in his primary areas of interest, and hard thinking about whether that that ‘rote memory’ would be a valuable skill into the future or not. I think the answer is that is it is not, but what replaces it is still pending. Analytical skills are much harder to measure than memory (although I believe this is not impossible). It will require time for all of us, especially institutions as resistance to change as our educational ones, to adjust.”

“A better answer falls in a grey area between the two choices. Youth appear to be comfortable with technology and, as a consequence, are using technology to do work-related tasks and find answers. What is lacking are analytical and decision-making skills—oftentimes youth don’t know what to do with the information they have.”

“I suspect that it takes more than a decade to ‘rewire’ how we process thoughts, relationships, and information.”

“I hate to have to choose between two bipolar answers, because life isn’t really like that. There will be positive and negative outcomes from the integration of technology into teenage potential. But I have to come down on the more negative side (though I’d see it as more like 60-40 than 75-25) because the introduction of technology doesn’t appear to have an particular impact on critical thinking and analysis skills, and in fact, may lead the tech-savvy and well-integrated into a false sense that they are making better decisions because of their access to online datasets and the tools to manipulate them, when that won’t necessarily be true.”

“The ‘different wiring’ will take more than nine years to be easily adapted and merged into our society in a seamless way. If the statement had said 2090, I probably would have chosen the first choice. However, nine years is not enough time not only for multitasking teens and young adults to hone these skills to be used to an advantage in business and job markets, but also for our society to change and evolve to the point where such behavior is not only acceptable, but also supported and inherently integrated into our day-to-day lives. It will take the cycle of another generation for some of the difference of opinion, stigma, and ‘get offa my lawn’ mindsets to peter out. That said, there will still always be some throwbacks—if I live until 2090 you can be damn sure I’ll still have my print book collection, and not be reading on some e-reader. :) “

“First, I do not believe that brains will be ‘wired’ differently within the next decade. Any patterns of behavior distinguishing generational cohorts will be a product of changing values, customs, and practices rather than biological changes. Also, I have great faith in the capacity of human beings to adapt. Modes of information gathering and communication may change, but basic drives for answers to large, existential questions are a constant for human beings.”

“The pervasiveness of the Internet has two effects. One negative effect is that the ability to quickly search and scan for popular information tends to short-circuit the critical thinking process. In the Internet Age, it becomes much harder to focus and meditate on deep problems and their solutions. One positive effect is that improved communications tends to bring people closer together, even though they may be separated by great geographic distances. New technologies have yielded new ways to socialize and interact, and many of these interactions are beneficial. On balance, we gain connectedness but tend to get lost in the moment.”

“There are elements of truth in both statements but I think there is more truth to the former. Indeed, I see such differences between how young and older adults approach problem solving, interaction, etc., that I consider success of my work at risk if I don’t find ways to recruit and manage younger folks. However, with some of the advantages, I see some dangers as well—impatience, lack of understanding value of ‘deep trust,’ distrust/disdain for hierarchies and practices which are sometimes an important part of organization infrastructure, inability or unwillingness to engage in ‘deeper’ dialog about things that matter. Some of this is natural to young people—but may be exacerbated by quick search/quick response enabled by today’s online world.”

“I chose the second response because, as a teacher, it fits to what I see happening in the classroom every day. Because of the ability to have technology at our fingertips, teens no longer retain any information. Everything is now just ‘cut and paste.’ The only part of the answer I disagree with is the lack of social skills. I do not believe teens and young adults will lose personal interaction skills due to technology.”

“I see students at the college reaching for more superficial answers and not working to memorize anything because they feel they can look it up when they need to.”

“We need to find the good in how young people are engaging with communications media. Yes, maybe they are less able to memorize than previous generations, but do they really need to be? If they can find answers and synthesize the information available to them, why does it matter if the information is stored locally (in their minds) or elsewhere (online)?”

“We’ll see examples of both negative and positive outcomes as social media becomes the dominant form of media. Overall, social media will have a positive impact. The main issue I have with this scenario is the idea that young people’s brains will be ‘wired differently.’ Every generation has worried that a new media, from radio to cable, will upset social norms and ‘change the brains’ of young people. Indeed, this recurring worry suggests to me that perhaps we are ‘wired’ to fear that new forms of communication will changing our ‘wiring.’”

“Relationships and social skills are getting more and more crucial as societies move away from technical skill to service jobs and networked organization. I do not see a decrease in social skills among the young. Multitasking is part of this new environment; for me it entails a superficial layer and a deep layer where relationships are formed in one’s brain between previously unconnected ideas and thoughts. Thanks to information technology, we finally learned to fly.”

“The Internet provides a great resource tool but it will not provide the user with critical-thinking skills. That has to be taught by our schools and parents.”

“I don’t think their brains will be any different than they are now.”

“Most multitasking young adults think in shallow fashion. They cover multiple tasks, but none are deep.
I aint a technophob and i really hate it when Internet use is demonised for creating problem teens. I sincerely think that the Web can make a positive difference.” [The respondent chose to take an illustrative approach to this answer.]

“We are a highly social species. We are attracted to other people who are functional, if we are functional, and the reverse. There have always been tools that engaged the imaginations of people, sometimes in functional ways, sometimes not. Modern technologies have the potential to be used in highly functional ways, if we wish; or they can be used in ways that do not benefit the species or the planet that we inhabit. How people use today’s powerful tools is a choice. How families nurture their children—and thus how their brains are wired through nurturing—is a choice. How schools approach learning—and thus influence how brains are wired—is a choice. We can choose to be adept at learning more and finding deep answers to deep questions, if we are willing to make the effort. I am positive about the potential for beneficial outcomes of good nurturing practices—good wiring—in a modern idiom, because we can make choices. I am also enough of a realist to think that if people and the societies in which they reside are dysfunctionally anxious, depressed, overwrought, or uninformed about the challenges they face, then the choices they make or do not make in nurturing may not live up to the potential for good —for working together (collective intelligence), for exploration (deep analysis of big questions), for compassion (empathy for many complex points of view), for joy (appreciation of the simple, yet complicated beauty everywhere).”

“Technology and access to information in an online environment continue to help our society grow. Everyone I know feels that the increase in the amount of information we have is beneficial and helpful to us as individuals. I feel more intelligent when I spend time researching online, and I believe online communities help develop and regulate behaviour.”

“Those who are teaching the children who will be teenagers and young adults by 2020 are not all up-to-speed with the Internet, mobile technologies, social interfaces, and the numerous other technologies that have recently been made mainstream. There will be a decline for behavior and cognition until those of us who have grown up with this type of technology are able to teach the children how to correctly and productively utilize the advantages it presents us.”

“Although it is amazing to see the advances in technology there is too much information for the brain to process all at once. The brain losses some of the deeper thinking processes while trying to multitask. The value and importance to life of interacting face-to-face with other people cannot be stressed too highly. Relationship skills are so important to daily life that they cannot be neglected. In 2020 I think quick thinking and the ability to synthesize information briefly will be highly valued.”

“The effects of technology on today’s youth are headed down a dangerous path of instant gratification. I often compare it to the research done on the introduction of writing to ancient cultures—as they moved from verbal histories, where individuals could remember hundreds of intricate social and personal stories, to written histories, where individuals need only remember where to find a story when needed, individuals’ memory skills diminished.”

“The opportunity to retrieve any information instantaneously and track information (to-do lists, etc.) electronically means that individuals are not exercising their brains for memory tasks. This diminishes their ability to remember items in the future. Youth today seem to have this memory problem. They also are exhibiting problems with face-to-face social interactions. They have decreased critical-thinking abilities, and let their social networks think for them (this may be more a product of a failed educational system than technology). I expect these negative trends to continue, to the detriment of society. And, if a day comes when technology fails, then these new citizens won’t know how to survive in the world.”

“Teens of today will be able to do quick thinking and research but true analytical thought will be harder. I don’t think the changes have to be a bad thing, but I do think good things of today will be lost.”

“We have already experienced a similar change in human learning with the transition from a spoken to a written culture. We do not have evidence to support that this newest change in knowledge consumption and communication will result in a net-negative result. However, I can already see interpersonal conflicts, particularly in the workplace, as the two separate communication styles interoperate.”

“The skills that will be most highly valued in 2020 will be the ability to think outside the box and to write an intelligent sentence/paragraph/press release/etc.”

“I already see short attention spans similar to ADD in our younger employees just out of college. Very few of them take the time to peel the layers beneath a problem and examine it beyond the face value. They often have little ability to perceive what they might be doing socially awkwardly in the office and are more comfortable sending texts and emails rather than speaking to someone in person.

“The culture in which they have grown up supports their ability and need to multitask.”

“I am 67 but I think humans are quite adaptable and although we may function differently, we will function. I marvel that human beings can drive at speeds far faster than we can run but nevertheless have the reflexes to drive safely. Humans have made cognitive shifts in the past and will do so again.”

“Unfortunately, as an adjunct college faculty member, I had already been seeing this change a few years ago. Many of the younger students in my classes lacked basic critical thinking and research skills, instead believing that since it was published on the Internet, it was true.”

“I teach at the college level—have been for 12 years. I have seen a change in my students, their behavior, their learning, etc. Students do not know how to frame a problem or challenge. They do not know how to ask questions, and how to provide enough detail to support their answers (from credible sources). Technology is playing a big part in students not only not being able to perform as well in class, but also not having the desire to do so.”

“More communication and information with shared knowledge and values, will produce a more enlightened point of view.”

“The preoccupation with instantaneous results and the lack of foresight and planning will become more and more problematic. The wholly digital generation cannot concentrate on a difficult task. They rely on Google to answer questions, abdicating any original thinking to the cloud.”

“You are making me pick sides! This is too difficult.”

“We’re already seeing the negative effects of media over-exposure on the abilities of students to think creatively, solve problems, and give extended periods of attention to tasks and projects.”

“The results will be positive. I don’t think new modes of communication make humans not think as deeply; they do not make people interact with each other less well.”

“From working with some young adults recently it is obvious they are very good at searching the Internet for answers to questions. The problem arises when the answer isn’t there or it needs some deep thought to develop an original answer on ones own.”

“Each generation looks at its young and declares that we are at the end of civilization. It is prejudice.”

“The youth of today are exposing themselves to more information but are not turning the short bursts of data into knowledge very well. Their thinking seems to be much more compartmentalized than previous generations at the same age. This limits their ability to use what works in one situation, and apply pieces of it in a very different situation.”

“How can teens and adults learn to ask and answer ‘deep questions’ if they can’t stop and think deeply, even for a moment? What happens to them if the Internet goes down for a few hours?”

“They have been utilizing the Internet and social networks and multiple devices for most of their lives. It will be important to ensure that they can still write legibly and that they can still verbally communicate effectively.”

“Technology is a tool; everyone should be open to learning how other generations use the tools effectively.”

“I am not sure that teens’ brains are wired differently.”

“It’s a Catch 22. They have skills they need but will need to pick up other skills. Older folks have some of those other skills but need to pick up the tech skills. Young adults will have the deep-thinking skills if the interactive learning tools are used correctly.”

“In 2020, young adults will be significantly less capable of evaluating the sources of information they find on the Web. Teachers will have to focus much instruction time providing their students the tools to think critically about the information their Internet searches turn up for them.”

“This is just a variation on the age-old complaint that new ways of doing things are sending everything to hell. People have been adapting to new technologies for millennia—interactive is certainly causing cultural changes, as did the telephone, television, automobiles, printing, etc. To say that this is changing the fundamental nature of the brain is silly.”

“I am watching my 12-year-old son grow up with multiple devices almost always in his hands. I find that he is able to function at a very high level in how he interacts with others and in his schoolwork. His mom and I limit the amount of time we call ‘screen time’ however. We find that too much time staring at screens affects his mood. So we consciously try to force time away from technology.”

“Interactions will definitely be different as a result of kids growing up with all this technology at their fingertips. I don’t think this will result in less-smart children, but it will definitely result in children who learn differently than those who grew up without constant stimulation from technology.”

“I don’t think that teens will have ‘notable cognitive shortcomings,’ however I also don’t think that they will necessarily be learning more or be more adept at finding answers to deep questions unless a concerted effort is made to teach teens and young kids to learn how to search effectively, understand which sources are credible, and contribute constructively and appropriately online.”

“Teens and young adults will not be substantially better than their forebears at learning and making decisions. But neither will they be dramatically worse. Yes, it is true that lots of stuff online (which the 2020 context includes much of what we do online in a mobile or tablet type context) is a distraction, but we had plenty of distractions in a less device-rich age and dealt with the situation, as will our children and grandchildren. Obviously there will be that set that is driven to distraction, but that was also true in the past.”

“My biggest reason for selecting the more negative answer is because of the loss of social interaction and civility.”

“It seems only natural, as a part of evolution perhaps, that we increasingly rely on technology. When technology can perform functions that our brain formerly did, we no longer need to devote energy into the cognition of those functions. This is positive mostly, and the only negative side of this is the threat of the entire infrastructure of technology breaking down. But, this seems vastly unlikely. Thus, in 2020, it’s most likely that creativity will be valued most as this is one of the last things that machines continue to lack.”

“I am an optimist with faith in the deeper motivations of our species to learn, acquire understanding, and be challenged.”

“It will not be better or worse, just different. As a member of Gen X, I am probably more like the younger teens because my family was very pro-technology and my friends are pro-technology, I live in San Francisco, and my work focuses in large part on social media. I often can get a lot more done than less pro-tech friends because I know how to use search engines, stay on top of the latest gadgets and tools, am familiar with memes, and have a lot of resources (live and online) I can learn from or get to help me troubleshoot. I’m very good at skimming, collating, or combining information. But I also don’t bother retaining what I’ve learned or read, because it is so easy to just bring up the information again. I intentionally gravitate towards leadership roles that require overviews, not deep single-subject knowledge.”

“Those under 35 may have a more difficult time in the real world since they are often impatient, have a sense of entitlement, and often rely too heavily on their friends’ acceptance (number of Facebook fans, re-tweets, etc.).”

“Although the options are overly stark, the tendency for less critical thinking will likely increase. Whether the way people interact or education is the cause is probably part of the issue and not captured here. Still, searching for information in a vast sea of it is not as new as people think. As such, the idea that simply being used to information tools and using them to handle many things at once will yield critical skills seems facile.”

“I work in a research environment and see that even today that young people have very short attention spans and are not good at deep diving for information. I also see many surfing the Internet rather than being focused on their work. I can only imagine this will continue.”

“Young adults are conditioned to process information much more quickly than those 35 and over because most information delivery systems outside of traditional channels (TV, radio, print) are designed to provide snackable information that a person can quickly decipher.”

“The human brain has untapped capacity that will evolve in synch with changes in our environment.”

“We are seeing results of this issue in 2011. It has been said this is common: ‘I have 300+ friends on Facebook, so way am I so lonely?’ Social media allows us to hide or convey something that could be less than honest.”

“Human society has always required communication. Innovation and value creation come from deeper interaction than tweets and social media postings. Deeper engagement has allowed creative men and women to solve problems. If Thomas Edison focused on short bursts of energy, I doubt he would have worked toward the creation of the light bulb.”

“Young people will be more comfortable with multitasking and perhaps their brains will be wired differently. It will be a mixed bag, and in many cases will depend on the individual. I met a teenager once who declared to me that he was taking a ‘media break’ because he noticed he was spending too much time playing computer games and not enough time interacting with friends, getting outside, and so forth. This kind of mature self-reflection, which led me to a bit of self-correction myself, is probably pretty rare in most teens. But maybe not? If kids are taught to watch out for warning signs of information overload or addiction and learn the difference between online and offline connection, the second scenario will be far less likely.”

“From my experience teaching college undergraduates about information management and research skills, I fear that distractability is a most noticeable characteristic. In course blogs, students themselves bemoan their lack of face-to-face skills. Since I’m largely an optimistic person, I’m inclined to think that the actual scenario in 2020 will be somewhere between the two laid out above, with both positive and negative effects from their exposure to technology.”

“Today’s youth don’t possess the same interpersonal skills as youth from the past. They are accustomed to instant gratification. They may know how to find information quickly, but they don’t always know how to understand it because they lack the life experiences that older people possess. I can’t say that this produces generally negative outcomes as noted in the choice above, but it isn’t exactly positive either. We may not see the negative outcomes until beyond 2020.”

“The impact of technology on youth is likely to be positive as the sum is greater than the parts in so much as the Internet allows for collective intelligence. Being able to empathize, create, collaborate, and communicate are skills essential for 2020.”

“We are already beginning to see the short attention spans people have as well as their lack of overall knowledge about their world and local context. Just consider the dreadful state of political dialog in this country today. People are distracted from deep engagement and are solely interested in being entertained, most often by viewing the misfortune of others. Seriously, that’s what reality TV is all about.”

“It’s difficult to make broad statements about any age group, but by and large the youth of 2020 will be somewhat different than they are today. I don’t think this group will necessarily be ‘wired’ differently, but they sure will be more techno-savvy than today’s youth. The Internet will more than likely change dramatically during the next nine years as it has in the past nine years.”

“I can see differences in the multitasking capabilities of my own sons as they mature; future generations with even more access to (affordable) technology will drive productivity gains perhaps like those of the 1990s with a second wave involving pervasive technological penetration into every occupation. The downside is the growing digital divide that will further exacerbate the polarization of incomes and opportunities between lower and higher income households.”

“For the most part, people no longer memorize books, or even simpler things like phone numbers. People will still quest for knowledge, to understand where we are and why we are, but man knows too much to know much—as it’s been said—and it is hard to organize that to find answers easily and collectively.”

“I don’t feel that the way young adults are learning will generate outcomes that are categorically bad, but instead they will be different and thus cannot be labeled either bad nor good, so I err on the side of positive until proven otherwise. They will indeed gather information faster thus becoming more efficient and theoretically more effective at tasks however on a deeper analytical level the rate at which information is gather and processed might not translate to deeper understanding of the issue, or individualized analysis of situations.”

“These comments are obviously general, but the tendency of the quick fix—the films that now rely upon effects rather than a story line—the movement away from reading books—all point to this conclusion.”

“They learn more. They are better in cross-curricular activities. The problem is do they anymore read Tolstoy’s War and Peace?  The $10,000 question is: Are young ones in 2220 unable to concentrate on one subject for a long time?”

“Note that 35 seems too young an age to differentiate the ‘wired’ from the ‘non-wired’ a decade or so from now (35 might be an appropriate line of demarcation today). I already see evidence in my everyday interactions with those around me that the more ‘wired’ expect that every thought will fit neatly within a tweet. It must be short; it’s even better if it’s pithy. My concern isn’t that this limits depth of thought—the most elegant deep thoughts are the most concise. Instead, my concern is that it limits complexity of thought. It’s simply not possible to discuss, let alone form societal consensus around, major problems without lengthy, messy conversations about those problems. A generation that expects to spend 140 or fewer characters on a topic and rejects nuance is incapable of tackling these problems. Interestingly, this might create unique opportunities for those few who are able to embrace complexity.”

“If you have to work with any of them you will quickly see why the second is the more likely scenario. They do no contain/retain any information because they are beholden to digital repositories, which makes their complete thinking skills quite lacking.

“I have a good friend who teaches senior English classes in a public high school. She said it’s hard to get students’ attention because they are all sitting there texting their friends on cell phone/computers.”

“Teens and young adults today are better trained and have more experience to use higher technologies in research and communications than I am. Likewise, I’m more trained and experienced using these same technologies—including the Internet—than my parents, or even some of my peers. I don’t believe their brains are wired any differently or that they are any better or worse at multitasking. They are only better trained and more experienced at applying certain technologies in certain situations.”

“Though individuals may well become more adept at finding information through the proliferation of digital technologies this availability of information will not necessitate a development of critical thinking and close reading skills among individuals. This does not necessarily mean a decline in cognitive abilities of youths; however, neither does it mean a flourishing. Technology remains a tool that can produce either positive or negative outcomes among its users depending upon how it is utilized. On the whole, the proliferation of social media will lead to a decrease in critical thought aided by technology—not necessarily an overall decline in critical thought, given how easily one may use that same technology to distract one’s self.”

“There is a lot of public, and for me personal, evidence that the new ‘wiring’ improves literacy, numeracy, and general knowledge.”

“While I believe much of the ‘baleful’ scenario is true today, I am observing my teenagers making a natural progression to deeper engagement as they progress from early experiences with the Internet (say age 12) on up through early adulthood (my oldest is just 18 now). It’s true the Internet is fun, and there are many distractions. But I was distracted as a teenager too (it was before the Internet). We need to encourage them to make that progression and we need to model it ourselves. If you are a parent or teacher who can’t relate face-to-face, or who can’t think deeply, or is overly dependent on the Internet to function, time for you to grow up, too!”

“The data we have on failures of multitasking show unequivocally that most people cannot do more than one task at a time and that error occurs. The age of a cohort does not matter. The training (education) they are getting does not create the environment for ‘deep-thinking’ skills, etc. Thus, it’s not ‘capabilities’ or ‘changes in cognition’ because, while environments can alter evolutionary developments, it takes a good bit more time for this to occur. I also don’t think that their affective needs have changed: they do prefer face-to-face contacts, even though they spend a lot of time online. The problem is training in what is expected in terms of social skills. (After all, I can point to a lot of adults who have no social skills :-).”

“The multitasking would be productive were it balanced with critical thinking, analysis, and observation skills.”

“Both possible outcomes are premised on a fallacy. Social factors may result in these differing outcomes, but not changes in brain ‘wiring.’ As a college professor and parent, I see evidence of both positive and negative outcomes from technology use due to social and cultural factors.”

“As an instructor of college students, I see many students without the critical-thinking skills necessary for long-term success. I do not think that this is necessarily a consequence of the Internet and related technologies; but rather the pervasive nature of these technologies offers distraction from developing skills related to engagement and interpersonal interaction, which are still necessary for success in our society. We are in a transition period—though the Internet provides new ways to engage in the production of knowledge and offers resources for learning and cognition in new ways, we are still evolving from older models that emphasize the social aspects of activity. As with any change, the challenge is retaining the best of both worlds.”

“They will be more nimble and enjoy the access that is available to them interact with their peers, to see, hear, learn, observe, and be entertained—not necessarily in that order. They will have greater flexibility in the world of employment as well.”

“The change will not be a result of ‘wiring,’ but a result of available mediums. The proper forums have not been provided to teens to utilize their connectivity constructively. For example, if civic engagement had been taught and encouraged more vigorously in grade school, teens would be more willing to engage with political issues on a broader scale than before widespread Internet usage.”

“The Internet is a tool that we need to teach our young people to use productively and wisely. They must be taught about ethics and about information literacy. Studies have shown that while ‘digital natives’ think they can multitask effectively, they actually can’t. Positives: Internet as a tool for collaboration, networking, engaging learners with Web 2.0 tools that motivate. Negatives: Lack of knowledge of the ‘deep Web,’ thinking that you can find anything on Google. I’d go with the negative answer since we are spending less on education at this moment and we aren’t promoting deep thinking and higher-level skills—we’re teaching to the test. Public schools are cutting back on library media specialists who can train our young people to use the Internet in a healthy and safe way and to find good, credible sources of information. It all depends on our educational priorities over the next eight-plus years.”

“The ability of this generation to access unlimited information along with the ability to more effectively multitask will be positive. One of the major challenges to these realities will be for these folks to seek out and evaluate information and points of view that conflict with their view of the world. The intellectual skills that will be most valued will be critical thinking and their application to complex problems. The ability to work in teams will be a highly valued personal skill.”

“The Internet is not going away, and other forms of communication like letters, print books, etc., will continue to be less common. I am hopeful that the Internet will grow in ways that will continue to advance the human race and life on this planet, rather than compromise it. I think the second answer is possible—that the Internet will be overtaken by corporate interests and underutilized by organizations and agencies responsible for education, culture, etc.—but I am committed to working to incorporate technology in ways that benefit humanity, and its ability to connect us globally has enormous positive potential.”

“The benefits of the Internet outweigh the negatives in the case of teens and young adults. ‘Social,’ what does that mean? While many may not be able to accept that these young people are exploring ‘deep’ questions, I suspect they are much deeper than the questions I was getting into at their age. Young people back then maybe read a newspaper. Maybe you watched the evening news. Occasionally, maybe you went and got a book from the library on a topic that interested you. If this is the standard for a reasonable level of inquiry, then young people today are probably digging deeper. As with everything else, I imagine children of knowledge workers, who get a bit of guidance, probably far exceed the level of intellectual exploration achieved by their parents.”

“I particularly agree ‘they are more adept at finding answers to deep questions, in part because they can search effectively.’ I believe this to be one of most beneficial aspects of the Internet as it relates to young people. They are used to using the complex interfaces from childhood. It results in a brain better able to assimilate software structure, to organize and resolve complex problems more quickly and almost appear to be ‘wired’ differently than my generation. Positively, they will operate at a much quicker rate in terms of decision-making, analysis, and methodology than my generation. Negatively, they might be missing the sheer joy of play, of conversation, or quiet contemplative moments due to the interruptions of their lives by electronic communication.”

“Teens and young adults are adept at multitasking. If not stimulated or engaged, they get bored. It’s a difference in how they learn and interact, not what they learn or retain.”

“Basic intellectual and interpersonal skills that will be valued in 2020 are the same ones that are valued now: the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, presentation skills, teamwork, enthusiasm. Technology is a wonderful tool for executing things we hadn’t had the capability for previously, but it hinders the development of communication skills that are crucial to one’s ability to succeed in academic or work-related settings.”

“I do not believe either of these theories.”

“If teenagers send 3,000 text messages a month, that absorbs a great deal of time and psychic energy. I recall hearing an interview with Sherry Turkle on this matter. She talked about the social burdens involved in creating some of the content of this texting—you have to like the right bands, etc., so, in essence, you are exposing yourself with each text message to scrutiny by friends and—in some cases enemies—and, knowing teens, in some cases friends who become enemies.”

“Research indicates that due to new technology and multitasking teens are more engaged, are learning more, and are more adept at finding answers to deep 21st century issues.”

“I am hopeful brains will adapt in this direction.”

“Problems with this question relate to the concepts implied. The dynamics of communication and information technologies will cause new reformulations of cultural norms. Such historical process has the printing development as a precedent of a major cultural overhaul.”

“From my teaching I find more and more college students finding trouble in reading, listening, understanding directions, and comparing ideas. It is not wiring so much as change in education and culture, in my opinion.”

“While I do believe the ‘rewiring’ of the brain will be positive in some ways, we are already seeing the detrimental effects of technology on youth. Attention spans are shorter than ever, we live in a society that expects and demands instant gratification, and quality is generally sacrificed to meet artificial deadlines.”

“This is not just the product of technology—much of it is likely attributable to society’s demand for success and the fallacy of ‘everyone’s a winner’ motivations.”

“There’s always good and bad with any change. This one is inevitable, and—like most changes that have preceded it—it is feared but the outcome will likely be more measured.”

“Multitasking should enable teens and young adults to obtain a better understanding of the big picture. In theory, they should not be as siloed in their thinking as today’s adults and their collaborative efforts should yield greater returns. However, the lack of face-to-face social skills is troubling, especially as they need to develop relationships with older colleagues.”

“In the two options, the positive option seems like a trivial gain but the latter seems like significant loss, and more likely to occur. Perhaps over time a rebound will occur, in which society throws down its devices in yearning for richer immersion in human relationships and the world.”

“While technology is distracting it’s not permanently impairing cognitive functions.”

“There will be a resurgence of in-person connections as a balance to the online options. The way technology is being used will be different ten years from now in ways I can barely imagine, so it’s not productive to apply the way we use it today to a decade from now.”

“It will probably be somewhere in between the extremes. Their discernment of validity of information may be hampered by the sheer volume of information and the lack of in-depth knowledge on subjects and historical and cultural backgrounds. The ability to ‘read’ people’s intentions from body language, tonal quality, etc., may be even more critical for online relationships/meetings, etc. People will have figured out which things need concentrated effort and which can be multitasked.”

“The second option is more likely simply because the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are not ‘wired’ differently from those of us over age 35.”

“The impact of technology on teens is largely individual; that is, technology helps some to thrive educationally and others to thrive on entertainment.”

“People of that generation will lose the critical thinking and reasoning skills and will only be able to parrot information.”

“By the year 2020, educational techniques and models will have caught up to modern communications/information technology so that teens will have been trained and given the tools to self-teach themselves information finding and information evaluation techniques. They will be very adept at crowdsourcing the information they need to find.”

“They will have learned from the experience of their parents and grandparents that virtual reality is the Wikipedia of life, i.e., a starting point when they have no experience and are curious. They will rebel against their elders’ baggage of emotional detachment and continue in the trends of networks (social, academic, corporate) to seek resources that are cross-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, cross-cultural, etc. They will impact and drive information and communication technologies rather than the other way around, probing deeper into questions of birth, illness, aging, and death.”

“Technology is a tool. An individual who is skilled in the use of technology has learned to use this tool to his/her advantage just as prior generations mastered the use of their tools. In today’s world, we use tools to do our work more efficiently, obtain knowledge and skills, and connect with others without being bound by time and space. The adolescents and young adults of 2020 will grow up and develop in a world with information and technologies we have yet to even imagine. As such their brains will be more advanced than prior generations’. We are already seeing how adolescents who play video games with complicated navigational components develop more cells in the striatum and hippocampus regions of the brain— this can help enhance one’s performance of cognitive tasks. More research over the next few years will help to illuminate how other technologies are making a positive impact on the brain. It will be exciting to see the how the youth of tomorrow function as a result of the technology being developed today.”

“I see a positive impact on teens and young adults who seem to be able to manage and synthesize large amounts of data more effectively and faster than older people who get bogged down with information overload. The result is not superficial; they’re learning new ways to search for answers and easy access to a wide range of unique information resources has made research much more exciting.”

“By 2045, as Ray Kurzweil stated in Time magazine, ‘Mankind will go into the singularity mode.’ A young mind is like a sponge, always absorbing information. Technology is forever changing the human race. It’s up to parents to make sure their children are fully engaged.”

“The argument for the opposite effect is almost identical to those made against the introduction of writing and the spread of the printing press. Few would now argue that writing and reading haven’t changed our minds for the better; even those who do put this argument forward do it through writing to a reading audience. My only qualification depends on whether technology strengthens the executive or creative functions of future brains: if technology makes us all more like children developmentally and for longer, this will continue to differentiate us from the machine world that we’ll increasingly be embedded in.”

“This is a difficult either/or choice to make, especially because there is a class reality. Public school children in our larger cities frequently have no stability either economically or in day-to-day patterns of everyday life that create a gestalt in which it is possible to measure potential outcomes—of behavior, of the value of specific subject matter, even the basics of reading or math. Approval of whomever in their immediate circle of acceptance constitutes the primary use of the status-consciousness of the newest and best equipment. Here in the Philadelphia area, junior high or high school teens get into fights on the streets—in buses—wherever. Recently at the second or third bus stop down the road, parents with guns drawn were there to protect their kids’ turf as screaming teenagers rushed out the door. The bus driver suffered a gunshot wound. This isn’t a damnation of the potential power to access positive information or the use of technology, however our inner-city schools must teach the unique value of personal technology.”

“Information technology is facilitating the development of free and open societies around the world. Governments will find it harder deceive people now that websites like Wikileaks can expose corruption and hypocritical policies. Digitized communication makes everyone more vulnerable to surveillance. But as long as the Internet remains anonymous, people will be free to access information that matters to them, coordinate their activities with people anywhere in the world, and search for the truth. Net neutrality, education, access to technology, and information technologies training will be necessary in all professions by 2020. Even physicians, who are known for their clipboards and prescription pads (and privacy concerns), are transitioning to electronic health information exchange. Access to technology allows people to have relationships with people anywhere in the world. This makes it easier to identify with a global community of humans.”

“Susan Greenfield is wrong and a Luddite.”

“Neither answer is perfect. Of course, kids expend lots of time—too much—on activities such as texting, often at the wrong times. And they can’t write competently. But the new ‘wiring’ of today’s young people is appreciated too little for what it has the possibility of achieving: deeper learning in groups, reaching quickly in many directions. Guidance and encouragement from principled leaders with open minds is needed for this generation to reach its potential. Instead, we are boring them to tears with our old ways and wasting capital on our dedication to mediocrity and war.”

“I graduated from a well-known liberal arts college in 1977. There, I had been taught to take time to think, to learn about the world and to communicate verbally and in writing. Conversation with one’s fellow students consisted of sophisticated dialog, at times debate, applying knowledge to hypothetical situations that were complex mental constructs, not diagrams on a Web page. Discussion lasted hours, not minutes, becoming increasingly absorbed in the depth and breadth of the subject. To take exams, I was permitted a 3 x 5 index card containing handwritten facts, not a Palm Pilot. The purpose of this was to jog my memory so that I could write about the facts in an organized fashion. Sadly, such a scenario does not exist today nor will it in the future. The sum of knowledge is available to be googled with a couple of keystrokes—why bother learning it, truly committing to memory which would encode new neurons? The servers at Google and Bing are where this extensive neural network, or its electronic facsimile, resides. A single crash could obliterate all that humanity ever experienced, in a blink.”

“Teens are optimistic. The cynicism and corruption of later years has not polluted their thinking.”

“Every technological improvement in communication media has been cited as destructive of memory and attention, going as far back as Plato in the Phaedrus dialogue. While true that different media bring different levels of stimulation, I believe that it is far too negative to simply conclude that different will result in a negative outcome. Additionally, the second statement clearly falls into the bias that most have of youth, in any generation, at any time, and yet society persists.”

“I am observing this shift in my own behavior and it is much less fulfilling than the way things used to be.
We all do one thing at a time, but swap from one to another task very quickly. Teens have many more stimulus and opportunities to swap tasks than those over 35. It could also be that older people have matured and have no need to be doing as much swapping. Social media has changed things, but it seems too early to decide about the medium as to long-term effects. There is confounding evidence about attention span, face-to-face social skills etc. It is too early to tell.”

“I don’t believe that people truly multitask or that young people are becoming less capable of contemplation and deep thought.”

“My perception is that the ever-widening socioeconomic gaps in American life are promoting youth involvement with cheap, somewhat flashy technologies, instead of an involvement with education, thinking, etc. Young people are seduced by the entertainment available on their phones, tablets, etc., and they are not encouraged to seek more cerebral pursuits. Those who are financially able to seek higher education and college/university educations are more likely to learn new behaviors (such as critical thinking) and will be better able to use their own brains instead of their game machines.”

“As a college student in a media program, I think the first scenario is overly positive, but I prefer to think well about our future, rather than negatively. The Internet enables us to communicate more directly with people everywhere and although I think most of us have a tendency to congregate (whether physically or in mediated space) with people who are similar to us, for those individuals who are curious and open the Internet offers huge potential to explore the world and ideas. As the older generation however, we have a responsibility to encourage our children to be open and curious and to think critically about all that we encounter in our lives. And we need to encourage literacy. Our children also need to be able to write with their hands and to hold and read a book and concentrate only on it.”

“As a teacher, I am concerned about behaviors I see in the classroom. Students are ‘skittering’ across the surface of issues when they research them on the Internet. After 21 years of teaching I see behavior that is very different from what I have seen in the past.”

“I live this every day at work. The rise of the text message has impaired the ability to write.”

“The quick-hit production and consumption of the Internet is not conducive to contextual or analytical thinking. Younger people can only develop these skills by other means: in school and studying high-level subjects such as law. These high-level thinking skills are important to everyday problem solving. Somewhere, sometime, a balance must be struck to fully exploit the Internet’s possibilities while nurturing the skills necessary for a high-functioning personal and professional life.”

“As a college student, I think the two situations given here are a little polarized. By and large, the youth of tomorrow are savvy enough to make wise judgments about the Internet and behave appropriately.”

“It has been shown that people are not good multitaskers. Technology has not and will not change that.”

“Not all youth are the same, and skills, learning abilities, and ability to wisely utilize the Internet are neither widely researched nor homogenous. There are however, likely to be pockets of youth whose ability to multiskill and utilize the Internet effectively is improved by 2020.”

“Creativity and the ability to manage complexity will be the most highly valued intellectual and personal skills in 2020.”

“Some will take advantage and get deeper insight on the world and others will lose their time in getting empty meaning messages on social networks. The real answer is that the divide will not be between those who have access and those who haven’t. It will be between those who get the best out of it against those who lose their time. Of course in 2020 a very big part of the world will still be out of the system—mainly Africa.”

“The Internet is providing us with an amazing resource of information, but we are losing our ability to process ourselves. Multitasking is great, but we’ll lose our ability to do it well. We’ll engage with technology more and with humans less or in a less meaningful way.”

“My children are three college-educated Gen Xers. They can find out anything they want at any time they want.”

“The key is to be curious and self-motivated. Those who are curious and self-motivated will create the first scenario and those who are not taught to seek information, to question, to be analytical will more likely be living in the second scenario. In many ways, I don’t see it being tremendously different from the current population’s social behavior.”

“I would expect the positive scenario to be closer to the norm by 2020, but I’d expect there to be elements of both scenarios. Health and social issues will continue to increase along with productivity.”

“In my experience observing the young, they spend most of their time on social networks rather than searching for and researching important educational information. Very little cross-checking or source checking. They accept information and don’t develop information.”

“I’m watching this happen already. I’m a college professor and it seems clear to me that the attention span of my students in the classroom is getting shorter. Many students seem addicted to their cell phones and can’t be away from them for 45 minutes in class. When I ask them to turn them off, they get angry and sometimes refuse. Let me be clear that technology has helped us in many ways, and I love email and Facebook too. But today’s students seem dependent on it in a way that is unhealthy.”

“They want instant gratification. Everything must work like Google (immediate results, even if they are not all useful), and they become frustrated when tedious research is required. They think they can search the Internet and find answers, but they do not really know how (this also applies to adults).”

“The brain is the same, but the virtual educational tools are more compatible to it than any others developed before.”

“While at first thought it may seem that teens and young adults are becoming disconnected from society, recent events seem to indicate otherwise. The uprsings in the Middle East and northern Africa were facilitated by today’s technologies—connecting people to a cause. This type of exposure, in real-time, is unprecedented. The ability to understand an issue through a variety of viewpoints—even if it’s about a celebrity’s latest antics—is powerful.”

“Such gathering of information cannot be done solely by in-person interaction. Today and going forward, it’s about one-to-many interactions. I think back to my teen years—pre-personal computers—and watching televised news of the Vietnam War. Each night during dinner, we’d watch Walter Cronkite and learn about the latest offenses and shifts in progress and elements of that war were brought into our household. We were informed and it prompted discussion and thought. Today, the information and discussion is online.  And yes, it’s a deluge of information coming at a teen or young adult. Watching my teen sons, they are able to filter and get out from behind the technology to have a face-to-face discussion of what they’ve found online. Are their second-by-second texts deep and thought provoking? No. But, can they view and share YouTube videos of peers from across the world and note that there are some amazing things that are outside the U.S.? Yes.”

“Neither answer reflects my view; I chose the more optimistic viewpoint.”

“When applied to a specific individual, either of these scenarios might emerge. For example, one individual who is shy might use the Internet to avoid social contact, while another will learn valuable skills there that will enable him/her to overcome reticence.”

“It will be somewhere in between. It is more about access than skill. Students who have access are much more likely to use the Internet to its fullest intent, but we have many students in our community whose only access is at school. They may learn about searching and problem solving, but without the environment to support it, there is no follow-through.”

“I do not see many positives about this transformation. Since most of social life consists of interaction, the losses in personal skills will lead to social psychological dispositions that will inhibit collaboration, facing criticism intelligently, self-reflection, empathy, and all the other aptitudes encapsulated by the concepts of emotional and social intelligence. The intellectual skills that will be valued in 2020 will include the ability to quickly navigate through a sea of information (most of which is irrelevant) and detect the piece one needs.”

“Anyone, of any age, can change the way they work and think. While it’s more likely that younger generations will be more agile with new technologies because they have grown up with them, all people can learn to use new technologies. This has been true throughout history. My grandmother grew up without a telephone, auto, radio, or TV, yet she came to know, love and use these devices in a familiar way every day. So too, can I or anyone else should we choose to do so. Young people (especially teens) have always been distracted by multitasking. Truthfully, many adults also are easily distracted. I see 50-year-old men driving fast sports cars erratically in the left lane while texting just as often as I see teens doing the same (in lesser vehicles, of course). Humans are wired for distraction. We evolved to notice the sound of a rustle in the leaves, or a strange paw print in the dirt. It’s the ‘lizard brain’ the amygdala, that keeps us alive. However, we have free will to choose how and when we respond to stimuli. Youth today, like youth of the past, just needs boundaries and mentors to lead them, to help them learn how to focus their energies on a path that matters.”

“The brains of teens and young adults will, overall, allow for more positive than negative contributions, but teaching must adapt to the new ‘brain.’ Teens and young adults do not learn the way we learned, so the entire educational enterprise must change if we are to reap any benefits from the next generation. First, do away with mandatory testing–do we really think that someone who scores highly on a mandatory test more educated than someone who does not score as highly? Second, let’s put our money where our mouths are—back teacher education, not just testing teachers. If I hear again how teachers protect teachers, even bad teachers, I’ll scream. Do something about it.”

“The ability to search for information is something the younger demographic does quite well. The ability to multitask is imperative in today’s workforce and can actually be a selling point when interviewing for jobs. With that being said, the older demographic will need to ‘retool’ and teach themselves new ways of keeping up with the fast-paced times. It’s not getting any slower, and one will need to work to stay in the race.

“Multitaskers will be better at certain things but, as Sven Birkerts points out, with every gain comes a diminution. Socrates, in the Phaedrus, was right when he lamented the loss of the mental powers that come with the change in culture. In retrospect we appear to have come to value the gains of the written culture as more than even compensation, but that doesn’t mean we have not lost something. So multitaskers will be different, but they will still get things accomplished.”

“Advancements in general will be youth-driven.”

“I doubt the picture of the 2020 young adult will be quite so substantively different. Certainly, they will have much greater practice at multitasking, and having grown up in the Web 2.0 era with high-speed and ubiquitous mobile access, social media, and the cultural encouragement to collaborate, they will be as conversant with accessing online information as previous generations were using encyclopedias. This will free them to consider how to better apply the information.”

“The younger population today is indeed wired differently than older generations, but most in their desire and ability to be unafraid of technological change. They do not inherently have superior searching skills that I’ve seen, but are more receptive to learning those skills. With the right guidance from peers and academic support structures, the positive scenario can become reality.”

“Evolution responds to changing environments and needs. Evolution doesn’t make a judgment call or instill a value on whether it should change—only people do that. So people may think that multitasking is inherently a bad thing, but there’s nothing biologically bad about it. Our ancestors used to not have opposable thumbs, but they needed them. So our ancestors evolved to have opposable thumbs. Evolution doesn’t worry about whether it is good or bad to have them. Our bodies will catch up with our technology—as they always have—and it will be a good thing. There may be some growing pains. People always yearn for their mistaken memory of the good ol’ days. But eventually an ability to multitask may expand our neural capabilities so that we can continue to have deep conversations and suffer no cognitive shortcomings during multitasking. Obviously, this will take time, and I’m honestly not sure that 2020 is soon enough for this type of change. But ultimately I believe that basis of evolution is to preserve the species to propagate itself. So change is inherently good.”

“While teens in 2020 will be able to multitask and sort through tons of information much more quickly than we do now, I don’t think it will have an 100% positive effect on their learning behavior and cognition. As we are already experiencing now, their attention span and ability for deep intellectual thinking will deteriorate considerably.”

“I worry about the ease in avoiding ‘boredom’ and the quieting that minds must come to terms with in an unstimulated space. We can keep speeding up and distracting ourselves without pause, in the multitasking environment. This leads to exhaustion and overstimulation. Television also does this. There is also the development—simultaneous to the ‘speeding up’ of lifestyle and access to information—of an increasing interest on many levels with the benefits of meditation. This will help to counteract the negatives of hyper-engagement online.”

“My observation of young people with their electronics has been watching game playing, Facebooking, and other non-essentials. They are depending on the instrument for everything. I have even laid in a hospital bed awaiting some one to answer my call while they were texting outside my door.”

“In addition to youth there are many adults who are being re-wired by immersion into/with the Internet and collaborative sites. This being said, I agree that Internet users are adept at multitasking and job-switching. They are learning a broader sense of knowledge and information (instead of deeper) and are comfortable sifting and parsing through a significant information dump of data. These growths are positive since our future society/world will depend upon a broader sense of community and a shared sense of knowledge-making and information collaboration.”

“I teach undergraduates at a university and today they do not seem to be as engaged generally with the concerns of society, community, and so on as those of years past. They have an ideology of appearance, trends, and not caring—their idea of cool is more ironic than irony itself. Most seem to be focussed on the individual, and they see joint work as time-wasting. Of course, most college-age students change as they get older, but if these trends are any indication, the grounding of a general education will be lacking. So, while they may be able to access ‘facts’ more efficiently, I do not believe their brains will be better able to process this information, relate elements together, synthesis new ideas or realise real relationships. The ability to integrate and critically evaluate such facts is important, and is not part of ‘multitasking.’”

“Teamwork: If today’s young people focus nearly always on a screen, interpersonal methods of communicating will be limited and so, too, the ability to work with others as part of a team.”

“Multitasking will improve. I can see retention as a negative. In 2020, cognitive project-based learning will become the norm, hence task-based searching.”

“I see it on a daily basis already happening as a positive. Students in my school become intrigued about a topic and then keep focusing in on that topic learning more than they would the traditional way.”

“The future is more positive.:

“For the most part, the human race uses advancements in technology for the betterment of everyone. I’m sure that will be the case here.”

“Skills required for survival in the pre-2020 world will be dulled; skills required for survival in the contemporary world will be honed. Positive and negative are value judgments. Why on earth would anyone expect anything different? The question is what are the best skills sets for 2050? The ones from 2020, or the ones from 1990?”

“The two options are too extreme, but I lean toward the negative scenario—at four on a seven-point scale—based on my experience teaching freshmen, especially online. I see less deep thinking, but more skill in making social connections.”

“The adaptive nature of the human species will evolve into a positive result for the new ‘wired-in’ generations. Evolutionary changes will help us develop the short attention span into an ability to make innovative connections between data bits and trivia from many sources and result in fascinating and forward-thinking new concepts.

“Multitasking and using collective intelligence do not come naturally; for teens to gain these skills there will have to be a significant change in the way they learn. So far there is more availability of information, but there is not enough encouragement for schools, libraries, and other agencies to train students in accessing and using information more effectively. While the Internet and technology are changing the way we all learn and find information, in many ways it appears that information has been becoming more difficult to find in recent years and I expect this trend to continue. In order for information to be accessed effectively there will need to be a drastic change in the cyber infrastructure and given the current economic climate if find it difficult to believe that this would occur in the next eight years.”

“Those children exposed at an early age will primarily use left-brain function that will limit their ability to learn social cues and social interactions. Those children who are more balanced will use technology to better explore and learn more.”

“Multitasking decreases the depth of attention and the critical thinking applied to each of the activities simultaneously engaged. Browsing, surfing, and cutting and pasting leads to disjointed and unintegrated intellectual products. Flat screens and keyboards are a poor substitute for the deeply complex and multi-leveled human interaction between teachers and students at every grade level, from pre-kindergarten to post doc.”

“To quote Marshall McLuhan: ‘I don’t know who discovered water but I know it wasn’t fish.’ It’s difficult to predict where this is all taking us, but I think the positives will outweigh the negatives. And sure, there will be plenty of shades of gray as we so, so rapidly shift from a connected to a hyperconnected world.”

“I see it in my workplace and in my family. Diminished live conversation and/or lack of in-depth reasoning to an answer. Little pausing to think about complex issues and poor math skills as reliance on machines increases.”

“In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young people will be ‘wired differently from those over the age of 35.’ There will be positives and negatives. For example, this generation will be able to search and find answers more effectively, however I don’t think they will have sufficient abilities to be able to properly critically analyze and retain the right information without the proper training. They will need to be taught how to do so in school, at home, and at work. I don’t believe they will either lack face-to-face skills or be more dependent on the Internet than older adults, although it is possible. It will all depend how they are taught, educated, and informed. It is not the Internet that will have change or have an impact on their cognitive and learning behaviour. What will have an impact are the habits they develop and cultivate in relation to the Internet. And these habits will depend on how they are exposed and taught to use it.”

“As an educator, I already see this happening. Students do not know how to read critically, accept too easily the results of what they find, and—contrary to their own self-image of their abilities—cannot successfully multitask with any degree of exactness.”

“As someone who works with youth and who has two children, I see the writing on the wall. Multitasking seems to result in distraction, lower productivity, and compromised understanding.”

“Cognitive psychology shows that deep, quick thinking is more present among teens and young adults than it is among older people. The Internet is a quick tool for finding information that was hard to find back when people did not have it.”

“The positive scenarios will only happen if parents, mentors, teachers, and society as a whole help this new generation understand how to do those things mentioned in this option. Left to their own devices—based on what I see in my own slice of the world—these children are not being guided on how to use technology in a positive and constructive manner. The adults who are supposed to explain the ‘how’ and ‘why’ around this new technology are either too distracted themselves or too afraid to step into these waters to be of much use to this new generation. We must do more to ensure the second option does not occur.”

“While much has been said concerning the upcoming generation of multitaskers we seem to be speeding into a generation that can access so much information so quickly they are turning it off. They are replacing knowledge and the ability to reason through complex problems with cryptic text messages and group think. I see a day when the English language is simplified to look like what we are now seeing used in texting and emails while research has given way to acceptance of a mass decision.”

“There will be changes, and there have already been changes. The effects will be pervasive. The more important question is how to use those changes effectively to generate actions that will be seen as generally positive. Deep engagement, for example, could be seen as negative (dinosaur thinking) or positive (understanding multiple levels to allow more robust action). In a broad-brush view: the teens currently find approaching the world this way more useful for them; so it’s positive. Those who are used to another style find it frustrating to deal with those thinking in the new way; so it’s negative. Those judgments are independent of the changes themselves.”

“Overall, any negative consequences that the Internet may have on children and teens stem from problems in institutional abilities to recognize and assimilate new modes of thought and communication.”

“I teach research and writing to college students. I have an optimistic view of the long-range effects of the Internet on our thinking processes and our ability to access and use information. However, the specific year of 2020—a mere eight years in our future—tipped the scale toward my choosing the more pessimistic view. The reason? The effective use of the Internet does not come naturally, regardless of a person’s youth. The ‘digital native’ is a myth. Our young people are no better than their elders at using Internet tools effectively to find and evaluate reliable information. Their skills in filtering signal-to-noise are poorly developed. These are literacy skills that must be taught, and at present, our schools are not teaching them. Twenty years from now—maybe. Eight years? Impossible.

“The negative scenario is closest to the mark, but the Internet per se may not be the reason. The linearity of book/speech thinking began changing in the 1920s with the increased popularity of motion pictures. The Internet remains largely a print medium, and the issue here is one of attention. It may be that as more and more popular entertainment proliferates on the Net the more the definition of the Net becomes as a source of entertainment rather than as a source of knowledge or, perhaps, even that sector of social media aimed at something besides entertainment.”

“Despite the multitude of ways we can now communicate, when it is in short bursts both content and context are lacking. I don’t believe this a fault of the nature of Internet communications but a failure of imagination and depth among those who are creating these models for communicating. Let’s remember that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al. were not created as a means for communicating, especially for communicating complex ideas and concepts, but as engines for profit. The communication model is merely a means to that profit in these systems and as such the shorter the communication and attendant attention spans the more clicks users will make within each system and the more exposure to revenue generating page content they will see. Older Internet systems for engaging in dialogue, from the old Compuserve forums to online conversational communities like Cafe Utne or Howard Rheingold’s Brainstorms (which still exist), were/are first and foremost mechanisms for communicating rather than frameworks onto which profit generating systems can be hung. Thus, future teens and young adults, deprived of any sense of context for thought and experience either on the Internet or in schools and family situations, will rapidly lose the ability to assess information thoroughly and place it in the proper context so as to allow them to make both short-term and long-term decisions that are largely beneficial.”

“Even now we see this with teens less and less able to hold an adult conversation than in the past. The more deeply we engage in the Internet or other technology above genuine, in-person interactions, the less engaged in ‘real life’ we become. Unless something dramatic changes this I don’t see how it won’t get worse as the years pass.”

“My PhD is in media psychology. Whether outcomes are helpful or baleful is yet to be determined. It may be that both come to pass. The helpful part will be due to an ongoing increase in Flynn’s ‘practical intelligence,’ which is a positive development. The baleful part will be that for some people, the ability to be mindful will significantly decline.”

“While the scenarios hold truth, information sharing over the Internet gives today’s teens and young adults access to greater information. Those who take advantage of the information learn much more and much faster than people did before they had access to the Internet. Those who do not take advantage of the information and use the Internet strictly as a social tool or a hobby will become more distracted and lack deep-thinking capabilities. Either way, the Internet takes away from learning face-to-face social skills and schools and parents need to take that into consideration when helping kids grow.”

“The smarter ones will use social media pretty wisely and to their advantage.”

“Teens and even adults do not need to retain any information due to the explosion of the Internet. In the ‘old days,’ people had to remember their friends’ phone numbers. Now, you just have to have your friend call once and the number is ‘remembered’ for you. You need to nothing. Social networking is assisting with social pleasantries. You don’t have to remember someone’s birthday—Facebook will remind you of the event so all you have to do is post a short message on your friend’s wall instead of: 1) remembering the birthday; 2) deliberately going out to buy a card; 3) writing a personal message on the card; 4) addressing the card; and 5) sending it in a timely fashion to arrive at the recipient’s home on the appropriate date. You tell me—which takes more thought?”

“I’m sure the same thing was said during the advent of the telegraph and later the telephone, that instant communication would distract us, and too much information would impair the brain.

“I have observed the Internet’s impact on the young to this point, and whilst it provides positively the ability to find answers more quickly, the ability to evaluate has not developed alongside. The ability to search deep down through the full text of books and within snippets (of Google books) to references saves hours of trawl through various databases and the use of Post-It notes on books. However, the careful reflection required to master fully Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal or post-structuralist views of Modernism do not come about more quickly by having access to searchable full-text. Information evaluation is and will still be prized. It is not enough to show ‘connections,’ one must demonstrate full understanding. Youth may have access to more than we did growing up digitally but the parallel development of understanding has not yet emerged. It may emerge for those who are aware but for the vast majority I don’t think it will.”

“It has been proven in numerous studies that under-35s have major issues regarding concentration, etc. They might be super-multitaskers, but it’s more of a question of Jack of all trades, master of none!”

“Teens and young adults seem to be almost obsessed with texting, Facebook, and other social media. Texting does not mean your message got across. The tone and emphasis in the spoken word provides half the message—not the words themselves.”

“Eight years from today is a short time to expect effects in the way of the second scenario. But this might be the case in 15/20 years.”

“Teens and young adults are more self-centered than previous generations and lack face-to-face interactive skills because they are glued to their electronic devices. Parents have used these devices to babysit their children rather than taking a true interest in their development. As a result, teens do not have the same emotional connection to their families as past generations have. Teens lack focus and direction as a result of relying on electronics rather than in person interaction. The nation will continue to decline. Children/teens should be acquiring thought provoking/probing skills that will continue to make the U.S. innovative and competitive—this is not happening. The US is falling behind other countries and parents and society are at fault. They have become lazy because they can find answers by searching rather than thinking things through and coming up with innovative solutions.”

“It is the deep thinking aspect that I worry about. Sometimes you have to stay with a problem to solve it and texting, ten-second news stories, etc., do not support this.”

“How teens interact with technology is affecting how they process information offline too. It will affect how they approach work and daily tasks, but I see strong evidence of teens—often using technology—still displaying emotional intelligence, empathy, and a sense of being connected.”

“All this multitasking is going to catch up with us—not just the young folks. I don’t know if it will be as drastic a scenario as you paint, though.”

“While many brains may show differing sizes and connections, they all seem to show a staggering amount of similarity. Of course, external factors can and do alter human beings in significant ways, however, wiring seems more foundational and perhaps less prone to such changes.”

“Any brain activity is a good thing. Multitasking will make cognitive changes in those people who are doing it, but I also think the effect of being ‘wired’ is exaggerated by those who live and breathe technology in their daily lives. As a librarian, I see lots of adults who are not very connected, and I suspect there are lots of young people that are not as wired (think of those in rural areas where they barely have a post office, never mind a library with Internet connectivity). I am talking about the digital divide here. Less than 50% of Hispanic male youth graduate from high school in my nearest city. So, in terms of our entire nation, I think we will still be struggling with literacy issues in 2020, never mind multitasking issues. But, yes, I think that we will feel the effects on our highly educated young people, those people who are destined to be the movers and shakers in government and corporations. The ability to think creatively, to attend to many threads of a conversation, and to weave it all together and be friendly and nice will be highly valued.”

“Technology will allow the children of tomorrow to do things that we never thought possible but it will also cause the degradation of some skills that most people currently value. I have seen my own skills for figuring out driving directions from point a to point b, and my ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide in my head dwindle because I can just do things the easy way. As for highly valued skills in 2020, high-level math, science, engineering, and programming are going to be key skills for future generations to have.”

“Maybe not to the extreme described in the negative scenario, but I do see young people unable to search effectively, using technology in marginal ways without deep understanding.”

“Though I think further use of technology by teens will ultimately result in greater cognitive capacity (not less), I do think a saturation point will be reached, and some may step away from technology or social networks at earlier ages.”

“There is no such thing as ‘brains wired differently.’ That is simply a metaphor with no empirical support.”

“The first scenario is too rosy and the second too dire, but I’m more inclined to the second than the first, simply because despite research studies showing that we are not as good at multitasking as we think we are, there is an overabundance of ‘multitasking macho’ in which people (of all ages) think they’re doing twelve things at once really well, when in fact they are doing them poorly. If we all realize this and compensate for it by consciously developing our powers of concentration, I think the combination of digital and traditional cognitive abilities will be very powerful. Technology changes cognitive abilities. After the book was invented, nobody needed to memorize epic poems, so traveling troubadours found other lines of work and a more expository, analytical style of thinking became dominant. Digital technology will have a similar impact that we don’t yet fully understand. Ideally, we should integrate traditional ways of understanding with those needed in a digital world.”

“There will be a positive, natural evolution.”

“Regardless of technology, the next generation will be great. To assume less is shortsighted and a little arrogant of the current generation.”

“Current generations growing up with computers and thousands of types of smart devices are able to easily switch between them because they must. The immense amount of information that is pushed toward them on a daily basis, forces them to make quick choices and switch between several options. It gives them the possibility to compare and link information, making out-of-the-box solutions possible (and maybe even normal).”

“I agree with one passage in the second statement, ‘…they do not retain information.’ However, why should they if it is always available to them? The real key is for them to quickly identify the information they seek and for them to use it in the proper context. Will they be able to do this? That is unknown and requires further study.”

“My generation—those born in the 1980s—is wired differently than the incoming generations. We were taught using pencils, paper, and blackboards; computers were utilized mostly for games and later as a replacement for typewriters. With the advent of the Internet they became a social tool. This new generation thinks differently from the start. I’m always amazed by my nephews and nieces who seem to innately know how to use an iPhone to find a game to play; last week my mother was astonished to see my 2-year-old nephew turn on her iPad and search for a movie on Netflix. They are learning things very differently and their brains will adapt.”

“Technology helps us find information, but does not develop intelligence. Most young people are dependent on technology; they are not creating new ideas or knowledge.”

“I see teens building information-retrieval skills much as the generations before them developed other similar skills with the technology they had—library card catalogues, etc. They will become comfortable with knowing where to find something and how to validate its claims quickly based on social graphs, like prior generations did with personal networks, via neighbors, parents or local experts.”

“Technology will allow children to engage at a younger age, and having access to that information will allow them to dig deeper into information previously not available. This of course does not replace responsible parenting and the need to encourage children to engage and explore.”

“It’s difficult for older generations to relate to today’s young people due to the extreme differences in the environments in which they grew up. Marc Prensky’s research shows how today’s young people think differently. Technology is becoming easier to use, so it seems that even our older generations are moving in this direction. It’s important to remember that everyone has different learning styles that they favor and that not everyone is a multitasker (women are better than men).”

“To be clear, the current neurological research indicates that we truly cannot multitask, only single-task, quickly switching between tasks. It is unclear that our brains, or the brains of current youth, will suddenly evolve to manage multiple tasks well. While they may be ‘wired’ differently to process larger sums of information, it does not mean they can synthesize that data and perform multiple tasks simultaneously. With the Internet, with answers at one’s fingertips, the challenge will come to develop critical thinking skills. With social networks, younger people may have a more difficult time breaking from their past (by staying ‘friends’) which may be part of healthy development. While creating, managing, and maintaining relationships without face-to-face or voice-to-voice interactions, relationships based solely on text and visual content may significantly hinder the personal dynamics required by work and home. On the positive side, understanding how to access information quickly is a benefit—finding the resources is a great skill to have. To anticipate the skills needed in 2020, from a technology standpoint is not wise; only five years ago we’d never heard of an iPhone. We do know from trends that mobile is where most browsing, viewing, and connecting is migrating. Yet, the personal skills, the human skills, and the need to relate well with others will be as paramount tomorrow as it is today.”

“It was hard to have to pick either a pretty negative view vs. an overly positive view. I think it will be a mix, but I think that some basic skills that we’ve enjoyed for centuries are going to atrophy, and I think that those skills shouldn’t be left aside. I’m thinking about research, using your brain to find information and evaluate resources, think critically, etc. I see teenagers behaving differently (I’m the parent of two)—preferring texting to interacting with those in the same room. Among adults, I see shallow connections occurring via Facebook in lieu of real connection, people thinking that their Facebook connections are actual ‘friends,’ etc. I myself have reconnected with many folks on Facebook and I think it’s a good thing, but I’ve actually crossed paths with two or three Facebook friends on the street and pretended not to see them. I’d like to do a survey on that behavior!”

“Most individuals will adapt to new technological innovations even if a small percentage are unable to do so.”

“Teens and young adults will have better adaptation of new technologies by 2020. While I am not sure the results will be as positive as described, I am sure the results will be better than described in the negative outcomes scenario.”

“I’m not as pessimistic as the second scenario, but I do believe that younger people will have increasing problems with being successful at the necessary ‘mental wrestling’ that is required for clear, logical, critical thinking. Multitasking is almost by definition an option for superficial thinking. Deep, concentrated thinking is a skill that requires practice, and our environment isn’t helping.”

“They are in my experience adept at finding the answers to some questions, often not all that deep. The teaching of healthy scepticism to teenagers remains as important as ever.”

“As the convergence of technology with human capabilities increases, this has great potential to make significant advances in students’ cognitive abilities and expanding educational pursuits.”

“It seems that today’s teens cannot discuss issues and do not communicate in words as much as texting. They are short on time due to multitasking and rarely stop and smell the roses. They can be very demanding due to their ability to get things instantly from the Internet and along with this attitude comes some amount of disrespect of those who are older and maybe wiser, but not as capable of using the technology as they are.”

“Working at a university, I’ve noticed that students seem to lack the ability to focus on a problem for an extended period. Their attention spans are limited, and they don’t seem to think critically about the information they find on the Web.”

“There are some talented teens and young adults who are able to apply technology for the greater good. Unfortunately, working with inner-city youth has led me to select the second scenario. It has been my experience that while teens are adept at learning and using new technologies they often skim the surface of these tools’ capabilities. As an information specialist who has worked with teens and young adults, I am concerned that they have short attention spans and have real difficulty in differentiating between credible and not-credible information. They often lack effective search skills, taking the Internet at face value. They also lack critical-thinking skills. I have seen firsthand the lack of face-to-face social skills. A personal example: My nephew invited a friend down to the shore to visit. This was a one-hour train ride for the teen visiting my nephew. The majority of his two-day visit was spent with them sitting next to each other—each on his individual computer, not saying a word to one another.”

“Although there are negative impacts of multitasking, the positive effects of a networking society will be more important. The most highly valued intellectual and personal skills will be to interact across different cultures, to connect people, and to collaborate via Internet on different topics.”

“It is my belief that parenting will make the difference here. Students who maintain a grounded upbringing will also bring about a solid basis for mental growth. Additional mental training in early years such as MIT Open Course Ware when in junior high and high school will also help development. Others who lack these additional training and learning opportunities will no doubt appear just as those in the second paragraph. It’s a frightening option.”

“Dependence on technological tools detracts from one’s abilities to engage in deep thought and problem solving. I see this happening already with people close to me over-relying on GPS devices to tell them which way to go from point A to point B. Use it or lose it.”

“Teens and young adults think differently and they do not perceive their cognitive shortcomings. There is a long way to go to actually achieve information literacy.”

“A generation better at using digital technologies to access and share information; to multitask; and working in ways that blur the boundaries between personal and work-related tasks is likely. But the foundations for this difference in capability is likely to be sociological much more than it is to be rooted in cognitive science. This is not to say that the Internet doesn’t create any changes in cognitive ‘wiring,’ but is to draw attention to the far greater role played by social factors. Many over 35 will exhibit similar behaviours without it being true that they have been ‘cognitively rewired,’ even though on average over-35s may be less likely to adopt new information access behaviours and norms of work-life balance. Some of the factors impacting work-life balance, etc., are also more associated with economics and the nature of careers than with communication technologies per se.”

“A child’s mind must be challenged for him/her to think and perform abstractly. Computing-based communication is so linear it will only challenge the human mind to an extent. To reach beyond this limit, human-to-human interaction is needed.”

“Having to express a point a point in 140 characters is not easy but our youth are doing that. The interactions can still be rich due in part to the reach the social media has provided many movements and causes. It has taught some of those over the age of 35 to communicate with ease, thus they are not social or technological relics.”

“I think both will be true, but prefer to accentuate the positive.”

“I’ve seen no evidence from research studies or my own observations that multitasking is a reality among teen, young adults, or anyone for that matter.”

“The benefits of multitasking are outweighed by the costs of lack of deep engagement.”

“The impact of technology has the potential to improve cognition if it occurs within a pedagogical framework that gives it meaning. Unfortunately, this framework is generally absent. In 2020, navigation of technological platforms will be the skill set most highly valued.”

“A blend of these scenarios will happen. I am already seeing the impact on social skills such as face-to-face communications. I also see the ability of younger folks to multitask and learn more.”

“I can already see that using technology, if guided in a positive direction, is helpful and positive for my 3-year-old. I think it’s not the technology itself but the guidance and education surrounding it. It is neither good nor bad for the human brain; it’s the context. Anything, if overused or abused, can be negative. As long as it is balanced with interactions in the real world and children/people are still taught and instilled with moral and ethical decision-making skills that are implemented, they will be able to tap and harness the power of their and others’ brains in a positive, more productive way than today.”

“The younger generation will be more facile in finding and using information, but will not have had adequate experience/practice in doing ‘deep’ thinking.”

“We see the negatives already in classroom performance. There and out of class, too many students are glued to their electronic devices and unaware of their surroundings.”

“In the classroom, students have short attention spans and cannot sit through a lecture. We are told to incorporate more activities into our classes to maintain student interest. Most do not read, for school or for fun (which is why I wind up having to lecture, because they haven’t read the material). Students expect to be entertained in class just like they are at home by TV, smart phones, and the Internet. They constantly check their phones, unable to be out of contact for an hour of class time.”

“Young people are rushed through things. Learning on the fly. They do not fully master something before they move on to the next thing. Yes they can multitask, but never fully focusing on any one thing. It is better to do one thing really well than several different things poorly.”

“Since I work in higher education, I chose the first response because I believe that most students are invested in their education and want to use the Internet and technology for exploration, creativity, and enrichment. Not to say some may find there a refuge from dealing with people face-to-face, but I believe that has little to do with the Internet and much to do with an individual’s personality.”

“Assuming teens still need to grow up to function in society at large, they will still be in need of information about in-depth topics. They will get it. They might get the information differently than we will, but that will not change their wiring.”

“Agree that some aspects of human behavior and learning will be different, but different does not imply better or worse. The two examples of ‘helpful’ and ‘baleful’ will probably describe significant differences within some small groups, as well as minor among the majority. It isn’t an either/or situation.”

“The Internet opens up the world to all of us. It is much more exciting to research topics or ideas via the Internet than it is to slog through the Dewey Decimal System and to find that the book you needed is being used by someone else or was stolen from the library. I do see a decline in speaking capabilities of young adults. Is it a result of texting, or a decline in our educational systems, or?”

“Humans are constantly-evolving beings and the brain is bound to evolve as we evolve our technology.”

“Current evidence in my profession suggests that most new communication technologies are not helping young people develop coherent and sustained thoughts that allow one to understand a book-length argument. Unless they learn to discipline their usage, I expect that they will struggle significantly.”

“I can see these results even now with short attention spans, lack of depth of knowledge, and a move away from person-to-person socializing. I think this will continue as a trend and become more prevalent.”

“Having the perspective of age, I’ve experienced many changes in technology including the introduction of the Internet and all of its social media. However, I haven’t experienced a noticeable change in how we use the information or tools to function in our world. In other words, the end result is similar. Therefore, I believe that multitasking teens of in 2020 will not be that different than other generations. I witness this every day as my 20-year-old navigates the world of research on the Internet, texting, smart phone access to information, Facebook usage, etc. She is still limited by what she can process as a human being while navigating existing technologies. I’m not saying that access to the Internet hasn’t changed her opportunities, because it has. I’m saying that her processing really isn’t any different than what I went through using the library for information. It is just different access.”

“Even now, with lack of use of our social, face-to-face interaction skills, most of my peers rely on texting or online communication instead of speaking on the phone and they often let it distract from their in-person interactions. I tend to have a rule that if I am with a person at dinner or somewhere that I feel our attention should be fully on each other and the experience, phones and other technology shouldn’t come out—even when I get up to go to the bathroom and they are left to twiddle their thumbs for a few minutes. I find it frightening that we aren’t even able to sit together without feeling awkward for that period of time. We must fill it. With that rule in place, I often bother or frustrate people who then feel out of contact for those few hours or minutes. And sometimes these frustrations lead up to us not interacting as real friends anyway.”

“Technology offers a great deal to those seeking amusement.”

“It depends on the individual to a large extent. Some are learning more and very adept at finding answers. However, I suspect that across the board fewer are in this category than in the second category. It seems more in the younger generation are not heavily engaged in analysis and interpersonal relations.”

“Part of it is that the second answer is what teens have always been, lacking, from A to Z. I wouldn’t say they lack the capacity for deep thinking so much as they are not trained to do so. The larger point, though, is that they have no filtering mechanism for the information that comes into them (as the editor at one’s local paper used to be) and lack the ability to discriminate. They believe that all information is the same, regardless of source, so I chose the negative scenario.”

“First, empirical research has shown that neither young adults nor teens can truly multitask and that people who believe they multitask well vastly overestimate their abilities to do so. Working efficiently requires people to focus more and attempt multitasking less. Unfortunately, the way we use computers and multimedia communications contributes to the misperception of our ability to multitask as it also fosters out increased attempts to do so. But this problem gets worse because use of multimedia leads to decreased attention spans among those who believe they are truly multitasking. Thus multitasking actually becomes a series of unfocused twitting and flitting from one uncompleted task to another uncompleted task and follow-through becomes something that becomes impossible because multitaskers don’t remember what follow-through is needed.”

“Those who use the Internet retain less, as you don’t need to retain that much information if you can just browse for it when you need it. Also people spend more time sitting using Internet and spend less time going out. These negative behaviors have increased in the last decade. On the other hand, the Internet is the best invention and people who use it correctly learn a lot without having to go to a library or a university or even to conversation groups :) .”

“They think ‘I need it now’ is as good as ‘I want it now.’”

“Teens already are unable to focus on one thing for an extended period of time. I’m not sure exactly what the full impact of that will be. The same goes for their lack of face-to-face social skills. How will societal expectations change as the way we think and interact change?”

“They will be unable to function without the Internet.”

“The more information people have the more they seek it and explore and learn new things. The Web has made it easier to collect the intelligence. What educators need to do is to ensure that students learn to understand where information comes from and what its value is, positive or negative.”

“The positive outcome will be the case only if they are trained properly, but once they are the implications could be good as they will be better at seeing connections.”

“As with every technological change, I expect the results to be, on balance, an improvement. Some experiences and skills will be lost, but the gains will more than make up for them.”

“Young people have started learning reality in a different way. This approach of being quick, short, and less engaged is one thing but trying to be aware of everything brings consequences for the future in the way they will value life, the way they will value work, relationships, and the difficulties they will face.”

“The emergence of new media and communications technologies is closely connected with other social and cultural changes, the effects of which can be assessed thoroughly only afterward. From a historical point of view, the change in technologies is only one dimension of other more fundamental transformations that our societies are undergoing. The problem seems to be that we focus in the first place on the visible and/or easiest observable changes which however may be short-term and do not reflect adequately the ‘real’ direction of development. It seems possible and/or even viable that teens will not read newspapers to the degree that their parents did; they do not master their history as the older generations did; they do not like the same kinds of arts as the teens did 20 years ago. This might reflect the general trend of our societies, which is facilitated by technology, but certainly not affected or created by media and communications technologies.”

“Multitasking is really task switching and in conflict with taking time to gain a deeper understanding of systemic issues. Current information-age behaviors will result in a better ability to task switch and the trends in social media will continue to enhance interpersonal skills and interactions. However my experience in working with and teaching people under 45 or so is that there is less time and energy spent on understanding deeper underlying patterns and issues. I’m not sure this has to do with rewiring or the increased use of short messaging as much as it has to do with cultural and educational factors. There are few incentives to read both sides of an issue, to study our history and civic laws, to question the news, to think about future impacts, to think sustainably, to think critically. I believe task switching is a part of the problem but not the only one.”

“Much of the social networking and multitasking activities revolve around a hunger to be popular. The ‘I’m getting texted continually shows I’m popular’ frame of mind is pathetic. This type of behavior will not be tolerated in business and industry, especially in the manufacturing sector. I still believe cognitive skills and the ability to analyze will be most important in 2020.”

“Multitasking is not about computers or social networking. Multitasking is multitasking. And the ability to multitask effectively depends on the individual and how quickly he or she can sort through relevant or non-relevant information. Eventually you have to focus. Media-based multitasking has existed for a long time. For example how many people do tasks in front of the TV or while talking on the phone, or carry on a conversation while reading a paper? Today it is just a matter of having easy and uninterrupted access to entertainment-based media that are received on work tools. It’s like kids of the 1970s having access to TV all the time whereever they are. Will this get worse? Probably.”

“Multitasking is a trap. It feels good but is less productive. People won’t change by 2020. They will multitask and they will have some of the benefits of the positive statement when compared to today.”

“I have already seen the results of much of this behavior. An enormous amount of time and effort is being spent trying to teach better strategies beginning from ‘where they are.’ As a librarian, my assessment is that greater numbers of students are making little or no eye contact. As an academic adviser, I experience more advisees responding less by phone and email. After initial success when I switched to texting, that too has fallen off.”

“Attempts to assist academically are frequently met with silence.”

“The changes will likely be positive for the economy but negative for social life and the political system. Young people will be adept with technology but not skilled in human interaction or the ability to think critically or evaluate information.”

“Much of the cognitive testing of youth response to interactive technologies does not account for those instances in young people’s lives where concentration is at a premium, such as in athletics, prayer groups, writing exercises, writing code, artwork, etc. Furthermore, I don’t find that it is the technical devices per se that are causing some kind of so-called neural ‘rewiring,’ but rather it may also be the pace of urban American life in late modernity. I do think that youth, much like adult knowledge workers, are being trained through a milieu of workplace norms, policies, consumerism, and so forth to adapt quickly to sudden shifts in work tasks. This does not mean that deep thinking is lacking, but rather that, in many knowledge work occupations, including public schooling, it is not valued in the same way as the capacity to read entire books or conduct deep analysis or conceptualizing. Just because they can push a mouse it doesn’t mean they know what questions to ask or are able to tell if the information they have amassed is relevant to the questions they pose. They are still young, and like children do, are more likely to push out and explore in the cyber-realm, though not necessarily with any direction or consideration of the implications of their findings. Yes, youth in urban American settings are comfortable picking up new technologies, but they still need guidance in making sense of information and building cohesive bodies of knowledge. They are cognizant of the Web as the manifestation of a collective human intelligence that is always present. Many take it for granted.”

“Their brains are developing; they will exhibit ADD characteristics; they don’t have traditional social skills.”

“The negative scenario is likely, particularly children’s increased interest in superficial entertainment instead of deeper thinking and relationships. I would not blame this on the technology of the Internet itself, but on the types of content distributed on these networks and how companies are seeking profit from that content. For instance, content with greater substance is more often kept behind a paywall or other barriers that deter children from engaging with it. Entertainment content and networks that emphasize the quantity of interpersonal connections over the quality of those connections (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) seem likely to remain free and highly accessible to child users. Multitasking will not become a more valued skill, but the ability to analyze and solve complex problems will. While children in the future are likely to be more adept at gathering information through the Internet, they will be less skilled at evaluating and making sense of the vast assortment of data and opinions their googling will turn up.”

“I work extensively with young adults and, regrettably, often the strengths that they’ve gained through technology are overshadowed by the negative behaviors or lack of skills. In the competitive world we live in today you have to have it all. It is important for individuals to continually build and expand a portfolio of skills and behaviors that will make them adaptable and able to communicate and work effectively with any type of individual in a variety of contexts.”

“I already see this taking place in my own cognitive style and in that of those around me. I find that people, when divorced from their devices for even short periods of time, act differently and engage in the world more. I have many friends with young children. One couple has not let their 5-year-old watch TV or spend time on devices. He entertains himself in situations where most other children go crazy and need stimulation. His attention span is long and he is incredibly creative. On the flip side, I’ve witnessed children who are constantly mollified by devices. Their parents hand them a smartphone as soon as they act up in a restaurant or at a social gathering. In response, they lack the skills to entertain themselves. I see this becoming the norm in 2020 and it’s disconcerting.”

“Obviously, the reality will be less simple than it sounds but I have selected the negative result because I am wary of blind optimism in the changes that technology will bring. Recent studies seem to suggest that the Internet can quickly and substantially change the way the brain is wired, but one must wonder if there will not also be other factors that might also begin to have more influence on now the human brain works.”

“Given the research on brain plasticity, it would seem that people of any age will be able to multitask if trained correctly—so I think both statements are false. I think if we go back at any point in time, some people learn on a more impersonal level, others personal. Technology does not take away from personal interaction, rather it moves to the background and the human animal at the end of the day still likes to go to the movies and to stadiums to play baseball outside.”

“I only see benefits to the easy access to vast amounts of knowledge that allows people get to a pretty deep understanding of a subject in a relatively short amount of time when compared to the pre-Internet era. There is some danger associated with eliminating the journey of learning a subject area—it will decrease overall creativity and allow for fewer serendipitous product-development opportunities.”

“I’m optimistic that just as there was a useful purpose found to the Internet (and people didn’t necessarily see that in the beginning of the Internet), a similarly useful purpose to Twitter and mobile communication will be found as well. It will never be 100%, but there will be some purpose to mobile communications.”

“With the way things are shaping up, information is so widely available on the Internet, both good and bad that it is up to individual choices on what sort of information they access.”

“I only opted for the negative response because I don’t believe in the positive scenario that children will not suffer notable cognitive shortcomings.”

“As an over-55 who works with many under-35 folks, I do find they have a short attention span. They want to be entertained constantly and many times seem unable to relate.”

“The changes are both positive and negative, but on the whole they are better adapted to the way the modern world works. That is, rather than relying solely on personal knowledge, they draw on and contribute to a collective knowledge that is more effective. And while some may see young people as being physically disengaged, their always-online social interactions are strongly positive because they are forming and maintaining far more social connection to a broad range of friends and family through digital channels than used to be possible face-to-face. That being said, it can be a challenge to get kids to focus on long-term, focused efforts (e.g., reading books as opposed to Facebook posts), but they are certainly capable and interested.”

“The first scenario will require a network that fosters this sort of growth. This question brings up the idea of generational changes, and we have to start viewing generations as containing pieces of information. The transition between these generations will be one of reciprocating information being shared from one shade to the next. Both scenarios are likely, it’s up to the preceding age groups who are penetrating the cybersphere (the noosphere) first, to educate and motivate the succeeding generations on how to map out their thoughts, so that they may better comprehend the map which is the Internet. Incorporating RSS (really simple syndication) knowledge into schools is a key component to this end; RSS readers such as Google Reader allow you to categorize various types of websites, and information, so you can put the information into context, which is a pivotal requirement to with holding information after it is consumed. How does it relate to me? What do I know already that relates to this knowledge? If a person does not have an framework of information latent within the memory, he or she will not be able to contextualize information easily, or retain it well. Education is the best tool to change the world, and teaching kids how to intake information and find the relevance in it is absolutely pertinent to the survival of our species on this planet.”

“The access to collective intelligence via the Internet should not be underrated. This will produce positive outcomes for the young.”

“Not only are those under 35 now wired differently, there is also a greater need for praise and a tendency toward narcissism. I have employed a number of adults in this group. Their writing skills and ability to synthesize what they had heard/learned left a lot to be desired. While video games may have led to an increased ability to assess various outcomes and better teambuilding, a heavy reliance on short bursts of information, the broadcasting of every thought, and lives lived in a virtual reality will undoubtedly have a negative impact on social intercourse.”

“Teens and young adults of the future will adapt to a new way of learning that balances multitasking and in-depth concentration. This is necessary with the information explosion. Conventional sequential learning will simply not do.”

“I do not think one can re-wire brains in a single decade. One can develop entirely different skills, some of which are beneficial and some of which are detrimental (especially if war, natural disaster or other cause drops technology availability drastically). In my not-so-humble view, multitasking is a myth. The ‘best’ output comes from ‘flow,’ which is a modern word for focus. At the same time, expanded access to expanded information should, on balance, be much more positive than negative.”

“Age is not relevant. Some people under 25 are not adept at using information technology—some over 55 are.”

“I work with children on a regular basis and the way they learn is different, the way they think is different, and—most of all—the way they are taught is different. Children with access to technology are generally prepared for the future of the world. Those without access are simply lost. They struggle when it comes to showing the skills necessary to succeed. One positive is that more schools are implementing online learning in their systems. One negative is that not enough youth have access to these resources at home. Having this resource at home gives them the practice they need to be prepared for their/our future. Personal skills valued in 2020 will include technology skills, being able to adapt to changes in society, and the ability to incorporate natural skills with those acquired in educational institutions.”

“In 2020 there will be more of a wired (in wireless mode) world, with constant communication.”

“Technology adapts to the social function it serves, and tech that detracts from social interaction becomes deleterious to its host; technology that enhances augments and facilitates is widely used and allows for gains in other realms.”

“The time-scale mismatch of ‘rewiring’ systems that evolved over ten thousands of years in just a few short years through a rapidly changing environment is not likely to bring positive results.”

“In 2020 that the answer will be a combination of the two verging more toward the positive, though I believe that will depend largely on the social background, education, and motivation of the individual and the robustness and effectiveness of his or her family and learning environments.”

“Teen society will be similar to that portrayed in the 1960s sci-fi movie based on the story by Jules Verne, The Time Machine. The future generation will be well fed and clothed, and happy. But, there will be a controlling class.”

“Multitasking skills will benefit young people who have grown up with technology, keeping them connected and ready for team-based projects. Creativity will be highly valued, as original thinking is something that technology cannot produce.”

“The skills to make the Internet a funnier place to stay and a more efficient tool to work with might be appreciated. People are bored with the current Internet and are constantly bothered by tons of ads showing up on the Web.”

“Schools are not teaching students how to problem solve and use critical thinking skills, thus they’re not learning how to search effectively and access collective intelligence. Instead, due to standardized testing, they’re learning that there’s one right answer, and with search tools that are designed to be intelligent through algorithms, they’ll assume that the first answer is the right one, since the ‘authority’ spat it out. Without some guidance on how to use their tools to maximize efficiency and make critical distinctions, they’re going to end up like the second scenario, sadly. Outside the US, however, this might not be the case.”

“The primary positive outcome of multitasking teens and their uses of the Internet will allow for them to obtain more information. They will be more equipped to be able to find the information. However, there is no telling what teens in the year 2020 will actually be using the Internet for. Although they will be more capable and have more assistance the choice of content is still the choice of the teen.”

“I can see from the global concerns around democracy and social justice, predominantly driven by the young, that technology is being put to good use. I do have some concern about the depth of engagement and understanding that a broad spectrum of young people have on a variety of issues, there seems to be less interest in history than when I was younger and less interest in digging out the detail of some issues. I don’t think they lack the capabilities but I think, observing my teenage daughter, that they are expected to have such a broad knowledge of so many things that depth can suffer unless they are really committed and live in an environment which supports and encourages that level of analysis. Generally I think the use of social media by young people is very positive, although issues around etiquette probably require more understanding.”

“Both outcomes are likely and both reflect an updated version of what has always existed: those who are interested, driven, engaged, excited about learning will learn, grow, and develop—for its own sake. Those who are not, will not; they’ll party, they’ll coast, and they’ll become investment bankers, just like the folks I went to school with at an elite Ivy league university, just before the dawn of the PC era.”

“There will be people who benefit from technology and others who don’t. Not every teenager will be influenced in the same way as it depends on their education, parents, wealth, and so on. Just like today, there will be those who do well and those who don’t.”

“Of course the Internet can be a distraction and in a lot of cases simple headline-type answers to questions will be sought. However, it also represents the quickest source of learning to anyone that wishes to delve deeper into any subject be it celebrity gossip or politics.”

“I don’t think we need to wait until 2020 to see said baleful results. Whereas printing enabled knowledge to survive generations and thus encouraged a sense of history and enabled historical perspective, the Internet appears to encourage a kind of historical amnesia, which those of us who remember the days before the World Wide Web observe readily. Even events occurring in the Internet Age are quickly blotted from memory. I find it frequently necessary to explain to people that YouTube and Facebook didn’t always exist.”

“The second option sounds like the historical—shall we say hysterical—view of the older generation saying the next generation is going to hell in a hand basket.”

“Teens appear to have less and less ability to plan ahead especially on large, complex problems or issues and expect to solve everything in real-time or near real-time, as in thinking everything is just ‘one text away.’ While schools aren’t reaching teens and they need to be more dynamic, collaborative, and up to date, it would seem that kids are disengaged unless they are sitting in front of a screen watching and consuming highly-commercialized and produced media. Many practices do require collaboration and planning, but from my experience working with teens in programs as well as living with teens at home, they are losing the ability to think critically about deep disciplinary topics or critique knowledge. In 2020, face-to-face communication, public speaking, being persuasive, and serving as scientifically-literate leaders will be valued skills. I also believe that being multi-lingual and fluent in languages other than English will be valued. Kids spend a lot of time in front of media and screens, and do not understand hard work. Stamina and basic tolerance for tasks or jobs with grit will be valued. Teens and tweens will be consumers of media, but not understand how they actually work, nor how they can be empowered to create the tools they use.”

“There seem to be an increasing number of studies that indicate a serious decline in both critical and analytic thinking among young adults and college students. This will be a transitional problem. In a decade or so, the learning tools and skills will catch up and improvements will start.”

“Both answers have elements of truth to them. Despite the net gains downsides outweigh them.”

“This scenario isn’t the future; it is now. Students lack intellectual patience and tend to memorize and forget rather than understand and retain.”

“Certainly, some teens and young adults use the Internet for mind-numbing games and sharing inane details about their lives, but others use it for unprecedented information sharing and collaboration.”

“We are required to engage with one another at some level. Our access to information will merely alter that aspect of our lives.”

“This ‘re-wiring’ doesn’t exist and, to the extent it does, it has both good and bad aspects. So both are true at the same time.”

“While there are many good things about the prevalence of the Internet, traditional parameters such as ‘deep engagement,’ ‘deep thinking’ (in a manner to which we are traditionally accustomed), and ‘effective searching’ do not seem to be among the characteristics of the current generation. To be sure, there are new skills (e.g., being able to recognize things quickly, being able to make hasty associations among concepts, envisioning ways to use computers/Internet that would take others longer). The two quotes make the dichotomy seem like a positive vs. negative equation and I think that’s unfair: they’re different.”

“There will be both good and bad. The way people learn has been evolving throughout history. As always, people will need to take responsibility for making sure that the outcomes skew in a more positive direction when it comes to making sure the next generation is capable of contributing positively to a humane and productive society.”

“My young adult children already view the ability to access data ubiquitously as a natural way to solve problems.”

“My concern is that the educational system today has not adapted to this model and therefore young students are finding school a bit irrelevant.”

“Teens and young adults are aware of technology as a useful tool that cannot and does not replace direct human communication. It also increases: 1) productivity—you can do many things online now that you used to have to do in person or through hours of research; 2) communication—text messaging is in standard use throughout the world); 3) organizing—more and more events are organized online, targeting those who really want to participate.”

“As with all technology developments, predicting impacts is a fool’s errand. I suspect though the positives will outweigh the negatives. That said, access to virtually unlimited information anywhere, anytime has led to an environment where impatience is an aspect of how young people are wired. Learning requires three key underlying skill sets—patience, curiosity, and a willingness to question assumptions. Unfortunately, the Internet can tend to give answers too quickly and make people think they are experts simply because they can access anything and everything immediately. Ensuring that youth understand that really understanding something requires lots of time and substantial amounts of thinking and questioning is going to be a challenge.”

“Based on my experience in a university library setting, I have seen a general decline in higher-order thinking skills in my students over the past decade. I readily admit that changes in the quality of students whom we admit may have significantly impacted this, but at the same time, I see the general trend to be one of academic decline. It would be nice to believe that as more knowledge becomes available in web-based formats that this would have a corollary of additional attention to the acquisition of that knowledge, but I can’t say that I’ve seen that to be the case thus far. What I generally see is an over-dependence on technology, an emphasis on social technologies as opposed to what I’ll call ‘comprehension technologies,’ and a general disconnect from deeper thinking. I’m not sure that I attribute this to the so-called ‘re-wiring’ of teenage brains, but rather to a deeper intellectual laziness that the Web has also made possible with the rise of more video-based information resources (as opposed to textual resources).”

“I’m a firm believer that technology will help makes us smarter.”

“The positives of a future where teens and young adults know how to quickly find information and assess that information will include the following: 1) an ability to critically assess the validity of information; 2) an ability to adeptly find information to support a position or hypothesis; 3) an ability to collaborate with a diverse community without location being an issue; 4) an ability and willingness to share findings. The negatives could include: 1) a dependence on devices for access to information; 2) little time for reflection and creative thinking.”

“Many technologies have changed the way our brains work with positive and negative effects, for example, television, which is much less interactive than many newer technologies. As information-seeking skills development evolves, there is potential for greater knowledge development among younger generations. Creativity is also enhanced by more widespread access to electronic tools and opportunities to share work.
Teens’ brains will change but the change will reflect a concurrent change in the skills people need to be successful.”

“Young people must be guided to use technology in the positive path, otherwise it will be too easy for the second choice to take hold of a number of young people. Teaching is becoming more important than ever.”

“We don’t know how well the brain can adapt to being ‘wired’ to more multitasking inputs. In the absence of evidence, I bet on the bright side.”

“I’m 33 years old and over the last two years have ramped up my time spent on the Internet to10-plus hours a day. The effects have been detrimental. My attention span for longer-form information consumption such as books, movies, long-form articles, and even vapid 30-minute TV shows has been diminished immensely. My interpersonal communications skills are suffering, and I find it difficult to have sustained complex thoughts. My creativity is zapped and I get very moody if I’m away from the Web for too long.”

“As much as I believe in the dystopian future of the second choice, I have to rely on history to show that communication change mostly opens avenues of exploration rather than closing them down. We are more free (in the first world anyway) than we were at the beginning of the 1900s—there is more social mobility, physical mobility, and—for a while anyway—there has been more financial mobility, too. The future will land somewhere in the middle, where those who have education can use the vast quantities of information and those who are uneducated either choose not to or cannot use it.”

“People will be more socially connected. It will be easier to get more crowdsourced solutions to problems—many minds working on a single problem.”

“Having been present at the introduction of the personal computer in the workplace in the early 1980s, I have witnessed the evolution to a mobile, multifaceted world that places value on technology for its own sake and not as a tool to make things easier. I live in Washington, a city of the self-important, and cannot but notice the throngs of people in the Metro, on the street, and in their cars texting, reading email, or otherwise engaged in distracting behavior. In meeting after meeting, participants are locked onto their BlackBerry or iPhone screens, oblivious to their surroundings. That kind of behavior is distracting. I have seen subordinates have a difficult time focusing on projects that require concentration and critical thinking. I have also seen people more comfortable with using social media than face-to-face contact as a principal means of communication. Isolation of society’s members seems to be increasing and the important qualities of social engagement, dialogue, and debate have eroded. These skills are still critical elements of society.”

“Cognitive development of teens and young adults already is different from those over 35 years old. They also seek social support via technology (social networking) more than other age groups. Essentially, they use technology differently. Part of technology’s impact: More accessible information, and more accessible social support could lead to higher levels of intelligence and better mental health outcomes for issues that used to be highly stigmatized. What intellectual and personal skills will be most highly valued in 2020? Science, technology, engineering and math-related knowledge. This is where the science and the job market are headed. These are also the areas that exploit technology at higher rates than most disciplines.”

“I am just above the under-35 age bracket and I see these developments in myself. It is a constant struggle to pull oneself out of smart-phone mode, to remember to sit and be with people without the distraction. Still, I tend to feel like the idea that people used to be so smart and kids these days just don’t get it to be profoundly unconvincing. People will always want the same things—sex, power, affection, fulfillment, etc.—and they will use technologies as they always have, to seek out more of the things they want, which intrinsically involve interacting with other people. Ask a geeky friendless kid in small-town America 40 years ago if he’d like to have some way of communicating with people who appreciate him. The Internet makes us more social, not less, if perhaps in less easily recognizable ways.”

“We are trying to compare ‘new brains’ to ‘old tasks.’ With technology we are seeing new tasks and expectations that don’t map on to the way we used to consider doing things; that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it means its different. Think about the invention of the telephone. Prior to the telephone, people used to write letters and communicate with people far away using written form, with the advent of the telephone written letters did decline, but were people ‘wired’ differently? To some extent, sure, but to the point where it was worth working about, no. As people we have continued to evolve and develop as a function of our surrounding world. Our surrounding world is developing and changing, and teens, youth, and children are going to be leading the way through the new world just like they always have.”

“Based on my own experience using the Internet—and I’m in my 60s—I find that using the computer can compensate for many of my short-term memory lapses while still allowing my mind to move quickly to follow ideas that might otherwise have gotten lost because of my own lack of tracking abilities.”

“I find in myself that switching constantly between tasks, not to mention eyesight and energy issues from sitting in front of a screen all day, make it harder for me to concentrate and connect with others in both online and offline settings. I have a shorter attention span. I’m less patient because I’m used to not having to wait for information; there are many things worth doing that take time, are tedious, and require patience. Who among us doesn’t rely on a phone or computer for knowing what to wear, how to get from A to B, and to know what’s happening with our friends, even those we rarely speak to? I don’t see how the more positive situation could result.”

“In the future I see the world moving at even more of a fast pace. Memorization skills will be gone because people have become so dependent on technology. Skills that will be most highly valued in 2020 will be all technology based.”

“Some Millennials will yield positive results from their technology habits, but I suspect the majority won’t. I work at a research university and I think college-level education expectations have been lowering as more and more Millennials attend college. Educational standards for outcomes have been lowered. While collective intelligence yields some great societal and educational benefits, unless individuals are also taught critical, analytical skills, too, and also value them, the benefit of collective knowledge/decision making will not necessarily be better than the results of communism, as evidenced in history.”

“I understand the reasoning behind the fear that our future teens are going to become lazy and less determined due to the Internet, but I have faith in the ways that educators, innovators, engineers, developers, mentors, etc., will compensate. Aside from the fact that the Internet has made things a lot more effortless, it has also benefited us in so many wonderful ways; for example, not only did social networking kick-start my social media career, but it also enabled my own, personal professional development. Today’s Internet engineers and developers are about as brilliant as they come; it is my opinion that all these different kinds of brilliant minds will fuse the old-fashioned and new-fashioned ways of thinking into one extremely powerful and advanced future generation.”

“Both alternatives will happen within different segments of the population. I chose the optimistic scenario because we need to nudge history in this direction.”

“Young people in the next decade will not be straddling a transitional information environment as adults today are encountering. Their skills and abilities will not come from adapting expectations and behaviors but from a complete digital literacy rather than digital literacy as a second mode of understanding.”

“There is little to no evidence of neurological changes; what changes are practices and behaviors. The combination of the two, in my mind, will (and in a way already is) result in a scenario closer to the second one. The ability to concentrate, focus, and distinguish between noise and the message in the ever growing ocean of information will be the distinguishing factor between leaders and followers.”

“Already I’ve noticed a decline in face-to-face interactions. My friends and family are more likely to text than call. Even in short interactions with friends they pull out their phones and text while we are talking. Often I find myself repeating things because it was obvious they were not paying attention. This is a terrible future. Already children are overly connected playing video games and playing on iTouches and iPads. Their attention spans seem limited. Papers, presentations, and lessons must be taught in engaging ways to keep people’s attention for more than 30 seconds. In 2020, I believe that people will value skills involving information technology and Internet, especially social-media knowledge (how to advertise on social media, how to create social media pages and get attention). People who are able to arrive on time, without needing to text about being late, and who are responsible will be valuable.”

“Our attachment and dependence on technology will reach unhealthy levels because we are not as challenged to engage intellectually and physically as we have been in the past. We are much more lazy, since we have technology to do things for us.”

“Technology can have helpful results, but for the most part, there are lots of negatives. I haven’t grown up with as much technology as kids nowadays, and I can see a difference. I see kids and teens spending more and more time indoors. There’s nothing wrong with playing video games and texting a friend, but when they never play outside, join sports, or get active, that’s unhealthy.”

“Even though many of our technological advances have been positive for society, there is still much danger in them. People are missing out on a valuable part of communication and sociology by being so constantly engaged in the new media.”

“Information overload and overstimulation lead to a lack of ability to concentrate that will have detrimental effects on the adults of our near future.”

“The idea of multitasking has been empirically disproved. However, some positive benefits accrue from technology, notably research has shown that gamers make decisions quicker than non-gamers. Generally, the dangers of technology at present potentially outweigh the benefits to teens and young adults.”

“Just as the evolution of TV changed Baby Boomers’ viewing habits and expectations of media delivery, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults will be ‘wired’ differently. The changes in behavior and cognition among the young will, overall, be beneficial to society.”

“I have no doubt of this eventual generational shift, but until we have a teaching force equipped to teach this wired generation effectively, and a work force equipped to manage this wired generation effectively, we will not see positive outcomes on a large scale. There is too much of a gap between the ‘people in charge’ and the ‘wired kids,’ leaving too much room for miscommunication and inevitable friction. In 2020, I would imagine that the most highly valued intellectual and personal skills will be the ability to exist in both of these spaces.”

“We are adaptive animals. We evolve. And we, unlike most other animals, use tools. The Internet is just another tool that we are adapting to.”

“The changes I see already in teens and children experienced with using technology, computers, smartphones, and social media tends toward better connectivity, problem-solving skills and cooperation. They are not intimidated by technology or people and they work more collectively.”

“People are reading more these days than ever before, but what they read are short bites of information. This will have a long-range impact on the ability of younger generations to concentrate and retain information. The reality is that rather than using technology as an enhancement to work and life, it will be a crutch, and we won’t be able to get along without it. We’re tied to technology and it is tied to us. This trend will continue in the future. In 2020, the ability to communicate through a variety of mediums and in person will be increasingly important. Networking will take on new connotations as it becomes wrapped up in social media platforms.”

“Books were going to ruin the common man. They didn’t! Human beings are adaptable.”

“Social skills will deteriorate, as well as memory and deep-thinking capabilities. The need for instant gratification will continue to increase. Grammatical and spelling inadequacies will also continue to develop, which will further inhibit meaningful communication.”

“Multitasking is a misnomer. The term multitasking derived from computers’ CPU capability to bounce back and forth quickly among tasks. The brain is not capable of doing two things at once, and not capable (long-term) of bouncing back and forth between mindless activities in an efficient manner.”

“Expecting natural selection to evolve multitasking young people in the next nine years is perhaps one of the most ridiculous ideas I’ve heard. Multitasking results in fragmented attention and poor work, and nothing in our environment will evolve people who can do that better anytime soon.”

“Mankind is worsening in ethics and morality. Loose behavior is tolerated as OK.”

“Both populations you describe will exist and there will be an increasingly great divide between the two. Those in the first group will use technology to increase their knowledge and develop new ideas, products, technology, etc., at a much faster pace than is done nowadays. Those in the second group will be users of the new products, technologies, etc., but will have little interest in how they came about and perhaps will be happy with the shallowness that is pervasive in most social media sites.”

“Neurological data does not support an optimistic view of multitasking.”

“Research has shown that as they age, people are more capable of making decisions because they have more stored information to go by. Younger people address problems with committees and research groups (safety in numbers?) while older people who were not raised in the digital age, have more to rely on within themselves.”

“Multitasking is a myth; the brain as we know it can only focus on one issue at a time. That said, maybe the brain will evolve to true multitasking.”

“I don’t believe most young people are really that facile with the Internet. Just like other skills, they need to be taught, and that won’t happen until the current generations of teachers are replaced by people who do have these skills.”

“The machine-like benefits (e.g., searching Internet) will be outweighed by the ADD fostered by a reliance on ‘snackable’ bits of information. The capacity to simply sit and think something through will be lost for more than it even is now.”

“As in all things people adapt. As we move forward there will be the same demands on young adults as there are on adults now. They will just bring different skills and problem solving methods to the table as they work to work with others to meet the workplace and life demands placed on them.”

“I have seen studies that bear out both of the above conclusions. What I have seen firsthand, however, is a general lack of deep thinking, critical analysis, staying on task, and clear reasoning from premise to conclusion.”

“Can the negative scenario be 100% laid at the feet of the Internet? Of course not.”

“The era of multitasking creates skills of ferreting out superficial information, yet it does not cultivate nor reward deeper thoughts. There is an emphasis on the end, not the means, and yet the means is where people usually stumble across innovation and breakthroughs. In a multitasking world, too much effort is spent on the juggling of the tasks, and the ugly byproduct is a lack of depth.”

“People can adapt to a rate of change relative to the rate they grew up in. Some people are poor multitaskers but they stand out more than good multitaskers for other reasons. Also, people can find the multitasking activities that work for them.”

“I see students using textspeak in writing and speaking all too often. There is a clear lack of awareness regarding the conventions of writing, including spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Additionally, students are increasingly unable to write anything of appropriate length or depth, and have great difficulty providing details and evidence to support their premise (if, indeed, they are even capable of formulating a premise.) Their attention spans are woefully limited, as is their capacity to retain information or make connections between lessons and life.”

“The Internet and its body of knowledge is simply the best and most accessible way to communicate and research. Improvements to this underlying search for knowledge and communication can be charted through history. Humans will continue to adapt positively to the latest technology that enables more connections, creativity and information. Onward and upward!”

“I’d like to think that as more micro responsibilities increase (and our facilities for dealing with these responsibilities increase) we will strengthen and develop actual multitasking. But that’s sort of beside the point. I am optimistic about how people will adapt with technology and I feel that it will help our learning behavior. It will have a greater net benefit, meaning that the bottom percent of educational performers will rise. This won’t come just from using technology, however, but from a greater number of people participating in creating that technology; more people with average development skills means more people who can bring a greater depth to their work (at least in terms of how that work interfaces with the Internet/tech). I’m don’t know if these youths will be better at answering deep questions, but I do think the accessibility of collective intelligence will revolutionize what it means to be young and to share experience. For this reason, I think it’s too dour to suggest that youth will lack social skills or to suggest that the Internet will corrupt or consume them. With increasing access to mobile technology many of the fears of children stuck in the dark indoors will evaporate. The crackdown on flash mobs in California, New York, and Philadelphia is more indicative of what’s coming: youth, not being antisocial thanks to the Net, but too social, too strong, and taking their collective knowledge off the Internet and bringing it out.”

“The educational system hasn’t kept up with the affordances of the Web. The crucial missing step is assignments that foster deeper learning and engagement with the content resources so easily discoverable on the Web.”

“I watch my kids, and they can do more at once than I. There is no such thing as multitasking, but I think being able to learn how to deal with distractions will be helpful to those who have it from the beginning. I disagree with the phrase ‘brains wired differently’; They will just learn to adapt better. The trick will be if they can focus when they need to. Strategic, deep thinking requires no distractions.”

“Children and youth aren’t monolithic, and I think this potential, along with many others, will be significantly influenced by socioeconomic status. Young people from families that have access to good education and that value learning will benefit from technology. Young people who fall behind now will fall even further.”

“Critical thinking skills have been and always will be the key to success and successful endeavors. Too many young people are not challenged to use their critical thinking skills so as to develop them. There are low expectations of our young people and we are losing our resources for the future.”

“Information and technical literacy will be critical because the technology will be so easy to use. Literacy, in this sense, means being able to integrate processes and thinking to best gather necessary information and then use that information for critical decision-making.”

“My answer is based on the behavior of my 18-year-old daughter. While sometimes I feel the ‘baleful’ scenario is true, I also see that she is inquisitive in ways I was not, and will often use her smartphone to quickly obtain answers and information to questions that occur to her. Her methods for finding information are less straight-line than mine were at her age, but she thinks in fun, creative ways that reflect the way her mind has developed.”

“I work with college students every day and both of my children grew up as digital natives. Over the past 20 years I have observed as students’ ability to do ‘deep thinking’ and process complex problems gets weaker and weaker. As it has deteriorated, I have also seen the greater reliance on the Internet via computers and smart phones for all information. As I say this I think of some of the complex logic required by some of the video games my son plays. But, all of them require very short bursts of mental energy, little deeper thinking about solutions to complex problems. He solves those video game challenges quickly (in a matter of seconds) and is rewarded quickly. The idea of taking longer would probably make the game less enjoyable and therefore sales would suffer.

“I’m 58, work at a four-year liberal arts college and have a 30-year-old daughter. I see lots of ‘multitasking’ and engage in it myself. I also see a great deal of group work, students and young adults engaged with their peers and community face-to-face, and thoughtful exploration of issues. I’ve studied how organizations and people embrace or resist change. I really don’t see evidence of wholesale techno-idiocy around me.”

“The fundamental capabilities of the human brain will remain constant, but we will either create devices that interrupt humans less frequently or only the very rich and very poor in our communities will have the capacity for sustained concentration and thought. The latter populations will be at a distinct creative advantage.”

“Teens nowadays are extremely smart and well-informed, as they are always connected. With technology being enhanced and new tools/applications/software being developed constantly, future teens will be more intelligent and will be creators. They will contribute positively to communities and the world at large.”

“Current teens and young adults are already showing some of the tendencies hypothesized in this scenario. They are struggling with how to express their ideas in face-to-face situations and they want to know a little about everything, but nothing too in detail. I see this happening in my classroom every day. Students send me emails in text message language and they are upset when I correct written assignments that are vague and written in text language.”

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