Elon University

Credited Responses: New Normal for Digital Life 2025

This page holds full for-credit responses with no analysis to a set of July 2020 research questions aimed at illuminating attitudes about the likely near-future evolution of digital life in the wake of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pew Research and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a large-scale canvassing of technology experts, scholars, corporate and public practitioners and other leaders from June 30-July 27, 2020, asking them to share their answer to the following:

The Question: Life in 2025? There have been significant debates since the emergence of COVID-19 about its potential impact on global society. Much of the conversation has centered on the transformation of people’s social interactions, their physical and mental health, economic and social divisions, the nature of work and jobs, local, national and global politics, climate change and the globalization of goods and services. Of course, the evolution of people and technology could play a major role across some aspects of the ‘new normal’ in the years to come. What do you envision the ‘new normal’ for digital life will be in 2025? Consider the changes that are being set in motion by the COVID-19 outbreak and the way societies are responding. Do you predict these changes will lead to life in 2025 that is mostly better for most people, mostly worse for most people or not much different for most people than life was at the time the pandemic began?

915 respondents answered the question

  • About 47% said life will be mostly worse for most people in 2025 than when the pandemic began.
  • About 39% said life will be mostly better for most people in 2025.
  • About 14% said life in 2025 will not be much different for most people than before the pandemic began in 2020.

They were asked to elaborate on their choice with these prompts: If you expect change, what do you think the ‘new normal’ will be for the average person in 2025? What will have changed most? What will not change much at all? We are particularly interested in what you think will happen to the way people use and think about technology. Please describe what you think the ‘new normal’ will look like with regard to the role of digital technologies in individuals’ personal and professional lives, their daily routines, their well-being, their privacy, their employment and economic security. What hopes do you have for tech-related changes that might make life better in coming years? What worries you about the role of technology and technology companies in individuals’ lives in 2025?

The full report with organized analysis of responses is here.

Key themes emerging in the 915 respondents’ overall answers were:

* EMERGING CHANGE – Tele-everything is embraced: The broad adoption of “remote” processes – tele-work, tele-medicine, virtual schooling, e-commerce and more – is growing. In 2025, there will be more people working from home, more virtual social and entertainment interactions, fewer forays in public than has been in the case in recent years.  Humans’ yearning for convenience and safety fuels reliance on digital tools: The pandemic has rearranged incentives so that consumers will be more willing to seek out smart gadgets, apps and systems. This will speed up adoption of new education and learning platforms, rearrange work patterns and workplaces, change family life and upend living arrangements and community structures.  The best and worst of human nature are amplified: The crisis is enhancing digital interconnectedness that engenders empathy, better awareness of the ills facing humanity and positive public action. On the flip side, some individuals, cities and nation-states will become more insular and competitive as survival mode kicks in. Xenophobia, bigotry and closed communities will also increase.

* WORRIES FOR 2025 – Inequality and injustice are magnified: The pandemic and quick pivot to the use of digitally-driven systems will widen divides and expand the ranks of the unemployed, uninsured and disenfranchised. The power imbalances between the advantaged and disadvantaged are being magnified by digital systems overseen by behemoth firms as they exploit big data and algorithmic decision-making that are often biased. More people will be pushed into a precarious existence that lacks predictability, economic security and wellness.  As risk grows, security must also; privacy falls and authoritarianism rises: The health crisis spawned by the pandemic and broader dependence people have on the internet heighten threats of criminal activity, hacks and other attacks. Optimized security solutions may further reduce individuals’ privacy and civil liberties. They are likely to expand mass surveillance, as authoritarian states will use this as an opportunity to silence dissent and abuse citizens’ civil rights.  Threats to work will intensify from automation, artificial intelligence, robotics and globalization: In order to survive, businesses are reconfiguring systems and processes to automate as many aspects as possible. While artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will enhance some lives, they will damage others, as more work is taken over by machines. Employers may outsource labor to the lowest bidder globally. Employees may be asked to work for far less; they may have to shift to be gig and contract workers, supplying their own equipment, and they may be surveilled at home by employers.  Misinformation will be rampant: Digital propaganda is unstoppable, and the rapidly expanding weaponization of cloud-based technologies divides the public, deteriorates social cohesion and threatens rational deliberation and evidence-based policymaking.  People’s mental health will be challenged: Digital life was already high-stress for some people prior to the required social isolation brought on by the pandemic. The shift to tele-everything will be extensive and that will diminish in-person contact and constrict tech users’ real-world support systems and their social connections.

* HOPES FOR 2025  Social justice will get priority: The reawakening of public movements for social justice and economic equality may create more-responsive government and socio-political systems that are more attuned to diversity, equity and inclusion. That includes focus on digital divides.  People’s well-being will prevail over profit: Businesses may start to value serving the greater good above the typical goals of market capitalism. This could produce policies to fund broader safety nets such as universal health care, universal basic income and broadband as a basic utility. A reckoning for tech companies and their leaders might also occur.  The quality of life will improve: The transition to home-based work will reduce urban air pollution, overcrowding and transportation gridlock, and improve quality of life, family life, accommodations for disabilities and other enhancements.  AI, VR, AR, ML will yield good: Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing will make virtual spaces feel much more real, in-person and authentic.  Smarter systems will be created: Municipal, rural, state and independent services, especially in the healthcare sector, will be modernized to better handle future crises, quickly identifying and responding to emerging threats and sharing information with all citizens in more timely and helpful ways.

News release with nutshell version of report findings is available here

All anonymous responses on the “new normal” in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak

The full survey report with analysis is posted online here

Download the full report with analysis as a printable document here

Responses from all those taking credit for their remarks. Some are longer versions of expert responses contained in shorter form in the survey report.

The responses on this page are organized in four sections below. They are sorted by respondents’ choices as to whether they responded that it most likely that: 1) digital life in 2025 is likely to be mostly worse for most people than prior to the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020; 2) digital life in 2025 is likely to be mostly better for most people; 3) digital life in 2025 will remain generally the same as it was previous to the arrival of the pandemic in 2020; and 4) the respondent selected none of the three choices but did write a response.

Some people chose not to provide a written elaboration. Some of the following are the longer versions of responses that are contained in shorter form in one or more places the survey report.

These comments were collected in an opt-in invitation to more than 10,000 people that asked them to share their responses to a web-based questionnaire in July 2020.

The following predictions are from respondents who said most people’s lives will be mostly WORSE in 2025 than they were prior to the arrival of the pandemic

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, shared this 2025 scenario: “We’ve entered a new Bioinformation Age, a new period in human history characterized by the shift from privacy and personal choice to new social, government and economic structures that require our data to operate. You can expect to see a Flying Internet of Things: smart drones equipped with object- and face-recognition, audio analytics, motion detection and sense-and-avoid systems that communicate with each other in the air and back down to a command center on the ground. The Flying Internet of Things will be used for surveillance and deliveries of small payloads, such as medicines, medical supplies and other necessities. Drones will transport specimens between buildings on hospital campuses, and they will move prescriptions between drug stores and homes. The availability of diagnostic testing will be far more ubiquitous. Drug stores, schools and large company offices will have compact COVID-19 testing machines and technicians. A specimen will be taken, put onto a cartridge and results will be delivered within minutes. Meanwhile, at airports, offices and event spaces, smart millimeter wave machines will be used to algorithmically diagnose people with COVID-19 symptoms. The machines will include a thermal imager and a powerful suite of AI algorithms that in seconds will scan someone’s heart rate, respiration rate, blood oxygen level and body temperature. Our new normal will include decentralized, persistent biometric surveillance. Within just a few years, biometric recognition technology will transition from suspect, to reviled, to acceptable, to essential. Eventually, a massive biometric surveillance apparatus will become the invisible infrastructure enabling our economies to function again.”

HOPES: “Catastrophe can be a catalyst for positive change. In a race to find a vaccine, important areas of science – synthetic biology, computational virology – are accelerating. This will result in more-efficient drug testing, new approaches to targeted therapies and, someday, a future in which we engineer life itself. Many organizations in the public and private sectors had not invested in digital transformation. The virus provided an immediate impetus to change. On the other side of this, organizations should have better workflows, data management, information and cybersecurity, and new efficiencies. The virus could finally be an accelerant to healthcare equity in the U.S. The virus has highlighted the lack of broadband infrastructure in the U.S. and a growing digital divide. One of the coronavirus aftershocks will be a realization that American kids need internet access to perform well in school, and many families don’t have it. We could categorize internet access the way we categorize food security and emerge from the pandemic with federal programs to provide internet and device assistance to families in need.”

WORRIES: “In our new Bioinformation Age, the fate of regulation, as national governments try to reconcile the desire for public safety with a reality in which algorithms are encoded with bias, could take many years to sort out, and the result is likely a patchwork of different protocols and permissions around the world. In the Bioinformation Age, transparency, accountability and data governance are paramount, but few organizations are ready. Everyone alive today is under persistent surveillance from a host of technologies, and what most people don’t realize is that tech companies don’t need cameras to see you. From WiFi signals to single strands of hair, it is possible to recognize you without submitting to face scans. Expect to see many more biometric recognition systems going into effect around the world. France is in the process of instituting a national biometric registry, while schools all around the U.S. are starting to install tracking systems to monitor their students.”

Larry Irving, Internet Hall of Fame member and former head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, commented, “There will be considerable change. The new normal will include using technology more extensively for most facets of American life, but particularly for education/remote learning; medical diagnostics; news, information and entertainment; and for business and commercial activities. It simply isn’t realistic to believe that now that folks have found out they can travel less, commute for fewer hours, study or review educational materials on their own time and obtain a medical opinion or diagnosis without sitting for endless hours in a doctor’s office waiting room that they will return willingly to the old normal. To meet these new demands on the internet we will see more copious and ubiquitous networks, as consumers won’t tolerate less. You also will see much more continuous monitoring of health metrics, particularly if the suspicions that vaccines for the virus will need to be updated on yearly or half yearly basis hold true. The measured life will become much more real if failure to measure could lead to death.”

HOPES: “I hope that greater access to copious broadband will allow for a revolution in education as people figure out new pedagogical models to help personalize learning, to allow people to learn at their pace and to allow collaboration by connected students and teachers and professors. Remote learning has great potential benefit for training, retraining and upskilling workers. I believe that medical diagnoses will be more accurate and more timely.”

WORRIES: “I worry deeply about: security, privacy, AI being used to make assumptions, the proliferation of wrong or misleading information, exploitation of the naivete of young audiences. These are serious problems that we haven’t had the will to address.”

Abigail De Kosnik, associate professor and director of the Center for New Media at the University of California-Berkeley, said, “Climate change, invasive corporatized technologies and increasing economic precarity will all combine to give rise to a far more paranoid society in 2025 than we had at the start of 2020. In some ways, widespread fear and anxiety will have positive results, as people will be more environmentally conscious than ever before and will engage en masse in efforts to regulate corporate resource extraction and pollution, and will show a collective willingness to adopt less environmentally harmful lifestyles (for example, I expect a huge upsurge in mass transit use, and a corresponding movement to improve the quality of mass transit in cities across the U.S.). However, the paranoia will be justified – there will be fewer opportunities for college graduates who do not have family connections, and climate change will make large regions uninhabitable. This will lead to huge problems in mental health and will negatively impact at least a couple of generations of Americans in terms of their relationships, sense of self and lifetime happiness quotient.”

HOPES: “The tech industry will likely continue to produce technologies that either do nothing to improve everyday life or make it significantly worse. What can happen to improve technology is better organization on the part of users and tech workers who object to their companies’ negative social impact. I have hope that we will see a wave of activism and unionization and the formation of alternate types of organizations (B Corps or P Corps for example) that will yield new technologies whose aim will not be profit but actual problem solving – mobilizing collective intelligence to solve the problems of environmental disaster, massive social inequity and lack of opportunity that we will face in 2025.”

WORRIES: “Everything, but especially the fact that technology companies are overall having a hugely negative effect on the environment and on humans’ ways of thinking about and understanding the world. I would say in general the fact that tech companies are not planning to be carbon-neutral anytime soon, they have no apparent plans to create synthetic alternatives to the rare minerals they rely on to make computing devices (I don’t know if that’s even possible but just putting that out there) and they don’t seem to care much about spreading misinformation and training hundreds of millions of people all over the world to think *less* critically about information are my biggest concerns.”

Adam Clayton Powell III, senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, observed, “The 2025 ‘new normal’ will be better, often much better, for the affluent and for other global elites. They have now and will continue to have access to and can afford the best technologies to serve them in their personal and professional lives. But 2020 has been such a setback for the hundreds of millions of people, most in Asia and Africa, who have just emerged from poverty and whose progress has now been reversed that it is difficult to imagine these reversals can be entirely cured by 2025. In the U.S. we had record employment –  some said ‘full’ employment – as recently as February of this year. While one can hope that the sudden plunge to Depression-level unemployment can be temporary, there are so many changes – especially in any industry relying on people crowding together (transportation, entertainment) – that the shift to video communication and streaming home entertainment suggests these coping mechanisms for 2020 will not entirely recede. Many have said that the virus pandemic has accelerated changes in uses of digital technologies that were already under way. There does not seem to be any reason to believe we will return to 2019. For a start, why would I ever want to commute to an office again?”

HOPES: “For decades, we have said that the internet brings to our fingertips the riches of the world’s libraries. Now people around the world – people who are connected, that is – realize they have the riches of the world’s information and entertainment video and experiential technologies at their fingertips. This will not go away. Consider history: The Metropolitan Opera is streaming opera productions every day. It was during the Depression that the Met started transmitting its productions on radio. The Depression ended but the Met’s radio broadcasts didn’t.”

WORRIES: “I am not as afraid of large tech companies as many seem to be. No one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to use Bing – and most don’t. There are Firefox, DuckDuckGo and any number of alternatives to large companies (OK, maybe Amazon is nearly an exception).”

Jeanne Dietsch, New Hampshire senator and former CEO of MobileRobots Inc., said, “Disruption is always difficult. Until we task AI with the complex logistics needed to optimize the use of resources and the smart automation needed to perform low-skilled jobs, many workers will be overtaxed: teachers, bus drivers, health professionals, mental health professionals, caregivers, administrators, just to name a few. We face a vast amount of work that has been ignored over the past decades full of short-sighted decisions. We have failed to maintain our infrastructure, but more importantly, we have failed to care for the future of the next generation. To turn that work into jobs requires determination and the ability to stand up for our values, stand up against a system that rewards corporations seeking short-term profit over any other goal. Carbon fee and dividend is the first step toward shifting the structure of our economy toward a more egalitarian one, with better values.”

HOPES: “The use of AI to optimize the logistics of resource use could dramatically improve our nutrition, education, health and even our social interactions. The addition of sensor feedback into automation of all types, from traffic handling to regulatory regimes, could greatly improve the functionality of our systems.”

WORRIES: “What concerns me most is technology’s ability to enable people to magnify ignorance and misinformation.”

Adam Sah, an investor and advisor to startups who previously worked at Google’s Public Sector Engineering Group, wrote, “This question is nearly impossible to answer because of the number of unknowns involved. It’s hard to see how life would be better for ‘most’ people (presumably, by the numbers). Many people will know someone who gets sick or dies for example, and many people will lose jobs that don’t come back. COVID (and the response to it) isn’t done yet, so we don’t know a lot of things – but the unknowns are all skewed to ‘mostly worse’ for example if COVID sets off a war or the virus mutates to being more virulent or destructive. The one positive would be COVID triggering the replacement of Trump, who fewer and fewer people think has helped them, and many many people think has hurt them. There are longer-term positives, but you asked about 2025. For example, an acceleration in certain kinds of research and development won’t pay off by 2025 (unless there’s a second pandemic). The digital issues like privacy, daily routine, etc., are drops in the bucket compared with death, war, loss of employment, etc.”

HOPES: “Life will be better for some people (‘digital winners’) but it will be worse for many others for whom disruptive technologies are, of course, disruptive. For example, is streaming and social media really better than movie theaters and bars? Technically it’s better, but in terms of holistic well-being the jury is out. For example, you don’t meet or interact with strangers. Clearer cut improvements include flexible work schedules and locations, which make it (potentially) easier to interweave professional and personal lives. Post-COVID, people won’t freak if your kid screams in the background or there’s honking from the NYC street. Self-driving vehicles are a clear-cut improvement for the majority of people, who overwhelm the ranks of livery drivers who need to find another gig job. Improved treatment options are pretty clear-cut wins. As much as people love to hate it, the Western healthcare system is actually nicely optimized. What it lacks is a spokesperson to post on social media every time someone has a good healthcare outcome that was only made possible by recent technology advances.”

Maja Vujovic, a consultant for digital and ICT at Compass Communications, noted, “If entire sectors – education, tourism and hospitality, food production, entertainment and more – continue to experience the deep freeze caused by COVID-19 through 2020 and beyond, the ‘new normal’ will likely not remain limited to ‘benign’ disruptions, such as blended learning or continued work from home and the related office space redux. If the pandemic persists for many months or spills over into another year, the recession will go into freefall. Countries with strong social security systems and/or capital will activate a range of protective measures to prevent public disorder. Countries without such a safety net will be forced to choose between solidarity and oppression. If the pandemic persists longer than a year, it will affect the world’s economy like a global war; in that case, food rationing and other wartime measures will become inevitable. This will entail identification, allocation, distribution and delivery – all of it enabled by a range of digital tech. Identity control will therefore have to be enforced very strictly, to avoid fraud. Other previously inconceivable disruptions will occur, e.g., primary and secondary education will need to enter into public-private partnerships with commercial providers of automated instruction, learning and testing platforms at scale, able to instruct the majority of students, while teachers from formal schools deal with small numbers of exceptions, such as special needs students etc. Higher education will become a terrain where a small number of entertainment-savvy lecturers attract huge student audiences via tech-enabled remote learning, while professors unskilled in it become dispensable. A ‘marketplace’ will emerge, where students will be able to pick and choose courses from any university, to create unique, personalized schooling ‘menus.’ This will create a demand for a certification mechanism at a level above individual universities. Distinguished schools with vast traditions will thus have to reconsider and redefine their missions and their very purpose and a number of them may not prove sustainable. Overwhelmed health systems will become the reserve of emergency and infection treatments. Workplaces will become leaner and nimbler. Specialized teams will work on project-based assignments, often without the need for a large enterprise to sustain them. Taxation and labour laws will need to change, to enable individuals to participate in a more secure, more equitable digitally-enabled gig economy.”

HOPES: “Diagnostic and other longer-term medical services will move online, via wearable and home-based devices, telemedicine and a strong reliance on AI. Along with more awareness among individuals about the impact of their choices in food, recreation and lifestyle on their own health, these systems will bring about an improvement of overall well-being, at a lower overall cost.”

WORRIES: “The idea of personal data protection will not only take a hit, it will have to be sacrificed altogether. Identity certification may get relegated to a consortium of big tech companies, based on their existing profiling data ownership, via social media and subscription data, in lieu or in support of state-certified identities. Still, despite this leap in the population census potential, general elections will continue to be skewed by various interest groups, despite all the readiness and sophistication on the technical side.”

Alan D. Mutter, a consultant and former Silicon Valley CEO, wrote, “So far, the response in the U.S. has been dismal, to COVID and the ensuing economic and social crises. If the U.S. government returns to stable and constructive adult supervision in 2020 and thereafter, then it is possible that FDR-style social and economic programs can rescue those whose lives and livelihoods have been disrupted by the COVID lockdown. In that event, it is possible programs will be enacted – finally! – to support less-affluent members of society and to aggressively address institutional racism, endemic economic inequality and accelerating climate destruction. If the country continues on the reckless and cynical course charted by Trump and his enablers, then we truly will have the ‘carnage’ that Trump posited in his inaugural address. I am 70+ years old and never have been so terrified for the U.S. and the world that depended on our (imperfect) leadership in the modern era.”

WORRIES: “We are not going to code our way out of the moral and political mess we are in. Technology will help if the right people do the right things. It will do epic damage if they don’t. The social media were hijacked by thugs and trolls to do incalculable damage. Their efforts were at once ignored and abetted by Zuck and his ilk to amp up page views to boost ad revenues. Social media had great promise to level the intellectual playing field by giving everyone the power to give or get whatever information they wanted. Instead, the social media have become treacherous cesspools of mis- and mal-information. Artificial intelligence can do wondrous things so long as it is properly trained and deployed. That is its notable fail. For instance, AI often fails to accurately recognize the faces of people of color. When AI is used to recommend sentences for criminals, it tends to discriminate against people of color. The failures of social media and AI are not technology problems. They are problems of human design and execution. Technology is only as good as the people who devise and control it. I am less interested in potential technology advances I am than worried about whether new developments will be wisely and safely deployed.”

Marcel Fafchamps, professor of economics and senior fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University, commented, “Here are some of the changes I anticipate. Please note that many of them were already in the background and could have occurred anyway, but I suspect less fast and less strongly. 1) Economic and social inequality: the economic contrast between the ‘confined,’ the ‘essentials’ and the ‘unemployed’ will perdure. The confined are those who can work from home and be productive. Because employers save money on them, they will continue to prosper. Anyone who cannot work from home will as a result earn comparatively less than without the introduction of work-from-home as a normal way of life. Many workers will be displaced or made redundant by this change, e.g., all those who support work-life (restaurants, transport including car making, maintenance of office buildings, etc.). A gig economy will arise that caters to the same needs for those working from home but, because they will work in a very competitive industry (they will compete with each other for each home-worker-customer) and they will be much harder to organize in unions, strikes, etc., they will earn less. And they will become invisible, like domestic workers or gardeners today. 2) The generalization of work-from-home will change where people live – possibly away from city centers, but this need not be the case if people value their social life, as is likely, especially for the young – possibly into small towns instead of big metropolis. This will in turn lead to more social segmentation/parochialism/segregation in terms of residential choice and social circle. Business districts force different people together by need rather than choice. If people can choose who they live with, they will sort on similar attributes, including wealth and all its correlates. 3) By reducing the cost of congestion inherent to having a workforce in large office buildings, these changes will enable even larger firms, leading to an even stronger concentration of corporate power into a small number of key actors. The last wave saw the concentration of financial and service industry into a small number of world banks into a small number of geographical centers (e.g., New York, London, Shanghai, Singapore, etc.). We have already seen this with Amazon, Alibaba, Google and the like for their respective industries. We will now see this spread to other work-from-home industries: more agglomeration, but this time happening in the digital world, and not requiring geographical concentration itself. 4) Civil liberties were severely curtailed during COVID-19. New tools and technologies were introduced to control people better, including phone apps that identify likely social interactions between people. These tools will be used by totalitarian regimes to control their population better, on the Chinese model. Furthermore, people working from home will be much harder to organize and much easier to target individually by repression. I therefore anticipate population control to become more efficient and effective, cutting down the productivity gap between autocratic regimes and democracies. As a result, democracy will be on the defensive, its spread will be reversed in many parts of the world, and democracies themselves will infringe more on civil liberties. We are entering a post-democratic era. 5) Privacy was always a luxury in the past – only the rich enjoyed it. Then it spread to a large fraction of the population in the West. Now it is receding again, in a way that mirrors the rise in inequality and the inevitable fall in civil liberties. The poor never have privacy. COVID-19 has justified the loss of the last bit of privacy we had left, namely, our health data and who we meet in the park. 6) In a not-too-distant future the Soviet Union will be seen as ahead of its time: its main weakness was the inability to deal with the complexity of matching production and consumer demand. Now this can be achieved via Amazon or Alibaba, and the complex dispatch or matching algorithm that they and Google and Facebook have created. With concentration of corporate power, increase in inequality, and weakening of civil liberties, it will be easy to recreate a post-democratic world that fulfills the Soviet promise, without necessarily requiring public ownership in the means of production: it will no longer matter who is formally the owner of capital, as China today demonstrates.”

HOPES and WORRIES: “1) Material welfare will continue to improve for the rich and the upper middle class. It will continue to stagnate or recede for the rest. What will continue to change is the equalization of within-country inequality across countries: more rich people in currently poor countries, more poor people in currently rich countries. 2. Non-material welfare is another matter. My main concern is the rise of the bots and their use for social control. When people get segmented into small disparate communities – i.e., virtual villages that, with work-from-home, will turn into actual residential villages – it will be easier to control them, e.g., by pitting communities/identities against each other. And we have seen how easy it is to manipulate opinion and behaviors online. 3. Tech-related change could mitigate some of the forces I foresee. But it would have to be directed at political participation. One area where much more needs to be done is in the elicitation of preferences – e.g., using different voting rules such as voting against your least preferred candidate, voting by ranking options or assigning points to different options and candidates, revisiting rules of parties, elections systems and the like. The second issue is organizing political participation in a way that leads to beneficial outcomes. The rise of social media has occasionally allowed mobilization to take place, but it remains a highly volatile, manipulable medium where bots and disinformation rule. I have zero trust in social media in improving democracy, just like I have no trust in malicious gossip and tabloids to have done so in the last 30 years. News has to be curated, whistleblowing has to be mediated, we need a strong media now more than ever – not a never-ending rumor mill. I am sure cavemen already had rumor mills. We deserve better, especially when rumors can spread across 8 billion people in a few hours.”

Alexa Raad, co-founder and co-host of the TechSequences podcast and former chief operating officer at Farsight Security, said, “The pandemic has already highlighted and exacerbated the gap between the haves and the have-nots, not only in terms of the cost of lives lost but also in terms of economic disparity. The policies of the current administration have accelerated that divide, and should Trump win another term in 2020, it would only aggravate it even further. The pandemic also put a spotlight on broken systems and processes such as healthcare that require a significant effort and will to fix. Another Trump term would only exacerbate existing problems such as a broken healthcare system and spiraling deficit. If he wins, that would set a very negative context, and should his challenger win, then it would require some hard decisions, and bipartisan support to undo damage and set a right course. The pandemic highlighted the importance of internet connectivity. Many companies in the tech and service industries will realize that a work-at-home model is efficient and less costly for some or many of their workforce and that they do not need expensive commercial urban real estate. Therefore, more people will work from home, which affects everything from daily routines to the makeup of services offered to the home. However, this is a luxury for only a set of individuals who can work from home and can afford the set up (high-speed access, required space and internet-enabled equipment) to work from home. This of course sets a new and quite complex normal for managing cybersecurity threats. Largescale industry events will be less prevalent, as will the frequency of corporate travel. All of these will have rippling affects across multiple industries like airlines, hospitality and event/exhibit management. Overall, there will be less economic security. One of the legacies of the pandemic is the realization that although many conveniences of modern life are predicated on the simple assumption that close proximity of people yields economic and social benefits, in an age of accelerating climate change and multiple pandemics (COVID-19 is likely a precursor of others yet to come) that will no longer hold true. Conveniences such as airplane travel, movies, amphitheater, subways, high-rise apartment units, shopping malls, were based on this assumption and as a result densely packed areas were sustained hotspots of infection. We will rethink these, perhaps, but in the meantime the cost of and inconvenience of, say, air travel will be high. Technologies to identify and manage the spread of infections will be intrusive in terms of privacy (example – contact-tracing apps) unless very thoughtful governance of data privacy is implemented. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of populations living in densely packed urban areas. There will be a migration out to the suburbs, changing not only the real estate industry but also the landscape.”

HOPES: “The new normal will put a greater strain on our healthcare system. The pandemic highlighted how unprepared we as a nation are, not only in terms of our acceptance of scientific and evidence-based advice, but also in regard to having the means to efficiently and economically deal with a public health crisis. A beneficial tech-related change will be the delivery of some aspects of healthcare into the home. For example, people will continue to have online consultations with health professionals instead of an inconvenient in-person visit is already happening and will be the new normal. Internet of Things-based devices will be more plentiful and will serve as a means to monitor everyday health and diagnose and in some cases remotely manage illnesses without the need for intrusive surgery. However, they will also pose a much greater threat in terms of privacy and cybersecurity. More and more private data will be generated collected and used. Unless there are appropriate safeguards and controls as to how the data is handled, we will see an erosion of our privacy and further loss of control over our choices and decisions as a result. Internet of Things devices have the potential to greatly improve our well-being, and we will see AI-enabled IoT devices which will, for example, monitor our health, provide biological feedback, anticipate and warm of an impending health crisis, etc. But IoT devices increase the attack surface and vectors for bad actors. We will see rise of new cybersecurity threats. Imagine, for example, a nation-state targeting a public figure by hacking into his/her pacemaker. Given where we are now in terms of lacking a basic level of cyber hygiene for these devices, unless we make significant progress we will fall further and further behind the bad actors.”

WORRIES: “A few of my concerns: 1) The consolidation of services and power into very few largely unregulated companies worries me a great deal. If this trend continues, we will be beholden to very few companies for the many services our lives rely on. These companies will become ‘too big to fail.’ In the financial crisis of 2008, the government bailed out financial institutions who were deemed too big to fail, even though the actions of those same institutions were directly and indirectly responsible for the crisis. Many organizations use Amazon’s AWS cloud services for their web presence and mission-critical applications. Concentrated dependency has never been a harbinger of benefits. 2) I also worry about the lack of proper governance for potential threats posed by AI. And by ‘threats’ I mean in regard to security (AI can also be used by our adversaries), economic impact (the loss of blue collar jobs without provisions for retraining or alternative employment will only increase the economic gap) loss of privacy, loss of agency etc. Although the promise of the best of AI is probably likely to come to fruition beyond 2025, we need to be thinking of proper governance and risk mitigation now, and we are behind. 3) I worry about the societal cost of social media. Social media platforms have become the breeding ground for disinformation campaigns, conspiracy theories, extremist groups, online bullying, anti-vaxers and bots that manipulate opinions and sow division and discord. According to Pew Research, 55% of U.S. adults now get their news from social media either ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ – an 8% increase from last year. When journalism and legitimate news media struggle to compete, we lose one of the fundamental bulwarks of democracy – a free press. And then there is the lack of proper guardrails and defined consequences for social media companies’ use of our personal data (example – Cambridge Analytica). Lastly, social media effects tap into the brain’s reward system and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. It is addictive, and its premise is that of addictive entertainment and not critical thinking. When critical thinking is eroded, so is trust in science – and we collectively pay the price.”

Alexandra Samuel, technology writer, researcher, speaker and regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review, said, “While the pandemic offers us an opportunity to address many of the greatest challenges of our time and redirect ourselves along a new path, there’s enormous variation in whether and how countries are seizing that new path. In the best-case scenario, the temporary income supports that some countries have put in place would establish an enduring basis for cushioning the impact of automation and economic dislocation. We’d finally address growing income inequality by providing a guaranteed basic income for everyone. We’d embrace the shift to remote work and the reduction in business travel as the necessary (but insufficient) ingredient for reducing our collective carbon footprint, and rebuild the economy around working from home, online, so that a shift to virtual work enables long-run sustainable growth in place of a relentless acceleration of climate change. We’d double down on the ‘temporary’ experience of online socialization and recreation, making the arts more broadly accessible and normalizing the idea of social connection as an anytime, anywhere part of our lives. But that requires governments to commit not only to short-term income supports, but to long-term changes in tax policy so that the winners of automation and digitization actually pay enough taxes to subsidize a guaranteed income. We need to restructure our economies, our businesses and our personal expectations so that we’re not holding our breath until commutes and travel return – we’re actually embracing a work-from-home, low-travel future. We need to evolve our conversation about ‘real’ life and ‘real’ theater and ‘real’ friendship so that we stop framing our online experiences as second-best, and instead find the ways to make them deeply satisfying. Sadly, I don’t see a whole lot of that happening, with the possible exception of a wider and more enduring shift to remote work. What’s missing are the business and government economic policies to ensure that that shift actually provides widespread social benefits, and not just a cost saving on office rent.”

HOPES: “Yes, the shift towards remote work could and likely will inspire innovation in remote-collaboration and remote-work technologies, which is great. But what would be really transformative is a mental and behavioral shift in how people work with these technologies. The longer we’re at home, separated from our IT teams, the greater the pressure to develop individual competency when it comes to choosing and using digital tools. If home-based workers invest in the tech skills that make this possible (and if companies empower workers to make their own choices, rather than forcing them into a common, easier-to-surveil toolkit), the tech marketplace will be more sophisticated in another five years. More-knowledgeable and sophisticated tech consumers will not only create a market for more-advanced and sophisticated workplace tools, they may also create more demand, pressure and business opportunity for social and recreational platforms that offer choice instead of simply plug-and-play. Think: Video games that offer opportunities for co-creation or mixed-mode play because gamers are now more adept at customizing their game play, building their own mini-apps or stories within games, or simply setting up their consoles and game rooms so that streaming video or multi-screen play becomes a lot more feasible. Or think in terms of participatory theater and video projects that invite people to collaborate because it’s no longer so daunting to get on screen or run the controls for a live interactive event. Perhaps even imagine a world in which people feel so comfortable with tech configuration that they actually dig into the privacy settings of their social networking platforms, taking the steps to protect their individual privacy and thereby pushing the big social networking platforms towards a business model that doesn’t depend on unfettered access to user data.”

WORRIES: “A worst-case scenario is that the shift to remote work turns into an engine of greater digital surveillance. Companies may trust senior managers to work from home, but too many organizations are responding to remote work by implementing various tools and mechanisms for ensuring workers are ‘really’ working – even if that just means scheduling back-to-back video meetings so that they know employees are occupied from 9 to 5. Such mechanisms are a self-defeating strategy (employees will be much more effective and productive if they’re trusted, empowered and encouraged to structure their days in a way that is personally sustainable), but they may nonetheless take hold. If so, this will not only degrade the quality of working life, it will also further inure people to the supposed inevitability of digital surveillance, thereby opening the door to the further invasion of privacy by both businesses and governments.”

Mary Chayko, author of “Superconnected,” said, “In the absence of a national commitment and strategy to assist marginalized populations in attaining online access, skills and literacy, social inequalities will persist and deepen in the ‘new normal.’ This will exacerbate all current societal problems: racial and gender discrimination, poverty, health crises and complications, educational and work-related inequities, privacy and surveillance. Digital technologies can be employed to help to improve these conditions, but unless their benefits can be realized by all, social justice and equality will remain elusive.”

HOPES: “Digital technology, and the means to use and understand it, must be considered a primary social good. Technologies that will assist people in living productive, healthy lives – like online learning, working and telemedicine tools – should be freely and widely available, along with necessary and relevant information and support.”

WORRIES: “I am most worried that the scope of tech companies’ impact on our lives will become so deep, sophisticated and far-reaching that we will fail to see and resist it or grow weary of doing so.”

Melissa R. Michelson, a professor of political science at Menlo College, responded, “The new normal will mean more children will be attending school either online or in a hybrid format, which means more parents and other caregivers will have to devote their time to supervising those children. This will impact their ability to do their jobs, and especially will reduce the ability of women – who are most likely to bear the brunt of this effect – to work and succeed in their careers. The new normal will mean individuals who are able to work remotely, which is likely to include people at higher levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, will have more income and job security and less chance of getting infected; those who are ‘essential workers,’ including delivery people, grocery employees and also staff in healthcare situations such as dental hygienists and staff and front office workers, in addition to doctors and nurses, will be more likely to have their jobs impacted and to contract the virus. The bottom line is that people who have the ability to use technology to remotely do their jobs will have better outcomes; those who are on the wrong side of the ‘digital divide’ and have less access to reliable Wi-Fi or have to share devices with household members will be more adversely affected. The gap in technology that separates people but was hidden because the gap is usually in their homes, will become starker and more important.”

HOPES: “The good news about tech-related changes is that there will be more remote medicine and other remote appointments, reducing our need to travel and to sit in waiting rooms. For pediatricians, for example, this will allow them to ‘examine’ children in their home environments, where they will be more at ease. People will be more able to access health care and other services without needing to find transportation. Obviously, this will not be true for all types of appointments, but it will be appropriate for many. Digital technology is being used to help connect people who otherwise might be isolated. Many older people are being taught by younger friends and family members to use Zoom and other video tools to visit with one another. Their comfort levels with these technologies are increasing. There will be more events online, such as dance performances, musical performances, etc. There will be more access to events that used to be expensive and require tickets and travel to broader swathes of Americans.”

WORRIES: “The more of our lives that is online, the more possibilities there are for data-gathering about our private lives, and of course the more vulnerable we are to hacking, to identity theft and to fraud. Large social media companies do not have good track records on these issues; if we are conducting more of our lives online, then there are more possibilities for misuse of our personal data and of negative impacts on individuals.”

Meredith Whittaker, a research professor and co-director of NYU’s AI Now research institute, commented, “A primary lesson from the failed U.S. response to COVID-19 is that the ruling class will not act on a crisis if they can protect themselves from said crisis (by quarantining, by divesting risk onto primarily BIPOC essential workers), and if addressing the crisis would perturb the functioning of capitalism. In this sense, COVID-19 provides an ominous warning about what will happen if we don’t adopt significant structural changes soon, in the face of the looming climate crisis. Climate chaos is already harming people who have suffered from colonialism and structural racism, while those most responsible for climate change – wealthier people in the global North – are more easily able to protect themselves. We are facing a fundamental choice: Do we move to manifest revolutionary change at a global scale, or do we stand by as people who are already vulnerable are made expandable in the name of profit and white supremacy?”

HOPES: “Efforts like the Just Data Lab, Data for Black Lives, The Algorithmic Justice League, the STOP project in New York and the Anti-Eviction Mapping project illustrate the power of community-led efforts for justice and accountability that employ technological methods. What is interesting about these efforts, however, is not the tech. It is that they all understand justice as a primary concern and employ tech where and when appropriate to achieve this end.”

WORRIES: “Networked technological systems – those that we refer to when we talk about ‘tech’ – are tools of centralized control. The technical systems that are clustered under the banner of ‘AI’ require massive infrastructure, huge stores of data and elite training to produce and maintain. In the Western context such resources are only available to a handful of large tech corporations, who effectively form a monopoly. As these technologies are further threaded through sensitive domains, from COVID-19 contact tracing, to determining which students get into which schools, to deciding who goes to jail and who gets bail, to determining who gets a loan and much, much else, we are increasingly ceding control to these sensitive decisions to obscure and unaccountable companies. Because such systems are almost always developed and sold by private companies, they are hidden behind corporate secrecy, and not open to scrutiny by researchers or the public. And, when they are deployed in specific domains, frequently they are procured and implemented in secret, without robust democratic debate, or the people on whom they’re used even knowing that their lives and opportunities are being shaped by ‘tech.’ There is nothing magical, or even necessarily competent, about these technologies. What they are particularly good at is centralizing power and helping obscure regimes of social control that accrue more power to those who already have it, while further disempowering those who don’t.”

Meryl Alper, a professor of communication studies at Northeastern University expert in children and families’ uses of technology, wrote, “ANON More people will live in poverty and in precarious situations than ever before. More young people will live for longer with their parents, including raising their own children in multigenerational households. Technology will enable more people to create these collective pods around their individual families, such as working from home, but only the most economically privileged will benefit because society will still be organized around personal responsibility rather than investment in social services and programs like education, healthcare and community safety.”

HOPES: “My hopes center on new forms of care and mutual aid that technology has the potential to enable. I hope that a greater percentage of people telecommuting to work leads to more value placed on childcare, eldercare and personal care attendants. This includes higher pay within the profession and opportunities for professional advancement, particularly as these workers are more likely to be women of color. I also hope that non-disabled people develop a greater appreciation for and prioritize the skills and talents of disabled people, and in doing so, extend the opportunity to telecommute from home to this population beyond a period in which it is deemed necessary for the non-disabled. Post-coronavirus, more people will be living with the chronic health conditions that it increasingly appears come with surviving the virus. It is my hope that broader disability solidarity forms online and offline in response, a solidarity that is critical of all the ways in which technological ‘innovation’ has also generated disabling conditions, especially for those already marginalized by their race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and country of origin.”

Micah Altman, a social and information scientist at MIT, said, “The pandemic holds a mirror to society, revealing the existing faults in our digital infrastructure, and the grave inequities in the distribution of resources and opportunities to make use of them. For example, the difficulties encountered by public primary and secondary schools in attempting an abrupt transition to distance learning due to underinvestment in education, not (generally) poor technology choices by school administrators. None of these problems will be fixed by 2025, and few areas will see substantial progress (with the possible exception of partially reversing some of the worst policies of the current administration).”

HOPES: “There will be some bright spots in the development and use of technology – the pandemic is accelerating the adoption of distance learning and remote-collaboration technologies and making more visible the effectiveness of flexible working and learning environments and processes. Incorporating these tools flexibly is good for organizations and for the people that participate in them and it is likely to stick.”

WORRIES: “An urgent risk remerging from data collection during the pandemic is the potential for harm to individual and group privacy. To their credit, some major technology companies are now more aware of the potential privacy risks of data collection – even when motivated by and applied to a good cause – however, substantial sophistication is needed to support contact tracing and other needed health analyses, while protecting each user’s agency over their information. Moreover, privacy risks aside, the harm the pandemic has caused in terms of death, illness and economic disruption will far outweigh any benefits. Further, these harms have been unequally distributed – exacerbated at times by the inequities in our technical infrastructure (in common with the inequities our other support systems) – and the compensations are most often similarly inequitable.”

Michael Froomkin, professor of law at University of Miami Law School, expert in legal and policy issues relating to new technologies, commented, “Even in the best case, the economic consequences of the pandemic will take a long time to heal. Meanwhile, subsidies are going more to the wealthy than neediest. They’ll need to be paid for eventually, and probably not by the wealthiest. Changes in terms of work also won’t work to the workers’ advantage. Efforts will be made to offload as many costs as possible onto the worker (e.g., home office when applicable). I do expect one good thing: this will accelerate the push for full national health coverage in the U.S. The digital divide will be more serious as we move more and more services and public and private life online.”

HOPES: “Faster broadband more generally deployed. AI optimizations to reduce waste in food, energy transmission, etc. Much-better batteries. Continual improvement in efficiency and deployment of solar and other renewables.”

WORRIES: “Robots will take over categories of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. This will reduce the misery of doing those jobs but creates a risk of both short-run (skill mismatch) and long-run unemployment. AI and sensors will be used by governments for all sorts of repressive sorting. Tech companies will happily sell them the tools to do it.”

Michael Marien, director of Global Foresight Books, futurist and compiler of the annual list of the best futures books of the year, said, “Life will be better for some in 2025, but worse for most people within and among nations. COVID-19 is clearly worsening inequality worldwide, and the worst impacts of the pandemic are yet to appear due to under-reporting in ‘developing’ countries, many of which will be ‘undeveloping.’ COVID-19 is ‘the great equalizer’ in that anyone can catch it and suffer, but ‘the great unequalizer’ because it will impact the poor in crowded slums and the informal economy who have little or no access to health care and, for many in the near future, food. The ‘new normal’ will certainly include more emphasis on health security and may include more emphasis on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. On the other hand, there may be more authoritarian regimes based on empty slogans such as ‘Make America Great Again’ and ‘America First.’ In contrast, there may be more emphasis on the slogan proposed in a column by Thomas Friedman: ‘Respect science (RS), respect nature (RN), respect each other (REA).’ It is highly uncertain as to which set of slogans will prevail, where and for how long. Obviously, anyone reading this response will favor the latter. But RS, RN, REA doesn’t fit well on a hat! Or does it? As for digital technology, the trends toward online purchasing and working at home where possible have been accelerated by COVID-19. And we all await the great tech fix of a COVID-19 vaccine. But will it be distributed widely and fairly? As for ‘ethical AI,’ that’s a very high hope. More likely than not, AI debates will continue, especially if it can be shown that AI displaces far more jobs than it creates, as widely feared at present.”

HOPES: “Any technology to displace fossil fuels with energy that is safe and cheaper can be applauded. All things considered, I doubt that AI is valuable for human security and well-being. The most worrisome tech-related changes involve weaponry, especially the new nuclear arms race and bioweapons. A serious debate about national and global security is needed. The most important tech-related change could well be creating a global technology assessment organization such as the IPCC, modeled on the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, which did excellent work in the 1990s. Finally, good public policy is needed far more than new technology – policy based on RS, RN and REA.”

WORRIES: “Despite the hype, technology is still aimed at making big bucks rather than big improvements in lives – especially Black lives.”

Michael Muller, a researcher for a top global technology company focused on human aspects of data science and ethics and values in applications of artificial intelligence, wrote, “Unless there is an effective vaccine, I anticipate a permanent reduction in face-to-face social contact. This is likely to result in more ‘social bubbles’ that are analogous to ‘new bubbles’ that we have discussed in prior years – that is, people may be more likely to associate homophilously, with reduced ability for social interactions with people unlike ourselves. I hope I’m wrong, because we would experience reduced sense of community, and we would stop learning from each other and from each other’s experiences. We might also form even more extreme political differences, polarized along contrasts of identity such as race and class. None of this would be good for democracy, or for sociality, or for individual and/or collective human growth. Our lives are already riven and sickened with injustice. I hope we can find ways to reduce injustice. So far, COVID-19 is mostly making it worse. A second problem with a non-vaccine new normal is that poorer people will continue to do the most COVID-19-hazardous work, while wealthier people continue (as we do now) to work remotely. This situation is unjust. If it became perpetuated, then this aspect of injustice would also be perpetuated.”

HOPES: “The privileged among us are developing new skills in working virtually or remotely. These skills with technologies of virtuality will allow us to live where we want, rather than being constrained by proximity to workplaces. I hope that conferences and other gatherings will continue to allow remote participation. If we can reduce travel and lodging costs for conferences, then we can include people from poorer countries and poorer institutions. We need the benefits of their ideas! And they need the opportunities of full participation.”

WORRIES: “ANON However, only some of us can work remotely. Thus, we may find that remote-work technologies intensify social inequities. I also worry that the desire for ‘touchless’ commercial interactions may accelerate trends toward automation of jobs (e.g., autonomous vehicles, robotic agricultural workers). People with low educations or incomplete documentation already face enormous challenges to take care of their families. Further automation will harm these vulnerable members of our communities.”

Michael R. Nelson, research associate at CSC Leading Edge Forum, observed, “I take a global perspective. Millions of people are going to die in the poorest countries and many, many more will be pushed into extreme poverty. This could lead to political unrest and migration. Taking a macroeconomic perspective, it is clear that the global recession triggered by the COVID-19 crisis will lead to less GDP growth for years and mean there is less money to invest in solving the huge problems we face (climate change, new energy sources, education for all, food security, etc.) Technology is one area where I am more optimistic. In the first four months of the crisis, in most countries, we have seen four years’ worth of digitization. We have had the technology for telework, online learning, e-commerce, and much more – but now everyone wants to use it. So, the inertia and regulations that were barriers are disappearing. And internet policy could move in a better direction as governments realize connecting the unconnected is critical if everyone is going to prosper in the post-COVID-19 economy. Likewise, there will be more public pressure to ensure privacy online. If you spend hours each day in your ‘Zoom room,’ you want as much privacy as you have in your own living room.”

HOPES: “The need for better medical information (to track COVID-19 patients, for instance) may make us figure out how to properly handle digital health information – and lead us to get better, more rational privacy policies for ALL types of data. Last month, the French and German government complained that Apple and Google were unwilling to share personal data their COVID-19 tracing apps were collecting – because Apple and Google felt they need to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). Governments are going to have to decide how to reconcile contradictory policy goals. One possible solution would be end-to-end encryption (and cloud services that let me encrypt my data using keys only I control). Another solution is ‘data trust’ or ‘data unions’ that store data about me and let me know who is accessing it and why. There is a lot of innovation yet to come – if governments don’t insist that there is one solution for every problem, when allowing different approaches for different communities with different needs makes a lot more sense. I’m also excited about the ‘Cloud of Things’ – what happens when each of us have 50-100 networked devices helping us live easier, safer, more organized lives. But that requires networks that are reliable, ubiquitous, flexible and affordable – and interoperable. (That means a lot more than just the 5G solutions that some companies are pushing.) I’m also excited about the promise of Big Data and Machine Learning – if we can overcome the fear of the future and techlash that is leading to dystopian visions of a future where the Tech Titans control everyone and everything.”

WORRIES: “I worry that governments are writing rules to regulate the Tech Titans and not realizing that those rules will kill the opportunities for new entrants to provide new services and compete with the established players. This is particular true in regard to copyright, privacy, the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ and hate speech. I’m also concerned that authoritarian countries will develop and export technologies for tracking their citizens – and lead to a backlash to some of the most exciting potential applications of the Cloud of Things.”

Michael Zimmer, director of data science and associate professor in the department of computer science at Marquette University, responded, “I feel the ‘new normal’ will have both positive and negative aspects, and these will be unevenly distributed, thus in my assessment things will be generally worse off. Those with jobs and home situations that allow for flexible and remote work and learning might benefit. There will be fewer miles driven on highways, a re-centering of life around the home and micro-local neighborhoods, and technology can help motivate these changes through improvements in video conferencing, remote learning, distributed play and entertainment, etc. But for a larger and more vulnerable segment of society, these same changes will point to their fragile place in the economy. Reductions in public transit schedules might put pressure on their mobility; reduced in-person schooling might put pressure on their ability to ensure their kids are taught and fed adequately, plus make it harder to leave the home to work in jobs that can’t be performed remotely.”

HOPES: “I’m thinking more about my kids and how continued enhancements to digital learning platforms, reading and writing, creative game-playing and coding might emerge as institutions and platforms try to innovate given the ‘new normal.’”

WORRIES: “A key worry is the potential expanded role of technology in monitoring and regulating our work and personal lives. Workplace-surveillance technologies are already entering the home as employers seek to monitor and ensure their staff is maintaining sufficient productivity and attentiveness to their work duties. This will only increase in the years to come, combining video monitoring, wearables, and other smart devices that ‘report’ on your attentiveness and activities while working at home.”

Mirielle Hildebrandt, expert in cultural anthropology and the law and editor of “Law, Human Agency and Autonomic Computing,” commented, “The interesting question here is ‘who’ are ‘most people’ and ‘who’ is the average person. Are we speaking globally? In that case I foresee (in line with my answer to the previous question) that most people will be worse off, once the economic consequences of the crisis hit those already disadvantaged (those without health insurance, those with little or no education, those without a reliable income, those who can hardly take care of their children). For those with skills, safety nets, reasonably good access to dependable healthcare and education, what will change the most is the realisation that working from an office is not the only option. Working from home can be far more productive if combined with access to safe office space, allowing people to work from home and/or office depending on where they best get things done, taking into account that having children at home can be both an argument to work from home (e.g., when they are ill or to save on childcare) or to work from the office (e.g., to reduce distraction), while the architecture of ‘office space’ will probably evolve towards 1) a space to meet up for an appointment, 2) to have a meeting, 3) to withdraw, or to 4) have access to high-quality video conferencing. This will have consequences for the distance between office or workspace and home, with a shift away from urbanisation. People may prefer to move to what used to be called ‘the countryside,’ to have a more quiet life in less densely populated areas – while being able to connect with work/family/friends via myriad applications, both to get work done and to develop and maintain connections within their private sphere. I think that there will be simultaneously: 1) a much greater appreciation and awareness of the non-digital (real-time, embodied proximity, gardening and small-time farming, walking and biking, home cooking, enjoying the stillness that is largely absent in urban hubs) and 2) a much greater appreciation and awareness of the connectivity and productivity offered by various applications, with less attention to false promises and more attention to issues of security, privacy, non-discrimination, freedom of information, but also much more attention to applications that are generative of new products and services without being focused on extraction. Let’s hope that the balance between 1) a strong, democratic government that takes care of basic goods (economic security and access to good quality education and healthcare), while otherwise sustaining a level playing field for businesses, and 2) a fairly-instituted market place that thrives on creative (not destructive) invention and a new understanding of the idea of ‘added value.’”

HOPES: “I hope for less-hyped applications of machine learning that are based on flawed and/or exploratory research. No more applications based on exploitation of behavioural data that supposedly predict human behaviour but, in reality, increase unpredictability, uncertainty and loss of control. I’d like to see more investment in applications with real added value: from high-tech medical applications in the domain of precision surgery to supporting the exchange of hands-on experience with products and services, to better understanding of the information ecosystem. I’d like to see more preparedness for the next pandemic and other potentially catastrophic events, including a thoughtful balance between well-organised human interaction and digital support to counter threats to public health, to support and guide migration due to catastrophic climate change and to quickly reorganise supply chains if needed. There should be more and better ways to involve citizens in the development of digital systems that will run their lives, especially at the level of infrastructure (Internet of Things, connected cars, remote healthcare, teleconferencing, financial transactions, renewable energy and smart grids, etc.).”

WORRIES: “I worry over society’s baseless trust in crappy digital decision-systems, with few options to opt out and even fewer options to contest decisions outside of prefab boxes with pre-formatted complaints. There has been major investment in so-called ‘AI’ systems without any evidence for the claims their advocates put forward, and they are running amok and causing widespread frustration, fear and cynicism in those who employ them and in those subject to them. I worry over the further increase of inequality and the ridiculous amount of economic power held by Big Tech, Big Pharma, Big Law, Big Finance, all sustained and enabled by a mistaken enchantment with ‘digital,’ ‘AI,’ ‘algorithms’ or ‘Big Data’. I am concerned about the further disruption of the public sphere, resulting in dangerous populism and cynicism.”

Morgan G. Ames, associate director of the University of California-Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology & Society, responded, “While I am heartened by the #BlackLivesMatter protest movement in the United States as well as protest movements in Hong Kong and elsewhere around the world, I look to previous disasters and broader trends as a probable guide to what will be coming. And what I see are too many opportunities for the powerful to retrench and expand their power. Ubiquitous surveillance, increasingly fascist policing tactics, the expansion of hate groups that amplify the worst state ideologies, and the widening chasm between the ultra-rich and everyone else are all global structural trends that will be incredibly difficult, and incredibly disruptive, to reverse. As much as I would like to hold out hope that the disruptions caused by the novel coronavirus can be turned toward social justice, the evidence so far that this is the case is really not good.”

HOPES: “A small, still-marginalized, but growing movement is looking critically at the role of automated surveillance and decision-making in society. They not only shine light on some particularly problematic systems but propose a variety of mitigation strategies that repair some of the damage these systems have done. Moreover, while the turn to online education has once again highlighted the stark inequalities between different students, it has also opened up opportunities for addressing these inequalities with a robust, publicly-funded online education system. I hope that the current conversations around a national fiber network and greater investment in schools could result in a more robust public education system by 2025, integrating but not relying on technologies.”

WORRIES: “Surveillance technologies and the erosion of privacy and civil liberties are already well-underway and could be significantly worse all around the world by 2025. There is little incentive for technology companies, especially less high-profile but more-specialized ones, to avoid close cooperation with fascist regimes around the world. While there has been a lot of focus on the role of Microsoft, Google, Apple and especially Amazon and Facebook in this already, there are many others who have avoided scrutiny in this area. I fear that there is little to stop this expansion.”

Narelle Clark, a longtime network technology administrator and leader based in Australia, said, “ANON The new normal will be one with greater difference between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ – there will be a significantly higher level of unemployment and a deep recession following this pandemic. Those who have reliable income and can afford the increased prices for commodities that will be seen and can afford the increase in prices for optional extras will be able to partake in them. The same goes for digital technologies. Cheap and nasty digital products that undermine privacy and are unreliable and insecure will abound as people go for the products they can afford. Remote participation will enable experts from further afield to be beamed in for cheaper prices than academics in local universities. In some ways this will be good for students to see lecturers from far afield, but this will reduce the overall number of academics grown. Similarly, for consultants to industry and government – if you can inexpensively beam in talent from afar – why use a local, in-person one? This means the existing crop of popular experts get more work and we don’t grow the next crop effectively. Routines will shift for some as those people work with online communities that might be further afield. Online surveillance will continue to increase – both by governments and the private sector. Governments will continue to increase their legislative interventions into telecommunications companies and ISPs and to app and device makers for the purpose of surveillance and access to an individual’s content. Governments may also intervene to regulate pricing for communications access – but they will also have to assist in ensuring coverage is there, by either spending or regulating and taxing for universal access to internet.”

HOPES: “I hope that we can develop privacy-respecting apps that can support a populace that is weatherworn and damaged by the pandemic. One major need is apps that assist in supporting mental health that have a basis in science and assist in procuring goods and services without disclosing rafts of private data without consent and for no good purpose. Telehealth uptake will continue and be delivered in increasingly reliable ways with vastly better diagnostic tools via image-recognition and access to AI and bigger data sets for machine learning. Hopefully this will be done in privacy-protecting ways. The pandemic has also driven open sourcing of vital medical technology so that local people can repair and replace worn parts of critical items such as ventilators – I hope this opening up of access continues. The closed-supply-chain approach where the supplier controls vital medical equipment from origin to end of life has worked against the skilling up of local biomedical engineers, and it has driven up prices of vital equipment when things could have been simpler and easier to support locally with local know-how and locally sourced parts. Opening up of educational resources in order to stimulate the economy may improve access to knowledge and information. Perhaps we will see an increase in trust of scientific institutions and actual science because pandemics expose the need for fact-based approaches.”

WORRIES: “I am concerned that we will see even more unreliable, insecure digital technology emerge and it will increase the risks to an already vulnerable population. People accept what is ‘free’ but cannot see the tradeoffs they are making. The shift to ‘apps’ on handsets and personal computers has rendered the technology largely opaque, even to experienced and technology literate users. This means an increase in software vulnerabilities. The massive take up of ‘contactless’ payment and other interactions due to the pandemic means that even people who were resistant to tracking, identity and technology enabled theft will become more vulnerable. We will see increases in the unreliability of infrastructure due to cyberwarfare from the unstable geopolitical scene. More online theft will take place due to more desperate people – because of the economic circumstances. We will see increased human rights abuses by increasingly authoritarian and intrusive governments who will abuse the pervasiveness of technology into people’s homes and lives. People may be ready to adopt contact tracing apps during a pandemic, but these will be coupled with data mining by both governments and technology companies to increase their power and economic value. With the increase in telehealth and closed supply chains, medical technology will increasingly harvest data from unknowing populations and use it for private profit not necessarily public good.”

Olivier MJ Crépin-Leblond, entrepreneur and longtime participant in the activities of ICANN and IGF, said, “This is a significant time for change: Whilst populations are focused on survival (in the economic sense) in light of COVID-19, some significant geopolitical moves are happening: 1) Tightening of the internet’s control – touted as needed for cybersecurity. 2) Erosion of privacy – touted as a process needed to track COVID-19 cases. 3) Political advancement on a global context – mainly by China – as a strategic move forward. None of these processes is good for the public nor for democracy as a whole. In 2025, the new normal is a world that has moved from ‘relative freedom’ to ‘managed freedom.’”

HOPES: “1) Sustained use of encryption. 2) A more flexible economy due to increased use of remote working. 3) A better-managed set of natural resources and energy thanks to #2. 4) An advancement in the concept of ‘integrative management,’ also called bottom-up participation in decision making processes. Each of these has factors that play against them, often pushed by specific stakeholders.”

WORRIES: “I have a concern that technology is not used for good, but instead used for the oppression of people. Often, a system gets put together that ends up being misused in the future. Unfortunately, a risk assessment of these risks of misuse by malicious actors in the future, is never performed, and not taken seriously. I have a worry that today’s generations are building the tools that totalitarian regimes will use to oppress everyone in the future, and, unfortunately, companies today do not have a framework in place that could forecast these risks.”

Patrick Larvie, global lead for the workplace user-experience team at one of the world’s largest technology companies, commented, “We are seeing a breakdown in international cooperation (e.g., weakness in the European Union, the U.S. pulling out temporarily from the World Health Organization), and this will make cross-border coordination of epidemiological surveillance much more difficult. While the world will be connected, people will be less mobile than before. I fear that this will lead to increasing restrictions on travel and a rollback of international trade. Cross-border distrust and suspicion may lead to increasing nationalism. Technology will be leveraged as part of a surveillance strategy. Communication will likely be less free and far more subject to search and seizure, whether that means the devices or the medium.”

HOPES: “I would like to see technology leveraged in a way that makes mobility easier and safer. The biggest risk will be personal privacy.”

Paul Jones, professor emeritus of information science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, wrote, “Technology inventions, adoptions, and uses are – like evolutionary change – accelerated and stagnated by social and environmental forces. We are at a moment of punctuated equilibrium. Change, however swift, has been almost linear. Rising, but linear. Now we see some spectacular transformations. Most obvious ones – cashless payments (how many of us have even touched cash since March?), remote work (everyone who can is working remotely now), video for work, family, friends and entertainment (by now everyone has used Zoom or its competitors and is pretty good at doing so), organizing of gig workers and warehouse workers (COVID-19 has spurred these workers to unite and demand benefits and protections. And they have gained broad support for having done so), confronting systematic racism and inequality (no steps back in the near future), social awareness of techies (these people are often apolitical or Libertarian and are now confronted unavoidably by the consequences of inaction tech must respond, and I think it will). A bigger contention will be a discussion over the place of the populace, business and government. Should people be organized and governed to support the economy, or should the economy be governed and organized for the people? Existing models were already under conflict before COVID-19 and new racial awakenings, but the contenders democratic (at least in aspiration) versus strongmen (assisted by oligarchs) have not delivered as they should – despite the claims of China and Russia and the U.S. Europe has shown that democracies can better handle the COVID-19 problem than strong men in denial of science. But tech, as of this writing, is in a shift away from the U.S. Isolationism founded on nativist, medical, racial and other fears is blocking access to education, talent, funding and markets. As optimistic as I try to be, I do not know if the U.S. will or can recover to a 2016 level of leadership in tech by 2015. Instead I see, particularly in the field of AI, the center of near-term innovation shifting even more quickly to China where investment financial, educational and social (for better or worse) was already beginning to lead the U.S. There may be surprises from Europe and from India, but the U.S. is dismantling the infrastructure needed for innovation. Individuals will feel this because of the swiftness at which they will experience the changes. Until COVID-19, the shifts were slow and perhaps reversible. Between now and 2025, the shock of loss will be felt in the U.S. to a degree previously unknown.”

HOPES: “Pre-COVID-19, I had hopes for massive global collaboration in global health. With the strong awareness of our interconnectedness as seen in the world’s dealing with Ebola, all the good signs were in place. But with the return of autocrats and nativism we’ve also seen the collapse of cooperation at the necessary levels. These problems are less on the tech side than on the infrastructure that tech requires to thrive and to have impact on people’s lives. That infrastructure, like that of democracy, takes a long time to build and is fragile as we are realizing now. Nonetheless, let’s look at changes that were underway and that will likely prevail by 2025. Cashless payments: No stopping them. COVID-19-era purchasing, whether retail or curbside pickup, are making cashless the norm. In the U.S. this was already apace. In China, cashless is already a done deal. Every phone, every new card, every over-the-phone purchase is cashless and checkless. Goodbye money, coins, etc. Too late for Harriet Tubman to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, except in the area – much needed of symbolism – in the U.S. Officeless organizations: They will proliferate. The organization of work within a physical location is, for the most part, done. At home, everyone has their own corner office with a view. Every day is Bring Your Pet to Work Day. Every day is – from the waist down anyway, Casual Friday. The toll paid to commute is fully recognized and rejected. All of this was underway but now the issues are resolved and normalized. Distributed access to education: This is much more complex that virtual offices or virtual organizations. Despite various rhetorical stances that education is actually job-training or something of the sort, countries who provide actual education always take the lead in innovation and tech. That said, we have quickly gotten much better in the U.S. at pushing the limits of our skills to both educate and train, learning what we knew in the physical classroom that, as Marshall McLuhan quipped, ‘Anyone who tries to make a distinction between education and entertainment doesn’t know the first thing about either.’ A straight-forward, traditional online lecture has limited educational utility. The reimagining of the classroom for digital life is still underway, but we can expect both the practice and expectations of learning to be change radically by tech. Mentorship, whether in the classroom, laboratory, or at work, is indispensable. Tools for collaboration will be extended and embraced. Slack, Zoom, Github, Google Drive and cousins are already firmly in place and will be improved upon. Education is not ‘taking what’s in my head (as an expert) and dumping it into my students’ heads’ as one effective trainer once told me. Education is the act of enticing curiosity and engagement out of students to help them excel beyond what they have known before. If tech and policy align correctly, this will make our lives better. Transportation: Post-COVID-19 we will have seen this shift accelerated but in which direction? In the near term, public transport (trains, buses, etc.), mass transport (air, cruises, ferries, etc.) and shared ride services including taxis are stagnated. Personal transport is also underused. We are realizing we need not drive, fly or float as much as we have been doing before. We may yearn to travel but not for work. The lack of traditional benefits for ride-share drivers will have to be better addressed—by their own organizing or by government advocacy and regulation. Transportation ownership by people under 35 was already on the decline — except for skateboards. Fewer people will own cars in the U.S. — this will have accelerated by 2025. Business air travel will have also decreased and perhaps become novel. Food: During COVID-19, people have learned to cook again and to enjoy doing so. We have turned in a few months from a nation of restaurant-goers to a nation of pickup and home cooking. Tech will continue to assist this trend which should continue through 2025. Instapot is only the first shot fired. Plant-based eating will continue to trend. Americans having gained weight during lockdown are looking in the mirror and thinking of carrots and salads. Our taste for vegetables has returned as quickly as our reluctance to eat as much meat. Thank you, Instagram for making meal presentation, even of home cooking, into a visual art. Meatless meat: Somehow this movement seems to have been put on pause during the pandemic. Ideally, this could have been meatless meat’s moment. But it may be that, like processed soy protein, the time is not right after all. Tech itself. Training in tech has had the attitude that tech is at worst neutral, that people will do with tech what they will (absolving tech from any responsibility), that ‘we just create this stuff then people used it or don’t.’ This concept of socially-agnostic engineering was already under challenge but computer science departments in particular are slow at letting go. Father John Culkin said, ‘We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’ This is often incorrectly attributed to Marshal McLuhan. Technosocial scholars have been on the forefront of this concept, looking closely through qualitative and quantitative means at the tech landscape. This has led to overdue attention to diversity issues within tech and to inquiries into social limits as well as tech limits. I expect these inquiries to become much more important that say increasing the number of pixels rendered or megaflops produced. We used to teach people how to use tech, now we teach tech how to use people. Not just in information architecture, but in design, the tech business has learned that the lower the barriers to use the more people will use a product and use it more often and be more engaged. We will see more engagement from sociology, psychology, and other disciplines in what we now know as tech. Information Science will be more significant than computer science or a disengaged data science.”

WORRIES: “There will be regulation. The only question is when and how much. Issues much discussed since the 1960s – privacy, oversight, manipulation, security, responsibility must be addressed and will be. How this is handled will be significant both as legislation and enforcement. Tech companies, as much as they hate regulations, prefer guidance to battles in court over varieties of gray areas. The Chinese model, which appears to include the worst of social profiling and ethnic intimidation, offers a negative example of government involvement. Again, research from socio-technical scholars will be essential at teasing out solutions to these persistent challenges, these tensions between what is needed to help provide good service and was, should and must be avoided to maintain and promote democracy, fairness, privacy and innovation.”

Perry Hewitt, an executive with Ithaka, an organization advancing global higher education through innovative use of digital technology, responded, “2025 is too soon for us to expect that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the fissures in inequality and health care disparities it exposed, will have receded. 2020 – 2023 will feature massive disruption to educational attainment and employment that will affect everyone, with a particular blow dealt to teens and young adults. For white-collar workers, the forced mass adoption of collaboration tools will provide some more efficient and better ways to work. With the outlier remote worker re-imagined as the norm, entrenched assumptions about ‘facetime’ and acceptance of astronomical rents and outlandish commutes will diminish and improve work life through technology. And here’s hoping that by then we view video as a tool to use in a particular context, and not a blanket replacement for in-person connection. At the same time, three years of unemployment will redirect power into the hands to the corporations wielding those tools. Productivity and connection tools are uncomfortably close to remote worker monitoring, which is also on the rise. We will need both public policy and industry norms to prevent corporations from creating a virtual panopticon that prizes presence over performance. For blue-collar workers, policy protections are critical. Technology exists today that could enforce social distancing in meatpacking plants, and yet laws enable these health and safety measures to be circumvented. Tech skepticism will (and should!) exist at all levels of socio-economic status, but I worry the working poor and the poor will experience technology only as a negative force leveled against them by employers. I am mildly optimistic about broader adoption of personal technology that will facilitate family management: food, health and aging, communications. Today that divide is generational, but if we can reduce the digital divide through improved internet access and find ways to deliver education, perhaps more individuals and families can be educated adopters of tech to improve their lives.”

HOPES: “My greatest hope would be that technology will enable high-quality, engaging and affordable online learning at scale. For higher education in particular, I hope we can use technology effectively to deliver, measure and credential learning in a way that is meaningful for individuals, beneficial to communities and recognized by employers. Few would dispute that the current model is broken from a cost perspective, or that the benefit of one-time, on-campus learning is an effective approach for a 21st century workforce. We now have enough examples of universities like Georgia Tech to know we can deliver value at a lower cost; how can we extend this to greater and lesser public universities before access to education, like healthcare, is in the hands of employers?”

WORRIES: “As a society, we (including myself!) have made the decision to trade privacy for convenience. As technology becomes more ubiquitous and systems potentially interoperable (what are my Whole Foods app and my Withings scale telling Blue Cross Blue Shield about my health status?), this tradeoff is increasingly dangerous. The ability to monitor and surveil as corporations and governments is largely unchecked, in part because of the lack of tech savvy of lawmakers involved in public policy.”

Peter Levine, professor of citizenship and public affairs at Tufts University, wrote, “People who are able to return to pre-pandemic modes of working and socializing will mostly do so. Based on the experience of 1918-1919, I don’t expect people to change their preferred ways of communicating and associating much. But I do fear that a range of companies and associations may go bankrupt, leaving people without the same opportunities. Among the entities that may be most at risk are metropolitan daily newspapers, mass-transit systems, and small-scale bricks-and-mortar retail.”

HOPES: “I hope we might see a social media platform grow to global scale with a business model that allows it to avoid the deep flaws of the current platforms.”

WORRIES: “I worry that deepfakes may make truth almost impossible to ascertain. Democracies have vulnerabilities that may be increasingly attractive to their enemies, both internal and external. Authoritarian states can monitor citizens (and overseas populations) more effectively with tools like facial recognition. We could see the first real cyberwar, with severe physical consequences.”

Alf Rehn, professor of innovation, design and management at the University of Southern Denmark, said, “The new normal is likely to be one of insecurity – social, economic and existential. A sense of unease regarding the next crisis is likely to become a default state for many, with the attendant shortening of planning horizons. There is a risk that people will become less prone to take risks such as getting a new education or starting a new business, as the focus shifts very much to the immediate future. People will still believe in innovation and new technology, yet there is a distinct risk that there will be far less investment and support for the same, as fear drives organizations and societies to take less long-term risk and focus more on a few key areas (such as healthcare). The new normal might superficially look quite a lot like the old normal, just less forward-looking and risk-taking.”

HOPES: “The new focus on healthcare and robotics will almost certainly give rise to beneficial innovations. The lockdown will also have people thinking long and hard about using technology for more-impactful entertainment and communications. That said, the short-term benefits may be dwarfed by the long-term risks of focusing too much on things that can go to market in a 12-to-24-month span, and not enough on the research and development that might not create an impact until 10 years down the line. We need to be careful that we’re not selling out the future when dealing with today.”

WORRIES: “There are of course many things one could worry about – privacy, data security, the fragility of systems and so on – but the thing that worries me the most is that companies may cut down on the kind of long-term research and development that we will need in not just 2025, but in decades to come. If countries, too, abandon basic research, we may be setting up an innovation time bomb that will be felt beyond 2030 when the needed advances simply haven’t emerged.”

Alice E. Marwick, assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and advisor for the Media Manipulation project at the Data & Society Research Institute, predicted, “Five years from now I expect that working from home will be normalized for most white-collar industries. The pandemic has showed us that people can be productive without an office environment, and many people who believed they had to live in very expensive metro areas to work in their desired field will opt to live in lower cost-of-living areas while still being active participants in their workplace. However, I do not envision system-wide reforms for some of the systemic inequities that the pandemic made highly visible. The three-tiered employment system of the unemployed/furloughed, the ‘essential workers’ who primarily work in low-wage, low-prestige jobs that require in-person engagement, and professional/white collar workers shows no signs of abating. The immense difference in the U.S. between people who have caregiving responsibilities at home and those who do not will not change without systemic investment in childcare, eldercare and disability benefits. The difference between parents who can afford to hire nannies, teachers or tutors for their children and those who cannot will manifest in greater educational inequality along lines of race, class and income level. Even if we assume that COVID-19 is no longer a threat in 2025, those inequities will remain unless there is a nationwide change in funding priorities and an end to partisan gridlock in Congress. Many of the economic effects of COVID will continue to be felt five years from now, from urban centers that never fully regained their economic vibrancy to long-term salary depression on people who were laid off or entering the workforce during the pandemic. Digitally, social media will continue to fill in the gaps of community engagement and education, even given the downfalls of entrusting such civic obligations to corporations who make money primarily off advertising. Without national-level, comprehensive privacy reform, the use of social technologies by the criminal justice system, the police, and the government will continue and will further entrench unevenly distributed levels of privacy.”

HOPES: “Electric cars and expanded public transportation may help urban areas and the environment. – Virtual reality technologies may enable us to continue overcoming spatial divides when trying to socialize, collaborate or work together. – Biomedical advances will work against disease.”

WORRIES: “– Omnipresent surveillance and facial recognition will make opting out of data collection very difficult. – Expansion of surveillant efforts of the state and criminal justice system will further marginalize the poor, people of color and political activists. – The use of algorithms to distribute social benefits punishes the poor, especially the elderly or those without access to the internet.”

Alice Xiang, a researcher at The Partnership for AI whose work is focused on fairness, transparency and accountability, wrote, “We have already seen that COVID has affected people very differently along existing socioeconomic and demographic lines. I think the ‘new normal’ will reflect further-entrenched inequalities. The demand for those with technology-related skills will likely increase as more of people’s lives are conducted virtually. While in-person service jobs have provided significant employment for lower skilled workers, those industries will likely still suffer in 2025. Geography might have less salience, allowing individuals to live wherever they would like to, potentially closer to friends and family.”

Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network, said, “Most of the systems that surrounded our lives before the pandemic – for education, health, work and beyond – were overly reliant on offline interaction and not made from values or processes that enabled effective shifts to more virtual environments. As we’ve seen with the way many of these systems have been forced to find new ways to operate during the pandemic, systemic oppressions, issues of accessibility and competing systems of capitalism have prevented many communities from being able to stay safe, access services or continue working. Building ‘back’ from here will be a very long road and one that will, unfortunately, continue to burden most those already most impacted by these systems.”

HOPES: “Until there is real investment in ensuring that everyone has reliable access at home, reliable and appropriate devices (not only a smart phone) and the skills to use the internet for their needs, any tech-related changes that may be developed will continue to serve mostly those with more privilege and access to resources. The very real needs facing our communities during this pandemic present challenges ripe for technical innovation and solutions, however those facing the most needs today are also those most likely without service and devices. We need to have our collective interest in change include bringing everyone online.”

WORRIES: “The role of private equity should worry everyone, as well as the continued monopolization of technology, especially AI tools entering homes.”

Amy Zalman, global futurist and founder and CEO of Prescient, responded, “For those who have access to digital technologies in the first place – the global middle class – such technologies seem poised to be more pervasively part of the daily weave than at present. Daily work routines, forms of entertainment and peer connection and security will be augmented by the same technologies as at present, but more intensively. As a global collective, our current focus on data analytics of all sorts to help us navigate the present crisis will make its way into the way many more people experience the world, even if they were not analytics focused previously. For example, I may be accustomed to checking the weather and the stock market now, but might add to my day five to 10 other near-term trend lines to try to understand and help me navigate whether I should see people, go to a particular location, buy tickets to an event, start worrying about my employment status, enroll my child in college, etc.”

Andre Popov, a principal software engineer for a large technology company, wrote, “There will be changes, so things will be different, beneficial to some and a loss to others. It will be difficult to argue that remote work is unproductive, so remote/offsite work will become more acceptable to businesses. Generally, this will probably lead to more atomization of society, weaker interpersonal interactions. Internet infrastructure companies and large datacenter operators are the winners. Transportation, entertainment, hospitality, etc., are the obvious losers, although, e.g., the entertainment industry can transform to meet the new reality. In a way, this is a trimming down of non-essential businesses. It makes for more efficiency, but also detracts. Also, we’re probably living the ‘new normal’ now: microbial life mutates rapidly, and we will surely see COVID-20 and so on.”

HOPES: “I expect more-reliable, faster communications and other incremental improvements. (If I could predict truly innovative/disruptive technological shifts, I would be driving these changes:).”

WORRIES: “There is a growing accumulation of power and resources within the corporations that own the internet infrastructure. Content delivery networks, cloud companies and telecom companies are the world’s computer and data storage. An individual has zero privacy from these corporations. And that’s the case now, even before the wide spread of Internet of Things devices.”

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior counselor with the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society, wrote, “I have low confidence in these answers. With that proviso: I expect that the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic will be increased economic disparity. I doubt that the entertainment and restaurant sectors will not have fully recovered. I also think that there will be less protection for personal privacy. I also fear that the experience will reduce confidence in the public sector.”

HOPES: “I hope that the results of technology employed to research the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 will have beneficial impact on the healthcare sector generally.”

WORRIES: “I fear that technology will be employed to collect much more personal information. I think the adverse economic impact on small businesses and startups will lead to more concentration of the technology center into fewer, larger companies.”

Arnaud Gahimbare, network administrator at the East African Court of Justice, said, “I will start by defining the average person who is – in my part of the world – a person mostly uneducated, a farmer, living in a rural area without electricity and water. So, for the average person in my part of the world, the new normal in 2025 will be worse for him/her since not much will have changed in the way s/he lives and the rest of the world will be operating within a digital economy that will negatively affect the average person in my part of the world since trading will be done and decisions made with him/her not being involved and yet the consequences will follow on him/her.”

HOPES: “I hope technology will make the world smaller and services affordable and much more reachable. Also, technology will create new careers even though it will kill some as well.”

WORRIES: “The way technology is bringing services closer to individuals with minimal physical effort will increase the rate of non-communicable diseases due to lifestyle such as obesity and related diseases. Also, technology will kill some careers, and those who will not be able to adapt to new ways of working will lose their jobs.”

Barbara Simons, board chair at Verified Voting and former technology leader at IBM Research, responded, “So much damage is being done by the pandemic, both health-wise and economic, that it will take a long time to recover.”

HOPES: “Providing access to underserved communities. Also, I hope (but am not convinced) that privacy will be better protected than it is now.”

WORRIES: “Our elections are incredibly vulnerable to attack, especially by enemy nation-states. Even so, there are people who foolishly believe that internet voting is a good thing. Of course, it is actually the most vulnerable kind of voting available for government elections.”

Ben Grosser, associate professor of new media at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, said, “Governments and corporate employers will use this moment to dramatically expand computational surveillance, particularly into the home environment. Employee activity will be increasingly tracked, measured and analyzed through quantification, and this encroachment will have a significant negative effect on individual agency, happiness and safety. The divides between those who have adequate technological resources and those who don’t will widen.”

HOPES: “I hope there is a renewed interest in building, deploying, and adopting decentralized non-corporate infrastructure for tasks that are now provided by companies like Facebook.”

WORRIES: “It’s already an inarguable disaster that a single corporation such as Facebook holds so much personal data about nearly three billion humans on the planet. Such platform dominance and the perils it presents will only expand.”

Bill Woodcock, executive director at Packet Clearing House, commented, “While there are a number of unexpected beneficial outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re being learned at great cost in human life and well-being, not to mention economic cost. We’ve learned that we can make immense gains in global inclusivity in newly-virtualized events that previously required expensive, time-consuming and carbon-heavy air travel, and in allowing people to work from home rather than make daily commutes. We’ve learned that being more careful about our hygiene benefits us with respect to many diseases, not just the one of most pressing immediate concern. But these lessons could easily be lost, and the 600,000 lives that have been lost to learn these lessons will have been wasted if we don’t take them to heart. At the same time, the inequality of distribution of wealth, which I consider our second-greatest problem after the destruction of the environment, has been severely exacerbated by COVID-19. The rich use ‘disaster capitalism’ to ensure that they profit regardless of the situation, while the poor are most heavily impacted by both the disease and its economic effects.”

HOPES: “The most important thing COVID-19 has taught us is that getting on an airplane and showing up somewhere in person is not the best way to demonstrate ‘skin in the game’ or commitment to a cause. Instead, it’s a gatekeeping function, which allows the wealthy and their representatives and employees to control the processes which ultimately decide the direction of our society. Governance of people, governance of technology, governance of standards and the setting of policy – none of these require face-to-face meetings, yet face-to-face meetings have been used to ‘virtue-signal’ by those who can afford to spend the money necessary to put people on airplanes and put them up in hotels in the most expensive cities in the world. We have an opportunity to capture here: The meetings at which important decisions are made should remain virtual. They should remain equally accessible to those from developing countries. They should remain open, and not return to their previously behind-closed-doors ways.”

WORRIES: “I worry that the intersection of the surveillance economy, omnipresent data-brokering, AI and the pragmatic psychology of getting-people-to-do-things-they-ought-not is really coming to a head. The worries of skeptics of even five years ago now seem quaint. The machinations of evil capitalists of 15 years ago now seem benign, in a Nixon-goes-to-China sort of way. Although there are quite a few people within the industry who recognize this, too many of them are happy to profit from it and not enough are bringing the danger to the attention of the public, regulators, or policymakers. Unless these practices are curbed, we’re headed for a really dystopian nightmare.”

Brad Templeton, internet pioneer, futurist and activist, a former president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said, “There are a few things on the ‘better’ side. We will likely develop new medical and biotechnological techniques against disease which will help us into the future, and we’ll be better prepared – even perfectly prepared – for the next such pandemic. Those won’t affect daily life much. We will probably have still-reduced commuting, with its stresses to our lives and the environment. People will miss the clear air and work to regain it. We’ll still have some fear of intimacy. Handshakes and European kiss-greetings will still be diminished. While less commuting is good, work from home has its own stresses and difficulties in retaining work-life balance. And many businesses will have closed permanently during the pandemic. A significant debt burden will remain on the books from stimulus and relief packages. And of course, around the world, a million or more will be dead. I predict we’ll return mostly to normal intimacies. We may learn to do occasional ‘dry runs’ of all the technologies necessary for hard lockdown – online shopping, delivery, virtual meeting spaces and remote learning and more. We will probably learn that the right approach is to use those technologies to generate a very hard lockdown for a short time, rather than a moderate lockdown for a very long time. Delivery robots (in which I am involved) will gain more appreciation. Public transit will mostly recover but only because it has to; long-overdue changes away from its 20th century models will be hastened in reaction to that decline, and fear for several years of cramped, packed spaces. This will slightly hasten the eventual replacement of most public transit with robotic group and solo transportation. The world will probably get a bit cleaner. Ultraviolet disinfection will become common. This may reduce the spread of other infections like flu.”

HOPES: “It has been suggested that this is the first battle in our last war on disease – that, partly as a result of this, we will come to understand viruses at a fundamental level. And now the budget will be there (due to the obvious benefit) to create the ability to make a vaccine or counter-agent to a virus on demand – just sequence the virus and quickly be able to generate agents that will be known to be safe and effective. It’s very likely we’ll get much better at diagnostics as well. These are tremendous goods, and one would even say worth the cost of the pandemic, except we were trying to make them before and this just kickstarts them. This could prevent the death of millions, and if you can attribute it to the pandemic, you would have to go into the ‘wildly, wildly positive’ camp on the pandemic. We’re learning a great deal about videoconferences and meetings, holding large events online, holding parties online. We still suck at it but we’re learning lots and getting better. The video call was something that was going to be ‘the next thing’ since the 1950s. The pandemic made that finally happen, and it’s probably here to stay. We may even develop means to do pretty significant business travel without the travel, which has benefits in cost, time and pollution. Though what doesn’t yet work (because let’s face it, we weren’t ready) will stick in people’s minds as not working, even once it is fixed.”

WORRIES: “During the pandemic, a number of the proposals for contact tracing involved increases in the risk of a surveillance state. We must hope any such steps were temporary, but the reality is that they won’t be. People will say they should remain in place for ‘the next pandemic’ but they will hurt privacy. Work from home is a mixed bag. Companies that do it may place more burden on employees just to save the cost of providing them with office space and office perks. Some companies will simply move that budget to other things that help employees. Others will not.”

Seth Finkelstein, programmer, consultant and EFF Pioneer of the Electronic Frontier award winner, noted, “The key point is that the pandemic has decreased labor’s power with respect to capital. When that’s combined with extensive damage to the economy, the average person is going to be worse off. A major factor has been accelerating the winner-take-all trend of monopolistic corporations dominating their markets, thus away from jobs protected by unions. Now, there is a section of the professional class, the ‘knowledge worker,’ which may benefit somewhat on the whole. There’s more online work, and greatly increased demand for more support of technological infrastructure. This group includes pundits, and hence basically everyone responding to this survey. However, it’s a relatively small slice of all workers overall. Small businesses which are replaced with low-wage, no-benefits delivery jobs will not be nearly as well represented in media stories about employment changes. The pandemic has accelerated the longstanding trend for professionals to do telecommuting, internet meetings and similar. But it’s made life literally much more dangerous for work which is not information-based, i.e. manufacturing where one must be in a factory or services which need to be done in person. This another factor producing further stratification of society and dangerous levels of inequality.”

HOPES: “In my wildest dreams, at the most optimistic, I hope the pandemic provides the impetus to break the logjam over standardizing online health records in the U.S. One big problem is that everyone knows that private management of standard U.S. online health records will be a money machine that’ll make Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin look like a wading pool. Thus, every corporation with a chance at this prize jealously guards its potential for a monopoly. If the needs of U.S. public health finally provide the political will to go to a common system where nobody owns it, this will be an enormous benefit. There’s many ways this could go wrong, but in terms of not wasting a good crisis, it’s at least theoretically possible it could go right.”

WORRIES: “The potential misuse of surveillance and tracking is mind-boggling. We have many communications highly centralized in a few large corporations, location data tracked by a similar handful of large corporations and are moving towards having delivery of the necessities of life increasing under the control of some large corporations. This is all a totalitarian’s fantasy toolbox. It’s possible that contact-tracing infrastructure implemented to minimize spreading the virus of COVID-19 could be repurposed against spreading the virus of subversion. While this is not a new dilemma – a standing army that can defeat a foreign enemy can also potentially be used against a domestic political rival – I worry there’s not comparable effort to effectively deal with the risks.”

Soraya Chemaly, an advocate and activist with The Representation Project, working to change attitudes about gender norms, said, “Technology will become even more pervasive in our lives, every aspect of them. This will enable work, alternatives to school and improved health care, but will come at a high cost – increased surveillance, loss of privacy, greater risks – to both individuals and political systems. The confluence of degrading economic conditions, civil unrest, uncertain long-term pandemic outcomes strike me as more likely to lead to technology-related harms and abuses than not, particularly as products rush to market with even less rigor applied to threat modeling, risk assessment, etc.”

HOPES: “Technology related to better health outcomes, built with a greater awareness of how biases infuse standards, diagnoses, remedies and solutions, could make life better. Also, given the pandemic’s effects on all kinds of travel, tech that creates new and different forms of community-building and travel both might evolve in ways it might not have for years. Technology that enables more widespread political engagement and counters some of the more primitive forms of voter suppression. Reproductive healthcare technologies, biotech, might also benefit from the necessary restraints on medically unnecessary, paternalistic and oppressive in-person consultations for women. Additionally, I don’t see how American colleges and universities can sustain their economic models without long-term adaptations that incorporate better remote learning.”

WORRIES: “The panopticon worries me. The immense and largely unregulated power of technology companies operating with little or no transparency, accountability, or oversight as proto-transnational governments worries me. The alignment of these companies with authoritarian and anti-democratic forces everywhere worries me.”

Brian Harvey, emeritus professor of computer science at the University of California-Berkeley, wrote, “The virus will accelerate the growing divide between the rich and the poor – in this case talking not only about the very rich, but about intellectual workers like me, who may discover that they can avoid the traffic jams going to work. Meanwhile the poor have jobs that can’t be done from home, those of them who still have jobs at all. A possible benefit would be if the United States developed a social conscience and instituted the kind of safety net that civilized countries have. I am assuming that eventually there will be a vaccine and/or an effective cure to this virus, but the writing is on the wall: There will be more such viruses, and the poor will suffer disproportionately. But I’m surprised you’re not asking about Black Lives Matter, the first new thing in this century that gives me reason to hope.”

HOPES: “Recent technologies, with social networks as the prime example, have only made things worse. Especially if you focus on the public-facing technology that ‘new normal’ suggests. Maybe new medical technology will make life better, although even that tends to solve problems of the rich; medical technology for the poor mostly means clean water, which we already know how to provide if we have the will. My friends in the computer world tend to believe that the solution to bad technology is good technology. But when it comes to the social implications of technology, I have the old-fashioned view that it’s human decisions, not technological imperatives, that usually matter. Shoshana Zuboff gives the example of Google quietly abandoning the ‘don’t be evil’ slogan when they figured out that they could make more money collecting dossiers on everyone than on search itself. It would help, for example, if rising unemployment (already under way before COVID-19 but much worse now) finally led to a worldwide guaranteed basic income – an adequate one, despite the word ‘basic’ in its name.”

WORRIES: “I’ve been answering this one all along, I’m afraid, because my stance is fundamentally pessimistic. I don’t have to be very creative to answer this; everyone is already worried about the fact that four people rule the world, answerable to no one. Well, I guess Apple isn’t quite just one person, so three people and one small group. The problem is, as usual, worst in the U.S., where technology bubbles have given rise to a ‘post-truth’ politics that is truly frightening. But, just as in the case of fast food, the rest of the world has been eager to import the very worst things our society produces (instead of toilet paper, the only thing we do better than the rest of the world). The computerization of elections is another terrifying development. If we end up with President-for-Life Trump it’ll be because of cyberattacks on voting systems.”

Bryan Alexander, a higher education futures consultant and senior scholar at Georgetown University, responded, “The new normal will mean changes to personal and social lives: greater suspicion of other people and reduced social engagement. Cars will continue to be popular, as practical social-distancing tools. We will be more online in 2025 than 2020, as the pandemic taught us how to do more digitally, from shopping and education to working and social connection. Technology use will be strongly split by national borders, political ideology and views of technology.”

HOPES: “We may use technology to improve how we teach, learn and research, including by improving access to education. We can use technology to deepen our social engagement. We are likely to continue using the digital world to make art, creating new forms of storytelling and growing the number of people who can share their creativity.”

WORRIES: “I’m concerned that surveillance capitalism (credit Shoshanna Zuboff for this term) will continue to be an appealing business model for investors. I fear the use of tech by abusers and authoritarian states.”

Charles M. Ess, a professor of media studies at the University of Oslo whose expertise is in information and computing ethics, commented, “Some things are obvious. The pandemic has made only starkly clearer the vast divides in wealth and privilege that make all the difference in terms of response, infection and survival rates, economic consequences, etc. I live in Norway, which enjoys just about every advantage one could ask for, starting with highest levels of income and gender equality, robust democracy and free press, and an excellent education system that fosters both critical thinking and understanding of science, reason, logic, and evidence. Sitting on oil wells allows us to finance the shift to a green future much more strongly than other places – and to face the economic strains of the pandemic. We shut down early, based on what was known; out of a country of 5+ million, we’ve had less than 250 deaths – currently there are 3 people in the hospital, with one on a respirator. Our economy is recovery quickly. While there are of course disparities between the rich and the poor here, and of course the poor – including the immigrant communities – have borne the brunt of the infection harder than the more well-to-do communities – overall, there is strong social solidarity and an optimism that we’ll get through this, in good measure because the culture fosters a strong sense of mutual obligation and responsibility. The contrast with places such as Brazil and the U.S., with far more disparities, poor education, anti-science politicians, corrupt political institutions, limited freedom of speech, money-driven health-care systems in the case of the U.S., money-driven media systems, etcetera ad nauseum – could hardly be stronger. It’s clear that the poor in these countries – much less in places such as India, Bangladesh, you name it – will again take the brunt of the infection and bear the highest costs. My broad fear is that the pandemic will amplify these differences, both where they are already so stark, making a grim set of life possibilities for very many, if not the majority, worse – and will do the same, if to a lesser degree, in countries such as Norway and many EU member states with strong commitments to the public good and equality. In these ways, we’ll all be worse off. There may be some opportunities to heal and restore the social fabric – but I suspect, again, we will do far better in the Nordic countries and much of the EU than will be the case in the U.S. and other places. The new normal for the better-off and well-to-do will be OK, perhaps in some ways better. The rosy predictions of less travel (because we’ve discovered we can do so much remotely), more time at home with family, etc., thanks to our technologies, seem somewhat likely, at least for those in the middle classes and higher who have access to good education, can afford the technologies, etc. But nurses, doctors, cleaners, etc., obviously cannot work remotely. Whether or not societies will respond in the long run to the collective recognition that much of ‘the shit work’ (low-paying, low-status jobs that no one wants and foreigners are imported to do at lower wages whenever possible) is in fact essential to keeping the wheels of the society and economy moving – and so begin to better compensate those in the lower strata – remains to be seen. Some of us will, perhaps – again, because of a strong sense of social solidarity, etc., in the Nordics we may well do something. I doubt much will change, most especially in places such as the U.S. which are driven much more by individual competition, fawning admiration of wealth and privilege and the simple power of the major industries, technological and otherwise, whose economic success in the world is a central priority for both the larger society as well as the political and military institutions in place. Broadly, there is an ongoing shift towards what Habermas identified decades ago as ‘the colonization of the lifeworld’ by the market-logic of capitalism, both directly and indirectly (i.e., as more and more people seem incapable of thinking about values and relationships in anything other than market terms of competition and profit). Both governments and the tech giants will continue to push for intruding technologies in the name of greater efficiency, including surveillance tracking of the virus and its inevitable successors, as well as marketing claims greater fitness, well-being, etc. Profit through data collection is a powerful engine and one difficult to resist much less regulate, as the current success of Apple in avoiding a major fine in the EU demonstrates. Again, some places will do better than others. All of this, of course, will only be amplified by the increasing impacts of climate change and the demands made on our social, economic, and political lives if we are to address the climate crisis with any hope of even modest success. While I’m not optimistic about the future in the U.S., it may be that the current protests (George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, etc.) may make an important difference. I’m a 1960s kid; I’ve seen how stubborn protest and civil disobedience can lead to long-term improvement in the rights and lives of people of color, the end of a thoroughly inhumane war, and the ouster of one of the most corrupt Presidents and his minions in U.S. history. At the same time, Trump and his supporters are worse in several ways and by one or two orders. On the other hand, as many people have observed, the current wave of protests in the U.S. is different from what we’ve seen for a very long time. But the forces in favor of greed, individual ‘success’ (whatever the cost to others), and corporate profit/socialism are very strong and now very deeply embedded in the political institutions and mindset of very large numbers of people. So long as the latter prevail, well-being – which I understand in classic virtue ethics terms as the consequence of cultivating a number of capacities and habits (‘virtues’) that foster communication, deep relationships, long-term commitments to both self and others, and the pursuit of a sense of contentment (eudaimonia) that goes beyond the simple pleasures of conspicuous consumption – will be out of reach for most people. Life will be much more about the struggle for economic survival – survival that will be more precarious and hence push more and more people to accept invasion and control. As a few commentators have argued, surveillance capitalism is closely analogous to medieval societies. Worst case: A few will be the very grand and wealthy lords and ladies (e.g., ‘the billionaire kings’ such as Jeff Bezos, as but one example of tens of thousands) and hundreds of millions will be the equivalent of unwilling serfs and peasants, thoroughly trapped in highly sophisticated technological systems and economic/legal arrangements favoring the well to do – systems of all but unbreakable control and repression.”

HOPES: “There are a few signs that the large-scale technologies and the companies that produce them are moving in more humane directions. The IEEE project on developing ethically-aligned design is one example among many in the expanding discourse and debate around ethical AI; recent decisions to stop the use of AI in facial-recognition systems is also encouraging. On a good day, even the largest tech giants have to be responsive to their customers and customer pressure, hence Google and Apple’s efforts to ensure privacy, whatever their shortcomings may be in these domains. To be sure, these corporations can powerfully manipulate and interfere with our efforts to communicate, organize, etc. And there’s always the danger that projects such as the IEEE’s, much less the recent disasters with ‘ethics committees’ drafted by Google and Facebook, will amount to little more than ‘ethics-washing.’ But there is apparently growing pressure in the direction of ‘virtuous design,’ ‘eudaimonic design,’ etc. – i.e., design and deployment of technologies more centrally oriented towards fostering human/e flourishing in a strong sense, not solely conspicuous consumption, corporate efficiencies, and corporate profit – along with attention to ‘digital detox’ and other strategies for monitoring and regulating our use and consumption of these technologies. Should these continue to expand and enjoy more success, then one can be perhaps cautiously optimistic that at least many of us in the more privileged positions and countries will find good ways to rebalance our lives more strongly in favor of contentment and flourishing. But all of this will also require new forms of digital literacy, ones that are shaped and are far more fully informed by a holistic sense and understanding of what constitutes and contributes to human and social well-being, and thereby what political and economic institutions are required for fostering and contributing to such well-being (robust democracy and all of its requirements, as a start). Ideally, this would include a new Enlightenment, one that would help the rest of us develop the understandings and capacities needed for greater (relational) autonomy and community – and a technically informed understanding of how these technologies work, their affordances, potentials and downsides, etc., coupled with an increasing ability to determine and control them for our own humane and social purposes. (The current versions of digital literacy, I’m afraid, are little more than thinly disguised support systems for consuming the products designed and produced by a precious few far more interested in corporate profit and control than in humane flourishing and robust democracies.)”

WORRIES: “Please see above. In addition, contemporary technologies, most especially in the form of Social Media, but also streaming services, etc., all too easily foster a kind of ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death’ fashion of consuming an ever-growing, ever-more-dizzying array of cultural content. If one wanted to be pessimistic, it would be easy. We have the perfect storm of both Big Brother surveillance and control technologies, coupled with ‘Brave New World’ ‘kinder and gentler’ forms of enslavement that come from becoming ever more distracted and contented with consumer content, etc. Many people have commented on the above – but what I find still missing in much of these discussions and debates is a focused attention on the interactions with and threats to local cultures, as the cultural presuppositions and/or corporate interests get built into hardware and software to generate what I have called ‘computer-mediated colonization,’ i.e., the imposition of specific Western preferences and assumptions upon the larger world as these are baked in, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the technologies. The recognition of these dangers and warnings against them have been around for at least 20 years – e.g., a Microsoft engineer I liked to quote in the early 2000s who wrote: ‘…What we are chasing is speed. When culture and speed come into conflict, speed wins.’ While there is some gradually growing awareness of these issues – e.g., an Oxford Internet Institute conference last December on Intercultural Digital Ethics with roots in the work of several of us going back to the late 1990s – I get the sense from my U.S.-based colleagues that there is still precious little understanding of the issues, much less strong efforts to explicate and overcome them.”

Jon Lebkowsky, CEO, founder and digital strategist at Polycot Associates, wrote, “There are so many variables in play right now that it’s hard to make a prediction. However, based on today’s reality, my five-year projection can’t be optimistic. Over the next five years, we’ll continue to struggle with COVID-19 unless a truly effective vaccine will appear, and we will also be struggling with the economic impact of the virus. Meanwhile climate change is starting to manifest in ways that can become catastrophic, and there is political and economic instability across the globe. So much depends on political leadership after 2020, as well as corporate leadership especially with social media tech companies whose platforms have been essential to propaganda efforts and the spread of crazy theories in the U.S. and elsewhere. And we’re also seeing growing uses of AI technology for both surveillance and sousveillance. By the time COVID risk has diminished, we’ll feel sufficiently snakebit that we’ll continue to proceed with caution, to avoid exposure risks. So there’ll be long-term effects on sociality and transportation, and on the way we live and work. It’s clear that virtual gathering has become the new normal, and I think that will stick, which means that platforms for meeting (e.g., Zoom, Google Meeting, Microsoft Teams) will continue to evolve and thrive and will be widely used. People will also continue to use social media to sustain both social and business connections. I don’t think that stuff will change demonstrably from what we’re seeing today, but it will become more established as a new normal. I’ve been thinking that there will be a big evolution of transportation technology and the way that people travel, influenced by the ongoing concern about infection. Eventually people will want to be mobile again, and there will be ways for that to happen while minimizing risk of exposure.”

HOPES: “My hopes: 1) Technical innovations to address and mitigate anthropogenic climate change. Not just clean energies, but also technologies to balance CO2 in the air. Regarding clean energy, innovative battery technologies for energy storage. 2) (related) Smarter and lighter transportation technologies, including proliferation of high-speed rail systems and smarter last mile travel, diminishing the number of individual automobiles and the use of fossil fuels. 3) Improved space technology and potential colonization of the moon and Mars. 4) Innovative methods for managing disease, including ways to combat viruses through genetic modifications and nanotech. 5) Development of small, safer nuclear reactors as new sources for energy. 6) Ongoing development of new food sources and evolution away from meat consumption as we can derive complete proteins from lab-developed sources.”

WORRIES: “I’m most worried about technology-mediated indoctrination through propaganda and ‘managed alternate truths.’ Also concerned about the potential for increasing and evolving use of AI-driven surveillance technologies.”

Jon Stine, executive director of the Open Voice Network, setting standards for AI-enabled vocal assistance, noted, “My greatest fears for the post-pandemic world: 1) As is currently evident in K-12 education, the digitally-centric life that has been accelerated by the pandemic (remote working-shopping-entertaining) will further deepen the economic and digital divide. 2) The hourly-wage (often entry-level) jobs lost during the pandemic (retail, hospitality) will come back only partially, and slowly. In retail, the closure of stores and shopping centers will result in significant job loss; in hospitality and entertainment, some 75-80% of the jobs will ultimately return, but only slowly. 3) The new normal will be an accelerated arrival of trends that were forming pre-pandemic. Examples: The digital divide between rich and non-rich; digital grocery shopping; the failure of retail real estate in first-ring suburbs; remote- and from home-working; streaming, on-demand, and cord-cutting entertainment. From a technology perspective, we will see the accelerated arrival of video-heavy internet traffic (what was forecast for 2027, even 2025 will be here in 2021) and voice assistance.”

HOPES: “A broad recognition that bias is easily built into most AI, and that diversity of data is absolutely required.”

WORRIES: “I worry that, from policy and investment perspectives, the national digital divide will be of little interest to those in power. And that many of our leading technology firms take little or no responsibility in addressing the fact-free narratives that increasingly shape societal attitudes and political decisions.”

Jonathan Grudin, principal researcher with the Natural Interaction Group at Microsoft Research, said, “In much of Europe and part of Asia we may see much less change if they have largely defeated COVID in four or five months. The United States may see more dramatic change as people have to shift activity online without having ways to measure or address drawbacks, whether in education, work productivity, or loss of a sense of community. Few will see this experience reducing their level of anxiety or increasing their confidence in economic security.”

HOPES: “As we examine how to use technologies to better support us, we are looking closely at our goals and work processes. This is beneficial. We are discovering inefficiencies and neglected opportunities. For example, the difficulty of conducting remote online examinations that assure student integrity is causing universities to reconsider national high-stakes exams and causing instructors to think carefully about student outcome goals and how best to assess them.”

WORRIES: “Human beings for millions of years lived in groups, interacting in person with people they knew well. Our need for that is most evident in children, reflected in the huge pressure to get kids back in school par or all of the time. Adults may adapt to living in a room from which they work and order food and other goods to be left outside, but there could be delayed costs in anxiety, depression and reduced empathy for other people.”

Jonathan Taplin, author of “Move Fast and Break Things: How Google, Facebook and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy,” said, “The pandemic’s economic damage is, even now, not well understood. Business travel will be sharply curtailed as Zoom meetings are an acceptable substitute. The airline business will shrink. The retail business will wither, and malls will close, as e-commerce will be an acceptable substitute. Commercial office space will go unused, because many companies will find it more productive to let their employees work from home. All of this may bring some benefits to air quality and even white-collar quality of life, but it will not make up for the continued unemployment and increasing economic inequality.”

HOPES: “My greatest hope would be for Facebook to change from a tool of disinformation and social disruption, into a community organizing platform for a decentralized America. This would require getting rid of Safe Harbor laws, so that Facebook would have economic incentive to act like the publisher it actually is. Slowly, politicians and interest groups would stop using it as a propaganda tool. That void would be filled by community groups and non-profits using Facebook Groups to organize at scale”

WORRIES: “I worry that everything I wrote in my book, ‘Move Fast and Break Things’ comes to pass. The tech giants get bigger and more powerful; surveillance capitalism becomes pervasive and our media culture and politics become more Balkanized.”

William L. Schrader an internet pioneer, mentor, advisor and consultant best known as founder and CEO of PSINet, wrote, “Look at the drivers of mankind first: safety, health, wealth. For those without safety and health, while wealth can help them gain safety and health, they cannot possibly achieve wealth without the first two. Thus, fear becomes the primary driver for most of mankind – 99.5%? As for drivers of business which includes technology, the concepts of global warming and global supply chains to optimize both costs and time to market will wane due to pressure from nationalist governments like U.S., UK, Brazil, China and so many others. Most countries will attempt to move to pure domestic production, or at most, regional production and supply chains. That drives the reciprocal for the consumption side; people will buy domestically or regionally prior to buying the best. That goes for auto, telephones, computers, home gadgets of all kinds and even planes (but I doubt any firm, including airlines, will buy planes very soon). Privacy concerns seem to be driven by age group, understanding of technology and fear of being ‘robbed’ (money, identity, etc.) in the largest sense. The younger people are the less fearful. People who are tech-savvy benefit here and help our families and friends. Governments and corporations will still work from home in 2025. Home offices will be a planned and built-out quiet room for the working parents, and children will respect it during the day. Learners from elementary through continuing education will suffer greatly in the next five years. Higher learning must calculate what to do with their campus when their only income for 72 months is from online services. Do they maintain the ivy? Economic security is gone, especially in America, due to Trump. Yes, personal and professional lives are altered permanently, routines will be all new, fear and anger will drive most people globally. The rich will get richer and the poor will riot and be killed by law enforcement and the military will stand by and wait. If the military engages, then the rules of engagement will change. I suspect the military in America will support the Constitution, which means they will remove Trump from office after he loses the election. If they don’t engage, Trump will never leave regardless of the voting. In short, this country is nearing its End of Life.”

HOPES: “The internet is the only solution to our future. Increasing simplicity of use for computing power is needed to allow the disenfranchised to avail themselves of all that is available. The parts and pieces that feed that internet are what matter. How they use renewable energy must be addressed. I’d like FTH (fiber to the home, everyone’s home). I expect global warming to worsen materially due to the fascist regimes such as in the U.S., Brazil, Russia and China. This means we need low-cost, high-productivity solar – with battery systems for any home that wants it. Including the data centers that will control 100% of our education, commerce, control of our borders and all other communications for the foreseeable future. I’d like self-driving autos with long-life batteries that last for a decade and work for more than one day.”

WORRIES: “Privacy will be lost forever. The internet does not sleep and does not forget. People who control these firms have inordinate power now and into the future. They are quite capable of being shallow and selling out to the U.S. government, or any government. So, they will. The poor people and those who are cognitively limited will always be at a disadvantage. However, they won’t be the primary targets for the theft and abuse by governments. Technology will be a mixed blessing in the future. Reread ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’”

Cliff Lynch, director at the Coalition for Networked Information and adjunct professor at the University of California-Berkeley, commented, “My comments are primarily limited to the U.S. situation. No matter how things develop, the economic, social and psychological fallout from the epidemic is going to be dreadful and it will take years, perhaps decades, to work through; I’m particularly worried about what this is doing to young people as they are growing up, and the longer it lasts the worse it’s going to be. This doesn’t have very much to do with technology. Technology has helped us to manage the situation and the damage done, mostly made it better rather than making it worse. A really good thought exercise: How would we have responded to this as a society if it happened in 1985 or 1990 rather than 2020: just think about continuity of education, research, commerce and other activities. It’s been imperfect, and certainly not equitable, but most are much better off overall than we would have been 30 years ago. What we are going through really highlights the massive, disgraceful, persistent failure of U.S. telecommunications policy as far as ensuring the availability of universal and affordable broadband access and how important it is to fix this. It’s an absolute prerequisite for remote schooling, for example, or telemedicine, or many kinds of jobs, and an ever-growing range of other needs. There are certainly other ‘digital divide’ issues, but this is the most fundamental and hardest to fix. School districts can get kids tablets or laptops, but they can’t fix the unavailability of connectivity, at best they can subsidize it if it’s available but unaffordable to some. Our world is forever changed. The new normal is not a full return to the old normal, though to the extent that we’ve had to put some basic human needs, behaviors and impulses on hold we’ll hopefully find a way to reaccommodate them in the new normal. There are some changes that are clear in the new normal: Working from home has been widely accepted (along with rather ambiguous and expansive working hours), and that isn’t going to be fully reversed, though there will be certainly some role for offices and bringing people together to work together. And there are issues with work-life balance that are simmering. The implications around workspace and getting people together aren’t just about offices, but about performance spaces of various kinds: college campuses, schools, shopping malls, bars and restaurants, social spaces, etc. This will have huge implications for the future of cities, mass transit, infrastructure, and all the economics, demographics and other things that follow from this. I suspect that live music and theater will come back; I’m less convinced about movie theaters. There are massive implications for employers in regard to the workforce available and the jobs available to many people who don’t live in urban centers (keep broadband inconsistencies in mind). We’ll see more robots and automation; they don’t get COVID-19, they don’t unionize, they don’t demand pay raises, among other desirable characteristics. Meat-packing companies are already investing more in these technologies – this will only grow. The tougher things to predict are the second- and third-order effects from these obvious fundamental shifts. The really hard things to predict are how fundamental human behavior changes as we come through this, not just patterns of commerce. I’m trying to figure out how the public might view science and medicine by the end of this. Or how higher education will be perceived. It feels like trust in government is pretty bankrupt, certainly at the federal level. The pandemic experience accelerates the move from physical content carriers (like traditional print books or newspapers) to electronic ones. Due to the stay-at-home orders we have largely lost access to our physical collections (in libraries, museums, etc.) for the duration of the pandemic, and there’s lots of concern about books and the like as disease vectors. This is probably a behavior change that stays. Pay attention to copyright ramifications. Much of the coming ‘new normal’ depends on the biology of the virus and its interactions with people; technology is only peripherally involved (though it’s very important in the transitional period, and leading to lasting changes; another way to think about this is that technological developments and biology will sort of negotiate a new normal). We are still learning about the biology. I see three possible scenarios moving on from where we are today (I won’t waste time on where we might have been had we done things differently some months ago; we didn’t, and we cannot undo these errors.)

1) Fairly quick availability (late 2020-early 2021) of very rapid, accurate, cheap diagnostics, treatments (monoclonal antibodies and perhaps other medicines) and effective vaccines, in various combinations. If we can avoid a world war or civil war over distributing them, we could be back to a ‘new normal’ that at least resembles the historical norms of human behavior, commerce and society in a year to 18 months and we can start trying to recover and heal. One can hope that institutions like higher education, the arts and the like will pull through. This is the really good outcome, though terrible damage will still have been done. I hope we get there, but it’s very uncertain.

2) Technological solutions come up short but herd immunity works once enough people have had the disease; at the rate we are currently seeing new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. spike (as of July 2020), we’ll be there in a year or two, though probably with well over a million dead and millions more with permanently compromised health on the way. In the new normal we reach then, we’ll try to deal with the trauma I already mentioned, plus the grief, the survivor’s guilt (some of which will have deep and haunting racial and socio-economic dimensions), and try to move forward as a society, hopefully with a reckoning for some of our failures and mistakes. We’ll have a new normal that still looks kind of like the historical normal for human behaviors and society but with a lot more psychological, economic and social damage and baggage. A lot of things from the old world won’t come back, at least anytime soon. This is a muddle-through outcome, it’s certainly not good, in some sense it’s tragic, but as a society we get through.

3) Herd immunity (and diagnostics, vaccines and treatments) might fail, or at least fall drastically short. We cannot rule this out. I don’t think we will even know if this is a possibility for a couple of years. This is a scenario that is not getting much attention because it’s so awful. In this world, we find vaccines don’t work well, or not for more than a month or two, and we find individuals can be repeatedly re-infected, perhaps with each bout worse than the last. There really isn’t a new normal to reach, only a continually unfolding disaster where I don’t understand the exit mechanism to any kind of genuine sustainable new normal other than perhaps through eventual biomedical breakthroughs. Life in this continued nightmare is a constant tradeoff between near-total social isolation and threat of death or disability. Day-to-day life in the face of this varies greatly, structured around paranoid protective measures for some, driven by duty and courage for others, fatalism and stoicism (and perhaps denial) for still others, and a steady drumbeat of human tragedy in the background for all. Technology is actually really important here. It can help people to function in this kind of environment and stay alive, but it can’t fix the mental or social damage. One thing I would expect in this scenario is the enthusiastic adoption of invasive tracking and monitoring technologies coupled to totalitarian political measures to try to control infections on a continuing basis, likely with only very limited success. This probably goes hand-in-hand with a lot of other bad political developments. At least for a while, I would expect some parts of society will continue to operate and perhaps prosper (or at least make lots of money) operating from isolation, remotely, defensively and with critical dependence on technology. This is somewhat similar to what is happening today with the relatively well-off and fortunate who can work from home and minimize social interactions, but much more so. I would expect to see an ongoing breakdown of society and the economy over time, and perhaps ultimately violence, revolution, martial law, economic depression, breakdown in food supplies and other supply chains and the like, all adding to the misery. And don’t overlook a major war as a possibility in this scenario either, either because a ruler needs to distract the population or because some nation judges an opponent as vulnerable. This future is a very bad place. I hope we don’t go there.”

HOPES: “As a society, we’ve had to get much more serious about interaction at a distance: online/remote learning, telemedicine, socializing, doing business and working in a distributed way. Barriers to telemedicine are already falling away, along with a host of other archaic in-person requirements around various forms of registration, notarization and the like. Hopefully we retain these achievements in the new normal. Once travel and getting together in-person become more practical again (assuming this happens), we’ll more seriously and systematically consider technology-based alternatives like virtual meetings and conferences, and evaluate and balance questions of cost, time convenience and carbon footprint in new ways. We’ll make conscious comparisons and choices. This can only be good, I think. Robots, telepresence and automation will see much greater adoption. This will cost some jobs, but a lot of those jobs are nasty and dangerous (and often pay poorly), and one can hope that people will find better alternatives (and that government and the education systems will help them). We have done idiotic things with supply chains in seeking ‘optimization’ at the expense of resilience in many parts of our society. These were terrible choices that often crept in gradually under the guise of efficiency and cost savings. Some of this has become very clear, and hopefully it will be rolled back, ideally deliberately undone. Resilience needs to be a much more fundamental goal in everything we do as a society and an economy. I am hopeful that we’ll see some movement to recalibrate copyright in the digital environment based on our experiences during the pandemic, with movement on issues like digital first sale or controlled digital lending. This is really important. Where we are now is a disaster. Finally, there’s been a huge investment in biotechnology (broadly), and in vaccine technologies, diagnostic technologies, and epidemiology (including tracking and modeling tech) that I hope will serve us in good stead in the future. Some very complicated changes are coming to higher education, some good and some bad. Keep in mind that when we talk about ‘higher education’ we are really talking about two interrelated but rather distinct things, with different purposes: the research enterprise, and the education system which is focused on undergraduates and professional graduate degrees (MBAs, law, education and social work, engineering, etc.). One set of changes will be driven by remote access to higher education and what that implies for democratization of participation, particularly at the research frontiers. Academic conferences and the system of scholarly communication are changing rapidly under the pressures of the pandemic, accelerating shifts that were already well underway in many cases. These will have many implications. We are seeing very interesting thinking about virtual versus in-person (or hybrid) scholarly meetings for example. Preprints have become a serious thing not just in math, computer science and physics but now in biomedicine. There are some very strange and complicated things happening to the national and international research enterprise that aren’t getting a lot of attention but that merit close tracking, and my organization is spending a lot of time on this. The extent of the barriers that are now in place for international travel and their implications are considerably underestimated. Undergraduate education is getting a tremendous amount of attention in the press right now. Will undergraduate students come back to campus in fall 2020 in person? (I doubt it, at least for long.) This is going to get re-structured massively; the backdrop here is a long-overdue societal discussion about what we are trying to accomplish with large-scale undergraduate education (not to be confused with the relative handful of undergraduates who go to a couple dozen very elite universities). It’s now obvious that more than a few of the less-elite private liberal arts colleges and similar institutions are going to go bankrupt shortly; they aren’t going to re-open for a safe, in-person fall 2020.”

WORRIES: “There are a lot of horrible things that were well underway long before the pandemic, some involving tech corporations as monopolies or oligarchies, some involving the massive collection of data about people, and some involving the corrosive effects of social media on society. I’m not sure that the pandemic (plus the various other related social and political issues that are in play) have changed these trends much, though they’ve certainly accelerated some of them. We are facing a rapidly-building crisis involving misinformation, disinformation and propaganda and the resulting polarization and rage that is destroying our ability to function as a society and think and act rationally as individuals. I increasingly despair of how we get this under control. But let me focus on what’s new or fundamentally changed in the last six months. What has changed here is that there’s a new nexus between tracking and surveilling of people (and self-surveilling) and the perceived public interest in doing this to help enable things like contract tracing (and, perhaps, quarantines). The more panicked the public gets during the pandemic the more leadership may choose to normalize and enforce the adoption of these tools which will also enable lots of extra data collection by technology companies and government. It feels like the boundaries between corporations and government are getting very porous again, in much the same way as it happened after 9/11. Both collect huge amounts of data on everyone, and it’s being passed back and forth freely with little transparency or oversight of the process. It is summer of 2020, and I am watching the not-much-discussed nexus of citizen reporting via cellphone, security video, facial recognition, cellphone tracing and the identification and potential prosecution of protesters and looters in the recent unrest. The federal government has come a long way in its ability to track and surveil since the days when it tried to identify and watch protesters against the Vietnam War. During the pandemic an assortment of technologies have gained ground that I can only describe as disgusting. They should probably be banned or intensively regulated; organizations that adopt them need to do some very serious soul-searching about what they’re doing. Two poster children: remote-examination proctoring systems in education and systems that allow employers to monitor and track employees working at home. There are doubtless numerous others. One other thing I wonder about: I think many people are exhausted and frustrated at the tech vendors’ heady pace of planned obsolescence, of gratuitous and unnecessary disruption and change for change’s sake. They are inflicting this on their consumers. It’s costly, not just in terms of the expense of replacing products that are still working well, but even more so in terms of time and disruption. In today’s world, people are depending on products to work reliably, and to continue to work. It’s harder to get support and help. There’s going to be a lot less money for useless upgrades, and people have much less time to waste on this. Is there going to be a recalibration on this in the vendor community, and are consumers going to vote with their dollars in support of this recalibration?”

Chris Arkenberg, research manager at Deloitte’s Center for Technology, Media and Telecommunications, wrote, “While a five-year horizon will see some classes of society claiming benefits from the COVID-19 discontinuity such as more remote-working arrangements, fewer commutes, better habits in many high-traffic institutions, etc., many will still be under the economic downturn. Many jobs are simply disappearing under the twin engines of small-business destruction and enterprise-scale automation. More job providers are already seeking the security of automation to hedge against the next crisis. Eventually COVID-19 will also likely accelerate the deconstructing of an aging capitalism that fails to allocate resources to teachers, workers, ‘essential services’ and many other economic sectors that have been undervalued while favoring rent-seekers and financial vaporware that adds no real value to society. This will take 10 years at least. At the same time, global political leaders who recently rode a far-right, nationalistic wave of anti-immigration will see more election cycles by 2025. With such strong economic challenges, it is unclear if nationalism will retain its influence or if there will be a mandate for a more technocratic and educated leadership. One might hope for the latter, given the current U.S. administration’s failure to manage COVID-19. In short, a five-year horizon will likely still feel disrupted and degraded for most, while a 10-year horizon may see some of the sea changes underway that were only amplified by COVID-19 start to yield meaningful results. The reality is that global, national and state institutions are being re-conceived under the impact of globalization, the internet, global warming, and, now, global pandemic. There will be a rocky transition to the next stable state.”

HOPES: “Automation, data analysis and machine intelligence will continue to slowly transform every industry to be more efficient, more transparent and less wasteful. Overall, this should lead to greater flexibility and resiliency against disruptions but with a lighter carbon/resource/pollution footprint. With the ability of sophisticated AI to model complex systems, we may become better able to understand and manage our impact on them. Everything from global supply chains and energy flows to pandemics and economic mobility could yield to data insights that enable better outcomes. Arguably, we as humans have been very good at building things at scales beyond our own ability to understand them. This results in unforeseen outcomes, adjacencies and mismanagement. Designing for emergence is really tough, but machine intelligence is able to address such complexities and scale. At the human level, more jobs will emerge on top of the next wave of technological transformation. The internet has created entirely new jobs, as have cloud and mobile. Likewise, 1o years ago there wasn’t even language to describe a social media influencer or professional esports player. As the human population grows, innovations will come along to yoke their labor to productivity.”

WORRIES: “The linkage between consumer data and online advertising is becoming a pernicious system of programmable influence. Capture human behavior, model populations, personas and individuals, then target them with messages that can tip their behaviors towards a desired outcome: buy my product, vote for my politician, hate my enemy. Like all technologies, there has been a savvy class of actors that figured this stuff out way before the masses. Hence, 2016, Facebook, YouTube, Russia, etc. To boil it down: We often approach new technologies over-enthusiastically, without thinking through how they can be misused. As the saying goes, tools are often neutral but people find their own uses towards their own means. Or, a rising technological tide lifts all boats.”

Christina J. Colclough, an expert on the future of work and the politics of technology and ethics in AI, observed, “Unless our governments step into another gear, we will: 1) Become super-surveilled at the expense of our fundamental rights and human rights. 2) Work will become more and more individualised and precarious as companies first cut costs by making working from home the norm and then by hiring contract workers rather than permanent employees. 3) Mental health will suffer as loneliness, financial struggles and competitive forces pressure individuals 4) Innovation will decline as social capital declines due to the above. 5) Workers who need to go to work (physically) will be segmented from the ‘others.’”

HOPES: “I am tech optimist under the condition that it is regulated and governed. I would like the following to be regulated. 1) Improved workers’ data rights. These are either weak in current regulation, or non-existent. 2) Collective data rights. All data regulations (bar some discussions currently held within Indian Parliament) are concerned with an individual’s rights. We need to think of communities, of workers, of citizens, of businesses and of the relationship between state, market and civil society and ask: How can we benefit from digital tech so it benefits people and planet? 3) We must break up Big Tech. Its power is unfathomable and comes even at the expense of democracy and governments’ scope to regulate. 4) Public procurement must include a demand that all data generated and produced is shared between public and private actors. 5) We must globally enforce the principle of data minimisation and, preferably, data emphermality 6) We need to talk redistribution again and close tax havens. Probably tax revenue and not profit. 7) We need vastly improved rights over data inferences.”

WORRIES: “1) That we lose the right to be human, in as such that who you are, what you want, your dreams, desires and aspirations become subordinate to algorithms and algorithmically defined choices on your behalf. 2) That we are monitored and surveilled at home, in the public space and at work without the means and power to resist. 3) That democracy will suffer, as the public sector is fundamentally dependent on data from tech companies and all that that entails of desired versions of ‘reality.’”

Colin Allen, a cognitive scientist and philosopher who has studied and written about AI ethics, wrote, “Things are likely to be worse because of residual fears about the safety of working and teaching environments, shopping, socializing (including bars and restaurants) and travel, and a greater expectation for participation in online events that produce various forms of physical discomfort, eyestrain, etc., from long hours sat in front of computers. They will also be worse because the economic impact of this year’s events will not be fully gone within five years, and some cuts may prove to be permanent. Of course, if a 100%-reliable vaccine is developed it will allow a faster and more complete return to previous behaviors, but I expect there to be lasting economic effects both in the U.S. and globally.”

HOPES: “1) Better virtual meeting spaces that will allow ‘free’ circulation of participants within a virtual space (already under development). 2) Zoom should zoom. What I mean by this is that there should be a software layer between the camera and videoconference feed that automatically zooms and pans to allow the participant to be standing/moving around while remaining in frame and focus.”

WORRIES: “I worry that the increased use of computer-mediated teleconferencing provides the companies with even more data about who is networked to whom that can be exploited in ways that are difficult for individual users to anticipate.”

Craig Spiezle, managing director and trust strategist for Agelight, and chair emeritus for the Online Trust Alliance, said, “We are facing a perfect storm: levels of civil unrest, extremes in political discourse and lack of faith in our government. I fear it will be long road to recovery not only from the economic damage but the impact to trust and integrity, not to mention the unknown long-term impact from social isolation. This is global challenge and it will be a long road for the U.S. to rebuild global bridges broken. The new normal will arise with a transformation of many jobs and of the overall economy.”

HOPES and WORRIES: “While we have high hopes for technology, COVID has taken the divide between digital inclusiveness and digital inequality to a new level due to the need for home schooling, remote work and telemedicine. While affordable, fast and reliable connectivity is paramount, the issues are not limited to access. Key digital obstacles include but are not limited to basic online literacy, language capabilities, understanding of relevancy and access to technical support. Combined with increasing privacy deficits and risks of fraud, these issues are impacting several segments of society more than others. Pew released research in June 2020 showing 65% of adults under 50 say the internet has been essential to them during COVID, compared with 31% of those 65 and older. This is not surprising as older cohorts in general have not embraced a digital lifestyle and do not understand what they are missing.”

Dan McGarry, an independent journalist based in Vanuatu, noted, “Economic weaknesses will be exposed and what was a precision system will become a frail system. The nest of assumptions necessary to an orderly and efficiently run the system of international markets is being unravelled independently of the pandemic, but the confluence of events creates real risks, and some of them will lead to phenomena that will be hard or impossible to reverse. A few key variables in this equation are intrinsic to the shape of how business and government uses technology, especially but not exclusively communications technology. Primarily, the original dream of a federated and centerless internet has more or less died. It is now well within the grasp of most nation-states to exert sufficient control over the data passing within their borders that they can consider it a sovereign sphere. The arguments in favour of leveraging this capability to fight the pandemic are in equal parts compelling and frightening. We are, alas, at a point where the machine is running at such a rate of speed that our only options are to continue accelerating or risk the whole thing breaking apart. Technology is the prime enabler of this situation. Despite the risks however, the majority of political power brokers in the world seem content to send a succession of shocks through the system that not only threaten its smooth operation, they threaten its ability to work. We are entering a phase of global society, therefore, in which the new normal requires we deal with higher stakes than at any point since World War II.”

HOPES: “There are still billions of people who are under- or unserved by the internet. Better communication brings more prosperity. This a demonstrable and well-understood fact. If we don’t screw the rest of it up, we will become more prosperous globally than we have ever been.”

WORRIES: “I fear collapse. It would be exceedingly hard to achieve, but some days it seems we’re hell-bent on achieving it nonetheless.”

danah boyd, founder and president of the Data & Society Research Institute, and principal researcher at Microsoft, said, “‘Average’ is going to be the wrong metric for 2025 because inequality will create a huge division between those who are thriving and those who are in dire straits. There will be plenty of high-status people who will come out of the pandemic with wealth, health, and their life goals intact. But a large amount of society will be dealing with all sorts of ripple effects. There will be those who got sick and never fully recovered. There will be those who lost their jobs and precarity turned to poverty fast. But there will also be mothers whose careers took a left turn after multiple years of trying to be a stay-at-home-parent plus a teacher while working at home. There will be so many people who will be facing tremendous post-traumatic stress disorder as they struggle to make sense of the domestic violence they experienced during the pandemic, the loss of family and friends and the tremendous amount of uncertainty that surrounded every decision. Digital technologies always mirror and magnify the good, bad and ugly. People will continue to use technology to get support and help, but they will also struggle with how technology becomes a place of hostility and information confusion. A cohort of young people will be accustomed to engaging friends through technology, but also struggle with a range of face-to-face encounters as the fears/confusion over illness persist. If we’re lucky, schools, conferences, mental health and general healthcare will be forever re-imagined to consider hybrid ways of approaching services. But this is more likely to be something that magnifies inequality rather than actually doing the connective work that could be possible. The biggest unknown in the United States concerns political leadership. If we continue on with our current administration, the inequality and suffering is more likely to be more extreme than if new leadership comes in with policy proposals centered on redressing the structural inequities that we are facing. Technology will not be the leader of this dynamic, but the follower.”

HOPES: “Because of COVID, people are paying a lot more attention to how data can be twisted for political purposes. I am hopeful that this will result in strengthening of data infrastructure. I am hopeful about the push towards tele-medicine, for people to think about integrating technology into education, for re-imagining how much face time is needed for most work. I hope we take the best of this and integrate it into our future realities. (Climate change needs us to.) I also think that people are getting serious about placing political pressure on tech companies to not amplify hate, racism and harassment. We’re not even close to a good solution here, but I’m hopeful that we might see some serious regulatory interventions in the coming years.”

WORRIES: “Inequality. The tech sector has built the new Gilded Age. Inequality has been a problem in our society for a long time, but the relationship between the tech sector and late-stage capitalism is insidious and getting worse. It’s also affecting other sectors. For example, most of philanthropy is dependent on the logics of the tech sector. Tech sector wealth is creating new philanthropists, and endowments are heavily dependent on growth coming from the tech sector. Unsurprisingly, philanthropy has adopted many of the same logics as tech, from tech solutionism to the fetishization of ‘move fast and break things.’ This weakens civil society, which is crucial for holding tech, politics and capitalism accountable. This systems-level issue will have all sorts of ramifications for individuals, but I think that the costs will be significant. Our polis will be less informed and less financially stable. Technology will also continue to amplify neoliberal logics that put individuals in a very precarious place. Nowhere will this be clearer than in the realm of healthcare. We have so much technology in the health space, so much knowledge and yet our supply chains are broken and inequality in access to healthcare is at an all-time high.”

Daniel Pimienta, internet pioneer and founder and president of the Network and Development Foundation (FUNREDES), based in the Dominican Republic, said, “In terms of internet use the COVID-19 pandemic context has shown an aggravation of a worrying phenomenon that has been maturing for several years: the transfer into the non-virtual world of bad behaviors occurring online, especially in social networks (disinformation, hate and racist discourse). With the scientific sphere now impacted, hopefully a threshold has been reached and some positive reactions will emerge, for instance the reinforcing of existing laws towards criminal behaviors online. This will not prevent an extension of an already huge divide in the world between rather educated people with a capacity to evaluate information and not fall victim to fake news and people who have lesser information literacy. In a context in which more political leaders are targeting the second group, information literacy has become a paramount education priority. This has even reached emergency status today – perhaps even nearing the same level as global warming.”

HOPES: “My hard-to-reach hope is for the end of a business model imposed by Google and major internet technology and content corporations in general that is based on advertisement revenues which has helped to trigger the social and economic disasters we are experiencing.”

WORRIES: “The main worry is the continuation (and amplification by AI resources of) the use of personal data as the engine of the business model.”

Douglas Rushkoff, well-known media theorist and author, wrote, “2025 may be a whole lot more local in spirit and local in practice. As global supply chains falter and reveal their structural inadequacies, people will come to depend more on locally produced goods. This will also mean fewer ridiculous, meaningless, valueless cubicle jobs, and more time spent actually creating value. I’m thinking simple, real tasks like growing food, building houses, teaching kids, healthcare and providing energy may dominate what we now think of as ‘work.’ In other words, instead of developing careers in industries, people will learn how to do things – which could prove truly fulfilling and psychologically stabilizing. I think the climate and economic challenges may be bigger, but our resilience as people could be stronger. It’s only three or four years out, though, so I don’t anticipate we’ll be through the disillusionment at the failure of global corporate capitalism. As for the role of digital technologies? I don’t know if they will be quite as important in their own right. They’ll likely be more embedded into other stuff, and less fetishized on their own.”

HOPES: “The only tech-related change I’m really hoping for is less of it. It’s really draining. Even typing this right now I’m using tech to write to you about the future of tech? Seems like tech is desperate to create reasons for us to use tech to write about tech so we can earn money to get more tech. Blech. As for making life better? I guess the obvious ones: solar, regenerative energy, less-industrial agriculture (more low- or light-tech solutions to topsoil depletion, air pollution, watershed destruction). More simple stuff that solves real problems. Less social networks designed to create new problems.”

WORRIES: “Well, there are now trillions of dollars invested in companies that depend on addiction, isolation and fear to keep growing. That’s very dangerous, since these companies will spend their war chests on deliberately causing panic, pain, and fear. They know the more upset and reactive we are, the more likely we are to engage with their platforms. So, when the wealthiest industry in the world is doing everything it can to attack our basic sense of well-being, I do get concerned we may not have the resilience as people to oppose these forces. Once they really get a handle on using AI for this purpose, I’m not sure how we get ourselves out of it. Even now, we see people on social media platforms attacking those with whom they should be allied. They cancel people rather than collaborate with them. If AIs determine that turning people against each other is the easiest way for them to deliver desired metrics, then we could be in great trouble.”

Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, an advocate/activist, predicted, “Digital technology will dominate all aspects of life, further detaching humans from one another. There will not be a ‘new normal,’ but rather a continuously changing abnormal as humans and institutions draw further and further apart in a radically fragmented society. Eyeball-to-eyeball professional and personal contact will be intentionally set aside in deference to digital video communication. Diminishing resources will lead to a national mood of scarcity, giving rise to aggressive competition between individuals and groups. Economic security will become a dream for the great majority of the citizenry.”

HOPES: “Tech-related changes in medicine will lead to a continual state of breakthrough developments for the betterment of humankind, but fewer and fewer citizens will be able to afford the new diagnostic and treatment regimens. Positive developments in broadband accessibility will be the Trojan Horse of the era, transforming the digital realm into a force of control by corporate and governmental entities. By inviting technology into their homes, working class and middle-class individuals will be totally relieved of their privacy.”

WORRIES: “What, me worry? It makes little sense to worry about the inevitable. Five years from now, more and more homes will become beholden to technology and the technicians who operate it. Big data will be drilled down into almost every aspect of daily life. Video interface between home and governmental/corporate interests will be all-pervasive. There is no escape from Big Brother, once ago a fiction and now a reality.”

Erhardt Graeff, a researcher expert in the design and use of digital technologies for civic and political engagement, wrote, “The economic churn emerging from this pandemic is displacing workers across several industries. They will not return to pre-pandemic levels. We will see continued growth in consumers’ appetites for online shopping, which will be matched by technological and logistical changes that will erase even more jobs. This workforce revolution will not see sufficient retraining or redistribution of jobs by 2025, meaning long-term unemployment for many and worse outcomes. Even if governments are able to increase their social safety nets to keep folks at a baseline standard of living, mental health problems from the trauma of the pandemic as well as from the loss of meaningful employment and concomitant losses of one’s purpose and sense of self will mean post-pandemic life will be worse on average.”

HOPES: “I hope that technology companies realize the limitations of their brand of innovation for addressing the complex challenges posed by the pandemic and its collateral damage. One positive shift may be re-acknowledgment of the value of ‘content.’ People and technology companies are being reminded of the need for quality information, quality entertainment, and quality educational offerings. We cannot simply add more technology to achieve true quality. Platforms will find they need to invest in media creation, editing and curation in order for them to be able to push something worth pushing through their pipes. This could be a boon for creatives, who have been on the losing end of the digital advertising revolution, as we see a reinvestment in media, including public media.”

WORRIES: “I worry that governments and society will be on the hunt for silver bullets and put their faith in technology companies to produce ‘solutions’ for the complex challenges we are facing individually and collectively. Misplaced hope in this approach will delay work on structural changes necessary to actually address the social and economic upheaval wrought by the pandemic.”

Esther Dyson, internet pioneer, journalist, entrepreneur and executive founder of Wellville, responded, “Things will be both better and worse. Many people will be dead and many others more will be permanently damaged, physically or mentally or economically. And those people will mostly be the ones who were worse-off in the first place, poor, Black or another minority, disabled or ill, or otherwise challenged. Yet at the same time, the U.S. and even the world at large are much more aware of the disparities and the unfairness of this situation. With luck, we will start to think long-term (to the next pandemic?) and realize how much better things could be for all (including rich employers who want educated, happy, productive employees and well-off customers) if we would invest in our greatest asset – human beings. The money one spends keeping pregnant/new mothers healthy, providing childcare (and paying careworkers wages that honor their work), educating children, keeping people healthy instead of trying to fix them when it’s too late – all that money delivers a huge return on investment. It’s just that the rewards don’t go directly to those who pay; they go to society as a whole and make the world a better place for both rich and poor (but with more impact on the poor because their condition has so much more room for improvement). That’s the optimistic view of things. I’m doing everything in my power to make it come true. The short version is that we need to think long-term and invest in everyone’s future versus grabbing what we can for our narrowly defined selves. Ah yes, and you were asking about ‘digital tech.’ We’re going to discover that it is getting cheaper to do a lot of things, including many varieties of telemedicine, less travel and jet lag for the rich, upper-class workers, and that we can actually afford to invest in human capital cost-effectively. We need to do that and we need to train a large new cadre of tele-careworkers to help deal with the residual effects of COVID-19 (including contact tracing). The human communication skills needed for contact tracing now are the same skills that will also make for better childcare, mental health and other careworkers. One really interesting impact will be on privacy: Any stranger could be infectious, so there will be demands for testing and immunity passports and the like – and a similar demand for secrecy from (usually poor) people terrified of losing their physical-presence-required jobs, their ability to travel, etc., etc. It’s akin to issues around concealed weapons, etc., etc. A lot will depend on how immunity/vaccines/and other medical issues play out over the next year.”

HOPES: “A lot less traveling – and a lot more appreciation for face-to-face (or mask-to-mask) connections when we do make them. Much more telehealth and a healthier population. More self-aware use of social networks and an understanding of how addictive they can be. The use of all kinds of digital monitors should help people to manage their own health and resilience better (though they can be abused/addictive like everything else). I would love for every third grader in this country to get a continuous glucose monitor along with an age-appropriate scientific curriculum so that they could see for themselves how the food they eat affects their bodies and their mood. Or more cheaply, at least a Mouse House with four mice – two sedentary and two with a running wheel, orthogonally two on a healthy diet and two eating the kind of processed, overly sweetened junk still found in many schools’ cafeterias. Maybe PETA would sue, which would just help to make the point of how badly we feed so many children. Meanwhile, the kids could just watch and see the impact of the four combinations of choices.”

WORRIES: “I worry that poor and minority people still will have limited access to all the tech and tools that the rich take for granted. For an egregious example of this non-inclusive ‘we have all the broadband we need’ thinking, see this piece: https://www.ipi.org/ipi_issues/detail/imagine-the-covid-19-pandemic-without-broadband (it offends me so much I just tweeted it). In other words, disparities in access to tech can aggravate other disparities. I also worry that people will turn to tech rather than to other people for human comfort.”

Ethan Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media and associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, commented, “Recent research suggests that it is unrealistic to expect a ‘polio-type’ vaccine for COVID-19 – take it once and enjoy long-term immunity, instead, we can expect a flu vaccine path forward, which means multiple shots per year and partial immunity. As a result, the transformations we are experiencing in the U.S. are just at their beginning. Any aspect of human life that depends on high-density co-presence is going to change. That likely means prolonged unemployment for people in entertainment, the restaurant business, tourism, hospitality and dozens of other areas. While there may be some upsides for people in white-collar, fully-virtualizable industries, on the whole the transition is going to be difficult, draining and economically catastrophic.”

HOPES: “We have the chance to build a different type of internet around video copresence and sustained online interaction. The systems we’re using now to create public spaces online are either extension of social networks built around surveillance capitalism, or they’re simple extensions of two-way video chat. We have the opportunity to design and build spaces that have a variety of uses, support different behaviors and norms and operate on academic, civic and other logics, rather than a market logic. As we learn to teach, meet, brainstorm, hang out and govern in these new spaces, we may start designing a digital future that’s radically different from the one we’re starting to fight against.”

WORRIES: “As we entered 2020 we were starting to ask important questions about our relationships with the large tech platforms. Were we giving them too much of our data? Should they have control over what speech was acceptable and unacceptable? Should we have more control over our digital spaces and online interactions? Before we really resolved any of these questions, COVID-19 forced us into a new reality in which many more of our interactions are online, and often through these platforms. We should worry about the difficulty of planning and executing a shift from the platforms and paradigms we are starting to question in 2020 towards new models for online interaction that honor our individual agency and our community values.”

Fernando Barrio, a lecturer in business law at Queen Mary University of London expert in AI and human rights, responded, “More than 20 years ago we all had a very optimistic and naive view of the evolution of technology in people’s lives, so it was paramount to allow the technology to develop unhindered by regulatory intervention. The result is a vast and resilient network that allows us to do even more things than we envisioned. But it also means a world where wealth is more concentrated than ever, where science takes second place to charlatans and gossipers that cause serious damage to millions, where the political arena is hijacked by a combination of media and foreign interventions making a mockery of democracy, and the list of not very nice things is quite longer than the nice moments of the Arab Spring and #MeToo movements. And it seems that, yet again, we are planting the seeds for the new normal to be very nice in the surface, while creating a society more unequal, unfair and sharply divided about too many things that need social consensus. In 2025 the new normal will imply a society more sharply divided between those who have access and those who don’t. In this context, access is multi-pronged: access to food, access to wealth, access to connectivity and technology, access to power. When one thinks about people’s relationship with technology, one is thinking of the group of people that have access to it – unfettered access. If we restrict the view to that group, the new normal will be an enhanced form of what we are living today, where the economy, the education, the human relations and the politics are technologically mediated. Before the COVID-19 crisis, there was already a push by certain sectors of the media-IT corporations to normalize the use of certain technologies where the possibility of individuals’ control is purely theoretical. That push was supported in part by elite universities, academia, due to funding from those corporations or because the ideological shift had already taken place within them. Accordingly, it was possible to see all around the globe members of those groups advocating the change from text to voice, therefore encouraging voice-managed assistants in every room of people’s homes, disregarding the immense possibilities of surveillance and absolute control over people’s lives that those technologies introduce. Not focusing on the need to have better privacy agreements regardless of the countless examples of violations of agreements that discourage the use of the information for any purpose without individuals’ control and consent. The COVID-19 crisis showed that the resilience of the vast global network over which different layers of protocols, software and applications run is being used to exalt the upper applications layer because it is the one that made possible the tele-everything that we are experiencing. Thus, in the new normal hyper-intrusive technology is taken for granted. Instead of embedding privacy, security and protection of individual rights in every layer that runs over the network, in the crisis the new normal is that those concepts are modified to allow technologies to intrude in people’s lives (as they already do in certain non-democratic countries). That paradigm shift will also blur the limits between people’s personal, professional and public lives. For example, instances of cybersacking – in which one loses a job for comments or information posted online – will become more common, having an impact on the quality of the discussions and information put forward by individuals, and even private conversation held in private groups or within hearing of voice-managed assistants at home might be also processed at that effect.”

HOPES: “For those with access, technology will allow a life more connected with those who are not near. For certain types of jobs this opens up the possibility of using time more flexibly; this is likely to blur the line between professional and personal lives. The increasing use of digital technologies in agriculture and food production would allow a more sustainable increase in the volume of food produced in a context of population growth and environmental protection. The expansion of smart farming can result in more and better food while using less arable land. The combination of smart farming with urban farming can also increase production while reducing the CO2 produced by food transport.”

WORRIES: “In a system that takes as a given that technological development is good and that the main purpose of corporations and individuals is to maximize profits, the future is bound to be one where technology is designed and used to trample individual rights. Already privacy is almost fictional, and the right to express ideas is being manipulated. This is twisting the political processes in democracies. See examples like the last U.S. election, the Brexit referendum and many other elections in supposedly democratic countries. The combination of lack of regulation, oligopolistic IT ownership and populist governments, from the right, center and left, results in technology having an overall negative role in society’s development and in individual’s lives. The rise of an Orwellian society is already a fact in certain countries, and others that are allegedly democratic are sleepwalking towards them because naive individuals are happy that they can find a recipe by simply asking a device that hears everything one says inside ones’ home. Another issue, with larger impact on societal levels, is the deployment of so-called artificial intelligence to decision-making processes that affect individuals’ lives, from social security decisions to criminal system ones, with an expected exponential rise of biased decisions, which would have been naturalized beforehand by the media and academia. We already see and hear the calls to not regulate AI so ‘it can be fully developed.’”

Garth Graham, a longtime leader of Telecommunities Canada, said, “The structure of international institutions that balanced global issues since World War II is disintegrating, in part because trust has largely disappeared within the connective benefits of information and communications technologies that enable globalizing structures. In 2025, what people could trust would be technologies that support self-organizing local response to local problems. In other words, a fractal organization of response to global problems, one that is distributed rather than centralizing. However, there’s no sign that awareness of a need for heightened sensitivity to local conditions and ecologies can face the challenge of all the calls for a revitalization of existing sources of power.”

WORRIES: “Breaking up the Big Five [Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft] is not just a consumer issue, it’s a human rights issue. While there is some growing awareness that the data tracks expressing the extension of the person into the online world are and should be owned by the person they describe, I don’t believe that enough public consciousness of the need to express that right in law exists to provoke political action.”

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, based in the UK, wrote, “We will still be in recovery in 2025, but will potentially be building a better world – recovering in regard to economic, psychological and physical health. We probably will have another rise of populism and anti-poor and anti-foreigner sentiment unless a National Health Service-like attitude prevails for a new morality around people being humans who are deserving of humane treatment without regard and despite differences in status and origin and ethnicity and identity. But jobs will still take a while to recover. Industry will seek to cut costs through automation (not just robotics) and ignoring regulation as it gets rewritten (e.g., travel regulation may remove the hub-and-spoke system). With the death of centralised social media, the discourse will become even more broken for a while until we find new ways to communicate and use media. I believe we can surmount that with a focus on building a humane society and an infrastructure that prioritises people and how we drive markets to do that over the type of market efficiency that drives profit decisions over our humanity. I’m not saying this as anti-market, rather I think markets have become obsessed with internal-facing restructuring for efficiencies for investment (e.g., securitisation of debt) and market growth without considering other things because they were deemed ‘costly.’ I hope we re-evaluate this.”

HOPES: “We may become more mindful of decentralisation and distribution in tech devices and infrastructure. That’s not to say that it’s better than centralised intelligence models, but with the focus centered on clouds, AI systems and tools such as contact-tracing apps the presumption toward centralisation has been too strong. People’s sense of space will become interesting. Will they want restaurants, cinemas and outdoor spaces more because of being locked in; or will they have enjoyed not having to travel for events as much? That will determine the tech that shapes markets for some time to come. I’m not sure that people will rush to queue again or to be in shops and other establishments, but when they do it will be more worthwhile. I also think that there’s a limit to logistics and efficiencies for every person everywhere to be able to receive deliveries and personalisation.”

WORRIES: “The reduction of people’s jobs to logistics and distribution without economic and well-being security is an alarming trend that could be further enabled with the direction of innovation. The ‘innovator’ narrative has run its course and has been proven to be both a myth and a hazard for how we value innovation. Please let’s kill that noble inventor image and return to how we saw Gates and Microsoft in the 1990s and IBM in the 1980s. Then we may better scrutinise them and how they conduct business.”

Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member and former chief technology officer for the Federal Communications Commission, said, “The epidemic has accelerated the awareness of technologies that were previously only known to early adopters. In particular, remote-interaction technologies, whether video conferencing or various virtual reality applications, seem likely to be more commonly used by many employees outside the technology sector. This might allow at least partial work-from-home for many back-office jobs, whether customer-service or business-process jobs. These tools will also likely persist as add-ons to family life, allowing families to stay connected when travel is difficult due to age or lack of financial resources. On the other hand, countries will diverge in the prospect for the bulk of their workforce, particularly for young people who missed the ability to gain a toe hold in jobs leading to careers. Countries that were able to deal with the pandemic relatively well and only suffered a few months of disruption in most industries may be able to recover quickly. Countries like the U.S. that utterly failed in their response will find that many young people will have had extended disruptions to their educational progress, from K-12 to higher education. Many entry-level job opportunities will have vanished simply because of retrenchment in service-oriented industries as disposable income decreases. This will strongly depend on the availability of a vaccine, highly-effective non-pharmaceutical interventions such as air filtration and UV-C lights, more-effective treatment protocols. If neither exists in 2025, many sectors such as restaurants and live entertainment will disappear except in countries that manage to suppress the virus in their population to levels that make indoor gatherings plausible. Many of the new touchless technologies, e.g., in hospitality, will also decrease the need for entry-level, customer-facing jobs and will likely be made permanent.”

HOPES: “In future, better collaboration technologies could improve traditional education and human interaction, by making them more accessible even to people who cannot travel or cannot attend a regular classroom.”

WORRIES: “I worry that if the U.S. and other countries succumb to right-wing populism and become illiberal democracies they will find social media platforms helpful to stoke resentments and retain power. Perhaps at least some of the technology companies may enter an implicit bargain where they design their platforms to support the government in exchange for avoiding anti-trust and other regulations or being exposed to unfavorable tax treatment.”

Henry E. Brady, dean of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley, responded, “Life in 2025 will certainly be worse than what it would have been had the pandemic not occurred, but it is not clear whether it will be worse or better than what it was at the start of the pandemic. I answered ‘worse’ because it seems to me that it will take a long time to get back where we were at the start of the pandemic in terms of employment and other areas. However, it seems likely that GDP will be larger in 2025 than in 2019. But the other disruptions to people’s lives such as unemployment, health problems, and inequality might very likely be worse and this accounts for my answer. Clearly our society has to do a great deal of work to become more resilient and that will require an enormous investment of time, resources, and energy. If a vaccine is not found for COVID-19, then the society will have to rethink a great deal of what it does. If it is found, then there can be a return to some normalcy, but there will be a need for much better health monitoring methods, much better ways of dealing with economic shutdowns, and so forth. And unfortunately, the United States has shown little capacity under its current leadership to deal in innovative ways with what is happening. One thinks of the creatively shown by Lincoln during the Civil War and by FDR during the Great Depression, and it is clear that we are missing the mark. Obviously digital technologies will play an important role in all of this. They could be important for inter-personal interaction, monitoring individual health, and monitoring group health. At the moment, however, digital technologies are relatively poor substitutes for many forms of in-person interaction – certainly they are improvements over the era of telephones, but much more needs to be done to create truly excellent interactive experiences. It seems likely that the current crisis will lead to innovation (it would be more likely to do so if the government, for example, were running competitions to develop new and more useful technologies, but we have a failure of leadership there as well). With respect to health, it seems likely that individual monitoring methods could be greatly improved to get at signs of a disease more quickly, and it seems likely that people will have and use such devices by 2025 for their own personal use. The major questions regarding these methods is whether they will be ‘supervised’ by central organizations or authorities. That presents major privacy issues that have to be dealt with – perhaps people might join anonymous ‘areal’ [regional] reporting groups that allow authorities to identify areas where disease is prevalent without compromising individual privacy unless people are willing to be individually tracked. In any case, we need both technological and social innovations to make these approaches work. Finally, it seems likely that the problems of delivering and obtaining food, clothing and other things during a pandemic will lead to innovation in the distribution of these items. Driverless delivery trucks, for example, might be one way to create fewer health dangers, but, of course, this would lead to an accelerated loss of jobs in that area. In general, it seems likely that efforts will be made to think of new and novel ways to produce and distribute goods safely.”

HOPES: “Here are some of the possible uses of emerging technologies: Better and more-immersive online communications technologies. Better ways to use technology where it can be useful and to have ‘in-person’ (perhaps over the internet) one-on-one interactions. Better health-monitoring devices and ways they can be made useful to individuals and to public health authorities (the latter requires dealing with the vexing issues of privacy). Better ways to distribute goods using technology. Driverless delivery vehicles. Online supermarket shopping that ‘feels like’ going down the aisles of a grocery store and that is linked to an automated packaging and delivery system. Better ways to deliver services – this may be the hardest to improve. I am very worried, however, that some of these might also destroy jobs and thereby increase inequality.”

WORRIES: “I am worried about increasing inequality due to the march of technology. I am also worried about privacy. Finally, I am worried about algorithmic fairness, and I think that serious questions have to be raised about who owns all of the technology that will be created. One version of this problem is ‘who owns social media data?’ but an emerging one is ‘who owns the robots and driverless cars?’ The average citizen needs to have some ownership over this capital if we are to have an equitable and fair society. I am also worried about the threats to privacy from all of the data that can be used and combined. On the one hand, this allows us to manage problems better, but it also allows an authoritarian regime to ‘manage’ people in ways that are worrisome, as we are seeing in China. And it is not clear that privatization is the answer at all, especially when private companies are not adequately regulated. Finally, I am worried about algorithmic fairness. Now, it is true that the concerns with algorithmic fairness are sometimes merely bringing to light the inequities that have been baked into the system, so that, to some extent, making those practices visible through algorithms may allow us to eliminate them, but this assumes that we have mechanisms whereby the algorithms are examined on a regular basis and that we have methods for assessing their fairness.”

Ian Higgs, a technologist based in Europe, wrote, “The pandemic has forced many people to isolate themselves from others. This has reduced social interactions and increased stress for many. It has also been a source of social division as those who do not accept that there is a real risk brand those who are isolating as ‘scared’ and even ‘cowardly.’ Many, of course, do not have the resources or space to isolate themselves, and this has added another layer of division. The pandemic may ease, but the virus will be with us for many years yet. I fear that the above issues will remain and perhaps become entrenched in an increasingly divided society. These are not issues that can really be addressed by technology, indeed, a lack of access to technology is one of the issues that currently divide us and will continue to.”

HOPES: “I am a technologist. I have always worked with technology. I am, however, not optimistic about the long-term ability of technology to make positive fundamental changes for many. Access to technology is not a given for many people around the world, just as clean drinking water is not.”

WORRIES: “Technology companies seek to increase people’s dependency on their technology. This dependency is, clearly, not always to the advantage of the users.”

Ian O’Byrne, assistant professor of education at the College of Charleston, said, “As COVID-19 forces societies into their homes and social distancing moves most interactions to digital spaces, the ‘new normal’ will require strong connections to the internet and stronger digital literacies. Sadly, these are two areas that many communities have not strengthened over the last decade or two. Digital literacy practices necessary for the safe use of the internet in individuals’ personal and professional lives is severely lacking in most contexts. The internet is already uninterpretable for most of the populace. Algorithms created by corporations obfuscate the data collection and purpose of these platforms and tools. Internet access globally is also insufficient for most; many rural locations do not have the connectivity necessary to survive, let alone succeed in a global marketplace. This is exacerbated by net neutrality rules that seek to eliminate protections and competition in options. As these two components intersect, the situation will get worse as disaster capitalists are already looking for opportunities to gain a foothold in the post-COVID economy.”

HOPES: “I hope individuals will use this opportunity to take a good look at digital technologies and consider their use and validity in their lives. They should scrutinize their screen-time and seek some balance from the digital and focus more on the physical. I hope that education focused on identity, data privacy, security and open source uses of technology will receive more focus in our schools and create a more informed citizenry.”

WORRIES: “I worry that humans will move away from physical interactions and spend more time socializing via digital tools and spaces. The algorithms and echo chambers will continue to distance social groups as the machines consider how best to keep us satiated and always clicking in. Attention is the new economy and when people are enraged they’re more entrenched in these platforms. Social distancing could lead to community distancing, as neighbors may feel that they have even less in common with their peers as they only see what they want to see online. It may seem as if we all live in different media, information and social spaces that rarely, if ever intersect.”

Ian Peter, a pioneering internet rights activist, said, “I think 2025 is too early for the necessary changes to be put in place by governments to address COVID-19. I suspect first reactions will be attempts to return to ‘business as usual’ – and these will not work. It is only after these attempted actions fail that better measures will be put in place. I am optimistic for a better world by 2035, but I think 2025 is too early for a recovery given the likely responses of world leaders.”

HOPES: “The pandemic will drive home the necessity for better connectivity and bandwidth, as working and schooling from home becomes more frequent.”

WORRIES: “I worry, for example, about the difficulties companies have dealing with false information, and that some responses may lead to censorship and tech companies’ ungoverned actions to determine which information we see or don’t see. The free flow of information has never been more under threat, and doing nothing about false information is not an option. This is a difficult problem requiring new levels of cooperation between stakeholders.”

Irina Raicu, a member of the Partnership on AI’s working group on Fair, Transparent and Accountable AI, said, “As earlier Pew Internet studies have shown, Americans have been increasingly worried about their privacy and feeling powerless to protect their data – especially online. While most of us have been grateful for the key role that the internet has played during this time of pandemic, we have also felt forced to make some choices purely as an emergency response – choices we might not have made otherwise – about what data to share with which entities. Given the push toward contact-tracing apps, various tech tools that offer to protect people as they return to work and other surveillance technologies being deployed in the name of health or national security, and given the vast numbers of people who are losing their jobs who might therefore feel compelled to accept privacy-invasive conditions on their employment, I believe that, out of fear and a sense of lack of choice, Americans will feel even more powerless to protect their privacy. At the same time, state privacy laws that were passed pre-pandemic, such as the CCPA in California, might offer some protection against unfettered data collection and use. There are also efforts to pass some privacy-related federal laws, but the clashing agendas of various stakeholders might prevent their passing.”

HOPES: “‘Technology’ is too broad a term; it covers too much. Having said that, it is a key part of the efforts to find and develop new vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. The internet, of course, is also one technology that has already played a huge role in keeping many of us from getting infected (by allowing us to work, shop, and interact with loved ones while social distancing). New services might arise to help meet the ongoing needs while we are asked to stay home as much as possible. I have hope that developments in differential privacy and encryption and efforts such as federated learning will achieve more-ethical data mining. And there is also a growing push for various tech companies to delete their users’ data, which would also make life better for users.”

WORRIES: “We increasingly rely on technology to keep us safe, keep us connected, keep us employed. The lines between data collected by private companies and data collected or used by governments was already blurry; it is getting even more so now that data-sharing is seen as one way to combat the pandemic and its related challenges. Given ongoing justified concerns about data that is purportedly collected for one purpose but then used for others, it is hard to know what the role of technology and technology companies will ultimately be. ‘Tech for good’ might be repurposed in ways that no one anticipated.”

J. Nathan Matias, an assistant professor at Cornell University expert in digital governance and behavior change in groups and networks, said, “The pandemic will continue to widen economic and social divides around the world. People whose work requires them to be present in physical locations will lose more economically. The pandemic will also normalize levels of surveillance and social control that previously seemed unimaginable, especially for individualistic Western societies that have traditionally valued individual civil liberties. Because online education tends to privilege students who have access to technology and private spaces, the pandemic will have a lasting impact on diversity in the technology industry. On one hand, tech firms will continue to have a more remote workforce, which will distribute the industry’s wealth more geographically widely. On the other hand, that workforce might become even less diverse than it was before the pandemic due to disparate impacts among the most vulnerable.”

HOPES: “In 2025, the public will be less patient with the promises and excuses of technology firms on the social impact of their products and policies. Instead, companies will be expected to provide evidence of their impact. In some areas at least, this evidence-based evaluation of digital power will satisfy critics and help companies turn a corner in public perception of their impact. Evidence-based governance of digital power will be important in 2025 because even more of society will depend on digital connections, from education to work to civic life and public health.”

WORRIES: “The pandemic will normalize surveillance previously considered intrusive, with the impacts of that surveillance disproportionately affecting the least powerful in society.”

Jay Owens, research director at pulsarplatform.com and author of HautePop, said, “Compared to, say, November 2020, the ‘new normal’ in 2025 is net worse for the average person, based on economic, health and well-being factors: 1) There is a significant likelihood of facing a long period of unemployment in 2020-21 if they work in a COVID-affected sector, with knock-on effects of increased debt, reduced savings, reduced salary progression. 2) Women with children have faced significant pressure to exit the workforce or go part-time in order to cover the childcare gap caused by a) school closures and b) their male partners not taking 50/50 responsibility for their offspring. This results in lifelong financial impacts plus a sense of frustration. 3) There is a significant likelihood of ongoing disability following a coronavirus infection, given what’s emerging about the medium- and long-term lung damage and chronic post-viral fatigue. 4) In the UK, Brexit produces a further economic crunch for sectors that might have got through coronavirus reasonably well (e.g., manufacturing, food supply, logistics). 5) People will have significantly fewer friends, as relationships dwindle given the lack of regular in-person contact. I expect a somewhat neo-traditionalist intense focus on the couple and the nuclear family which will be rather stifling. The average person working from home may have reduced commute times and other positives for work-life-balance. Some people may use this moment to be more-engaged parents, with benefits for their own well-being as well as that of their children. People working from home will tend to have more engagement with their local communities, and volunteering and community organising will flourish. I do not think that digital technologies are the driving factor here, to be quite honest. Initial concerns around digital surveillance, enabled by the coronavirus emergency legislation, have been muted by the fact the UK government has not been able to develop a working contact-tracing app and probably never will. Gaming will continue to grow as a major hobby, perhaps taking a little more entertainment market-share as films are hobbled by a year or two of shooting restrictions; however, this trend was well underway pre-corona. Big technology firms will take increasing responsibility for content on their platforms, as coronavirus fake news was the trigger that overcame their reluctance to curate and censor misinformation.”

HOPES: “I have only very modest expectations for tech to make life better in the next five years. The normalisation of working from home (broadband, video conferencing, collaboration tools) will create more-flexible employment and offer some positives for workforce participation for mothers and people with disabilities. High-convenience online retail and delivery services will have negative consequences for urban space (see the collapse of the High Street) but some convenience benefits. We will be presented with a dazzling array of entertainment options, as some distraction from the collapse of a functioning public sector. Trends in place pre-COVID, such as the modal shift towards electric vehicles will hopefully continue, with some positive environmental consequences. Consumer spending will tip towards investment in the home and domestic space, hopefully encouraging spending on energy-saving and green technologies such as home insulation, improved double glazing, solar panels, ground-source heat pumps and so on.”

WORRIES: “I worry about technology companies’ monopolisation – a lot of activity concentrated in four or five megacorporations. See the negative impact of Amazon on the wider retail sector. There is too much reliance focused in these companies’ platforms, with screen-centricity for everything: social life, entertainment, work, the arts. There is an over-emphasis in society on what tech can do well (convenience) and not what it can’t (the level of quality of the interaction or experience).”

Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center and professor of journalism innovation at City University of New York, commented, “Yes, there may be unintended positive consequences, including greater awareness of racial inequities in society; less travel and thus less environmental damage; greater ability to work at home and remotely and be closer to family. But we cannot then gloss over the still-unknown health repercussions millions of needlessly infected people will have to deal with; severe economic impact on so many sectors of a service economy permanently affecting the employment of people in lower-paid jobs; likely permanent economic damage to universities and colleges as institutions; lost educational time for children during the pandemic; mental stress on everyone.”

HOPES: “As much we may now suffer Zoom fatigue, I believe that in the long run having become accustomed to seeing people in calls, we will find they provide richer interaction. At work we will still be addicted to having too many damned meetings but if we can waste less time traveling or commuting to them, all the better. Social media enabled us to connect with people anywhere in glancing ways; video conferencing in many forms – virtual conferences, happy hours, and so on – will let us connect in more direct and meaningful ways. I would like to think that we would see the value in gathering and sharing health data at a level that would allow us to spot and treat problems early in their spread in the future, but I fear growing moral panic around data may prevent that.”

WORRIES: “It is far easier to predict the positive rather than negative impact of technology. That is to say, it is easy to imagine a new tool that could be useful but less easy to imagine how people might misuse it. It is also difficult to predict what new competitors will unseat companies thought to be invincible today: Microsoft did not see Google coming. Thus, I don’t waste time fearing the unknown.”

Jillian York, director of international freedom of expression for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote, “I expect that, when it comes to technology, our ‘new normal’ will be an even greater dependency on privately owned infrastructure and platforms, making us more beholden to Silicon Valley than before. I worry that the amount of time that we’re now spending at home has led us to this greater reliance, and that companies are not adapting along with us. When it comes to platforms specifically, one of my biggest concerns is the impact they have on our speech and our well-being, or dignity. On the one hand, hate speech is rampant and companies are responding piecemeal. On the other hand, at a time when many of us need platforms for our livelihoods, companies are cracking down prudishly on nudity, sexuality and the human body. The impact that this has on sex workers, burlesque performers, and others whose work touches on these themes must not be ignored; by banning content around these topics without their consultation, we’ve essentially created an untouchable class of workers.”

HOPES: “The only hopes I have for technology at the moment are for a COVID-19 vaccine, and for the improvement of public transportation. I cannot imagine consumer technology doing anything positive for my life anymore.”

WORRIES: “I worry about pretty much everything. I worry about the unaccountability of Silicon Valley, and the ways in which corporate policymakers practice ‘both-sidesism’ in order to craft policies that benefit the lowest common denominator without upsetting too many others. I worry about the fact that so many people are willing to hand over the governance of their speech to unaccountable actors. I worry about the ‘underclass’ that these companies have created: Sex workers, burlesque performers, anyone whose work veers into the territory of nudity and sexuality have been largely unable to work during lockdown, regardless of the laws of their own jurisdiction, because a few unelected Ivy League graduates in California are uncomfortable with their professions. I worry about the potential for technology companies to keep our own history from us – already we’ve seen images from U.S. protests taken down (often for violating rules on ‘graphic violence’ – even when it’s the Feds committing the violence – or in some cases, bans on nudity), echoing what Syrians have been pointing out for years about the erasure of videos, many of which contain documentation of war crimes, emerging from their country. I worry about the continued capture of data for no purpose other than to sell us more stuff we don’t need.”

Jim Witte, director of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, said, “Many people will be somewhat worse off in 2025 as a result of the pandemic. Disruption is never easy – particularly when it is rapid. Lives will be upended in the transition to a ‘new normal.’ Jobs have been lost and many will never come back. I do believe the economy will recover – at least in the developed world, but many will be left behind. Many older Americans will face an uncertain retirement, particularly as the cost of living rises with inflation driven by higher levels of government spending and the economic costs of the pandemic. Just like other businesses, many colleges and universities will not survive. Those that do survive will be transformed – businesses and providers of higher education. In this disruption, where physical distancing will still be a part of the new normal, digital technologies will play a critical role. These technologies have already transformed the way we live and work, but the ‘demands of the day’ (ala Max Weber) will dramatically accelerate this transformation. Some will thrive, some will cope, and some will be left behind. There is the possibility that this transformation could lead to greater equality, democratization, and a further ‘flattening’ of the world, as describe by Tom Friedman in his 2005 book. But, as I have argued elsewhere (shameless plug, ‘The Internet and Social Inequalities,’ 2010) technology embedded in a capitalist economy and society is far more likely to reproduce inequality and stratification than to reduce it. The pain will be felt acutely in the developing world, where progress has been made in meeting basic needs, but the blow to the global economy will make this difficult to sustain. The very real health risks associated with COVID-19 are likely to lead developed world to become more insular and the bits of prosperity that trickled down to the developing world will become leaner. Not a pretty picture. To mitigate the negative consequences will require strong leadership on the international stage with the willingness and authority to speak out for ‘positive-sum solutions’ in contrast to zero-sum thinking. This kind of leadership – from the U.S. but also in collaboration with others in the developed and developing world – will be essential to manage this disruption while averting disaster.”

HOPES and WORRIES: “My greatest hopes for tech-related changes in the new normal lie with a renewed interest in virtual worlds. While, the allure of Second Life and similar platforms faded in the early 2000s, immersive and engaging digital environments offer a means to recapture some of what is lost through physical distancing. Advances in hardware, rendering of objects and flexibility of sensors, as well as in software can dramatically improve the virtual world experience, further blurring the line between digital and analog, as well as between synchronous and asynchronous interactions. Advances in AI can lead to agents (scripted bots behind representations of human actors) that act and interact in a ‘natural’ fashion that supplants avatars (virtual world representations of human actors guided by humans). As with any technology, however, whether smart agents are used for good or evil will depend on how they are deployed and the social and economic order within which they are embedded.”

Joan Francesc Gras, an architect of XTEC active in ICANN, noted, “Reality is going to prevail, and, behind this apparent and accelerated return to normality, the world will no longer be as we know it. It will take more or less time, but the global turning point that this pandemic has brought about, is going to produce certain, probably drastic, changes. Some unpleasant. The solutions take hold slowly as compared with ‘screen changes’ that are sensed quickly, and there are many determining factors of what will happen. The coming months will be very important, and, for all this, we must turn this crisis into an opportunity. In the personal sphere, one of the most dangerous aspects of this crisis will be the curtailing of freedoms. It will be essential to avoid it. In exchange for secure work, people will accept any kind of violability of their privacy. Acceleration will affect existing phenomena such as the introduction of telework, now massive. We do not know what impact it will have on trade, on the logic of services such as education, etc. At the same time, we should not lose face-to-face exchange since it provides added value to personal and professional relationships. For all this, the COVID has begun to relieve any fear over going all-in on the habitual use of technologies. We have been reminded that you can pay with your smartphone nearly everywhere and that we can avoid expensive and polluting train and plane trips to meet for a few hours. But this will not prevent a markedly dual globalization. China has been pursuing for years the empire against the U.S. Socially, digital transformation has accelerated all sectors. Society has suddenly been virtualized, technology companies – now emerging even more as absolute economic leaders – have conquered the top of the mountain. Science and technology are at the center of global competitiveness and security. If this situation gives a successful boost to cryptocurrencies, the future of large banks will also change. We will have more inequality and more poverty. Social and economic outcomes will depend upon the correct setting of the world’s priorities. A more-humane economy will give better results. Maybe it is necessary to NOT return to normality and instead do things differently. Medicine and technology must find a solution for the virus and society must decisively face climate change. Let’s change the world then!”

HOPES: “Technology will be a totally necessary tool. IN a busy world, solutions are complex. Technology will play the role of necessary solution. The apps will help the health control and the rest of the technologies to implement videoconferences, telework and avoid unnecessary contacts.”

WORRIES: “My worry is that technology companies go from necessary to dominating. The single thought ends up detracting from a good idea.”

Joël Colloc, professor of computer sciences at Le Havre University, Normandy, responded, “The poor will remain poor, the rich will continue to use their power to enslave them. Moreover, digital technologies will certainly give the powerful new means of intrusion and control of the privacy of ordinary citizens if we do not prevent the looting of personal data under the guise of improving people’s health. Artificial intelligence must be placed at the service of caregivers in the doctor-patient care relationship and data must be scrupulously preserved in healthcare facilities. It is useful to share anonymous knowledge established by doctors, but care data should not be provided to any private company. In fact, patients have the right to privacy and not to be sorted like laboratory rats by unscrupulous companies whose only goal is to make a profit and not the well-being of the greatest number of people. Thus, the GDPR, the general data protection regulation in force in Europe, is a good thing and requires to respect the data protection rights of vulnerable people. It has some impact but is not fully sufficient because the sentences imposed are not dissuasive compared to the immense profits generated by the illegal processing of personal data, and the wealth of the offenders allows them to ignore this regulation. Only prison sentences could stop fraud.”

HOPES: “Technology and especially AI can provide many new ways to fight disease, improve care, diagnoses and therapies, and monitor chronic conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease) and better management of dependency and old age using robotics and also connected objects (Internet of Things). It is also useful to have a surveillance of the effectiveness of antitoxics and a surveillance of the plagues (vectors of diseases, mosquitoes, bacteria, viruses, parasites) epidemiology has a lot to gain. But all this must be done with respect for the privacy of people.”

WORRIES: “What is worrisome is the power (and also the money) that private companies derive from collecting people’s data, which will make it possible to further enslave and deepen the gap (which already exists) between on the one hand the educated people, easy to master new technologies and with decision-making power, and on the other hand, the poor, often illiterate and therefore more readily ill and vulnerable, who cannot take care of themselves and benefit from the new contributions of technology. The purpose of the state is to be able to reach out to these people in order to bring them to a better life and to find a new social pact in order to guarantee a minimum of well-being, resource and comfort. We have seen with the covid’19 collapse flourishing businesses (aviation, aeronautics, tourism) and the social pact, the Republic must make it possible to safeguard the men and women who live with a strong solidarity. It is this solidarity of public services that makes it possible to overcome crises. We must not forget that money must remain a means and not be a goal. When it becomes a goal, money corrupts man’s purposes and leads to ruin, boredom, idleness, addiction, jealousy, anger etc. The well-being of people, families, children must be the goal not to buy more and more goods. Like this king who had the power to transform everything he touched into gold, his world became irrelevant and toxic to him since he could no longer do anything and had no more friends or interests in life. Today, some international companies are making huge profits on digital and are becoming more powerful than the states, that is to say, the public power that has and should retain the sovereignty conferred on it by the people. These companies abuse a dominant position vis-à-vis the states and can impose decisions that are superior to the general interest of the nation. Which is unacceptable.”

Joshua Braun, associate professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, observed, “We’re really at a crossroads right now, what with the unthinkable scale of unemployment, the horrific and disparate impacts of the virus on the most marginalized groups in society, the heightened awareness of grave racial injustice, and horrendous problems with our elections. I’d like to think that these issues will create a mandate for sweeping structural changes, and that’s my hope. But it also seems entirely possible that wealth inequality, precarity, structural racism, and authoritarianism will simply be compounded by official responses to the virus and the protest movement that secure advantages for the haves at the expense of the have-nots. I’m skeptical that the culture of the Silicon Valley and its offshoots, typically dominated by white elites, is going to be any sort of salve here. The business model of surveillance capitalism is now firmly entrenched and many of the most successful tech companies profit at the expense of their users’ privacy and autonomy. Yes, major tech companies may respond to capital strikes by advertisers, like the #StopHateForProfit advertiser boycott of Facebook, which includes mega-corporations like Unilever. But there are sharp limits to how much reform we can expect from having corporate giants discipline one another, and outsourcing decisions about appropriate public discourse to tech companies is a strategy destined to fail. At the same time, positive social movements, not just virulent ones, are building awareness and solidarity through social media. I’m also hopeful at the efforts of scholar-activists like Ethan Zuckerman, who aim to build compelling public alternatives to the for-profit tech empires that have subsumed our public discourse. I think people are beginning to view the protection of their privacy and the moderation of speech online as being about more than personal responsibility, but as an appropriate topic for legislation and regulation. This is very positive, but whether regulatory reforms can be effective or whether they become captive to deep-pocketed tech giants remains an open question.”

HOPES: “In the EU, the regulatory bodies behind the GDPR seem ready to take the adtech ecosystem to task over their use of personal data in behaviorally targeted advertising. This is quite important, not just for the privacy gains it may bring about, but also because it may make behavioral targeting less of an appealing advertising strategy, which in turn may mean advertisers focus more of their budgets on contextual advertising. Behavioral targeting has siphoned enormous amount of money away from news organizations and other public-interest media, and created editorial incentives for these organizations to chase clicks at the expense of producing civically valuable content. Any money returned to contextual advertising, and hence to news organizations, is likely to be a good thing. I’m also hopeful that there are people working on public alternatives to private tech platforms.”

WORRIES: “The overall trend is toward increased surveillance of users in the service of surveillant business models, which means less autonomy for users and a wide array of risks, ranging from identity theft and cyberstalking toward broader societal effects like less funding for local news and public-interest media.”

Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John’s University whose research is focused on law and technology, said, “The new normal in 2025 might be better in some ways, but will mostly be worse. While working at home can be incredibly beneficial to some people, the loss of ‘hallway effects’ gained from business travel, daily commutes and work environments will be significant. While I believe most of the risk of COVID spread will be mitigated by 2025 so that people can generally return to ‘normal’ will be an ever-present fear of re-emergence. I am most pessimistic about the pandemic’s impact on education, from K-12 to college to professional schools, and on small businesses. I believe the models those systems function under will be the longest for recovery (close contact, indoors) and thus the most economically damaged and least likely to recover.”

HOPES: “I am optimistic that we will create new and better ways to interact with each other, whether through 3D meetings or improved audio and visual experiences. I am also optimistic that this experience will revolutionize the technology and techniques in the biomedical industry around vaccines.”

WORRIES: “I worry people will become out of practice with in-person interactions. I worry that rushing to certain types of technology to stop the spread of COVID, like contact tracing, will have terrible long-term effects on privacy with little benefit.”

Kenneth Cukier, senior editor at The Economist and coauthor of “Big Data,” said, “I see this for 2025: Economic crises, less global trade and constant international political conflict. Companies substituting technology (machines and algorithms) for human labor. A rise in populist or ‘infotainment’ governments means serious, long-term problems aren’t addressed by the state, and well-meaning civil institutions can’t have the impact they’d like. The educated, wealthy, moderates (a.k.a. ‘elites’) retreat even further from mainstream society, believing the situation unfixable and to avoid being a target of attack. Worthy social-justice issues like racism get hijacked by extremists, creating a ‘cultural revolution’ of intolerance that crimps free expression and ideas.”

HOPES: “New technologies will greatly improve the quality of life, such as AI in healthcare. We will be able to scale up productivity to new heights by applying software and data to all areas of economic activity. Tech will also be on the front lines of responding to climate change.”

WORRIES: “Tech will continue to foment huge problems like misinformation and social platforms that drive people apart. It will create new problems, such as dominating the business landscape by dint of size and scale that offline players can’t compete against. And in tech will be the vital ingredient of a new class of weaponry without safeguards to control it well.”

Kevin T. Leicht, professor and head of the department of sociology at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, wrote, “In the United States, we have the highest wealth and income inequality in the OECD. Unfortunately, technology does not reduce those inequalities, it tends to make policies to reduce them much more difficult. Technology provides the relatively well off with lots of avenues of escape. Then it offers many who are left behind a variety of conspiratorial fantasies to stoke their grievances. Almost all of these fantasies are just that, ‘fantasies.’ 15 to 20 percent of the population will have access to unprecedented opportunities, lots of technological advancements, and ways of life that many pundits envision for a technology-savvy population. In the absence of drastic intervention, everyone else will be left behind completely or fed a series of fantasies about why they aren’t among the 15 to 20 percent. None of those fantasies will take a single dollar out of the hands of the top 15 to 20 percent and give it to somebody else. Very few of our new technologies or ways of life have worked as intended. That doesn’t make these new technologies or ways of life bad, but it does mean that rosy predictions of the future don’t have a good track record. In the end, every technology has five different features: 1) what the inventor believes the technology will do, 2) what the buyer of the technology thinks the technology will do, 3) what interested observers think the technology will do, 4) what the new, front-line users of the technology think it will do, and then 5) what the technology actually does, which is rarely if ever a neat summary of 1 through 4.”

HOPES: “My biggest hope (and that is really all it is) is that technology-related changes will be used to reduce inequality and advance the dignity of every human being. For example, it should become very difficult to hide and launder money and avoid taxes. It should become very difficult to engage in off-the-books employment of unskilled people, paying them less than minimum wages and violating safety, wage and hours laws. It should be possible to deliver basic healthcare any place that can get an internet connection. It should be possible for governments to make royalties from the scientific innovations they start via funding from public agencies. There are a lot of ‘shoulds’ here of course. These are (as the query states) hopes.”

WORRIES: “The problem, with the United States at least, is that technology and technology companies have (inadvertently in most cases) aided in the creation of a rolling cultural and economic disaster. The lethal brew involves the connection of technological innovation with governments that have been asleep at the switch for almost 40 years. We have almost no anti-trust enforcement. No IRS auditing. Extensive financial deregulation. Almost unbelievable economic concentration in leading sectors. Because of this, almost none of the rosy projections of what technology and technology companies would do, as described in the 1980s and early 1990s, have come to pass. Technology has not rendered the world ‘placeless’ – it has created unprecedented concentrations of economic power in winner-take-all, global cities. Technology has not reduced educational inequalities because educational inequalities are created by families rather than schools and technology increases those family-based inequalities. Technology and tech companies haven’t reduced our dependence on carbon-based fuels (at least not yet). And technologies have to take some of the blame for destroying the labor markets of the middle class. Do most of our students in colleges really want to be ‘entrepreneurs’ or are we peddling that route because we’ve destroyed credible career trajectories through work? It is true that technology did not create the cultural and economic disaster we’re experiencing. But the ability of technology companies to exploit cultural and economic weakness to benefit themselves has far outpaced any outcome that could be viewed as a public good that has reduced inequalities. In the absence of drastic, non-technological intervention, these problems will only get worse rather than better.”

Larry D. Rosen, a professor emeritus of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills, known as an international expert on the psychology of technology, wrote, “In following scientists in the media and talking to those I know, I believe the new normal is going to be an onslaught of crises both biological and political. If the Republicans maintain the White House and Senate we are in for a horrific four years of partisanship and an influx of even more ultra conservative judges appointed for life changing our way of life forever. Previously-peaceful protests will be driven to mayhem. All common decency will be lost, and the government officials will care more about their own self-interest and less about common decency and working across the aisle.”

HOPES: “The only area I see as moderately hopeful is technology to connect with others as I fear that we will continue to have to shelter in our homes as COVID-19 attacks more idiots believe we are open for business. We will, I believe, watch hospitalizations and deaths spiral out of control and see more millennials become ill.”

WORRIES: “My worries are bots, ransomware attacks, internet outages and more attacks on our virtual infrastructure.”

Laurie L. Putnam, an educator and communications consultant commented, “We need to stop looking for a ‘new normal,’ as though life will find stasis after COVID-19 is tamed. Eventually, yes, the virus will become manageable, but life will remain in flux. This pandemic is demonstrating that we must learn to adapt or we will not survive. Think of it as a trial run for the crisis of climate change. What we need to look at now are the hard truths the virus is exposing: that some of our social structures and technologies can work and others are failing. Some of our digital tools are supporting our society and others are breaking it down. Tech tools can be repaired and social structures can be rebuilt, but we have to do that work collectively, and it will take time.”

HOPES: “I hope we take a hard look at what we can do better and differently, because the problems COVID-19 has exposed will not vanish with a vaccine. Our technology, and our relationship to it, will have to evolve. I hope we will retain the best (and fix the worst) tech tools for flexible learning and work and find positive ways to remix our physical and digital experiences of life. I hope we will realize that maybe we don’t need to consume as much, and our technologies can be more sustainable than disposable. I hope we will face, head on, the effects of digital misinformation and surveillance, and take serious steps to protect ourselves. I hope more of us will understand that tech businesses driven by financial returns need to be held accountable for harms their products inflict. And I hope more of those leading and funding the tech businesses will process how their impact on society goes beyond the bottom line. These are hopes we can make real if we care to.”

WORRIES: “At some point, technology leaders and the political leaders who fail to regulate them (because, the money) will face a reckoning. In the meantime, serious damage is being done to our individual well-being and to the health of our society, and it’s going to take a long time to repair that damage.”

Leslie Daigle, a longtime leader in the organizations building the internet and making it secure, noted, “2025 will feature a mixed bag of changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason it’s going to be overall worse for the average person is mostly because of economic impact. Writ large, the pandemic is hurting every economy. In matters closer to home, it’s a lot harder to find casual gigs or go solo when everything is socially distanced. I also have concerns that necessary geographic isolation is going to breed more isolationism and xenophobia. While people are anxious to get back to their vacationing habits around the globe, and businesses desperately need to be able to have people travel for work purposes, at the same time people are twitching when they see out-of-state license plates or hear non-local accents. On the plus side, we’ve already seen a reduction of seasonal flu impacts (all that hand-washing paid off!) and we can certainly hope that peoples’ habits have changed for the better, and that medical research is going to achieve not only a vaccine and/or better treatments for COVID-19, but also better knowledge about how this and other viruses work. To technology, specifically – I hope people will have more flexibility with their working arrangements, whether working from home or whatever location of choice. While video conferencing can’t replace all personal interactions, as it becomes more common for everyday discussions, hopefully companies will be less resistant to supporting it as a mainstream communications method. Already, many small businesses that relied on conventions, farmers markets, or other meetups, have turned to building a greater online presence, and marketplace. Net net, that may allow better balancing of sourcing food and other essentials more locally going forward.”

HOPES: “I hope that we will have better-than-video conferencing platforms for remote conferencing (e.g., virtual or augmented reality to ‘share space’ even when divided by geography). There is already more use of web-based commerce for small, local ventures (food, craft) than there was at the beginning of the year – it would be great if we could do a better job of being locavores.”

WORRIES: “My biggest worries around technology/technology companies have to do with management of data and market monopolies. No one company should corner the market on all digital interactions; the internet doesn’t actually work unless there is competition along with collaboration. And, whether through corporate monopolies or just more technologies for gathering data (e.g., through contact tracing apps), more personal data is out there, being aggregated. Not all hypotheses built on aggregated data are correct, and the implications can be disturbing, at the least.”

Luis Germán Rodríguez, a professor and expert on the socio-technical impacts of innovation in education at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, wrote, “The ‘new normal’ will involve forced behavioral changes that are not internalized for the majority of the population. This pandemic is unprecedented for a humanity that has achieved, thanks to its technological development, degrees of mobility that are a threat to strategies necessary for containing and controlling the virus. The precarious state of information literacy in all the strata of society is a danger. Rather than creating tools in a way that allows users to solve problems as they wish, technology designers force users to think within the logic of the tools. People are becoming more reliant on digital technology, thus they need to understand how it is created, understand the motives of the technological giants that make it. People in organizations, governments, private companies of all sizes and civil society are lagging behind in understanding the role of technology in the ‘new normal’ and they need help mastering digital literacy. A digital emergency should be declared, similar to that decreed in the face of climate change, in order to take measures that guarantee the individual liberties of each person, including those of information and expression … The best thing that technology can bring to the years to come is to add transparency and auditability to its operation. Stop being a ‘black box’ for citizens. Rescue and preserve the individual freedom of each one and stop encapsulating people as a user-product. Technological resources, mainly those based on artificial intelligence, must guarantee the interpretability of the results they yield. This applies to developments promoted by technology companies as well as to those promoted by governments. The digital environment is consolidating as a bubble that limits the possibilities of individual development and conditions communications between humans.”

HOPES: “I think the best thing that technology can bring to the years to come is to add transparency and auditability to its operation. Stop being a ‘black box’ for citizens. Rescue and preserve the individual freedom of each one and stop encapsulating people as a user-product. Technological resources, mainly those based on artificial intelligence, must guarantee the interpretability of the results they yield. This applies to developments promoted by technology companies as well as to those promoted by governments.”

WORRIES: “I am concerned about the precarious information literacy that exists in the population. There is a pernicious bias to consider the technological as inevitable, essential and alien to public scrutiny at the risk of being seen as a retrograde or Luddite. These factors are the main reasons why the digital environment is consolidating as a bubble that limits the possibilities of individual development and conditions communications between humans.”

Maggie Jackson, former Boston Globe columnist and author of “Distracted: Reclaiming Our Focus in a World of Lost Attention,” wrote, “This is an inflection point in history, a true crossroads moment. Deep changes to society, especially regarding technology, could blossom in multiple directions. Knowing which major trends will flourish is not possible. Still, I envision that the paramount zeitgeist of 2025 will involve increased, possibly dangerous both open and implicit tensions between sectors of society that hold starkly different attitudes toward technology as a means and a lifestyle. I imagine that people may fall into various camps which I call the fliers, the rooted and the adrift. Fliers – The socio-economic elite who profited from global travel, living on-screen and a reverence for weak ties may try to keep up that type of life, mostly online. They are pleased by the ease of the Zoom work world, and often may mistakenly believe that life can be transferred online without loss of depth or nuance. They will believe they are living the future, when they may indeed be clinging to the past. Rooted – This second camp of elites may step back from world travel, wider circles of relations and from screen life. The pandemic will revitalize ‘slow’ and ‘off-the-grid’ movements and inspire this sector to become more deliberately local, and to walk away increasingly from screen life. Among this group, mounting frustration with the pace and virtuality of pre-pandemic life was high, and the pandemic plus political schisms exacerbated by mounting systemic chaos will prompt a paring back of both technological and capitalist life. Adrift – These are the still-often-unheard people who were already disenfranchised in ‘before times.’ The pandemic is predicted to worsen poverty, deaths of despair, homelessness and addiction among this sector. Amidst these trends, growing digital divide will make them poster children for the broken promises of the digital age. How will people from these sectors interact or not? Will these stance/experiences lead to bitter tensions or just a retreat from one another? I’m not sure. But I imagine that our experiences of technology will splinter, and issues of survival will eclipse crucial unresolved questions related to how technology disconnect/connects us; what effect tech has on our psyche even in small measures; and what it means to be a human.”

HOPES: “I am not optimistic that we can turn to technology to make life better in the next few years if we carry on in relating to technology as we have done pre-pandemic. While the pre-pandemic backlash against technology inspired important questions to be asked about tech, culture and human experience, the global conversation around these issues nevertheless bogged down in narrow finger-pointing around how much tech companies were to blame, without needed hard discussions around personal accountability. We need to leave behind the insufficient idea that technology or the people who make it are doing something to us and ask what we all can do at a higher level to shape technology for the future. I also think that the very endemic values and habits that technology promotes toward neat, packaged clickable answers and binary thinking impede our society’s ability to move forward in re-envisioning technologies that preserve our humanity. One example is the rise of robot caregivers, assistants and tutors, which are being increasingly used in caring for the most vulnerable members of society despite known misgivings by both scientist-roboticists, ethicists and users, potential and current. Questions of surveillance, manipulation, neglect and even physical harm are fortunately being raised in discussions around Ethical AI. Yet the pandemic has led to some calls for increased urgent use of social robots in delicate long-term care situations. It’s one thing to create a cleaning robot, another to see this as the answer in addressing rising isolation among the elderly or sick.”

WORRIES: “I am deeply concerned by the continued lack of governmental oversight of technology companies whose leaders continue to show a flagrant lack of understanding of the human questions beyond the hardware. I am deeply concerned that the move to an even greater reliance on virtual relationships during the pandemic will inspire people to increasingly accept the diminished standards of togetherness that technology offers. The definition of a Dark Age in part is a ‘forgetting’ – and it’s possible that at least some sectors of society will be increasingly tempted to leave behind the discomfiting hard work of trying to understand one another fully. Relating fully takes life-long practice and humans even in the best of times often fail to do so well; an over-reliance on technology socially may leave us less and less able to work past difference and deliberately pursue complexity in relations.”

Philip M. Neches, lead mentor at Enterprise Roundtable Accelerator and longtime trustee at California Institute of Technology, commented, “The impact will vary greatly. Some people, particularly those in tech-heavy fields, will be better off, earning more, working from home, commuting less. Some fields will be permanently scarred. Business travel will not recover to pre-pandemic levels. Leisure travel will not fully recover. Hotels, airlines, rental car agencies, travel agencies, etc., will remain depressed. Many jobs in these industries will be permanently lost. Many restaurants and retail establishments will be permanently closed, with resulting loss of jobs. Demand for oil and gasoline will not recover to pre-pandemic levels. Nor will sales and service of automobiles. Construction and infrastructure will grow, some by new demand, some by government stimulus to rebuild old infrastructure. Demand for commercial real estate will remain depressed, particularly for Class A office space. Residential real estate demand in the suburbs and exurbs will be strong, at the expense of core cities.”

HOPES: “Many businesses will change to mostly work-from-home, cutting down on commuting and giving workers up to two hours per day more time for family and other pursuits. Schools will continue to offer more than half of all instruction remotely. All-remote college-prep and university programs will start to emerge at price points more favorable to the bottom 90%.”

WORRIES: “The debate between whether we want a service society, or a surveillance society will be in full swing. Also, serious debate about breaking up the Big Four (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft) will ramp up.”

R. “Ray” Wang, principal analyst, founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Constellation Research, noted, “In general, the view on technology will go from negative to even. The tradeoff between privacy and health, privacy and security, privacy and convenience remain to be determined. We saw an ideological shift on how much privacy we were willing to give up to government control for the promise of better health via contact tracing app adoption as well as location data being used in aggregate to track spread. The public will probably become more vigilant on how privacy data is being used for public good. Given social distancing, potential labor disputes and lawsuits for safety for return to work, fear of density, we can expect more work to be automated. Machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence adoption will increase as we find ways to reduce human contact and mitigate risk. Autonomous vehicle adoption will increase as workers fear mass transit, an exodus from the cities to the suburbs and exurb picks up pace due to COVID-19. New networks of delivery and development around regional hubs will emerge.”

HOPES: “I hope computer vision and AI are used to prevent violent crime and be quickly applied to apprehend those charged with a deadly crime. Improved natural language search and brainwave navigation will help improve accessibility to those with disabilities and help them navigate the internet.”

WORRIES: “The big fear is that too much concentration of power in one individual’s hands will be possible, as the power of tech increases the ability for one individual to scale. We will see that with the power of automation, bots and AI. We need to ensure that checks and balances are in place.”

Ray La Raja, associate professor in political science and associate director of the UMass Poll, observed, “I expect the negative impact of COVID-19 to last several years. Even so, the U.S. government will likely respond to the pandemic in bolder ways with respect to investments in health, education and infrastructure. These will take at least a decade to bear fruit. Regarding technology, the pandemic has broken down some barriers to connecting with people in distant places in ways that are immensely more genuine and healthy than using Facebook and Twitter. People will likely use Zoom to regularly connect with grandparents, friends living elsewhere and acquaintances whose conversations they value. Expertise will be delivered is less costly ways for healthcare, education and many forms of technical and emotional support. One concern is that the beneficiaries of distance technology will be reaped by the most fortunate rather than the marginalized members of our community. That is a policy challenge to make sure this gap is not large.”

HOPES: “My hope is that technologies will be pluralistic in the sense that the most well-off do not reap its benefits, or that the most extreme (politically, especially) do not exploit it at the expense of the broader community. I am hoping people can get more efficient, effective and emotionally supported by drawing on technologies (not exclusively of course). I am also hoping that nonprofits and governments work toward structuring technologies in ways that increase the flow of reliable information, trust and connection across social communities. A tall order.”

WORRIES: “Massive invasion of privacy, scams, distortions of information that undermine trust, value and benefits that accrue to the most well-off.”

Richard Lachmann, professor of political sociology at the State University of New York-Albany, said, “Most people will be poorer, and they will have more-precarious jobs. The relatively privileged will work at least part time at home, reducing their social interactions, with serious consequences for their mental health. Important institutions will have been bankrupted in the aftermath of the pandemic. America will have fewer theaters, restaurants, coffee houses, concerts and universities. The U.S. will be much more isolated in the aftermath of COVID-19. Even if Trump is not reelected, other countries will have learned that America both is incapable of keeping its population healthy and is vulnerable to electing unreliable and bizarre leaders. We can expect other countries will take steps to reduce their reliance on and interaction with the U.S. Foreign students who sustain American universities’ science and engineering programs will go elsewhere. That will lead American high-tech corporations to relocate more and more of their research and development to other countries that will be attracting the best students and that will be able to keep the best graduates.”

HOPES: “Tech will make it easier to work at home. That will reduce commuting and the demand for office space, reducing pollution and making cities less dense. This can be an environmental benefit IF it does not lead to people driving more because they live in remote locations or demand bigger homes that use more energy and that destroy woods and fields to build new exurbs.”

WORRIES: “The shift to work-at-home will lead to social isolation and a dispersal of the population into exurbs that use more energy and destroy nature. Tech companies will increase their surveillance abilities. People will spend more time online, reducing their social interactions and making them ever more vulnerable to manipulation by advertisers and extremist politicians and groups. The most ominous development could be a permanent shift to online education. Governor Cuomo’s plan to enlist Bill Gates to reimagine schools is a warning signal. Gates’ record of ‘reforms’ that disempower teachers makes it likely he will propose, and Cuomo will try to implement, rote learning rather than the sort of education that happens when students and teachers interact in unscripted ways.”

Richard Salz, senior architect at Akamai Technologies, noted, “Global society will get more divided into the digital haves, who can and do work from home or otherwise remotely, and the (for lack of a better word) the essential workers who are the plebians on the backs of whom society will be built. And further, that the divide will grow. The gap between online and real-world workers will increase, so much so that it is unlikely to be bridgeable.”

HOPES: “I want to see more of the world engaged and online.”

WORRIES: “I worry about the unchecked growth of surveillance capitalism and its mutual interlock – a deadly embrace – with government surveillance.”

Rob Frieden, a professor of telecommunications law at Penn State who previously worked with Motorola and has held senior policy positions at the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, commented, “The post-COVID-19 ‘new normal’ more clearly identifies gaps, deficiencies, inequities and comparative disadvantages that previously were less visible and easily ignored. For example, it’s harder to deny the digital divide exists when families don’t have a large-screen format for accessing homework and must use a smartphone or seek paper assignments. It’s harder to consider the digital divide closed when a single location within a census tract has broadband while lots of people drive to the parking lot of schools and libraries to access a Wi-Fi network. It’s difficult to believe that until recently schools had to shut down their Wi-Fi network to prevent off-hours access. Perhaps citizens and their elected officials will wise up to the ‘mission accomplished’ narratives exemplified by the FCC’s conclusion that most Internet Service Providers meet or exceed their advertised broadband service speeds. The pandemic showed that while ISP networks could accommodate a 20-30% increase in aggregate demand, the acquired bit transmission speed declined significantly in many locales. I am not confident that people can use new technologies, such as grid networking, for ‘self-help.’ The carriers have successfully blocked even the prospect of municipal WiFi in over 12 states. I’m glad to see the FCC belatedly embrace new thinking about universal service funding, such as reverse auctions. But post-pandemic, I also see more of the electorate balking at having to pay a 26% universal service funding ‘contribution’ in their monthly bills. See https://www.fcc.gov/general/contribution-factor-quarterly-filings-universal-service-fund-usf-management-support”

HOPES: “I hope creative communities will resort to technological self-help to find ways to achieve more accessible and affordable broadband. Perhaps the expanded, 6 GHz WiFi frequency band will offer a new vehicle for experimentation. However, the key lies in policy which stops sending recurring subsidies to carriers. They have no incentive to achieve progress when that would reduce their subsidy.”

WORRIES: “We have embraced a subsidy model where people think they can access ‘free’ services. As economists note, ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’ Commercial surveillance has many negative, unquantifiable and underappreciated impacts on society. I am increasingly ambivalent about the value proposition of free broadband services and subsidized access, in light of the harm to trust, civil society, the rule of law, free and fair elections, journalism, etc.”

Ronnie Lowenstein, a pioneer in interactive technologies, noted, “My concerns revolve around: 1) Economic distress worldwide. 2) Continued and escalating social unrest. 3) Political strife threatening democratic institutions. 4) Inadequate models of schooling. While technologies hold promise, as tools of transformation, exponential speed of change minimizes the potential benefits. It takes vision and political will to harness technologies for benefit. The lack of coordinating mechanisms among people within and across nations are negatively impacting response to pandemic. We need global dialogues to create ‘regenerative’ collaborations institutions harnessing the collective intelligence.”

HOPES: “Emerging cyber-civilization could improve lives only if leaders apply systems thinking and foresight management in the design of policies that ensure the traditionally marginalized communities are supported with technology access, technology education and training and economic opportunities for wealth creation and sustainable, meaningful career paths.”

WORRIES: “My worries are related to: 1) Ethics and privacy rights. 2) Growing impact of misinformation and inability to actually discern reality in technology doctored videos, or the truth in media. 3) The lack of critical thinking/media literacy skills in populations. Since 2009 the UN, UNESCO, and U.S. Department of State recognized that without media literacy skills, our democratic institutions are threatened.”

Sean Mead, senior director of strategy and analytics at Interbrand, said, “The average person will have less income, worse access to credit and greater job insecurity. There will be massive economic dislocation as continuing aftershocks from the large number of small business failures and the collapse of financial markets affect people for years. People will offload more of their administrative activities and communications with others to digital assistants. Legislatures will be confronted with the need for clearer laws around the responsibilities for, use of, and problems caused by digital agents. We’ll see the start of the fracturing of the internet into geographically bordered networks and into separations between secure networks that require positive identification and less trustworthy networks.”

HOPES: “Regenerative medicine has tremendous potential to improve people’s lives by repairing organs for which there are few viable approaches to repair today. Improvements in power transmission and storage will increase the feasibility of renewable energy sources. The renewal of supersonic air travel for transoceanic flights will bring increased international travel.”

WORRIES: “If quantum computing is achieved at scale it will destroy the ability of current cryptographic methods to secure communications and important data such as credit card stores, bank accounts, and investment accounts. Many parts of the digital economy benefit so strongly from network effects that the market leaders become natural monopolies. This is particularly true with distribution platforms for communications, the monopolization of which are particularly pernicious. Because of widespread phone installations and voluntary grants of phone permissions, the Googles and Facebooks of the world can build intelligence tools like association networks and location history tracking that would be the envy of NSA and GCHQ planners from the near past. There are few real controls on how this information is utilized. Tech companies abuse loopholes in the tax treatment of IP to avoid their rightful share of the tax burden forcing small businesses and individuals to work overtime to make up for the tech companies’ parasitism.”

Steven Miller, professor emeritus of information systems at Singapore Management University, responded, “The worst of it: The source of income was either stopped or substantially reduced for a lot of industries, organisations and individuals. It will take several years for these entities to recover or they may never fully recover. A number of them – small, medium and large – will cease to exist. This will be painful economically and in other emotional and behavioural ways for the people involved. There is no denying there will be a thread of impact along this ‘worse-off’ line. The better things to emerge arise from the fact that COVID led people to change things they never thought they could change, at least not in such a short time period. COVID has led people to try things, to reimagine things and to do things. Specialists in evolutionary biology and related aspects of geology and climate history refer to this as ‘punctuated equilibrium.’ COVID will have that type of effect on how we live in the broad sense of things, including all levels of analysis from individuals to groups, to organisations, to institutions, to societies. We know the terrible things about COVID – the large number of deaths, the huge amount of suffering, the many examples of dislocation. There will be endless examples of the harsh realities and byproducts. Exactly because it has been such an extreme situation it will catalyze new ways of thinking and doing, new approaches, new things, and all of these changes will persist beyond the period of medical threat, and will undoubtedly change the way we live, both directly and indirectly. For more than a decade to come or a decade after the medical threat eventually subsides – however long that may take – we will see the equivalent of a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of innovation catalyzed by COVID. These changes and innovations will go well beyond things directly related to dealing with the medical threats and contagion now or in other pandemics to follow. They will open up countless new possibilities for the way we work, live, learn and play. We will have the Dickensian ‘worst of times’ and ‘best of times. Both forces will propagate across various societies simultaneously. Those looking to be optimistic as well as those looking to be pessimistic will find ample examples and supporting evidence for their point of view. While COVID is extraordinary in some senses relative to contemporary history in recent decades, it is not so different than situations the world has encountered throughout the arc of history in a set of forces simultaneously propel change. Somehow, the human species adapts, as it always seems to do, and things keep on keeping on, though in different ways.”

HOPES: “I mentioned several, here are some other hopes. Significant changes in seemingly everyday mundane things can turn out to a have huge influence. Two such examples: 1) The assumption that it is mostly preferred to have one’s employee’s mostly on-site at the work facility most of the time. There are undoubtedly lots of good reasons to have people physically co-located. Many important informal interactions happen through physical co-location, through being together at the same geographic location. I don’t think those benefits are going to disappear, even with more video conferencing, even with 5G networks, or whatever other technological innovations and/or improvements that will invariably occur. At the same time, I think many organisations will fundamentally rethink their assumptions about the balance and hybridisation of having employees work both on-site and off-site. The off-site-but-virtually-connected mode of working may well be woven into the normal approach to work versus only being a necessary adjustment that had to happen during a lockdown period where so many people who worked in a physical site were forced to work from home. There have always been people who have done field work, be they customer-service people or salespeople. And there have always been people who have done their work from home. Many gig economy people work this way. Many project contractors work this way. This type of off-site work will continue, and perhaps even grow if the proportion of people working under these scenarios grow. For the large number of service sector related people who work in offices, the tolerance for having more hybridization between working on site and working from home will increase. From this COVID lockdown and the must-work-from-home period, people will get a realistic feel for what aspects of work are done more productively when employees stay at home. Given most employees – even highly skilled professionals and many levels of senior management – do not have their own private offices in today’s workplace, people will see the obvious fact that certain types of tasks are best done with sustained multi-hour periods of concentration, without constant interruptions that are a part of everyday office life. And this type of work is very well-suited with working from home. At the same time, people will have a more realistic sense of when and where it really helps to be in the office setting – with all of its informal interactions – which often include interruptions. I anticipate more flexibility in the spread of work across home and ‘the office.’ Faculty members working in universities have always had this flexibility, as well as the need to work in the mode of deep concentration, as well as in the mode of multi-person collaboration and interaction. However, most office workers have not had this type of flexibility. Some degree of this flexibility will permeate through a large proportion of the office-based service sector-oriented workforce. 2) The second example is that we will see more ‘end-to-end’ digitalization of workflows and related administrative transactions. Even before COVID, it was possible to sign documents via electronic equivalents of digital signatures, which might not have been an actual signature, but a means of verifying (authenticating) that an approval was in fact from the digital device (or email) of a particular person. And of course, as every user of Adobe Reader is familiar with, there have always been convenient ways of inserting the digital image of a person’s signature into the signature line of a document, showing the person’s actual handwritten signature, through in the form of a digital image of that handwritten signature. Even though these methods have existed for a while already, many organisations still could not bring themselves to totally ‘let go’ on having physically signed documents. COVID-19 changed that. Many organisations found ways to deal with accepting various forms of digital signatures or digitally authenticated approvals. Extending beyond this, I suspect many firms have figured out – faster than they would have otherwise – how to digitize a process end-to-end, so that it could still be executed under these COVID circumstances, with so many staff working from home and with less direct contact with external customers and suppliers. I suspect this acceleration of end-to-end digitization of a wide range of work processes and administrative processes will persist beyond COVID, and it will lead to all kinds of improvements. There will be other new things too, I am just highlighting two very fundamental, ubiquitous everyday things we take for granted. The fact that these types of things will change will in themselves bring about a lot of change and opportunity.”

WORRIES: “I have no special worries over technology companies’ impact. The issues are not new. The fact that social media reflects all the vagaries and dimensions (from worst to best) of human nature is no longer ‘news.’ We have now had a solid 20 years of experience with this. We don’t have the answers, but it is no surprise that not all those who use the internet are utopian idealists or that anyone with a political or other type of agenda –  anyone who in any prior time in history would find a way to tilt things their way through propaganda, mis-information, dis-information or mal-information – has quickly become adept at using the internet. So, when I say I have no special worries, I do not mean that I have no worries. What I mean is that we already know a lot about the issues to worry about and, while some new things will happen in terms of undesirable impacts or unintended consequences, I suspect it would be straightforward retrospectively to look back to now and identify the antecedents of the situation.”

Stuart Henshall, a director with Convo Research & Strategy, shared this scenario: “It’s Jan 21, 2025 and I’m hoping the year ahead is much better than the last five. America has elected the first Independent People president and cabinet and it is directing the great re-allocation. The hope is that the old parties are finally being snuffed out. The platform has shifted to community and commons. Financial markets are in ruins, so the allegiances and institutions managing daily lives are again increasingly scientific, fact-based. The last four years have seen 90% of the U.S. population lose all their savings, years of rioting and large-scale flight from the cities. Masks were just a Band-Aid in 2020 until the moment in which the suffering went beyond politics. By early 2021, despite an overwhelming democratic majority and healthcare providers declaring bankruptcy protection, it was increasingly clear no one was ready to address bankruptcy laws. As long as the same people acting as the country’s ‘rulers’ were protected, they hid behind the curtain and the financial shenanigans were able to continue. The concentration of wealth had accelerated over the last two years and government continued to hold on by issuing law-and-order responses. Protesters, rioters and militant responses to them made it dangerous to leave your neighborhood. When COVID-19 arrived, many Americans were unhappy about the tactics proposed to track and trace the virus. However, by 2022 it was clear that collective community intelligence (motivated by personal and family safety concerns) would be expected to be gathered about anyone nearby who might present a known risk. And the awarding of [social credit] ‘plus points’ for those who help others and boost community spirit were winning over large groups of people. This shift enabled many to see the power of community again. However, the real power was in the AI that was working to bring people together and overturn biases. Open source software began to have an impact and, concurrently, communication began to bypass traditional providers to shift to emerging ‘free – slow’ exchanges. Meanwhile, self-isolation, ‘cells’ and ‘bubbles’ were counterproductive. As AI systems worked to create safe, productive community meetings and protests, an agenda for real change started to emerge. The cost of a broken economy was clear, the numbers of people who had reached out and brought strangers into their lives to provide assistance brought forth a ‘the more you give the more you get’ credo. However, rebuilding trust would be hard without the reestablishment of principles. Companies and financial markets had been shown to have no principles in this period. Without anchors or guarantees it took the full economic collapse for people to see that a winner-take-all mentality resulted in most people being broke and broken. By 2023 there was some shift towards both the sharing economy and working co-ops. It became increasingly obvious that many of the services we need as part of life were something we all needed to take part in. Amazon became the people’s target. With most Americans spending 50% of their discretionary funds there it was clear that ‘delivering goods to home’ at size and scale was a utility like the post office. There were only two ways forward: either the people should own Amazon, or the government should. The government was slow to move, community-based private networks based on semantic knowledge representation (SKR) started to thrive, as the dollar became increasingly worthless. The black market thrived, and income had gone underground. So, we arrive at the promise of 2025. While communities are more stable, healthcare remains in crisis and there is nowhere safe for your money outside local private networks, which are no longer small. IDs are authentic and shared however the individual wishes and the individual owns all the information about themselves, from where they have been to what they have bought. Finally, individuals are able to broker their information. The information economy is finally evolving to a world where the people controlled their information. All searches are transparent and monitored by millions of AI bots. All bots are open source. In this world, no bot can be owned for profit. All are for the betterment of all, with bots checking on bots. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes the podium, the ‘free bots’ are already dismantling the information economy. The utility of the future is a New Deal for you and me. The amendments to the Constitution are expected to pass within the first sitting of the new Congress.”

HOPES: “My hope is that tech and networks will accelerate a winner-take-all world. Structures that exist today have dumbed down thinking, and this has resulted in less choice and a concentration of wealth. Unless the plan is for information to be set free and more equitably enable everyone, technology will simply strip everyone of their money. The ownership models of business need to shift. Services that are effectively utilities – Uber is public transport, AT&T, etc. – are public information trusts and should be treated like the power grid, which is also a utility. Delivery to home is like the U.S. Post Office, so take a look at Amazon. Being able to share info/data in a world where data is free ‘peer-to-peer,’ even if that world is somewhat slower, will more correctly mimic human behavior and it will likely work to make a better world.”

WORRIES: “The tech companies take many forms. However, all are effectively working on winner-take-all models. This is based around information manipulation. The tech companies will increasingly be blamed for their failings. All are based on manipulation of large-scale exchanges. Some are more open than others to outside abuse. All have a concentration of information that can be leveraged. All either are regulated or have a regulated compact that protects their position. All communications have a ‘charge,’ whether monetary or included in the information. Government is far, far behind. The systems are all broken or managed by outside contractors and thus, again, set up in the interest of generating profit and power for a few rather than for the betterment of all. I just hope enough technophiles get together and come up with new, independent solutions that serve to create a better user compact.

Tim Bray, well-known technology leader who has worked for Amazon, Google and Sun Microsystems, said, “The pandemic will cause significant changes, of which the most economically important will probably be a large reduction in the amount of travel and a large reduction in the amount of required downtown office space capacity. This will cause significant economic dislocation and even with the most optimistic recovery scenarios, it’ll take more than five years to get back to the pre-2020 level of employment and prosperity.”

HOPES: “I hope that privacy activism will cripple and perhaps kill the current model of AdTech and the Google/Facebook duopoly that sucks all the profit out of the online advertising ecosystem, leading to a rebirth of a wider spectrum of interesting, fresh-voice advertising-funded publications. I hope that mobile device hardware improves to the point that ubiquitous Augmented Reality will become practical, as this has the potential to dramatically improve the human experience of the internet and the world more than anything else I see on the horizon.”

WORRIES: “I worry that abusive governments in a higher proportion of the world will use internet technology in the Chinese pattern, to surveil, control and oppress their citizens.”

Tracey P. Lauriault, a professor expert in critical media studies and big data based at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, commented, “I foresee increased surveillance/dataveillance that will be rationalized under public good, public duty and public health. I foresee greater ICT solutions that will track, sort, leash, fence people more and more. The technologies may start as a public-health tool, but they will leapfrog into other areas such as in workplace, at play, during travel, in the smart home, the smart housing estate, the smart city, the digital twin and other national and international interconnected smart technologies or large social and technological systems. The rationale for the increased levels of ‘observation,’ ‘surveillance,’ ‘monitoring,’ via registration; biometrics including facial, fingerprint, DNA and gait, UIDs, etc. will go ungoverned, as there is currently a lack of accountable, informed, technical and legal actors involved in any form of data and technological governance. It is for the moment laissez-faire of the companies to ‘self-assess’ with impact assessments and no inspection, and most decision-making is at the limited level of privacy protection and cybersecurity, which may protect an individual from harm, but the social and group privacy and implications of these technologies to control, be biased, exclude or include into the ‘wrong’ group are not assessed as the conversation is about innovation and efficiency. We have not learned to be technological citizens in our technological societies, we have not considered large social and technological systems, assemblages and ecosystems and infrastructure, and as the platform of politics and deliberation, which limits our ability to do technological citizenship. Even suggesting these ideas in some circles is to be considered as anti-progress, old school, traditionalist, impeding progress and the like. There is also no opt-out, as opting out causes suspicion; ‘you must have something to hide’ mentalities. There is also very little use of these technologies to liberate, but they are to control, and there is little scrutiny as to who gets control, and what social and technical biases will be encoded into these new technologies. The technologies will, of course, be reflecting the concerns of politicians, economists, existing legal frameworks and of course the companies that will profit from these. There will be very little deliberation that will be open and transparent in communication to the public; there will be little oversight, let alone any holding people accountable should things go wrong. Interoperability and standards are our friends, but in this case, when the ecosystem of data, software, apps, code, sensors, readers, devices, platforms, massive data storage, data brokers and geodemographers, chip manufacturers, the states, the private sector and some large alliances, interoperability becomes a foe, as there will be no workaround. Anonymity will be replaced by autonomous systems; agency by automation; heterogeneity by rule sets to sort.”

HOPES: “I hope for future data and technology governance in which residents, civil society, academics and the private sector collaborate with public officials to mobilize data and technologies when warranted in an ethical, accountable and transparent way to govern the data and technological systems large and small in our homes, cities, countries, etc., as a fair, viable and livable commons and balance economic development, social progress and environmental responsibility. Governance here is ethical, accountable and transparent. These principles apply to the governance of social and technical platforms which include data, algorithms, skills, infrastructure and knowledge. Also, the design, operations and use of these data and technologies is participatory, collaborative and responsive. Government, civil society, the private sector, the media, academia and residents meaningfully participate in the governance of the these and have shared rights and responsibilities. This entails a culture of trust and critical thinking and fair, just, inclusive, and with informed approaches. Also, the uses for data and technologies need to be fit for purpose, can be repaired and queried, their source code are open, adhere to open standards, are interoperable, durable, secure, and where possible, locally procured and scalable. Data and technology are used and acquired in such a way as to reduce harm and bias, increase sustainability and enhance flexibility. When warranted, automated decision-making and these systems will legible, responsive, adaptive and accountable. Furthermore, data management is the norm and custody and control over data generated by smart technologies is held and exercised in the public interest. Data governance includes sovereignty, residency, open by default, security, individual and social privacy, and grants people authority over their personal data. There is also an intersectional approach taken to how people are classified in these systems and the purposes for the use of these data are clear. Finally, it is recognized that data and technology are not always, nor the exclusion solution to, many of the systemic issues people face, nor are there always quick fixes. These problems require innovative, sometimes long-term, social, organizational, economic and political processes and solutions. People with lived experiences also ought to be part of the solution, in other words ‘if about or for us, then with us.’”

WORRIES: “See my responses above. I also worry about the exclusion of some groups; some will be invisible, others will be overly scrutinized. And, of course, I worry about the digital divide in terms of access to the internet and to power, as in the power to be excluded from systems, and rights, as in rights over one’s own data and the right to repair one’s own technologies. I also have concerns that large technical deployments will be done without consultation; they may do more harm than good, and they are likely to have inherent biases that will go undetected if they are not governed.”

Valentine Goddard, the founder and executive director of the AI Impact Alliance, which aims to facilitate an ethical and responsible implementation of AI for all humanity, wrote, “When confinement measures were imposed, most of us were forced to rely on digital tools for communication. Our dependence on digital tools is now higher than ever. Those who are equipped with digital capacity are pulling through, but those who aren’t are losing access to basic needs and rights such as access to work, education and healthcare. Recent research shows that the digital divide is growing, and that will have an impact on our capacity to achieve the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. COVID-19 is highlighting the unequal distribution of resources and power in the digital economy. As the digital transformation is accelerated by COVID-19, the preexisting ethical, social, legal, political and economic implications of AI and big data are more critical than ever. Yet, society’s haste to prioritize economic recovery, AI’s ethical requirements risk being overlooked. Given the current distribution of capacity and resources in AI and AI ethics, given the underrepresentation of women in AI, gender equality will take a huge step backwards. For the average woman, that would mean adapting to digital tools designed and deployed by men in all spheres of their lives (employment, economic security, well-being, civic participation). If we focus on access to work, for example, new research shows that due to COVID-19, the participation of women in the workforce has been set back 30 years already. Previous research has shown that women’s jobs were more likely to be automated, and therefore replaced. Prospects for 2025 in those circumstances should be of high concern and a top priority for governments around the world. Meanwhile, in Big Tech – a sector that employs roughly under 15% of women in AI – profits are skyrocketing.”

HOPES: “There are many examples of beneficial uses of AI technologies that could contribute greatly to society and, if concrete efforts are made to support the development and the governance of such uses, life could be better for a greater number of people. If AI is used as a tool to achieve the UN SDGs, if its benefits are socialized, it could support not only improved access and quality of healthcare, but also facilitate the achievement of a cleaner, greener economy. AI is being used in research to support the battle against COVID-19 in multiple ways, therefore, ultimately, I would hope it can bring us closer together again.”

WORRIES: Technology companies play an increasingly important role in everyone’s lives, including our civic capacity to engage with democratic institutions. The digital divide, left unaddressed, will silence the voices of digitally illiterate citizens, as well as those of entire communities who don’t even have access to internet. As governments are digitizing services to citizens, their reliance on private technology companies is proportionally increasing, giving them more and more power. Not to underplay their expertise and capacity to contribute positively to society, but these are privately owned and managed for-profit organizations that suffer from a critical lack of women and diversity. There is currently no legal obligation to socialize the benefits of the data they collect. Furthermore, from startups to mid-sized businesses in AI, AI expertise is either underfunded or nonexistent. Given the current landscape of uneven access to AI, the lack of large-scale efforts to help citizens understand the implications of AI and data governance, the diversity and gender crisis in AI technology companies, the nonexistence of social impact assessment frameworks, the absence of an obligation to use AI and data to achieve SDGs, I am concerned about the increasing role of technology companies in the lives of citizens in 2025.”

Wendell Wallach, ethicist and scholar at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, responded, “Digital technologies will certainly become ever more central in the activities and the fulfillment of tasks by the users able to prevail in an increasingly polarized environment. My concern lies in the way digital technologies exacerbate inequalities not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. Addressing the downside, economic impact of the pandemic and of structural inequality more broadly will require major reforms in the political economies of the larger countries. That seems unlikely given the way the COVID-19 crisis is further centralizing power among the digital elite and among those best able to take advantage of high stock valuations for those companies that are thriving during the pandemic.”

HOPES: “There will definitely be an expansion of applications that improve the quality of life for a large portion of users and even ameliorate the downside of digital application. However, without serious reforms I expect that the overall tradeoffs will be a net loss for the average citizen, and particularly for underserved communities. This may, of course, be masked by highly publicized applications that generally improve some aspects of life for specific communities.”

WORRIES: “Too much concentrated power! While a few powerful companies are seriously interested in ethical considerations, most continue to be primarily focused on their image. The deterioration of privacy is likely to continue as it serves the bottom line. More importantly, surveillance technologies in both democratic and more-authoritarian countries will place a damper upon, if not actually suppress, free expression.”

David Barnhizer, professor of law emeritus and author of “The Artificial Intelligence Contagion: Can Democracy Withstand the Imminent Transformation of Work, Wealth and the Social Order?” responded, “The book my son Daniel and I published last year with Clarity Press, ‘The Artificial Intelligence Contagion,’ sets out a great number of issues, with references and detail, including four chapters at the end on possible solutions or mitigation strategies. The only thing that has changed since it was published is the onset of the pandemic, and I challenge anyone to understand where that will leave us. Up until late February I was researching and writing a book that was concentrating on the economic impacts although the foundation for that is set very much in contagion. When the U.S. economy was ‘globalized’ over the past 30 years and became intensely interconnected and interdependent anything that significantly affects one or more of the major economic powers (U.S., UK, EU and China) has heavy impacts on all of them. Exactly what they are, how deeply they will penetrate, whether we have the wisdom, tools and strength to respond positively to the pandemic is not obvious, so I am giving the issue another three or so months before I try to work out a sense of what will occur and what will be done. What I will say is that what has occurred in the past five months relative to the virus unfortunately fits in much too closely with the predictions of contagion about a U.S. torn apart by wealth inequality, racial and other critical tensions around competing views of social justice, the difficulty of coping with an incredibly large and rapidly increasing national debt and annual budget that even before the pandemic stimulus was growing more than $1 trillion per year, aging population demographics that Pope Francis has referred to as the ‘Age Curse,’ along with healthcare issues and underfunded pension concerns facing the federal, state and local governments (as well as corporate pension and health plans). Most of these issues are discussed in my next book, ‘Contagion.’”

Stephan Adelson of Adelson Consulting commented, “There are several assumptions I have made when selecting that the ‘new normal’ will be worse in 2025 as a result of the current pandemic. My first assumption is that the virus will be part of our lives (to various degrees) for quite a while to come (at least another six months, potentially longer based on postrenal for a vaccine). Habits are formed relatively quickly. Masks, hand sanitizer and constant concern for cleanliness are becoming habitual. These habits to protect our health have and will have an increasing impact on our emotional health. The constant effort for ‘self-protection’ creates underlying feelings of vulnerability that have no resolution, as our vulnerability is a fact that until now has not been so apparent. Living in a world of increased fear (even if it is slight) will impact society in negative ways. Additionally, with everyone wearing masks, social interactions and emotional discernment that depend on visual clues (such as as a smile) are limited. This lack of ‘smiles’ reduces the happier emotions when coming into contact with strangers in public places. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has also been an increase in obviously judgmental attitudes, as some who wear masks confront those who don’t and vice versa. Assumptions regarding someone’s political stance also seem to play a role in social interactions. The financial impact of the pandemic will continue to separate those who have from those who have not, increasing a growing emotional class war. These factors, along with others, are contributing to a reduction in positive social interactions and adding additional gaps between strangers while increasing ‘fears’ related to strangers and creating a new normal that is less friendly and more alienating. I believe that this trend of separation will continue and grow over time, increasing mental health illness across all sectors, increasing the burden of social programs.”

HOPES: “I hope that the increase of those working from home will continue to push technology to do more, faster and more efficiently. That education may leap forward as classrooms are more ‘homebased’ and parents are forced to take a more active role in the education of their children. That contract tracing and other technology-based surveillance methods related to health, record keeping and virtual doctor to patient practices (including electronic medical records) will push medical treatments and personal health care forward in ways that would likely have taken much longer to evolved had the virus not arisen.”

WORRIES: “I worry that technology will increase separation and unhealthy behaviors. Although not a worry to me, personal privacy will be almost completely eliminated over time.”

Christine Ogan, emeritus professor of journalism, informatics and computing at Indiana University, said, “The pandemic is likely to bring down many more businesses than those that have already closed. People will spend more time isolated from one another, fearful of what they might contract. Applications like Zoom will become far more sophisticated and interactive in a way that simulates face-to-face contact more – and there will be lots to choose from. Online education will advance along with this technology allowing for the kinds of instruction that are now difficult – dance, music, demonstrations of processes, laboratory instruction of all kinds. In universities, people had already looked to their offices as a place you only come when necessary, so there will be less feeling of belonging to a group, department, school than ever before.”

HOPES: “Perhaps more routine tasks will be completed through the use of technology, but that could be a double-edged sword, because those people who now occupy the positions that require repetitive tasks might continue to be replaced in the workforce.”

WORRIES: “As people do more online work and have fewer interactions face-to-face, it will create and exacerbate the social divisions in our society. And the conspiracy theories we already see will be more of a factor in that division. If we don’t interact as much socially, we will not be able to work through our problems as a country – and I worry most about climate change as the progress we’ve already made may stall out. We already see massive increases in the use of plastic in our lives, just as we were beginning to accept ways of doing without it.”

Susan Ariel Aaronson, a research professor of international affairs expert in digital trade, corruption, governance and human rights responded, “People will be more dependent on technology, but trust it less. I hope that someone will develop ‘privacy as a service,’ and ‘security as a service.’ Moreover, a national data-protection law may be a fantasy. There are other ways to encourage companies to protect privacy, including mandating that they are transparent about how they do it, how much they spend and how they have failed, as example today’s incident with Garmin (July 2020).”

Jeff Gulati, professor of political science at Bentley University, responded, “The technology gap will grow between haves and have-nots. Among haves, there will be a gap between those who can utilize it effectively and those who cannot. Remote interactions open up lots of opportunities for those with skills and resources and are in jobs that allow us to use it.”

HOPES: “Being forced to work remotely has forced many of us to innovate in our jobs. It also has showed us when in-person interaction is necessary and valuable and also has showed up when it is not. The fewer people commuting or travelling should reduce traffic congestion and less consumption of gasoline. Being able to work from home or really anywhere means we do not have to purchase housing so close to our jobs, which may be in high-priced, congested cities. We can spend more time with our families and not have to choose between work and taking care of a family emergency.”

WORRIES: “So many businesses are structured to service people who work outside the home. Less coming into the office means less spent on lunches out, dry cleaning and most physical stores.”

John Laird, professor of engineering at the University of Michigan, noted, “The average person in India (where there are probably 10’s to 1000’s of niches for defining average) will be much different than the average person in rural U.S. versus, urban U.S. and for those with different education level, or social-economic opportunity. The impact can be different, or even opposite for people in these different niches. For some workers, the new normal will be more remote work, but for many, remote work will still be impossible. There will be a push for increased automation, so one result will be an acceleration (not sure how much) of replacing many jobs. There will be an addition of new jobs, but they will probably be jobs requiring higher education/skill levels, making upward mobility more difficult. One impact has been on the increase use of multi-modal communication, both for business and personal. I expect this to be one important positive – significant improvement in communication and engagement for people that are remote, and a decrease need for travel. This has been a real advantage for me – not having to travel for conferences and meetings. It has also brought my remote family closer together. I expect this will continue and we will see increasing synchronous interactions supported by technology (in contrast to asynchronous email, message, etc.) It is interesting to see the transition from phone (sync) interaction to email/ (async) and then back again. I expect for wealthy cultures to see ubiquitous use of digital technology, including more AI assistance, advising, etc., to aid human interactions and transactions. There is a real danger that these advances will continue to stratify opportunities for individuals across many cultures, and nations. Achieving advances in technology (including AI) can be a ‘winner-take-all’ situation, which we are already seeing in the rise of huge tech companies, but it could move through society. Those with resources to invest in technology (especially AI) could have advantages that are hard for others to overcome. I’m curious to see how tension/tradeoffs between privacy vs. accessibility vs. better advice etc. plays out socially. I think it is hard to predict how things will go.”

HOPES: “There are many potential advantages to the application of new technologies in health care, such as drug discovery, automated home health care and getting more health care out to places without access to primary care doctors. Expect decreases in death/accidents in the transportation industry, and cheaper transportation thanks to technology. It will also help out on climate change: better sensing of current weather – predictions of future weather and climate; development of clean-energy technologies. There are lots of possibilities across society.”

WORRIES: “Issues of exploitation of personal information – lack of privacy. Ease at which a few people could influence financial markets. The ease at which a few people can disseminate truly ‘fake news.’ Thus, the lowering of barriers for a few bad actors.”

Johannes M. Bauer, policy chair in the Department of Media and Information at Michigan State University, wrote, “Although I have a positive outlook in the long run, I believe the ‘new normal’ in 2025 will be continuing uncertainty, the prolongation of a state of transition with the potential to be much better than the ‘old normal,’ but also with considerable risks that things will be worse for many or even most Americans. Even if an effective vaccine is found in the near future, the pandemic will likely be a fact of life for several years. We have not fully realized the many repercussions this may have on our economy, politics, and civic life. For example, universities (my own employment) will face enormous financial challenges. Scaling operations to online will not be as effective as many hoped, both from a teaching/learning perspective and from a financial perspective. Demands to reduce tuition, and initiatives along these lines by leading universities (e.g., Princeton, Georgetown) for online education will start to undermine the current business model, which often uses high profit margins for online courses to subsidize other expenses. Moreover, we will realize that good online teaching is resource-intensive and expensive. Thus, there will be pressure from both the revenue and cost side. These will come on top of other challenges, including the problems created by digital inequalities for effective teaching and learning; the further collapse of the historical consensus that teaching should subsidize research as a service to society at large with limited hope that public support for research will increase; all this will amplify existing tensions and conflicts, possibly to the further disadvantage of the humanities that are already under assault. I am hopeful that this can, eventually, contribute to a rejuvenation and renewal, but belief that the transition will take (much) longer than 2025. Regarding technology, it will be more integrated in our daily lives. The pandemic has caused an enormous pressure to learn how to use technology differently and effectively. However, the effects are very unevenly distributed. Already privileged strata of the population may even benefit from the stronger use of digital technology whereas individuals with lower income and lower digital literacy will be disadvantaged. I expect an acceleration of automation of jobs that will likely affect low and middle-income earners more than high-income earners. However, even the latter may be affected by a sustained slump in financial markets, once the full extent of the pandemic is fully priced into assets. All this may provide an opportunity to rebuild our social safety net (e.g., some form of universal health care, universal basic income) but these discussions will likely take a long time, given increasing affective polarization.”

June Anne English-Lueck, professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, said, “Global economic disruption has exposed and exacerbated economic inequalities. The experience of work differs dramatically for those who can protect themselves and get access to preventative care and treatment and those who do not have access. Mobile devices linked with place-based surveillance are ubiquitous as contact tracking continues. The focus should be on the issues of division based on class, race and the many flavors of gender, the clash with the immediate public health needs, which will be exhaustingly present in 2025, and the ever-more-pressing woes of climate change.”

HOPES: “For the global middle class, digital technologies will provide access to work, education, care and social connectivity. Robotic agriculture and other foodtech innovations will keep the supply chain working and reassure consumers about the ‘healthy hands’ that touch their food.”

WORRIES: “Technology will not be equally accessible and will underscore the divisions at the national, regional and social levels. Increasingly, large corporations will control those technologies with less external oversight as governments at every level struggle with climate change, ongoing public health crises and housing inequities.”

Lucy Gray, innovation consultant and founder of @GlobalEdCon, said, “The ‘new normal’ will involve more health screenings and tracking of people according to their health status. Both of these activities will be driven by technology. There will be more crowdsourcing and analysis of data culled via technology ala health maps derived from Kinsa thermometers. If more authoritarians come into power, there will be more technology-enabled surveillance and monitoring of people in public. There will be more people working from home and less mass gatherings and physical contact with others. Online education efforts will expand. All in all, this is not the last pandemic we will see, and this current experience will be etched into our memories and impacting future choices in life.”

HOPES: “I hope tech will make some things more efficient in general. I hope we find ways for people to enjoy and like virtual meetings.”

WORRIES: “I worry about algorithms that serve me “personalized” information. I worry about companies not caring or taking a stand against evil such as hate speech. I worry about data breaches.”

Kate Carruthers, chief data and insights officer at the University of New South Wales-Sydney, wrote, “Unless we can come up with new solutions like universal basic income, life for many people will be worse. Post-COVID economic recovery will be challenging and many jobs and businesses will disappear. In the U.S. there seems to be a real risk of unemployment, food shortages and civil disturbances into 2025. I expect to see a greater bifurcation of society – with those knowledge workers who remain employed consuming increasing amounts of digital services and online shopping – while those who are not part of the knowledge economy are increasingly gig workers in precarious employment. For knowledge workers, going to the office will become a choice and improvements in virtual meeting technologies will continue and make remote working even more possible. Privacy will increasingly be under threat unless specific jurisdictions regulate it. This includes facial recognition and other biometric data. Increasingly biometrics will become part of the authentication and access regime. Digital government services will continue to expand – except in the U.S. where they seem to lag.”

John Sniadowski, systems architect, said, “The current trend is for major technology companies to capitalize on the uncertainty and doubt created by the pandemic. This trend is accelerating as the population reaches out searching for solutions to ‘get back to normal.’ Technology companies seem all too eager to push dubious technological solutions to personal problems. This is exacerbated by both governments and crime seeking to use the lack of proper oversight to create new norms on harvesting citizen profiles for profit and control. Employers are using technology in new ways to monitor their employees eager to retain employment in an increasingly employers’ market. Governments are either turning a blind eye or simply ignoring transgressions of employment law because of the need to keep the economy going. The gap between people able to work from home and those forced to go to work because their job needs physical input will widen.”

Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Foundation and professor of media history at the University of Westminster, responded, “The shape of all the issues has to be struggled for by determinate political actors. Surveying the world, they don’t look a promising bunch. However, there may be a new will. Similarly, the shape and use of technology will be changed by collective decisions to use it in ways that are in the collective good. Right now, the model of viral advertising is triumphant (see TikTok). It is a dreadful way to run polities, let alone international collaborations. We haven’t even begun really to have the discussions about ‘privacy’ that we need to have. Plus, on top of another economic shock, many of the jobs that poor people all over the world do may disappear.”

HOPES: “Corona may lead to a new infrastructure information settlement. We need one. Medicine and treatment can be transformed by technology. However, the imaginative capacity of a generation in writing, the arts, films, music has been destroyed. Without that critical creative element, we are likely to lose understanding and joy.”

WORRIES: “I wouldn’t want to be a dissident in 2025. The big companies cannot and are not fit to make a new political space. Meanwhile new, messy authoritarian states and old hyper- authoritarian states will use the technology without any limitation to produce compliance, satisfaction and order.”

Elwyn Davies, mathematician, internet architect and consultant, observed, “Unless there is a sea change in government attitudes, it is looking increasingly likely that many of the cultural aspects of pre-COVID life will not be supported through the economic turmoil that has ensued. The creative and cultural industries are currently at the back of the queue for support. This will make the world a greyer place, and mental health will suffer. The current focus on getting the old style so-called ‘productive industries’ restarted just means sending the wage slaves back to work to ensure the that the rich keep their fortunes intact and continue to enjoy a nice life. Lower down the scale, life will be more constrained, with many jobs keeping us locked up in our homes and personal contact minimised. On the technical side, the internet will be ever more critical to how life functions. I fear also that governments will not take the opportunity to embrace a greener regeneration. Here in the UK our so-called government urges us to ‘build, build, build,’ but to build houses to last century’s standards rather than with heavy duty insulation, low carbon heating and with solar generation on every roof. Sorry to be so pessimistic but we seem to have been cursed with a mostly short-sighted and venal collection of leaders at this juncture.”

Glenn Grossman, a consultant of banking analytics at FICO, said, “While the pandemic accelerated the use of digital technologies in more areas of our lives and that can have a benefit. The social nature of our culture which gives our lives meaning has been altered for the worst. I fear more of our culture will become isolated and marginalized.”

HOPES: “I believe we have opened more doors to use technology in our lives due the COVID-19 situation. It has forced us to do more remote technology and that can have benefits. Faster health care or access via telemedicine for example. Less driving to reduce pollution. So that and things just come out of innovation I think will have a positive change.”

WORRIES: “I have few worries.”

Hassaan Idrees, a U.S.-based electrical engineer originally from Pakistan, wrote, “I expect fewer job opportunities, struggling economies, changed way of living, more online education, continued remote working, more online shopping and so on.”

HOPES: “I hope for cheaper smartphones and improved fiberoptic communications and bandwidth for developing economies, despite their declining GDPs.”

WORRIES: “I worry there will be less investment in ideas and solutions and less global collaboration as countries continue raising their walls and barriers ever higher – figuratively and literally.”

Bruce Mehlman, a futurist and consultant, responded, “Rougher economics (higher debt, higher taxes and tariffs, less economic mobility). Greater caution (in health and spending). Uglier politics (more #CancelCulture extremism on both sides) Up side: More and faster innovation and productivity”

HOPES: “Revolution in health data (wearables, cloud, real-time monitoring and machine-learning of personal status, genome-based therapeutics); greater privacy regulations”

WORRIES: “Greater state-led surveillance offsetting more controls over surveillance capitalism. More productivity = fewer jobs for the masses and thus greater inequality.”

Christopher Richter, chair of communications studies at Hollins University, responded, “Digital apps will be more diverse and even more abundant. But current inequities in access will be more pronounced. Beyond that, who knows?”

Concepcion Olavarrieta, a foresight and economic consultant and president of the Mexico node of the Millennium Project, responded, “People will train themselves in more technology skills.”

HOPES: “More people will have more tech access and will become more proficient at digital life.”

WORRIES: “Poor people will be left out.”

Deana Rohlinger, a professor of sociology at Florida State University expert in political participation and social movements, commented, “Digital technologies will make our interactions frequent and increasingly impersonal.”

Edward A. Friedman, professor emeritus of technology management at Stevens Institute of Technology, responded, “I expect that there will be greater use of digital technologies in retail sales, in education and in social media for interpersonal relations. This will come at a price for small businesses, news media and small institutions. However, more value will be attributed to direct person-to-person interactions. This will exacerbate the stratification of society by wealth and educational attainment.”

HOPES: “AI will greatly improve health care through diagnostics and education through the implementation of private tutors.”

WORRIES: “I am not too worried.”

Danny Gillane, an information science professional, commented, “We will continue to utilize technology in place of in-person communication and in place of in-person interaction in 2025. This will exacerbate currently existing disparities in access and in opportunity. Those left behind during the pandemic because of a lack of connectivity, those who could not continue their schooling or those whose education suffered because of their lack of access to in-person schooling will have been dealt a permanent setback. While I believe this group did not have a chance to catch up to those wealthier than they are, I believe they will now fall further behind. Society will look at how working from home helped us limp through the pandemic (hopefully not a thing in 2025) and believe that it was an effective way to move forward. So, we will continue to work this way. We will not delve deeper into the other aspects of people’s lives, those that are not strictly economic, and many people will suffer because of this lack of big-picture thinking.”

HOPES: “I don’t have any.”

WORRIES: “All of the power that is information is held in the hands of the few. Companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon have more influence than the federal government. This does not have to be, but it is. Left unchecked, I believe we will become further divided politically, socially and economically. The answer to technological progress is public interaction, public guidance on a global and local level as to where and how technologies grow and spread. At the moment, it is the individuals running the tech companies who are making decisions for all of society. I was fine when Steve Jobs decided that the world needed a smartphone and a tablet or that computers did not need removable disk drives anymore. I am not fine with a Facebook-like company deciding for the world what is and is not acceptable speech, political or otherwise.”

Marc Brenman, managing member at IDARE, a transformational training and leadership development consultancy based in Washington, DC, wrote, “The pandemic will not be the only influence on life in 2025. There will be more virtual mobility (telecommuting, telemedicine, online shopping, etc.) and our electronic devices will have more bells and whistles. There will be even less privacy. The U.S. will continue to lag behind some other countries, since we still have a relatively large digital divide, and parts of the country with poor broadband. Social media platforms will continue to exacerbate social problems and division. The influence of very large platforms like Facebook (with 3.5 billion users, making it larger than almost all countries) may be recognized, even with attempts to regulate it. The U.S. electrical distribution system will continue to be inadequate and prone to failure and lack of capacity. Increasingly adverse effects of climate change/global warming/rising ocean levels will be felt. The U.S. K-12 public educational system will continue to produce inadequate results, as shown by its inability to cope with non-classroom learning during the pandemic. Some people and groups may never recover from educational and financial losses due to the pandemic. We don’t know the effects of the BLM movement, but they may be relatively little. Inequality of wealth and income will continue. It is unlikely that much manufacturing will be brought back to the U.S. Cars will gain more high-tech features, and by 2025 will be closer to being autonomous. Other pandemics will be around the corner, and, if we are lucky, some sort of ‘universal’ anti-virals will be found and put into place. However, Anti-Vaxxers will make herd immunity very difficult to obtain. Various groups like them, gun owners and enthusiasts, and extreme right-wing haters will make medical and social progress difficult.”

Marita Prandoni, linguist, freelance writer, editor, translator and research associate with the Shape of History group, observed, “First of all, there was nothing normal about the state of the environmental or societal conditions before the arrival of COVID-19. Humans have altered the climate and since the Industrial Revolution we have been stressing our host Planet Earth through overpopulation, over-extraction of resources, declining levels of education and behaving as though we were above rather than of nature. Digital technologies have been a double-edged sword in that they sacrifice the lives of rare-earth metals miners and the natural environment. The industry also relies on abusive labor practices to assemble our technologies. I rely heavily on digital technology for my work, but wish the production and distribution were less harmful to the natural environment and producers. My employment and economic security are dependent on technology. I take every step I can to protect my privacy. I do not participate in social networks and opt out of advertising wherever possible.”

HOPES: “I hope hate speech is abolished from digital platforms and that there will be overwhelming support for flagging and shaming disinformation. Making people outliers when they try to deceive users or incite hate is the most effective way to dissuade such behavior. I also hope innovators can find more benign ways to build and distribute digital technologies – less harmful to both people and planet.”

WORRIES: “I am concerned that citizens will be unduly subjected to ideologically driven surveillance, raising the possibility that they can be unfairly convicted and/or imprisoned.”

Mark Perkins, a retiree living in Oceania with an interest in communications network policy, wrote, “There will be less privacy; the surveillance society will be expanded, deepened by both governments and corporations. Less choice; due to economic repercussions of the pandemic, people will be forced to take jobs with salaries and conditions that they would not have done before. Movement towards centralised platforms will increase, leading to less user control and choice. Movement towards platforms, 5G and mobile access will lessen the influence and effectiveness of ICANN and current forms of internet governance, leading to less transparency and control for end users.”

HOPES: “Better end-to-end encryption. Defeat of government moves to mandate encryption backdoors. Decentralisation of the internet: breakup of platform/network monopolies. Interoperability/intercommunication of platforms. Enforced net neutrality. Mobile internet subject to the same design principles as the internet (e.g., end-to-end principle). Intellectual Property legislation moves towards enshrining user rights (as opposed to exceptions), including bypassing technical access/control measures for legal purposes.”

WORRIES: “Greater intrusion into private lives. Less ability to avoid using their products and/or services. Greater integration/cooperation between these companies and governments. Greater concentration of such companies. Less oversight/transparency of such companies.”

Peter Eckart, co-director of Data Across Sectors for Health (DASH) at Illinois Public Health Institute, observed, “The disease and our social, economic and political response revealed and exacerbated significant racial and ethnic disparities and that will make more complicated an already complicated political landscape. It seems unlikely that tech will play a part of problems that are necessarily political and social in nature.”

Eduardo Villanueva-Mansilla, associate professor of communications at Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru, wrote, “The current sacrifices of privacy and healthy social interaction will exert significant costs on the general population even if the pandemic is controlled relatively fast. The deterioration of life conditions around the world will take longer than five years to begin to overcome effectively, and, while there might be some opportunities for investors, with old-fashioned jobs disappearing fast most of the population will endure difficult years without the skills required to take on these new opportunities. This might impede the deployment of advanced telecommunications services in many countries.”

HOPES: “I do not have many hopes. There is a significant chance that perceived positive changes will have to do with growing accustomed to the ‘new normal,’ rather than effective, actual changes in the tech domain.”

WORRIES: “I worry about the increase on the demands upon telecommunications networks without the necessary investment to make them secure and better networks.”

Ian Higgs, a technologist based in Europe, noted, “The pandemic has forced many people to isolate themselves from others. This has reduced social interactions and increased stress for many. It has also been a source of social division as those who do not accept that there is a real risk brand those who are isolating as ‘scared’ and even ‘cowardly.’ Many, of course, do not have the resources or space to isolate themselves, and this has added another layer of division. The pandemic may ease, but the virus will be with us for many years yet. I fear that the above issues will remain and perhaps become entrenched in an increasingly divided society. These are not issues that can really be addressed by technology, indeed, a lack of access to technology is one of the issues that currently divide us and will continue to.”

HOPES: “I am a technologist. I have always worked with technology. I am, however, not optimistic about the long-term ability of technology to make positive fundamental changes for many. Access to technology is not a given for many people around the world, just as clean drinking water is not.”

WORRIES: “Technology companies seek to increase people’s dependency on their technology. This dependency is, clearly, not always to the advantage of the users.”

Robert Y. Shapiro, professor and former chair of political science at Columbia University, wrote, “There will be long-term economic, psychological and health effects, and it will be a bit more of a chore for people to do everything they could do pre-pandemic.”

Sam Lehman-Wilzig, professor and former chair of communication at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, said, “People’s lives will be more constricted: less international travel, cross-cultural education, international organizational cooperation. Economically, it will take a long time to recuperate, even if and when a vaccine is available – because many companies have seen and gotten rid of ‘inefficiencies.’ Greater virtual work and socialization will eviscerate entire industries: travel/tourism, cars, commercial office space, malls etc. On the other hand – the micro-social level – many people will have a ‘lower-key’ lifestyle, staying closer to their locality, less transportation to work etc. I believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the development of Augmented Reality and even Virtual Reality technologies – in anticipation of the next pandemic.”

HOPES: “Augmented Reality; virtual reality; continued advances in the direction of general artificial intelligence; far greater research funding and development of health-tech.”

WORRIES: “Greater monopolization (one dominant company) in various digital realms: Amazon (online shopping); Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp (social media).”

Mark Lemley, director of Stanford University’s Program in Law, Science and Technology, observed, “The U.S. economy will still be struggling to come back from the double hit of COVID-19 and 2020 politics. Post-pandemic work patterns will favor white-collar workers (who will have more flexibility to work from home), but not service economy workers.”

HOPES: “Video conferencing is here to stay. Work-from-home works, and that may reduce traffic congestion and air travel.”

WORRIES: “I worry that we will not have solved the breakdown in competition that has entrenched existing tech companies.”

Susan Price, user experience pioneer and strategist and founder of Firecat Studio, commented, “I expect sustained unemployment and underemployment, particularly in the service and hospitality industries, but I’ve seen broad impact across industries. We will be even more dependent on remote technology, there will be increased emphasis on usability and user-centered design. Good news for my company, a user-centered design agency. But our clients include businesses, government agencies and nonprofits who have seen large negative impacts to their revenue and profitability, which will stress their ability to invest in innovation and improvements. Many have had to lay off staff, stressing the remaining staff and making projects and approvals take longer. The ‘great pause’ we experienced during the first few months (March through June) caused people to rapidly prioritize, has made professionals who previously worked outside their homes much more available to their families and pets. People generally are more aware of how critical internet technologies are to their daily life. Lots of people are hurting. Increased domestic violence, increased use of opioids and other drugs, increased mental illness related to the stresses of uncertainty and reduced mobility, options. Rapid change brings stress, which disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable. In 2025, I expect we’ll consult outbreak data and predictions as a matter of course when planning travel or events. Many more events (conferences, for example) will be conducted remotely, and in-person events will create a remote-only pivot plan. Privacy has been eroding steadily, and this situation has sped up the loss of privacy – and will continue to do so. Employment and economic security – I expect a large correction as we (and the markets) perceive that the hope for a ‘v-shaped’ economic recovery (rapidly rebounding to pre-COVID-19 results) is not realized. The impact to education will be long-lasting and powerful. The new normal will continue to expose many more disparities and weaknesses of our current U.S. public education system.”

HOPES: “As a consultant who leads digital innovation in large organizations, I’ve been impressed with how quickly adaptable people have proven they are. People are more willing to power through learning to use these alternative means of interacting, working, and shopping. What would this shutdown/shelter in place have been like without curbside delivery, Amazon and other e-commerce ordering, Netflix, YouTube, Zoom, Skype, etc.? They helped people comply and cope. I’ve used the internet to connect with my colleagues across the world, and as someone who organizes online events, we’ve seen an increase in attendance and reach for many of our events. I also hope that technology can help us manage disease outbreaks, track and mitigate spread – with safeguards to anonymize data. I hope this situation will produce alignment toward a universal healthcare option for U.S. citizens. I hope healthcare organizations worldwide will use technology to collaborate with other countries to protect all people from outbreaks and mitigate those that arise.”

WORRIES: “I worry about the increasing loss of privacy, especially if in the U.S. we do not have a universal healthcare option that would impact our insurability. Increasing vulnerability to disinformation and marketing messages informed by past choices and behavior that exploit known human cognitive weaknesses such as attention span and behavioral economics. It has never been easier to use data to exploit consumers or voters, and to subvert justice and fairness.”

Tammy Katsabian, a labor and technology researcher doing postdoctoral work at Harvard Law School, said, “I’m afraid that technology will be used to increase surveillance both in the private life of a person as well as in her work life. More workers will be working from home (as part-time or full-time teleworkers) and will enjoy greater flexibility. Alongside that, however, they will also suffer from constant supervision by their employers. Employers will use AI to vet whether the worker is working in every concrete minute, the efficiency of the worker, etc. I’m also afraid that due to this international crisis that we are currently facing, the unemployed percentages will increase, mostly for unskilled workers. These workers cannot find any comfort in technology. They might have new positions that include constant work with a robot (such as in warehouses) – but the salary will be poor, they will not have any real connections with the other colleagues and the work will be boring and repetitive. This situation is not deterministic. It can be different, but if we want it to be different – we have to ‘reclaim’ technology and think about creative ways to use it to increase workers’ participation, voices, and rights in the workplace context.”

HOPES: “We can use technology as an instrument to ensure greater participation of workers at the workplace. We can use it to conduct online ballots, for instance, on decisions that are related to the workers’ work-life and conditions. The legal system has to be an integral part of this process. Workers’ participation should be an essential part of any professional or economic decision that influences the workers (i.e., most of the ongoing decisions) by the law. To make this all processes more accessible and more productive, we need to use technology.”

WORRIES: “The lack of social responsibility. It seems as tech companies do not take into account the influence their product will have on human rights and workers’ rights.”

Terri Horton, futures strategist and founder and CEO of FuturePath, wrote, “The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed how we will work, live and play. In particular, COVID-19 exponentially accelerated digital transformation as organizations moved swiftly to harness the power of artificial intelligence platforms and systems across the enterprise. In turn, investment and implementation of AI systems and automation to support operational continuity, pivot to remote work, improve processes, reinvent business models and capitalize on emerging revenue streams accelerated the unfolding of the future of work by five to seven years. Now, as we move through what McKinsey & Company refers to as the ‘unfreezing period,’ many organizations have realized that they were able to shift, pivot and re-imagine operational efficiency and agility rather well and were far more resilient than they had imagined. To that end, the new normal is about fully actualizing the enterprise by operationalizing new knowledge and insights, leveraging more AI aimed at growth and heavily investing in people strategy, reskilling and humanizing work, particularly as we move through the decade where Millennials, Generation Z and Gen Alpha will dominate the workforce. In the new normal of this decade, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, with values deeply rooted in transparency, truth, ethics and inclusion, will hold brands accountable for the promises of 2020 to address equity, social justice and sustainability issues. They will unzip and inspect brands and employers, with more precision than previous generations, for demonstrable strategies, actions and outcomes tied to societal challenges. They will continue to reward the winners and cancel the losers. As employers acquiesce to the COVID-19-adjusted new normal, the workplace while, highly AI-infused, data-driven and surveilled to spur productivity, performance and engagement, must become more humanized as employers seek to use data for good and to support workers in fulfilling their potential both personally and professionally.”

Vince LaPiana, an information security analyst at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, wrote, “If we consider only the subset of people in North America, Western Europe and the economically-developed countries around the world, working people who use and depend on technology may be better off, as the abrupt change to more remote working will provide this group greater flexibility in where they work, greater mobility and greater freedom of choice. It will also accelerate overseas work in places like India and China, where labor costs are significantly lower even for educated technology workers. I fear we will see a greater economic division and a worsening situation for workers outside of the technology arena, such as people in service industries. People whose service jobs align well with technology workers’ needs may do well, but others will not. This economic bifurcation, if it occurs, would be socially unhealthy and disruptive for everyone, including the technology workers who, on the face of it, would be better off – but won’t be, if they’re living in societies with less economic equality.”

WORRIES: “I worry about: The democratization of disinformation, propagandizing and information warfare. The loss of control over data about ourselves and our behavior. The unintended social impact of online versus in-person social interaction on young people. The violation of people’s privacy by governments for which there is no meaningful legal recourse (i.e., repressive and dictatorial governments).”

Vincent Alcazar, a retired U.S. military strategist experienced in global intelligence, wrote, “COVID-19 is the catalyst for displacement, dislocation and more marginalization. The human toll itself will affect two to three following generations. It is those generations whose following effects will be what we might best see and measure to understand impact. However, that will all successfully evade measurement because what will lie hidden are all of the events and opportunities that did not accrue in people’s lives.”

Wietske Van Osch, associate professor in digital transformation at HEC Montréal, responded, “Researchers are seeing that there has been a disproportionate impact on productivity for certain groups of academics (in particular, female and minority researchers). A report published in Nature this week showed the productivity drop to be greatest for female researchers with children under the age of six. This productivity drop might seem temporary, but will affect tenure clock extensions, which may result in no tenure given the tightening budget at universities. It will also affect their CVs, which in turn might harm their chances of successfully competing for federal funding. Thus, the ripple effects will be substantial and long-lived. And that is just one area of impact (one I am very familiar with as a mom of a toddler and who is spearheading an effort in my professional association – the Association of Information Systems – to document the productivity impacts in our domain). Similar long-term ripple effects will be likely in many other sectors.”

HOPES: “I am hoping the digital workplace will evolve in a way that computer-mediated communication will be a viable substitute rather than mere supplement to in-person communication. Making technologies ‘smarter’ to better support teamwork, which is at the core of much work that is being conducted. Similarly, using technologies in ways to bridge the digital divide and open up opportunities for advanced job-seeking and training for underprivileged communities.”

WORRIES: “Increasing violations of privacy and technology making it harder to have a clear work-life balance and maintain a work-personal life boundary.”

Predictions from respondents who said most people’s lives will be mostly BETTER in 2025 than they were prior to the arrival of the pandemic

Donald A. Hicks, a professor of public policy and political economy at the University of Dallas whose research specialty is technological innovation, observed, “Ever more opportunities to participate in an economy are being revealed by the current quarantine requirements. Organizations’ ‘footprints’ are likely to be permanently reconfigured to allow some portion of their employees to eliminate the time and cost of commuting from their budgets and still develop a career using new technologies. This will reduce the barriers to participation for young parents, the disabled, the elderly, etc. With a broader and more diverse set of skills available, one can expect new varieties of entrepreneurship and new ties between larger organizations and heretofore ‘fringe’ talents left unattached to organizations previously. From these expanded human capital resources, expect new goods and services, new business models and new definitions of ‘career.’ And, especially, a new openness to alternative ways to connect to an economy. This will require a new breed of leadership, new models for continuing education, etc. Digital technologies, not unlike all previous technologies that have changed the world, will succeed as they become more invisible, part of the leitmotif of an evolving society/civilization. Think of electricity, wireless connectivity, etc. Without anyone noticing it except in the rearview mirror, the intangible share of U.S. investment (value-added) overtook the tangible share by the early 1990s, a quarter-century ago! (See Haskel, Jonathan, Westlake and Stians’ ‘Capitalism Without Capital’ (p. 40). Princeton University Press.) The resulting recombinant innovations have expanded exponentially ever since and can be expected to continue to do so.”

HOPES: “There are always tradeoffs associated with technical advances. Some people, places and activities will be left behind on any such journey. However, in all previous technology transitions, the net benefits have made the changes worthwhile. There have always been increases in health, wealth and welfare, although some of these changes are not appreciated until well after the fact. Political economist Joseph Schumpeter’s work is a good guide here. Expect significant opposition to changes that are unfolding from the American Medical Association, media, and political jurisdictions from local to federal, as new technologies redistribute power and resources.”

WORRIES: “The real worry is what can happen to individual liberty when new technology is in the hands of ruthless regimes such as those in Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, etc., – or even malign groups in Western nations like our own. Digital technologies in and of themselves are neutral forces; their potential negative impacts become apparent when put to malign use. Over the long term, however, new technologies will inevitably erode the power of even the most tyrannical regime as their capabilities are undercut and/or eliminated.”

Beth Noveck, director, NYU Governance Lab and its MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance, responded, “Much will depend on governance and leadership, especially who is elected in November 2020, but the hope is that the shift to more online work, online education, online services and online life will lead to significant innovation. This could create the opportunity for dramatic and expanded upskilling and the preparation of more workers for a new future of work. It could create the opportunity to personalize and customize education for students and deliver better learning. The shift to more work online and less travel could have a significant impact on climate change and carbon emission reductions. But all of these positive possibilities depend entirely on political leadership and a willingness to invest in innovation.”

HOPES: “The need for more socially distant ways of learning, working and playing could create the impetus for positive change if the public and private sector choose to make the right investments in this future. With adequate access to broadband, new technology, the right regulatory environment and concerted investment and innovation, the new normal could mean more-personalized and intensive education for more students and better learning outcomes. Imagine every kid being able to have a tutor – both human and AI – available to her at all times. It could mean better access to tele-health and tele-mental health services, where people can get cheaper and better access to care from home. It could mean a future where more workers are trained for jobs that can be done at a distance, which will create opportunities for good work, a living wage and safer working conditions. But with a shift to life online, we will have to make new plans for and redesign our urban infrastructure. We will have to rethink the design of public transit and public buildings. We will have to come up with new ways to create civic engagement and civic cohesion. And we will have to ensure that people have access to the tools and the skills they need to take advantage of these opportunities. There’s so much promise and far too little political will to realize it.”

WORRIES: “Especially with the need for social distancing, I am very concerned that more companies will turn to the use of AI-based recruitment, interviewing and selection tools to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of hiring. Many of these tools perpetuate systemic bias by, for example, comparing new applicants to existing employees or creating arbitrary scoring mechanisms that serve to disadvantage diverse candidates, leading to discriminatory practices. In all arenas, I am concerned that the move to more life online as a result of the pandemic could lead to greater surveillance and abuse of personal privacy and private information by the tech companies providing us the platforms we now need to work and learn.”

Craig Silliman, an executive vice president for a major global company, wrote, “While COVID-19 has forced us to distance physically, it has brought individuals closer together. Many of us have spent years in countless meetings and meals and on airplanes with colleagues and yet never learned as much about them as we have in the past four months. When we lost our physical proximity, we created emotional bridges that connected us in new and profound ways. It turns out that it took forced distancing to bring out our most complete and authentic humanity. I believe that once we are together again physically, we will not forget what we learned while we were apart, and that will make for richer and deeper relationships for years to come. On the technology front, most of the technologies that we are using daily are not new. What has changed is not the capability but our behavior. I have talked to numerous colleagues who have observed that they never again will board a six-hour flight for a two-hour meeting. We previously might have thought that this was highly inefficient but didn’t feel we had ‘permission’ to suggest video conferencing because we weren’t sure how a boss/client/customer might react. Because this was a simultaneous discontinuity in work patterns globally, it will have caused us all to change our work habits, particularly involving the use of technology to be more efficient. We will be working in very (positively) different ways in 2025 as a result of COVID-19.”

HOPES: “We previously have thought about the office as a place where one must go to ‘be at work’ or to ‘do work,’ even if the office environment wasn’t the most effective location for a particular task. We will increasingly think about a spectrum of locations where work can be done, and a spectrum of technologies that are a platform for work to be done, and start by asking what the task is that we seek to accomplish and then using the appropriate location and technology to best accomplish that task. That will allow us to design office spaces to serve as platforms for what shared, collaborative spaces do best while liberating workers to find the mode and place of working that makes them most effective.”

WORRIES: “When winners in technology are based on hyperscaling, industry sectors quickly collapse to monopolies with single or few players with little accountability.”

Benjamin Kuipers, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan known for research in qualitative simulation, observed, “We are facing a stark choice between two futures, and I choose to be optimistic about how it will come out, though I am not willing to predict how likely that outcome is. The dire future involves everyone making choices to maximize their own benefit. The optimistic future involves people recognizing that the welfare of everyone is important to the success of our society. In particular, everyone needs to trust, justifiably, that the processes in society are working for everyone’s benefit. This trust is necessary for widespread cooperation, which is required for society to thrive. Without that widespread trust, society is likely to devolve into a dystopia. Our society will fail, and we will be taken over by others. The average person must be able to count on having a meaningful job with adequate income to support a family. Each person must be able to count on health care, childcare, education and elder care, even if those are not economic profit centers. Technology can continue to create vast wealth, but that wealth must be shared with all in the society, not just concentrated in a few. We must be able to trust that the information collected about us is treated appropriately, respecting our individual wishes about our privacy.”

HOPES: “My hopes and worries are more about economic equity than specifically about technology. We have the opportunity to understand the critical role that trust and cooperation play in the success of a society. If we can encourage trust and cooperation, our society will thrive and succeed. If we cannot, it is likely to fail. If we are pursuing the right goals, tech-related changes will make things better. If we are pursuing the wrong goals, tech-related changes will make things worse. Do it wrong, and Darwin takes you away!”

WORRIES: “If technology companies focus on maximizing profits – which has been ‘religious’ economic dogma since the 1960s – rather than on demonstrating their trustworthiness to individuals, they can drive the economy down the path to dystopia and they will not even get the profits they seek. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is not just a toy thought experiment. Only trust in each other provides a good overall solution. Trying to maximize individual reward leads to an outcome where everybody’s reward is poor.”

Jamais Cascio, research fellow at the Institute for the Future, predicted, “Whether the ‘new normal’ of 2025 will be better or worse than the pre-COVID-19 era is highly contingent on events of the next six months, including especially (but not exclusively) the U.S. presidential election. Regardless, it definitely won’t be a simple continuation of late 2019. Three big arenas of technological uncertainty we’re likely to see by 2025 emerge from social dynamics well underway now: the prevalence and availability of remote work and the technologies used to enable it; the manifestation of authority and policing, particularly in the balance of surveillance of citizens and surveillance by citizens; and the degree of trust and accountability of social media systems, in terms of both personal privacy and protections against manipulation. All three of these issues could have radically divergent outcomes in a relatively short amount of time, making it very difficult to pin down 2025. Remote work: The speed and stability of an actual recovery from the pandemic will shape how much we continue to rely upon remote work; there’s a very good chance that a significant portion of the pandemic remote workforce will want to continue to work from home, but the longer the forced isolation lasts, the greater the likelihood that people will be desperate to return to human contact at work. Increasing improvements in automation will eliminate some of the ‘essential’ delivery jobs. It’s possible that these may be semi-automated tasks, where a remote pilot controls the drone or robot used to make deliveries (to handle the unexpected and customer interaction). Policing and surveillance: The capacities of surveillance technologies are increasing rapidly, but their use against civilian populations and their use as a way to monitor authorities are not necessarily correlated. The degree to which institutions of authority adapt to changing social demands will shape the level to which surveillance could be imposed upon them; conversely, if authorities are able to suppress demands for change, the spread of top-down surveillance will likely accelerate. Social media networks: Even as Facebook demographics continue to age, millennials desiring a more-stable platform for social (and family) engagement will start to look beyond transient interaction apps. Facebook could remain the default if it manages to act as a bulwark against social manipulation and tighten up its privacy-related behavior, but since that’s not a highly likely scenario, we’ll probably see the emergence of something else that fills that role for younger adults. This ‘something’ will allow for both persistent interaction and advanced privacy protection; what that would look like remains to be seen.”

HOPES: “I’d like to see more systems that allow for improved privacy, accountability and insight. Beyond information technology, we could see major improvements in our lives through the acceleration of the shift away from fossil fuels: more electric cars and the corresponding infrastructure, more power-self-sufficient homes and much longer-lived energy storage/batteries. I also hope that the pandemic will trigger a variety of advances in medical and biotech systems, improving the overall quality of health and life for millions (or billions).”

WORRIES: “For information tech, I have three core worries: intrusiveness, asymmetry of power and ease with which information can be manipulated. It would be easy for any or all of these issues to worsen over the next five years, driven by the drive for short-term profits, demands by authoritarian governments and a simple disregard of unintended consequences. Outside of IT, my greatest concern is far and away the far-too-slow pace of decarbonization.”

Mike Godwin, former general counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation and creator of Godwin’s Law, wrote, “The ‘new normal’ has the potential to be more humane for workers in many ways. First, it seems clear that we are learning rapidly the extent to which ‘knowledge workers’ can work effectively from home, provided that they have the right informational infrastructure that supports such remote work. Cutting down on the need to commute, making schedules flexible and increasing the ability for employees to be caregivers and parents while working will be helpful. Second, I think there is a growing consensus that providing income security is the right approach to coping with abrupt economic downturns that can be caused by pandemics, by climate change, and by social unrest associated with both pandemics and unrest – including increased migration, which will be a major disruptor in this century.”

HOPES: “The greatest single improvement I hope for is increased access to reliable broadband internet for the purposes of remote work, as well as the more-efficient coordination of aid and resources in response to weather crises or public-health crises. The digital devices at the endpoints of the broadband infrastructure (personal computers and phones, primarily, but more and more devices with other functions) already will have a great deal of local processing power, but the key point on the critical path will be the prioritization of broadband access that’s inexpensive, robust, capacious and widely available in small towns and rural areas. Enabling competition and appropriate government subsidies and other support will likely play a central role in keeping prices down and keeping capacity rising.”

WORRIES: “Processing power and widespread data sharing will make it increasingly easy for individual privacy to be eroded, not least through technologies like facial recognition but also through traffic analysis and aggregation of individual transactional patterns. The amount of processing power this kind of monitoring and tracking of individuals will require is already here. This will absolutely require government regulation and intervention to buttress privacy frameworks, which will mean we need to support governments that promote individual privacy even in the face of easy monitoring and tracking.”

Gary M. Grossman, associate director in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University, responded, “The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the extent to which the ‘old normal’ reflected a world full of nations with much less capacity than was reasonable to expect. Even authoritarian regimes, presumably with their governing rationale of being powerful enough to solve problems, have shown very clearly their social, political and economic bankruptcy. New forms of governance are needed and there can be no doubt as to this because we have arrived at a point, thanks to technology, where secrets are no longer possible to keep. This alone will be progress. The ‘new normal’ of 2025 will look different in many ways from 2020, and we will be on the road to many new institutional forms.”

HOPES: “My hope is that information technology will force the transparency necessary to bring about global change rapidly. This will not be automatic nor absent a share of conflict. However, while the path will not be straight, it will tend toward positive directions for democracy. Indeed, it already has. Much more is to come.”

WORRIES: “Technology companies are currently operating in a ‘wild west’ type of environment. This cannot and will not last. Life will stabilize and new patterns will emerge, as has happened in every period of human social evolution. Further, centers of power are too decentralized for any one platform or interest to prevail globally. I consider this to be a good thing.”

Kathleen M. Carley, director of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems at Carnegie Mellon University, commented, “More people will be able to work remotely, allowing companies access to greater pools of talent, and a possible leveling of pay across cities. There will be an increased understanding of viruses and how to create vaccines and improved technology to support healthcare. There will be regulation of and self-imposed constraints on social media platforms. There will also be: increased public understanding of the limits of, and problems with, machine learning; police-hiring reform; an international response to disinformation; improved technologies for group meetings online; new agile business models for technologies that mainly employ the web; improved health standards in schools and public places; improved sick leave policies; a decrease in business travel, possibly leading to a better carbon footprint; less middle management. There will be a small increase in automation, but more effort on designing and building even more automation for the home and small businesses that will become more ubiquitous and some type of certification for AI to show that it meets some ethical standards. There will be certification for online tools to show that they meet some privacy standard. Expect to see: increased access to the internet; more stores that operate only for pickup and returns; more mail-in voting, and experiments with online voting; increased provision of medical advice and appointments online; increased online services for legal issues. There will be: more jobs requiring more computer skills, or skills with online web tools; improved search routines; new parental control panels for online-group-meeting technologies; new toys that support interaction through the internet for very young children and grad school ‘children’; an increase in self-paced online master’s programs for those working remotely. There are some things that are likely to reduce the quality of life: a decrease in the variety of items carried by grocery stores and, indeed, all stores; a decrease in gourmet food items, specialty tools, and high-end fashion or a major increase in their cost; favorite restaurants will have closed; food prices will increase; there will be an emergence of an overwhelming number of stories, movies, songs dealing with the pandemic; in many countries, there will be fewer women in the workforce, and fewer women in schools; there will be an initial increase in income disparity, which should eventually be reduced through an increase in service jobs and greater access to the internet; scams, fraud and price gouging will rise due to new internet services, delivery services and online shopping services. Other things – it is not clear if they will be good or bad, but are possible – there will be a new baby boom entering pre-school and kindergarten in 2025, and expect to see mandatory health screening in organizations.”

HOPES: “That we will increase the national debate and create a shared perception about what level of regulation is acceptable on what type of technology. That there will be recognition that disinformation is like pornography and it has to be treated similarly in legal terms. There will be improved transparency through online access, etc., of health processes, legal and government processes and assorted other processes. There will be certification programs for privacy-preserving software and for ethical software and there will be international treaties relating to information on social media. There will be more funding for research on robotics for home use, and a consequent transition to market, improved technologies for measuring and removing particulates from the air, improvements in our understanding of how viruses and bacteria impact the human body, and so increased speed in generating and testing vaccines. If the cost of computing does not go down, it will slow down the development of the Internet of Things, however, we should expect to see more smart technology in the home and workplace.”

WORRIES: “I worry that too much technology will be developed by computer scientists and engineers who have little understanding of human social behavior and this will cause inadvertent harm. An example of this is the biased machine-learning models that are used for profiling. I worry that large companies will drown out innovation from academia and small businesses and that large companies will begin to control funding and direct policies and thus determine which small businesses and universities survive. I worry that sets of companies will band together against other sets to make their technologies interoperable only within that set whereas common standards and complete interoperability of all technologies is needed to make the Internet of Things achieve its ultimate capability. I am concerned that policymakers who don’t understand the strengths and limits of technology will begin making premature policies.”

Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst for Altimeter group, said, “We will never completely return to the period of relative innocence (or willful ignorance) we enjoyed before January 2020. That world is gone, and we’ll need to be vigilant both from a personal and public health perspective from now on. Humans being what we are, we should expect lapses, flares and inevitable restrictions as part of our ‘new normal.’ As we’re rapidly learning, there is no ‘one and done’ when it comes to novel viruses. Since the beginning of 2020, we’ve seen organizations accelerate their digital transformation efforts and the move to cloud computing. A few years ago this was considered innovation; now it’s survival. But the biggest issue for technology is essentially a choice: do we commit to building models that describe and classify people and the world without excluding, discriminating and amplifying inequality? In a year in which we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and too many others and again confront our long history of systemic racism, can we finally acknowledge that technology has been deeply complicit? More to the point, can we stop hiding behind the fig leaf that data and technology are a) neutral and b) always the answer? Yes, people are messy, yes this is hard. But we need to stop hiding behind excuses. This isn’t to say we should toss our phones and flee to the hills. But we do have to ask the hard questions and make the harder choices about how we solve problems, and whether, in solving one set of problems, we’re creating others that are more insidious and longer-lasting. Will we, in the interest of public health and safety, increasingly surveil our employees, guests, customers, neighbors? Will we address the inevitable issues of discrimination and exclusion of vulnerable and marginalized populations? Do these technology solutions actually work, and are there other, less invasive ways to keep people safe? Did we leave anyone behind?

HOPES: I hope we can use this moment in our history as an opportunity to reflect on the choices we’ve made and what, finally, we value. If we say Black Lives Matter, are we willing to speak up in meetings where design decisions have the potential to put Black lives at risk? Are we willing to challenge cultural norms to ensure that we have representation from the people who are most affected by the decisions we make and whose talent we have overlooked? Are we willing to sit down so someone else can speak, and amplify their voices? Technology is ultimately about power—about who frames a problem, what “solving” it looks like, who benefits, who is overlooked. So, if anything would make post-pandemic life better, it would be a willingness to, as John Lewis has said, ‘get in good trouble.’”

WORRIES: My main concern is that the large technology companies have far too much power to frame what we know and how we live, and that, ultimately, we are all assets to be leveraged for shareholder value. Technology should be a tool—not a weapon, a religion, or a government.

David Brin, physicist, futures thinker and author of the science fiction novels “Earth” and “Existence,” commented, “Assuming we restore the basic stability of the Western Enlightenment Experiment, and that is a big assumption, then several technological and social trends may come to fruition in the next five to 10 years. – Advances in cost-effectiveness of sustainable energy supplies will be augmented by better storage systems. This will both reduce reliance on fossil fuels and allow cities and homes to be more autonomous. – Urban farming methods may move to industrial scale, allowing similar moves toward local autonomy (perhaps requiring a full decade or more to show significant impact). Meat use will decline for several reasons, ensuring some degree of food security, as well. – Local, small-scale, on-demand manufacturing may start to show effects in 2025. If all of the above take hold, there will be surplus oceanic shipping capacity across the planet. Some of it may be applied to ameliorate (not solve) acute water shortages. Innovative uses of such vessels may range all the way to those depicted in my novel ‘Earth.’ – Full-scale diagnostic evaluations of diet, genes and microbiome will result in micro-biotic therapies and treatments. AI appraisals of other diagnostics will both advance detection of problems and become distributed to handheld devices cheaply available to all, even poor clinics. – Handheld devices will start to carry detection technologies that can appraise across the spectrum, allowing NGOs and even private parties to detect and report environmental problems. Socially, this extension of citizen vision will go beyond the current trend of assigning accountability to police and other authorities. Despotisms will be empowered, as predicted in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four.’ But democracies will also be empowered, as in ‘The Transparent Society.’ – I give odds that tsunamis of revelation will crack the shields protecting many elites from disclosure of past and present torts and turpitudes. The Panama Papers and Epstein cases exhibit how fear propels the elites to combine efforts at repression. But only a few more cracks may cause the dike to collapse, revealing networks of blackmail. This is only partly technologically driven and hence is not guaranteed. If it does happen, there will be dangerous spasms by all sorts of elites, desperate to either retain status or evade consequences. But if the fever runs its course, the more transparent world will be cleaner and better run. -Some of those elites have grown aware of the power of 90 years of Hollywood propaganda for individualism, criticism, diversity, suspicion of authority and appreciation of eccentricity. Counterpropaganda pushing older, more traditional approaches to authority and conformity are already emerging, and they have the advantage of resonating with ancient human fears. Much will depend upon this meme war. Of course, much will also depend upon short-term resolution of current crises. If our systems remain undermined and sabotaged by incited civil strife and distrust of expertise, then all bets are off.”

HOPES: “I went ahead and piled all of that into my first, extensive answer.”

WORRIES: “You will get many answers fretting about the spread of ‘surveillance technologies that will empower Big Brother.’ These fears are well-grounded, but utterly myopic. -First, ubiquitous cameras and facial recognition are only the beginning. Nothing will stop them and any such thought of ‘protecting’ citizens from being seen by elites is stunningly absurd, as the cameras get smaller, better, faster, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous every month. Moore’s Law to the nth degree. Yes, despotisms will benefit from this trend. And hence, the only thing that matters is to prevent despotism altogether. In contrast, a free society will be able to apply the very same burgeoning technologies toward accountability. We are seeing them applied to end centuries of abuse by ‘bad apple’ police who are thugs, while empowering the truly professional cops to do their jobs better. I do not guarantee light will be used this way, despite today’s spectacular example. It is an open question whether we citizens will have the gumption to apply ‘sousveillance’ upward at all elites. But Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. likewise were saved by crude technologies of light in their days. And history shows that assertive vision by and for the citizenry is the only method that has ever increased freedom and – yes – some degree of privacy. I would wager that I am almost alone in saying this in this canvassing. The hand wringers are totally right about the problem and the danger presented by surveillance tech! And they are diametrically wrong in the common prescription. Trying to ban technologies and create shadows for citizens to hide within is spectacularly wrongheaded and disastrous. See ‘The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?’”

Oksana Prykhodko, director of the European Media Platform, an international NGO, wrote, “The COVID-19 outbreak has led to dramatic increase of the use of digital technologies, and this is very positive outcome. Over the past few years we have seen a lot of negative aspects of the wider use of technologies – from violations of privacy by tracking applications to more crimes because of lack of experience of newcomers to digital age. Nevertheless, I am sure that in 2025 the ‘new normal’ will be better because of a lot of decisions in various sectors regarding privacy and other issues, and also due to a higher level of digital literacy. I am a fan of global multistakeholderism, in which people across nation-states and across various parts of society work together to improve outcomes, and I expect a new culture of decision-making by 2025.”

HOPES: “We used technologies before the COVID-19 outbreak, but now we often have no alternatives but to use them – in education, shopping, financial services, conferences, working meetings and so on. Such demand stimulates the creation of new products, platforms and services. It also demands a higher level of digital literacy and the learning of new skills among the adult population. As a result, in 2025 we will see a worldwide digital revolution with higher living standards and more possibilities for more users.

WORRIES: “I am concerned about two aspects of the larger role of technology and technology companies in individuals’ lives in 2025. The first one is the increasing role of companies – monopolists – and an absence of choice for users. I do not want to use Zoom or Microsoft Word; I prefer Google Meet and LibreOfficeWriter. We have to arrive at some commonly accepted ethics and transparency standards and rules for technology companies and make them safe for users, and also work on protecting people from any wrongdoing from private or government stakeholders or hackers. The second aspect is the marginalization of those who do not have access to the internet or the knowledge and capacity to become proficient at participating in digital life. I welcomed the UN decision that access to the internet should be a human right, but we need more practical tools to ensure this right, such as Universal Service obligations on the government level and private initiatives such as the Future of Life Institute’s work investigating artificial intelligence.”

Aaron Chia Yuan Hung, assistant professor of educational technology at Adelphi University, said, “COVID-19 has revealed many underlying inequities in our health care and education systems that have been invisible to most of society. This awareness is a small but crucial step in making positive changes. Certainly, a lot will depend on the outcomes of the 2020 elections, but, at the very least, these inequities are no longer in the shadows. The pandemic, together with the protests and economic downturn, has put a lot of people who may have seen themselves in different categories into more-similar groups. The degree of change will depend on who has the power to make changes. How people perceive digital technologies is going to depend on how the technologies used to do contact tracing are rolled out and the degree to which they respect privacy. Countries that are doing well in terms of how they are dealing with COVID-19 and doing contact tracing are also using technologies in ways that might be problematic. One important use of technology has been the collection of data for modeling and data mining. Thermometers that aggregate temperature measures, location data collected from cell phones to track people’s movements and using that to trace outbreaks, multiple data dashboards used to present and compare data. More people are going to be interested in that type of analysis. The use of digital video has been particularly powerful. It has been used as a key source of data to document the aftermath of the pandemic, the protests, the counter-protests and so on. It has become an important storytelling device. The new normal will be a double-edged sword, but I’d prefer to lean towards the optimistic. Technology has been used to document injustices and inadequacies in institutions. So far, it has been used for the better. The use of digital video to publicly shame those who, for example, don’t wear masks or who don’t do proper social distancing, getting them ‘fired’ on social media – all of this can feel like vigilante justice and it has its issues, for example, when the wrong person is identified and targeted. This will certainly be the trend in the future, but we need to tread carefully.”

HOPES: “I hope more tech companies pay more attention to privacy. People are growing wary and weary of how some companies are selling their data or not properly protecting it from hackers. People are also thinking more about the ways that social media are being used as tools for propaganda and misinformation. Some companies have taken steps in mitigating that. This may not be enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. Facebook is increasingly the outlier here in what they are doing, and I hope they will make meaningful changes to address concerns about it being used as a platform for misinformation and data mining of user information. Technology can also be leveraged to do better, more unbiased and quicker fact-checking. This can be made more effective if media literacy and media education becomes an integral part of every school.”

WORRIES: “Social media can be such a powerful tool for good, but it also tends to create echo chambers that increasingly divide people into more polar extremes. Conversing with people who are in a different part of social media can feel like talking to someone on a different planet. Technology makes it too easy for people to talk over each other, or not talk to each other at all. My general feeling is that, although there are parts of society (of any country) that are deeply polarized and likely never to meet in the middle, there are a lot more people who are in the middle and either are not sure where they stand or have misconceptions that they collected over the years but could be changed if they are able to properly engage with meaningful dialogue. On social media, it’s too easy to drown someone out with responses and hashtags that make it hard to follow conversations, let alone engage in them. This is not purely a technology problem – this is an argumentation problem. We need to debate each other better.”

Al Sisto, CEO at Tern PLC, wrote, “The new normal in 2025 will be at the intersection of the old normal and the shape of living during the lockdown of the COVID-19 crisis. For example, we are learning that many businesses can exist in a work-at-home structure and students can learn subject material in online classwork. As a result, 2025 will be less about efficient rapid transit, affordable housing and school districts, and more about quality of life. As a result, current urban planning strategies are defunct. We will also see the application of technology to restructure retail, services and manufacturing. As we are now learning, offshoring has created a huge national risk. People were hungry for more forms of human interaction during the crisis – as demonstrated by the crowding of parks, beaches and restaurants when the lockdown was cut back in 2020’s early summer – are key indicators that online shopping and grab-and-go orders do not completely satisfy human needs. Main Street storefronts and restaurants operating in 2025 will have learned to create atmospheres and service levels available today in only the most exclusive establishments. Education will need to reembrace the arts and athletics as key instruction for developing individual definitions and concepts of teamwork. I believe technology will enhance the renewed adoption of these practices, as we are learning that a browser-based experience is as fulfilling as an impersonal interaction at a brick-and-mortar establishment.”

HOPES: “I have the same hopes I have had for the past 20 years. Moore’s law still works.”

WORRIES: “I have no worries; consumers rule.”

Alan S. Inouye, director of the Office for Information Technology Policy at the American Library Association responded, “I don’t think the future will be mostly better or worse for most people. Rather, in 2025, it will be better for a sizable portion of the population and worse for a sizable portion of the population. That is – unfortunately – the bifurcation of haves and have-nots will intensify. In some respects, technology is a winner. The marvel of the internet is already acknowledged in mid-2020. What would we have done in a 1990 pandemic? Innovation will create many new services based on a new reality. The new reality: The essential nature of place, such as in offices, has been seriously challenged and the verdict is that it isn’t as important as many thought, or, by default, presumed. This is not to say it is not important at all, but the trend of virtual organizations will accelerate. By 2025, we will be able to return to office life and we will to a significant degree. However, in 2019, physical office life was the default with some remote workers. In 2025, the question will be, ‘What is the proper proportion of in-office workers vs. remote workers?’ For many of these workers, increased flexibility will be obtained, with the possibility of hybrid models. A major revolution in the office/organization paradigm will be taking place. Those whose work is not so place-dependent, based on their human capital and expertise, and can be done via technology may well be winners. Others not. The others include most of the service workers who do the physical work to make the economy go, such as restaurant workers, brick and mortar retailers, agricultural and meat-packing workers, janitorial workers and many others. Their work is primarily tied to a place, and place may well still be compromised in 2025. We are all hopeful for a quick vaccine, but getting a highly effective one deployed widely in a few years is a tall order. We still don’t have a vaccine for the high-profile HIV that causes AIDS.”

HOPES: “I expect that we will have high-speed internet access deployed in nearly all households (like 98 or 99%) by 2025 – which would be at the end of the next presidential term.”

WORRIES: “The major platforms and companies have tremendous influence and power over individual’s lives today in 2020, and that will further intensify by 2025. While there have been problems and abuses, on the whole the companies have responded to consumer desires reasonably well. As this power increases and the role of companies becomes increasingly institutionalized in society, we are probably coming to the time to ask about the proper regulation regime for the next few decades.”

Mike Sellers, director of the game design program at Indiana University and an AI researcher and consultant, said, “We are at an inflection point: things could become better or worse in the near future. I’m optimistic though. While part of this perspective comes from a focus on U.S. politics, I realize that the U.S. is not the world, and that there are many other trends operating now. Nevertheless, if the U.S. is not able to pull back from a rising authoritarian model, this will give license to many other similar regimes around the world, with overall negative consequences. If, however, the U.S. is able to regain its moral and ethical footing, I believe the pandemic and the concomitant economic and social upheaval will help us (nationally and globally) move to a better state for more people. In such a near future, by 2025, many issues will remain unresolved, but will nevertheless be ones on which we are making progress. In particular I believe the following will see marked, non-linear improvement over the next few years: more universal access to healthcare; more equitable funding and incentives for education; better work-life balance (including but not limited to more work-from-home situations); and continued acceleration of adoption of renewable energy sources (wind and solar in particular). One big unknown is the near future of transportation; are we able to get to Level 5 self-driving cars? If so, this will make for great economic upheaval (e.g., loss of truck-driving jobs), but it will also do a lot to relieve existing sprawl, as the ‘live in the suburbs, work in the city’ model may finally be dethroned in favor of more, smaller economic centers. Another big unknown is the future of AI in daily life. I have long believed that we will see the ‘virtual concierge,’ but the problem remains stubborn. I think we’ll see AI improvements along the lines of an Alexa+ in the next few years, but not to the point that AI in production achieves anything like the informal goal of making computers act like they do in the movies.”

HOPES: “Far greater adoption of renewable energy (especially solar and wind) on a non-linear growth path. Shutting down of more coal and oil plants due to economic non-viability. Some level of augmented reality in daily use, though I think five years is still early to see this in ubiquitous use.”

WORRIES: “Invasive use of personally identifying technology in a wide variety of ways.”

Moira de Roche, chair of IFIP IP3, noted, “The new normal will be much more flexible, technology-enabled working environments. Individuals will use a variety of devices to interact and do work. Technology will be a must-have, not a nice-to-have. Individuals need to exercise a duty of care to keep themselves safe when using technology. Everyone needs 21st century digital skills, especially a knowledge of privacy and security. Access to medical care will improve due to online services being provided – these must be responsive so that they can easily be accessed from mobile devices. Data prices will come down. Employment opportunities will be available everywhere, no longer bounded by geographical locations, however, this will change our view of employment security as many more people will be freelance and have to take care of their own medical insurance, retirement funds and savings for bad times. The way employment is viewed will be quite different. Daily routines will mostly be affected for the better, as people will not have to commute to their workplaces every day, reducing stress and allowing individuals to work to their own patterns (early start, late start, etc.)”

HOPES: “My hopes are for improved data access and lower costs with 5G and beyond and improved access to learning opportunities, and a restriction in the need to attend school or university, with a concomitant levelling of the playing field as access to quality education will not be dependent on socio-economic factors.”

WORRIES: “I worry about privacy and security. If end users, consumers are not trained (and retrained) on how to keep themselves safe when using digital technologies, then cybercrime will escalate. Technology companies must exercise a duty of care when producing and updating technology products and systems and build security in each stage. The principle should be security over profit, not the other way around.”

Monica Murero, director of the E-Life International Institute and associate professor in Communication and New Technologies at the University of Naples Federico II, said, “In 2025, I expect the ‘new normal’ for the average person will be AI-based human-machine assistive technology embedded in smartphone apps, tablets, wearable, cars, pets accessories and other realms. I see ‘external’ devices in this way: 1) Playing a central role in home-focused professional and personal practices; 2) Devices such as AI-enable smartphones playing a pivotal role in mobility. 3) I see a slow rise of implantable AI-based devices that will overcome the separation between external and mobile points of assistive technology. Individuals’ personal lives will become more and more enabled by digitalized practices. I foresee the rise of ‘internet-mediated- digital agents’ (Interdigital agents) taking over more and more repetitive or time-consuming tasks and creating convenience and dependency for users. Regarding economic security, I do not expect dramatic changes in Europe (where I live) in the next five years. Privacy and security will still be at risk, possibly even more.”

HOPES: “I hope that tech-related changes, for example AI-based digital health, will accelerate knowledge in any field, particularly in health care and well-being so more people can access science and have positive outcomes in the coming years in convenient and safe ways.”

WORRIES: “I am worried about the lack of regulation and the different regulations around the world’ that allow technocrats to invade people’s lives without the public having a clear awareness of what’s going on. There has been no other discipline or business so invasive and so poorly regulated in human history. I do not see this improving in five years.”

Nathalie Maréchal, senior research analyst at Ranking Digital Rights, observed, “By 2025, employers and employees will become more comfortable with working remotely and using technology to increase efficiency and productivity. At the same time, we will have a better understanding of what technology cannot substitute for, at least over time. For example, I doubt education will move online for the duration. We will get better at doing online education when circumstances require it, but the preference for face-to-face interaction will endure. Educators and learners alike will be better able to articulate why that is. Beyond the use of technology for work and learning, we will also have confronted the limits of technology for all kinds of uses, including public health. By then, the consensus will be that so-called contact tracing or exposure-notification apps are not worth their costs, and that more-human, analog processes are much more efficient and effective. Even more broadly, the pandemic will have forced both governments enamored with austerity and libertarianism and the voters who put them in power to realize that professional, well-funded government is essential to good governance, without which our societies fall apart. I am hopeful that in five years, we will have a widely available vaccine for the novel coronavirus (even if it doesn’t provide long-term immunity), a global public health system that is prepared to react to the inevitable next pandemic and social infrastructures that are resilient to this kind of disruption. But it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

HOPES: “I hope strong privacy legislation that is strictly enforced will force a shift in the surveillance capitalism business model so that we can see technology that respects human rights while enhancing prosperity, instead of the status quo where technology is used to parasitically enrich the powerful at the expense of the downtrodden. If the U.S. doesn’t pass real federal privacy legislation, and if the EU doesn’t start enforcing GDPR more aggressively it will keep getting worse.”

Holmes Wilson, co-director of Fight for the Future, observed, “I’ve been working from home for almost my entire work life, since 2003. I’ve also run organizations that were mostly or all remote. There are lots of good reasons to do this. There are some downsides for parents with kids, but most are mitigated by setting up a separate space as a home office, and engaging in  semiannual or occasional in-person moments. Many large businesses were already trying to push more employees to work from home to cut office costs and bring more talent into their teams. I suspect a lot of what was holding this back was inertia, not good reasons. COVID-19 seems to have accelerated this and I don’t think we’ll go back. The days of mandatory commuting for three or more hours, five days a week just to be in an office are behind us. Office presence will start to be more optional, partial, negotiated and used sparingly in the moments where it matters most, even after we all have been vaccinated. Supermarkets have always been a disaster for human health and well-being. I expect that many people who have transitioned to grocery delivery services, community-supported agriculture groups and outdoor farmers markets will only sparingly return to supermarkets, and the groceries delivered will increasingly come more directly from suppliers. For high-end and environmentally conscious consumers, in season at least, food will increasingly come directly from farmers. This will take some time, but COVID-19 accelerated it. It might be that some chunk of people never go back to bars, or never start going, this is the prediction I am less certain about. Teens who grew up with phones seem less obsessed with drinking than my peers in the ’90s were, and there’s more competition from marijuana and, possibly soon, legal psychedelics.”

HOPES: “My biggest hope is that a developer revolt and antitrust campaign against Apple will begin to end the period of intense centralized control that the iPhone and App Store ushered in. When you trace it back, most of the problems we’re seeing with persistent monopoly power in the tech space really accelerated in the late 2000s with the rise of the iPhone. Mobile devices made computing vastly more accessible, but they also vastly increased the barriers to entry, introducing new gatekeepers, less organic discovery, higher-stakes winner-take-all dynamics, a much more constrained space for digital creation and a tendency towards pure consumption or highly mediated creation. I’m fairly sure that if you remove the underlying bottleneck of the app store and make mobile app development and distribution work more like desktop apps or the open web, this will start to erode. I also hope advances coming from the cryptocurrency space make it more possible to build complex modern applications on peer-to-peer networks, and that just as computing moved from the web to mobile, computing will move from centralized clouds to peer-to-peer networks built with free and open source software. My final hope is that the trend line from Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring to #Black Lives Matter to #MeToo to the Hong Kong Protests to #DefundThePolice continues and the internet continues to create ever more miraculous social movements that achieve shocking new milestones in how they’re able to change debate and rewrite rules of public discourse.”

WORRIES: “I worry that smartphones give kids just too much of the wrong kind of digital experiences and that this will get worse. I worry that the unsympathetic, always-handy punching bag that Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook presents will lead to a dramatic reduction of freedom of expression by well-meaning activists to new lows that America has never seen, and that this will reduce the power of internet-driven social movements like #MeToo, #Black Lives Matter and #DefundThePolice. I worry that more people are becoming addicted to modern, always-available, always-amazing television and that David Foster Wallace’s vision of the teleputer and life-destroying entertainment will keep becoming more true. I believe that Netflix is the most harmful technology company by far right now, in terms of depression fed and life hours destroyed in passive thoughtlessness. COVID-19 will make this a lot worse. It’s going to be a rough winter for binge watchers (and I can’t believe we think it’s okay to use a word from alcoholism to positively describe television!).”

Howard Rheingold, an internet pioneer expert in exposing the social and political implications of modern communication media, said, “Several changes that have been forced by the pandemic could lead to positive trends: 1) Face-to-face conferences where thousands of people fly hundreds and thousands of miles to gather together will disappear or be severely reduced, with online conferences often substituted – thus reducing a significant amount of carbon pollution. 2) From my own experience, working from home can be more productive, but total absence from the office can be counterproductive. However, if one in four office workers worked from home one day out of four, traffic and carbon pollution reduction would be significant. 3) In the absence of federal leadership and a cacophony of state and municipal leaderships during the COVID-19 pandemic, mutual aid – often facilitated online – is thriving. Perhaps that will continue. 4) With more and more people socializing online, perhaps it is an opportunity to build out a ‘green space’ of social networks and online communities outside the paralyzing and toxic enclosure of Facebook. 5) Teaching online is not a matter of delivering your normal curriculum via videoconference but instead is a powerful pedagogy when it is done right. Universities without endowments are in trouble, and unfortunately, many will go under if they can’t get tuition-paying students back on campus soon. I taught blended courses at Berkeley and Stanford for 10 years: three hours of face-to-face each week combined with six to nine hours online during the week between classes.”

HOPES: “More online socializing outside of Facebook. More telecommuting. Fewer face-to-face conferences. Better preparation for, and awareness of, potential pandemics. More peer learning online.”

WORRIES: “Facial recognition, universal CCTV surveillance, hacking of essential services, use of AI in warfare and law enforcement.

Marjory S. Blumenthal, director of the science, technology and policy program at RAND Corporation, observed, “The pandemic has shifted the balance in favor of tech-mediated interactions – more online shopping, more delivery, more telework, more telehealth, more uses of video in socializing (and work), more online learning (including about how to troubleshoot when things go wrong). Today’s situation may be a continuation of connections that have been revived because technology made them possible. Although today’s apps relating to contact-tracing leave room for improvement, in five years there should be more meaningful tech support for coping with infectious disease in a privacy-preserving way. And five years should be enough time to redress the uneven access to the broadband capacity that is needed to achieve the benefits listed above, as well as to develop bandwidth-conserving approaches. Finally, other kinds of technologies (involving physical equipment and facilities) should be more available to provide safety to people whose jobs require physical presence in a shared space, as well as at least some reengineering of how those jobs get done.”

HOPES: “I expect progress to facilitate more, and more extensive, use of technology by people with differing abilities (both cognitive and physical). Today’s jokes about the three most often-heard words being ‘you’re on mute’ demonstrate that everyone has moments of needing to adapt to technology, and more thought about design that anticipates or at least adapts to different behaviors would be good – such design is certainly possible. There are also opportunities to use tech to help people who feel disempowered have a voice, beginning with people in positions on the lower economic rungs who may hesitate to speak up about workplace concerns or to help those knocked off their anticipated paths by the pandemic to find another path. Perhaps today’s crisis will also help to achieve more of the long-touted potential of open data and open systems (especially if some of the pandemic-motivated systems and ventures endure).”

WORRIES: “From today’s vantage point, the addictive qualities of technology may have been exacerbated by the extended stay-at-home routines, something that may endure even with less physical distancing. Meanwhile, the challenges of proliferating modes of deception (deepfakes, bots, fake news and so on) call for new mindsets that will take time and likely greater public awareness to set in. Tech companies have choices to make; we can already see some responsiveness to policymaker and public-interest advocate concerns.”

Alex Halavais, associate professor of critical data studies, Arizona State University, wrote, “Our memory of the pandemic will be short, but the impact on our institutions will be long. The pandemic was a catalyst for changes that had long been in play and it has sent unbalanced institutions toppling. Nowhere is that more clear than in education. Schools and universities find themselves reeling, and it seems they have difficulty looking more than a few weeks into the future. In terms of school, it has made parents rethink the role of school and think seriously in a way that they have not before about the value of schooling. Is it a place for learning fixed curricula? Is it a place for learning to socialize in certain ways? Is it a way to care for children while the parents work? It is, of course, all of these things and more, but the sudden cancellation of school for many parents has led them to think about what functions it plays in their lives and what alternatives there may be. It has also, by necessity, made them confront the reality of online school. For parents who have the privilege to now work from home, they have entered into a new set of expectations around parenting while working. Just as work-from-home has gained more acceptance (and, indeed, as many employers and workers find that they can be at least as effective working from home and that this reduces many of the traditional expenses of employers), they are thrust into an environment in which they must also be teachers and caretakers throughout the day. These new stresses, nonetheless, have opened up opportunities for those who offer online learning experiences for young students. The shift has been rapid, and while there will certainly be a swing back toward in-person teaching and activities, many will come away from the current changes with more robust online offerings that will continue through to 2025. Indeed, as the children of more well-off and professional parents are more likely to stay away from school as it reopens in 2020, I think we will see a refocusing of financial resources toward online learning at that level. This will come through at the university level as well. A number of universities were already well-situated to transition to online and ‘flexible’ learning. The latter will be the legacy of the pandemic for universities and further accelerate the concentration of the industry in the U.S. By 2025, a much larger number of students will attend universities in more flexible ways, taking the majority of their courses online. Much of this was a move that was already underway. As a people in a larger number of professional roles are expected to work from home or at a distance, online education will better prepare them for that role.”

HOPES: “My hopes are largely around sociotechnical systems, rather than the technology itself. I have great hopes that the move to high-quality online education may provide access to those who live in parts of the U.S. and the world that would otherwise not be possible. There are also very real possibilities that this will provide opportunities mainly to those who already have access. Already, we have seen the growth of automation, particularly in food services, accelerated by the pandemic. Movement of more people out of food preparation, delivery and similar positions was already underway, but it was made more pressing by the potential for infection. Obviously, automation is a mixed blessing and poses significant social challenges.”

WORRIES: “There has been a long-term trend toward public spaces and urbanity. Young people generally have forgone personal vehicles and settled in urban areas. Young people are more likely to spend time in restaurants and coffee houses and make use of public transportation. The pandemic has interfered with all of these, and – depending on how long it is with us – these trends toward public infrastructure and density are likely to be disrupted. The question of misinformation has been central to the ability to battle the pandemic and it is likely responsible for the deaths of many Americans. I think this is the most concerning technological question of the decade: what are the systems that can help us to better assure that misinformation is abated and credible information is more widely spread? Relatedly, platform owners have entered into a new era in which they are being held accountable for allowing misinformation to propagate on their platforms. This remains an unsettled issue, but between now and 2025 there will be significant regulatory changes that may address these issues – but given the complexities involved, this is likely to be a fraught and contentious set of issues.”

Amali De Silva-Mitchell, a futurist and consultant participating in multistakeholder internet-governance processes, said, “Technology will ease the work-life balance; increase productivity; help reduce carbon emissions; allow for savings on infrastructure expenditures such as roads, although there should be more spending on internet infrastructure and actions to enable universal access. Life may seem to speed up, and new technologies that were supposed to still be in development for a decade will become available sooner. In-person social life with a human touch will be restricted and perhaps even mistrusted. The packed pub or tea house will only be open to those who can provide proof of vaccination. Evidence-based identification to show ‘purity of health’ and even health histories will be required everywhere. Face coverings will be commonplace, and each person may be embedded with an ID chip that can be tracked on the street. Outward appearances may appear to be the same as today, but the underlying monitoring of each person will be much greater. People will trade privacy for a semblance of the old normal. People will become more aware of their actions and feelings and be knowledgeable about repercussions. It is possible that brainwaves will be used to monitor the emotional space of the public so as to predict behavior of crowds. We may see new forms of safeguards or barriers in projections via holograms which will also be common at business meetings. AI will be everywhere, but there will be issues with the quality. The individual’s self-identity could decline, and the need to conform to a norm increase, as being out of step will create the need to sort out the exceptions. People will become more managed, spontaneous behavior will be discouraged, although creativity at work will be encouraged. Humans will be replaced in many settings by robots, forcing them to compete; economic security may become something of the past unless the state provides universal benefits. People will guard their minds as if they are a gold mine as that will be the ticket to their individual sustainability.”

HOPES: “Medical technologies can assist humans to live a full life, from telemedicine 24/7, to new medications from AI developments, to new monitoring devices and delivery devices, prosthetics, etc. Items such as clothing, footwear, nutrition, household goods, vehicles, etc. will be designed with technology to optimize output as well as service and be produced or delivered at reduced cost. Waste minimization, safekeeping, comfort, specification and adaptation will be key. Minimizing expenditures will be key for the average working person, hence technologies that assist with that goal to produce the product or service at little cost the consumer will do well, hence the trend to AI-driven technologies for production, etc. Wearable technologies will be important, as people keep all their possessions close to them for safekeeping, hence there will be more and more micro products and perhaps the use of holograms to assist with screen display. Voice and sound technology will assist the elderly and disabled in a very beneficial manner, as will text-to-speech and speech-to-text. These applications will be developed further to assist with everyday work productivity. The need to remember things will be something of the past.”

WORRIES: “People are giving up a lot of privacy for receiving the benefits of technology. There needs to be excellent data management. Data risk management in an ethical manner is critical. Standards will lag behind new technical developments, and that is a risk. The even greater risk will be the lack of transparency around emerging technologies, and thus the lack of feedback from the public to mitigate the risks of these new developments until an event occurs. A few companies will have data concentrated in their hands and any mismanagement, including poor ethical standards, could have serious outcomes. However, there will be a certain level of acceptance as each person will be too insignificant to matter in any broad-brushstroke practical approaches. The quality of technology could decline as well as a result, long-term, unless there is attention to detail. The technology could be prone to disruption and failure. People could be left exposed to risks that they have no control over, and that then starts to control them.”

Andrea Romaoli Garcia, an international tax lawyer active in multistakeholder activities of the International Telecommunication Union and Internet Society, observed, “While life will be better for most people than life was at the time the pandemic began – for instance, the smart cities process is gaining accelerated improvements – it should not be ignored that life will be worse for some people because they will still not have access to the improvements… The ‘new normal’ after the COVID-19 pandemic will bring change to the economic, health, education and business sectors in different ways. Challenges and existing critical points in society have been exposed. It is clear that decisions made by any one country affect the entire planet because we all share planet Earth… Technology alone is not a cure. COVID-19 brings changes that will be different depending on each country and culture. In Europe and Asia, people will embrace social detachment easily even after everyone has been vaccinated. This stems from historical learning from previous pandemics. In the Americas and Africa, social life will not be affected, and after vaccination, people will continue to touch each other as they do today. Despite this, prejudice between races grows and the ‘new normal’ imposes more barriers to migration, economics and education. The gaps in different cultures reacting to pandemic Coronavirus will justify more bureaucracy and barriers… New technologies are being adopted indiscriminately, without any respect for ethics or human rights … We should not accept that tracking people and scanning their faces or looking inside their bodies should be the new normal. We should remember that when technology brought socio-economic acceleration to the 21st century it also introduced new and lethal means and weapons of war. AI is advancing human health; it is also allowing drones to choose young men as military targets. For this reason, the ‘new normal’ reinforces our need to respect human rights and accept only ethical technology. The violation that was deemed necessary in the COVID-19 crisis, should not be accepted as the definitive measure. After the COVID-19 pandemic, health protocols deserve special attention… Experienced professionals must join young professionals to build safe algorithms to assure health protocols … After the COVID-19 pandemic countries with dictatorships or weak democracy have suffered from organized crime and retrocession of Human Rights. Corruptors plunder the public trust. Freedom of Expression is threatened as new laws are being established in some places to allow censorship. The COVID-19 pandemic has been used as an excuse to withdraw individual rights and guarantees permanently. In the socioeconomic field, the ‘new normal’ brings grave retrocession, inequality and racial prejudice. This is a very negative post-pandemic effect that puts global security at risk. We will see more countries closing borders and more cultures being banned. The ‘new normal’ is instigating new laws and procedures for exclusion under COVID-19’s false justification. The question that the ‘new normal’ poses is: ‘How much more can society peacefully carry out?’ I would suggest new discussions and measures on International Cooperation to recover rights. The people involved in this effort should not only include the young, rich or white people. Remember, we all share the same planet and we are all affected by events that occur within any single country.”

HOPES: “The COVID-19 pandemic showed the weak points of society and forced government leaders to recall the importance of scientific knowledge for better decision-making. Applying this experience to emerging technologies, we will have stronger institutions that corruption will find difficult to erode. AI should be adopted to audit government decision-making processes for more transparency and to assure the processes focus on public interest. AI can be used as a forensic tool to audit judges and verify the principle of impersonality in decisions. The Coronavirus pandemic highlighted the need for investments in education and health as a way to accelerate economies. All countries face an economic recession, but technology will be used to accurately integrate demand and supply, avoiding losses and reducing risks. The Internet of Things, AI and blockchain can be applied to transportation planning and they can be applied to employment processes and lead to more jobs. This is an encouraging scenario, but it is impossible to achieve if there is no investment in seeking a society that is free from corruption because, currently, organized crime has overtaken most of the global cash flow.”

WORRIES: “Technology companies brought the social retrocession today. Major technology companies used the COVID-19 pandemic deploy unethical AI solutions. Governments also used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to control and get complete power over individuals’ lives. The tracking of individuals through mobile devices is the huge long-term loss for society. This violation of human rights is grave. Individual freedoms and guarantees have also been violated. These are fourth dimensional fundamental rights that, from the Fourth Industrial Revolution onwards, open the need for a  sixth dimension of human rights to guarantee human security and to establish equitable justice that is reinforced by access to technologies. These are forgotten themes when leaders of technology companies discuss their profit plans and the earnings they gain by using humans as raw material for their final products and services. Just as it is illegal to trade parts of the human body, the same rule should be applied to individuals’ data and their individual freedoms. If this continues to be overlooked, technology will not be beneficial to the future of humanity because individuals will be unable to experience its awards. Large companies are unjustly getting rich as a result of individuals’ impoverishment when they collect data and use it to leverage or build products/services without paying each individual for this use. The consent notices required by the GDPR are not sufficient to demonstrate the individual’s willingness. The personal information is being used and multiplied infinitely. Also, this technology brought us new and powerful weapons of war. This must be tackled now for a better life in 2025 and to prevent a long economic recession. The roles of technology and technology companies in individuals’ lives in 2025 are crucial to preventing the rich turning richest and the poor turning poorest. REFERENCE: Garcia, Andrea Romaoli. ‘Smart Governance for Cities, Perspectives and Experiences: AI, IoT, Big Data, and Technologies in Digital Economy with Blockchain at Sustainable Work Satisfaction to Smart Mankind: Access to 6th Dimension of Human Rights.’ Springer Nature. Switzerland. 2019. ISBN : 978-3-030-22069-3”

Andrew K. Koch, president and chief operating officer at the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education, wrote, “‘Normal’ implies that something is familiar; that it is an expected and broadly embraced as standard. I am not sure that life was ever truly normal – unless by normal, we are willing to accept that systemic racism and classicism are our national norm and that we must return to that norm. I cannot accept that dynamic. I do believe 2025 will be better than now – only because I think we are still in the nascent stages of wrestling with COVID-19, and by 2025 I hope we will have learned and gotten better at how we handle the virus and global pandemics in general. In other words, the 2020 baseline is pretty darn low. I truly hope than any future can be better than the mess we are currently in. ‘Better’ may not – most likely will not – mean better for all by 2025. Even though I wish it and will work to try to make sure it will. The nation has 400 years of injustice and white privilege baked into all of its systems. One cannot undo those ills in four years, but we can start. It is difficult to answer this question and not think about politics and the upcoming election. I base my answer that things will be better in 2025 on the assumption that the current administration in Washington, DC, will not occupy the Oval Office after March 2021. If that is an accurate prediction, then life should be better in 2025 – not because Democrats are inherently better, but because the current Democratic candidate and those who seem to inform him actually believe in scientific methods and reason and acknowledge their own blindness. If persons like that come into national leadership roles – especially in the Oval Office – then a tenor will be set that can actually make things better. ‘Better’ may be a relative thing – a treatment for the disease, more consistent and reliable testing, investments in infrastructure that help the nation thrive in a global economic and biological system. But for better to be truly better, we have to not just go back to the old normal. We must actually do better. This means we have to address the underlying conditions that allow COVID-19 to plague us in more than biological ways – structural racism and classicism. These conditions are both the foundations and the buttresses of our current chaotic and moronic national response to COVID-19. I cannot envision a future that does not use digital technologies in deeper ways. For the very fortunate, entire ways of doing work have shifted online – and with that shift has and will come innovation. You don’t put tens of millions of workers into an online environment for months if not years and go back to the old way of doing work. But there are many who cannot do their jobs using digital technologies. For the nation to actually be better, we must have intentional policies focused on digital development – with a keen focus on the digital divide. We must have policies – based on Constitutional privacy guarantees – that actually see that people are the power specifically named in ‘We the people.’ The individual rights of those people have to be protected in the digital present and future. Corporations may have been classified as ‘people,’ with their rights protected by Supreme Court rulings. But people actually are the persons – individually and collectively – who live, work, thrive, fail or die in a digital future. For 2025 to be better, the nation needs leadership at all levels – not simply in the Oval Office – that creates, enacts and modifies policies that uplift the oppressed and cure the afflicted. The nation needs educational, technological, environmental, medical and other forms of responses that help guarantee the well-being of the people – the right to good health, a family sustaining wage, the means for all to thrive equitably in a society that has a well-established and codified history of race- and class-based stratification. Digital technology must be a part of this. But without a thoughtful approach based on continuous improvement and equity, digital technology will simply make the well-off better and the less-well-off less well when compared to those who thrive in ‘the new normal.’”

Andy Opel, professor of communications at Florida State University, said, “The virus has revealed the deep inequalities in our economic system. This embodied learning at a global scale is going to prompt a rearrangement of economic rewards, recognizing and rewarding what is widely seen as ‘essential’ and putting limits on speculation and the financialization of life that has played such a powerful role in the widening inequality of our time. The power of virtual collaboration is being felt in meaningful ways, but, at the same time, there is a deep longing for physical presence and intimacy that cannot be replaced. I don’t think the changes in the role of digital technologies will be as profound as the recognition of the power of personal interaction, the shared experience of an audience, or the breaking of bread with family, friends and colleagues.”

HOPES: “Technology has the potential to make our lives more efficient, reducing energy consumption and fostering a connection to how our daily decisions impact the natural systems that sustain life. The electrification of transportation is one example of the move toward a low-carbon economy where digital technology will reward efficiency.”

WORRIES: “A huge issue of the tech sector is the failure to produce cradle-to-cradle devices that are easily recycled and upgraded. Fair Phone is an example of a modular digital device. Without policy interventions that require circular production, tech companies will accelerate extractivism and consumerism, endlessly pushing ‘new features,’ creating toxic waste streams and trapping consumers in cycles of never-ending payment plans.”

Anne Collier, editor of Net Family News and founder of The Net Safety Collaborative, responded, “COVID-19 coincides with a pivotal moment in my corner of tech development: youth+digital (add whatever interests you: safety, well-being, citizenship, inclusion). It’s a moment more than 20 years in development. I believe the only role the pandemic has in it is in the way disruption and the loss of ‘normalcy’ gives us pause and compels us to look around and see where we are. I suspect that all this tech use – for social connection, school, work, entertainment, shopping – in the middle of an extended technopanic (or tech-focused moral panic) is helping us be more nuanced about technology’s effects. It’s no longer binary: good or bad for us (‘nor is it neutral,’ as tech historian Melvin Kranzberg said). It’s a spectrum. It’s complicated. And it’s just here. So, what are we going to do with that? That’s the approach that the most ‘calm and confident’ parents interviewed by the authors of the new book ‘Parenting for a Digital Future’ took. As co-author Sonia Livingstone described it, ‘they seemed to be saying, ‘Look, it’s the future, we need to get on with it. We need to find our way.’ And the parents and children could figure out what was exciting about technology together. They often had the most shared practices.’ Researchers are calling for greater nuance and granularity too, at this pivotal moment. See more in my blog on that. As for the ‘new normal’ and what it will look like in 2025 where tech is concerned: 1) There will be pretty solid consensus in many societies that ‘screen time’ is a useful term. Parents, pediatricians, mental health practitioners and others who work with children will be asking about the types and contexts (home, school, social) of screen use and looking at it in the context of children’s fundamental needs: a healthy diet, physical activity, social activity and sufficient sleep. 2) ‘Screens’ will be even more part of formal education, and digital inclusion/access will be a key part of societies’ social justice discussions. 3) School schedules, like work ones, will be more flexible, and ‘work at home’ will be commonplace for people of all ages, so 4) even U.S. society will be well down the road of figuring out how to make child care available to parents in all income brackets.”

HOPES: “I hope to see real momentum in the platform cooperativism movement – and of course more funding, legal support and success for platform cooperatives – which I see as the sequel to ‘the sharing economy’ that was actually on the trajectory of worker exploitation in the pre-COVID-19 economic reality in the U.S. As tragic as the pandemic has been for so many people, health-wise and economically, it may have had the positive effect of shaking us off a trajectory of income disparity and planet degradation as well data exploitation, which platform cooperativism eschews, with its aim of giving participants/members ownership of their data and their businesses.”

WORRIES: “What worries me is the possibility that, post-COVID-19, regulators still won’t see the need to take an approach to dealing with tech problems that is collaborative, cross-functional, multi-disciplinary and perspective- and cross-generational rather than punitive. I worry that too many tech investors, founders and code writers will still not see and acknowledge their biases and blinders and not be working hard for diversity due to ignorance of its value – to their bottom lines as well as the social good; and other things.”

Annette Markham, a leading expert in digital ethics, identity in sociotechnical contexts and futures of technology, responded, “I am taking a decidedly proactive and hopeful stance toward this question, since the outcome of ‘better’, ‘worse’, or ‘no change’ is largely up to us to decide. There’s no inevitable path, no preset trajectory. There are habits and norms we can return to or turn away from. There’s already a slow shift toward consumerism, as people return to shops and restaurants. Will this go back to previous levels, or will gardening and cooking continue? I hear colleagues longing for travel, but others saying they’ll travel less. Will we pay attention to the clear skies and make more environmentally friendly choices? Predictive analytics and the invasion of digital tech into our personal and work lives will certainly continue. In 2025 we can expect blanket surveillance and deeply personal data collection. But this will not be without strong voices continuing to hold corporate and governmental entities accountable. We can expect that additional tragic events and unjust outcomes of predictive policing and data breaches will have helped create stronger public pushback against invasive technologies. Everyday routines in 2025 are deeply intertwined with personalized digital assistants. The features and capabilities of automated decision-making systems will make them intimate interpersonal partners with people living in well-connected areas. This is prompted by technological developments following COVID-19, where remote work requires people to have systems that efficiently anticipate shopping and scheduling needs, to help automate management of home/work life.”

Barry Chudakov, founder and principal of Sertain Research, commented, “The ‘new normal’ for the average person in 2025 will entail adapting to multiple simultaneous accelerations. Even if we get a better handle on these issues than we have today, a host of accelerations are already in motion. COVID-19 will be followed by other pandemics. Atmospheric climate change will accelerate. Wetlands deterioration will accelerate. The number of homeless refugees – due to soil, crop, and weather devastation – will accelerate. Information speeds and content compression will accelerate. The invasiveness and accuracy of tracking, search, and recognition technologies will accelerate. Our reliance on remote-distance technologies and interfaces will accelerate. The consequence of these accelerations is complexity: problems and issues, programs and technologies, all are becoming more complex. The substrate of the new normal will be ineradicable complexity: both our problems and our technologies (including how we deploy these technologies) have passed the stage of simple approaches. To quote McKinsey: ‘Telemedicine experienced a tenfold growth in subscribers in just 15 days. Similar acceleration patterns can be seen in online education, nearshoring, and remote working, to name but a few areas. All these trends were clear before the crisis and have been amplified by it.’ This is a fundamental amplification. The way people use and think about technology will progress further on the continuum of actual to virtual. We will become even more screen-dependent. We will see less of the world IRL (in real life) and more through interfaces and screens whose distancing will shield us from deadly viruses but also isolate us. Thus, the new normal with regard to the role of digital technologies in individuals’ personal and professional lives will be to usher in, and learn to navigate, the emerging metaverse. Inflating our identity through the trick mirror of social media will further distort presentation of self in everyday life, as verification of selfhood, information integrity, and fact accuracy become issues of paramount importance. We will find ways to verify our identities and seek to avoid those who are not who they say they are; we will struggle with factfulness, the antidote to global ignorance. With problems waxing even more complex, and invasive technologies such as facial recognition or predictive policing advancing to esoteric levels, we will be forced to address pressing issues using verifiable facts – otherwise democratic institutions will not survive. Thus, the new normal will encompass refereeing a facts-scrum: truth, lies, distortions, assertions, contradictory information, data sets, data streams from emerging technologies, analyses – all vying for our embrace and attention. This will foster a new media literacy, including a ‘truth valuation’ set of protocols, which will serve as a reality foundation and foster resiliency to organized disinformation. This ‘truth valuation’ is further necessary because we are moving from the real world to the meta summation of the real world – a mirror world – brought to us virtually on screens where distortions and untruths can easily slip past our five senses, which we no longer use solely as world navigation tools. In summation, individuals’ personal and professional lives will merge. Work (performed online) and personal presentation (also performed online) will resemble each other, even become interoperable. Employment, having a job, will become increasingly STEM-dependent. For the rest, jobs will become scarce as the COVID pandemic gives employers plausible deniability to downsize. All workers’ roles will continue to morph into some manner of tool manipulation and enhancement—creating software and hardware or robotics that support some aspect of the mirror world—while employee loyalty to a company diminishes or vanishes as employees become brands that are bought and sold like toothpaste. In effect, much of the economy becomes a gig economy while self-branding becomes as essential as a seatbelt. Economic security will be available only to those who can repeatedly adapt to multiple simultaneous accelerations and self-brand as they do so. This will affect our individual and collective sense of well-being since many will be unable to successfully adapt and reconfigure their careers and lives. It goes without saying that as we move more of our lives online, and self-presentation becomes more virtual than actual, security of identity and sensitive information will become a paramount concern. We will develop better protocols to handle these issues, but we will give up privacy to do so. Privacy will be like a luxury yacht: available only to the wealthy.”

HOPES: “My hopes for tech-related changes that might make life better in the coming years are focused on reimagining education. With massive funding for re-educating and bringing innovation to the educational process, we can change the world for good in untold ways. As XPRIZE Chairman, Peter Diamandis, describes it, reimagined education means rapid reskilling on a continuum of constant education. The notion of high school and four years of general (college or university) as preparation for the new world is hopelessly outdated. In a tech-enabled world, learning is a lifelong endeavor and we need to structure our lives and education accordingly. Embracing interconnectedness, we can use the dynamics of technology, and the data that drives technology advancement, as a paradigm to reimagine education. To do so, it is useful to recall that our educational paradigms were built on the alphabetic order of linearity, one-at-a-timeness, patriarchy, and holy books. Without abandoning that order, we must reimagine education as an ongoing interactivity with the real world, so our perception of the real world is clear, accurate, undistorted by cultural, religious, or political misrepresentations. As our engagement with the real world becomes increasingly data-driven, and as our data sets become impracticably large, education reimagined must include universal data and computational literacy. This is more or less standard operating procedure in China, which has made it a national initiative to bring 5G to everyone in China by 2025. We need a broad swath of our population – not a slim class of techno-overlords – who understand the potential and biases of algorithms, machine learning, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and qubits. At the same time, we must reimagine education to include a foundation of tool awareness and meta realization. Now that our tools are more powerful and pervasive than ever, we must build curriculum focusing on the basics of their logics and the ability of tools to influence (and distort) our perceptions. This is as fundamental to education as weightlessness training is to become an astronaut. Our tools and technologies are now more sophisticated, and their influence in our lives is now too pervasive to adopt a use-it-and-ignore-it approach. Ignoring the effects of our tools on our minds and behaviors ensures we will become their slaves, not their masters.”

WORRIES: “What worries me most about the role of technology and technology companies in individuals’ lives in 2025 is the deliberate depreciation of complexity. The diminishment of complexity invites tyranny. It is the tyranny of simple-ism and reductionism papered over by happy talk, lies, and distortions designed to distract us from real issues. We urgently need clarity and sound thinking. Simplistic clichés and slight-of-hand responses won’t solve the complex problems we face such as accelerating climate change, soil and shoreline erosion, global immigration, or morphing pandemics. We must embrace transparency—make the science required to tackle this complexity easily understandable. To be clear: complexity is not an end in itself; it is a fact of life that must be addressed, like the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. For example, Rana el Kaliouby, CEO of Affectiva, has written and spoken often about the need to embrace the complexity of gender, race, cultural context, accessibility, socio-economic status, and other variables that often are lacking in the environments that design the computer programs and algorithms that mediate our lives. We must humanize AI and make human variability the substrate of bits and quibits. A second level of complexity – and the more urgent one – is our engagement with our devices. We use them; we typically are not present with them. We don’t notice how they bend our perceptions and behaviors. As complexity accelerates, curiously, our ability to embrace and engage with that complexity diminishes. This is in no small measure due to the ergonomic design of our devices that makes them both indispensable and makes us more likely to adhere in our thinking and action to their compression logic: they compress time, distance, communication, relationships. We have an active and reactive relationship with our tools. Because of this we need a meta layer of awareness that monitors how we change and adapt. Merely adopting tool logic as our own – texting while we drive, ghosting, growing alone together – is hardly a healthy response. Further, our lack of presence with our tools effectively means we are at the mercy of the surveillance capitalism and interruptive logic that pervades their inception. These technologies and the companies that create them daily gain in sophistication; this is a new acceleration. Much of this accelerated sophistication is outstanding and useful. But we pick up and use our devices and, as it were, live our lives eyes wide shut. We don’t look at what we’re using and how we’re using it – we practice unconscious tech engagement. Our tools are so ergonomic, so easy to use, so quick to respond that we are seduced by the slick way they reorganize our thinking, our behavior, and our lives. But we have reached a tipping point with our tools: they are now more sophisticated than our ability to fully appreciate their effects; those effects are hidden in the tool logic, the actions of the tool. We must become present with our tools; we must gain in meta-awareness, retool our understanding of how we think while tech-immersed versus how we think otherwise. Why is this a concern? In prior human history, the power to manipulate reality, facts, behaviors, and lives was centered in visible entities with physical representatives: the king, the pope, the organizer, the leader. Institutions from churches, to schools, to governments, were concrete entities with no metalife. If you couldn’t talk to the king or the pope every day, you knew where they lived in a castle or the Vatican. While many institutions can fossilize and grow weedy with bureaucratic complexity, newer technologies present the ability to avoid presence. More than absence, this is the ability to hide, to obfuscate, to distort. The more virtual we become, the more I worry that we abandon the concrete for becoming gadgeteers and, as Neil Postman put it, ‘amusing ourselves to death.’ The more we disembody, the more virtual our realities become, the more we exhibit antisocial, even psychopathic behaviors. Alone together we lose empathy; we lose compassion; we lose focus. As computing goes quantum, as algorithms and AI mediate more of our interactions, our educational structures have either lagged far behind or have given up altogether trying to prepare young minds for the world they will inherit. The more device dependent we become, the more incumbent it is upon all users to fully understand the tool logic and business model of the tool they pick up and use. Surveillance is a business model; exploitation of data exhaust is a business model; tracking is a business model; observation and analysis is a business model. In whose interest is it for us to embrace that business model? In Everybody Lies Seth Stephens-Davidowitz says, ‘Google searches are the most important dataset ever collected on the human psyche.’ In other words, the human psyche is an emerging business model.”

Neil Davies, co-founder of Predictable Network Solutions and a pioneer of the committee that oversaw the UK’s initial networking developments, commented, “I expect less ‘forced travel’ to work (cubical farms) and fewer low-value, face-to-face meetings, the hope being that a broader assessment of true opportunity costs – not just money – will have started to become the norm. The hope is that the bravado and ego posturing often present in the pre-COVID meeting culture is, rightly, contained and that respect for such things as supporting family, engaging in nonwork pursuits, improved attitudes to racism, sexism, etc., bear some fruit. I expect the rise of a reflective approach to life, which will be necessary because of climate emergency issues. There will be a plethora of new (probably local and small-scale) solutions to displaced needs such as work socialisation, face-to-face training, etc. Looking back at small-scale responses that occurred in the 1990s might well point to the style of solutions that emerge, e.g., shared workspaces that are accessible by foot or cycling, the disintermediation of current delivery chains, etc. This is predicated on effective digital service delivery that is trustworthy and fit-for-purpose. There is already a pre-existing technical movement – one I’ve been actively involved in for 10+ years – that is now beginning to bear fruit at an international body level where real technical change occurs, defining technical engineering standards that will shape the digital delivery supply chain market. The emergent outcome of this is to reduce the power of the ‘presenteeism’ management style; reduce the lure of high-density conurbations (where will the ‘smart city’ be? in the ‘smart town’?) – again to head towards a more sustainable resource-consumption profile. This will be because more options will be available where people can pursue a career without the necessity to kowtow to the near-feudal structures that are prevalent today. The risk? The winners in the feudal structures of today force patterns of behaviour / interaction that actively undermine the potential effectiveness – their fear (however that is wrapped up) driving them to resort to abusive use of the defacto ‘golden rule’ of today, which is: Those who have the gold make the rules.”

HOPES: “I hope we start to get effective and assured (hence trustworthy) service delivery in the digital supply chain in regard to fitness-for-purpose and economic and environmental sustainability. This is all becoming a utility of the level of reliability of electricity supply (in say, the UK), one where failure to deliver is a rare and noteworthy (if not newsworthy) event. The issues of performance isolation, assured service delivery, etc., will have been recognised as the overarching factors that are, to a large extent, independent of the latest ‘G’ness (4G, 5G, 6G…) that is being hyped. Once the ‘applied physics’ nature of these constraints is recognized, then perhaps the industry can recognise where they are re-inventing previously failed approaches and better engage with the science of their industry, all of which could mean upheaval within existing technological islands we have today.”

WORRIES: “Much if not nearly all of the commercial delivery structure in the digital supply chain today is based – and actively required to be through legislation – a set of transferable or dominant-cartel monopolies. There are dangers and benefits in such monopolistic power. Like most technology, this is in principle morally unaligned. It is the human structures that shape the moral outcomes. The commercial structure forces vast waste – think way over 50% of underlying assets are not available to create overall systemic economic value. The systemic shortcomings of the IP protocol and the delivery stacks built on it lie at the heart of technical factors that underpin the set of monopolies that exist today. The worry is that this cartel of monopolies increases its stranglehold, the existence of their service delivery models destroys any alternatives, they become ‘too big to fail’ and the world ends up in a more-fragile position.”

Nigel Cameron, president emeritus at the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies, commented, “Some big shifts are coming. Business travel will drop 50%+ long-term, with a huge impact on airlines and hotels and big impact on the conference industry (I suspect that will shrivel by more than half, it’s an industry that’s been ripe for disruptive innovation for many years). There will be big environmental benefits, of course, but this will be a disaster for many workers in these sectors. Teleworking will be a standard option in many businesses, government departments and so on. Hybrid tele/office working will be common as we learn what has and has not worked during the Great COVID-19 Experiment. Workers gain social benefits of course, but this also leads to potential big savings for employers. One development I’ve expected for years is the formal expansion of coffee houses into teleworking centers – Starbucks putting in printers and video-conference rooms, for example, creating half-way houses between home and office. In education, I suspect there are big potential savings out there, and the possibility of enhanced experience if hybrid models emerge for secondary and post-secondary students – say two days a week on campus, three days at home, with master-teachers in massively open online courses (MOOCs) delivering big slices of the curriculum. The experiences of Los Angeles and San Diego school districts and other major education departments will likely lead to radical changes, especially as there are big potential cost-savings. Schools’ physical footprints can be halved, there will be fewer teachers needed and I expect big moves into this space by tech companies. Also, pandemic preparedness will finally be taken seriously at many levels, and many of us will keep wearing masks when we travel. With greater dependence on digital provision I suspect privacy concerns will, as it were, be mainstreamed and lead to big shifts in the way data is handled, though this could move the other way as people care less.”

HOPES: “This crisis may be what was needed for MOOCs to take off for high schoolers and college students and for lifelong learning. Also, I suspect many of us will continue to have groceries delivered, as sophisticated ordering systems are rolled out by every supermarket chain and other suppliers.”

WORRIES: “The relentless monopolists must be curbed, or Google and the others will simply roll up yet bigger shares of the economy. Anti-trust must get back into the blood of our politics in bipartisan fashion; Judge Bork’s baleful legacy needs to be buried. I’d also challenge the whole idea of ‘free’ – either outright by outlawing barter (which ironically is now the basis for a huge slice of the economy), or at least require data-barter companies like Facebook and Google to offer a fee-for-service alternative; $15 a month and you get to use the platform in complete confidence, and every three months consumers are required to re-affirm their choice after being reminded in tobacco health-warning simple language of what’s happening to their data. We’ll likely see the continued erosion of jobs. Labor markets may just never recover from the jolt of 2020, as tech takes over more roles and unemployment levels keep creeping up (see my book, “Will Robots Take Your Job? A Plea for Consensus”). That will likely lead to better social provision, creeping toward European notions of the welfare state, especially if the anti-Trump backlash is severe and gives Democrats control of the U.S. Congress for the next few years.”

Paul Saffo, chair for futures studies and forecasting at Singularity University and visiting scholar at Stanford MediaX, said, “The pandemic’s trajectory has laid bare long-standing weaknesses and divisions in the U.S. system and will force us to confront those challenges. The response will not begin until well into 2021, and even then it will have its stalls and setbacks. As Winston Churchill famously observed, ‘Americans will always do the right thing, but only after they have tried everything else.’ This is a moment when some Americans are clearly determined to try ‘everything else,’ but sanity will return.”

Sam S. Adams, a 24-year veteran of IBM now working as a senior research scientist in artificial intelligence for RTI International, wrote, “The confluence of the global pandemic and the U.S. presidential election cycle is likely to accelerate a large number of large-scale changes in multiple domains and industries. Given the caveats of no multiple concurrent pandemics and no revolution-scale social unrest, these changes will likely accelerate a number of positive transitions that will improve life in general. 1) Telework and resulting de-urbanization – The forced telework situation due to the pandemic has opened many eyes to new possibilities. Living in the city to avoid nasty commutes gives way to moving to the country and buying land vs. a high-priced apartment. If commuting patterns change drastically, then lots of other dominoes fall, including pollution and its impacts. 2) Telehealth is here to stay – No way customer management systems will return to requiring in-person visits for practitioners to get paid. This will accelerate other forms of telehealth, expand the physician assistant and nurse practitioner ranks, and allow doctors and specialists to telework as well, resulting more-optimal use of medical resources without reducing quality of care. I expect quality of care by 2025 to actually improve because of this transition. 3) Tele-justice – The U.S. court system has been all but shut down during the pandemic. Some mails have released large numbers of lesser offenders to prevent pandemic blooms. This pandemic straw will break the judicial backlog’s back, and a number of new approaches will take root. I predict this will also force legal reforms in how trials are conducted, which may even cause major changes in the legal profession. 4) Tele-education – Forced virtual schooling (where most parents are also forced into part-time homeschooling as well) forces state public school systems to create virtual curricula, which is then available to non-local, non-physical attending students, including traditional homeschoolers. Competition for quality and the digital nature of the content transforms the education system into a hybrid physical-virtual system, where access and quality of content and instructors is better distributed. The MOOC revolution in college and professional training will accelerate into the primary/secondary grade levels, and commercial education content providers will grow dramatically as parents of even public school children are able to augment their kids’ education with high-quality commercial sources, cafeteria-style at low costs. 5) Communication networks – In 2025, 5G deployment is widespread, driven by a national mandate to eliminate internet have-nots. Broadband access becomes a human right-level issue.”

HOPES: “Tele-everything transforms many stuck-in-the-past industries and government programs.”

WORRIES: “Tele-everything transforms many stuck-in-the-past industries and government programs. Yes, this is a hope and a worry. There will be vast changes in the global economy post-pandemic, with many new winners and big losers. Given the typical pace of government policy evolution, just and fair policies will severely lag the emergence of the new ecosystems. How does policy keep pace? Micro-policies that time out annually might be an answer to eliminate the omnibus do-it-all-right-or-die situations and allow for more agile government. Hmm, agile government.”

Anthony Clayton, an expert in policy analysis, futures studies and scenario and strategic planning based at the University of the West Indies, commented, “There has been a global migration to online teaching, conferencing and business. This will not reverse after the pandemic abates. Many businesses, government agencies, universities, retailers and individuals have now experienced the efficiency gains and cost reductions of a far more distributed way of working. There will also be an increased emphasis on cybersecurity, as an explosion of fraud, misinformation and fake news came with the virus. The FBI, for example, reported that COVID-19-related scams had approximately doubled the total volume of cyberfraud in the U.S. Scammers took advantage of the chaos and offered fake advice on COVID-19 to induce recipients to click on their links, which allowed them to download malware and capture personal and financial information. Fake news was an even more extensive problem, because many people rely partly or entirely on social media for their news, and most of them don’t realize how much of it is misleading or malicious. This will require improving the general level of media literacy.”

HOPES: “My hopes lie in the migration of public administration to online, the move to greater transparency in government information systems and the use of big data analysis to address social and economic problems in areas such as education and healthcare.”

WORRIES: “I worry about the extraordinary concentration of power in the hands of a tiny group of technology firms, one or two of which have shown an insouciant attitude to the various harms they were allowing, such as the use of their platforms by criminal, terrorist and extremist groups.”

Frank Kaufmann, president of the Twelve Gates Foundation, said, “The permanent and enduring use of all the tech and tech-supported lifestyle changes that arose to accommodate life needs and interests under the conditions of the COVID-19 lockdown will be the ‘new normal.’ A great deal has happened during the COVID-19 lockdown that has impacted, and will continue to impact, life in the world at all levels from individual (personal) to family, society, nations and world. As with all phenomena, both good and bad are born (both in times of stability and in times of radical change, such as during the unprecedented experience of a global pandemic and global lockdown). Creative use of technology intensified during the global COVID-19 lockdown, allowing 10s or 100s of millions to discover (and invent) new benefits of tech for many parts of life they had not employed nor imagined prior to the lockdown. People suddenly discovered they could visit their doctor using technology. We can create a college reunion using technology, take ballet instruction using technology, and on and on. These capacities always were there, but no one ever thought to develop them until the lockdown released this burst of creative and imaginative ways tech could solve and resolve the burdens and struggles created by the lockdown. Since virtually 100% of these solutions are massively more economical and convenient, I believe every last one of these new developments will perdure, even if we somehow return to life exactly as it was before the lockdown. I believe people generally are careless and inattentive about the impact of their choices about, and use of, technology have on them. People generally give no thought to their ever-evolving relationship with, and use of, technology, and simply blindly, non-reflectively, basically avariciously and non-gratefully exploit its utility without reflection or self-awareness. We all share the responsibility to identify reactions and life patterns that arose in response to the lockdown that are unhealthy (in unique ways at each different level), and we must do all we can collectively to arrest the growth and expansion of perverse and dysfunctional new habits and patterns in all things. I speak here specifically about the misuse of digital technologies in individuals’ personal and professional lives, their daily routines, their well-being, their privacy, their employment and economic security. The great many (far greater on balance) positive tech-related developments that arose include, to briefly name only a few: 1) International cooperation in science and medicine sharing and in general information sharing. 2) The rise in the understanding of humans as human, and not as Balkanized by gender, race, nationality, class, age. Tech cooperation is ‘division-divisive’ blind, seeking to protect and promote health and life and such. This is a great gift from the pandemic. 3) Superfluous and unnecessary time away from family love was unavoidably diminished during the lockdown. 4) The extreme wastefulness of bogus ‘business travel,’ ‘late nights in the office’ and all other fake, artificial and disingenuous excuses to not tend to family relations conscientiously and sincerely was undermined by the lockdown. 5) Commutes – the two- three- five-hour chunks of life lost daily – were recognized as wastes of life and wastes of natural resources. 6) The lockdown allowed Earth’s environment to recover. We learned about normal, human, daily impact on Earth’s environment from the lockdown and the tech substitutes we quickly put in place to sustain our productivity. 7) The flexibility of tech to quickly compensate for those important, needed and desired parts of life were rapidly discovered and developed: banking, telemedicine, dance lessons, time with friends and colleagues. 8) The limitations of physical geography were dismantled as people discovered a ‘wider circle of friends,’ a more available chance to ‘renew old friendships’ and the chance to bring in or attend professional speakers; all arose rapidly during the COVID-19 lockdown. This is a quick, superficial and undeveloped list. But millions quickly discovered massive promise to rewrite life in the world in positive and enduring ways.”

HOPES: “I can only imagine the vast explosion of tech discoveries, new uses and advances to increase exponentially and expand on this very trend which has triggered a new, more friendly human-tech interface and integration. Prior to COVID-19, people were intuitive about the personal use of tech for convenience and efficiency. But because what the lockdown primarily undermined was our softer humanness related to creative dreams, and love and friendship, the benefits of tech entered into a new relationship with us; how tech supports our ‘humanness’ (we like to dance, we like to sing), not just our convenience and efficiency (how do I get the best seat on the plane, how do I know when an Amazon price has dropped). Humans, being natural entrepreneurs and profit-seekers, should see an infinite horizon to develop a hitherto untapped universe of tech-human relations and integration. A new universe was born through this.”

WORRIES: “I have no special worries any more than when they invented an axe to chop wood. Tech allows human badness to gain strength and power, to be more harmful and destructive and to cause more suffering and pain with each new tech development. At the very same time, the very same tech could be used to amplify our ability to do kind acts and to do good. The same tech China uses to record which stuffed animal my two-year-old daughter currently is playing with, could as easily be used by compassionate geniuses to save her life in a moment when she otherwise wouldn’t have stood a chance. My worries are just the perennial ones. Tech gives bad people power to be worse. It gives good people power to be better. I worry that there exists a world of tech geniuses who don’t know right from wrong and good from bad. And there is a world of tech users who’ll sell their soul for a giggling emoji.”

Jonathan Kolber, a member of the TechCast Global panel of forecasters and author of a book about the threats of automation, commented, “I expect that the emergence of quantum computing will make transactions more secure by 2025. This will notably affect financial activities and other transmissions of secure information and it will continue to proliferate thereafter. I also expect VR and AR to begin migrating into professional and educational areas. VR with zero latency, 4K visual acuity and comfortable headsets should be replacing in-person meetings. This will further accelerate the trends toward remote work collaboration which were already accelerated by COVID-19. On the other hand, more and more work functions will be automated by robots and AIs, reducing the need for human workers. This, coupled with the economic Depression I expect from COVID-related effects on hospitality, entertainment, transportation, retail, restaurant and other service industries, will create increasing pressure for a viable and sustainable universal basic income (UBI) such as Michael Haines’ market-oriented UBI proposal.”

HOPES: “The combination of zero-latency VR with quantum computing and AI should enable the generation of evolutionary ‘virtual worlds’ that conform to the laws of physics. Within such worlds, people will be able to create new kinds of societies, with realistic social and technological systems that evolve. Unlike existing societies, these will not be constrained by legacy systems, and may embody systems of sustainable technological abundance. The evolution will result from experiments within these ‘evolutionary societies,’ each of which will offer experiences and support values consensually supported by its participants. Over time, some such societies will become attractive enough that participants will begin the process of instantiation to the real world. In this way, Celebration Societies and other evolutionary societies will be born. Such design may even take the form of a contest or contests, with winners receiving actual land when their design is instantiated on uninhabited land, such as re-greened desert.”

WORRIES: “I am concerned that universal surveillance will become the norm, due to drastic reductions in the cost, size and mobility of sensors, and antennas, as well as the AIs that will monitor and sift through surveillance data. I expect an Orwellian model, albeit in somewhat softer form, to proliferate in China and nations under its growing influence, as well as in democracies that cannot effectively adjust to the triple pressures from a Depression, accelerating automation and environmental crises. Universal surveillance can actually become a tool for both public safety and protection of individual rights, but it will require a radical rethinking of societal design, including how that surveillance is implemented. Our ‘bimodal security’ proposal offers one such solution.”

Aram Sinnreich, a professor of communication studies at American University who specializes in law and technology, commented, “As harmful as it has been to our health and our economy, I think COVID-19 has the potential to inspire significant change for the better in America and throughout the world at large. It exposes the limitations of authoritarian political regimes. It reveals the human toll of disinformation and science denialism. It has illuminated the limited utility of strong intellectual property controls, such as the patents preventing scientists from developing effective therapies. It has shown us how effectively cities can function without automobile traffic. It has revealed to us how delicate and costly our global supply chains are. It has shown us how essential online community is and how important it is that we close gaps in accessibility and expertise. It has revealed how bias may be engineered into digital communications platforms. It has shown how useful economic safety nets — both existing ones, such as Medicare, and prospective ones, like healthcare for all and universal basic income — are in maintaining the peace and stability of a large, complex society. I believe we have an opportunity to rethink our social, technological, economic and political values in light of these revelations, and that our responses to these crises may contribute to making the world more equitable, and to raising the quality of life for all humans.”

HOPES: “I hope for more accessible and egalitarian online communications. More distributed and efficient global supply chains. Open-source solutions for medical research. Accountability for online disinformation. More focus on engineering privacy into digital platforms. Less tech-solutionism and more holistic approaches to understanding sociotechnical challenges.”

Ben Shneiderman, distinguished professor of computer science and founder of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland, commented, “I’ve seen great progress in my life, so I expect that to continue. The end of Trump’s presidency, with its many indignities and murderous decisions on COVID-19, will lead to a better life for many people. While technology raises many serious problems, efforts to limit malicious actors should eventually succeed and make these technologies safer. The huge interest in ethical principles for AI and other technologies is beginning to shift attention towards practical steps that will produce positive change. Already the language of responsible and human-centered AI is changing the technology, guiding students in new ways and reframing the work of researchers. While social robotics is likely to be the next Google Glasses [a reference to a product that was released ahead of its time], I foresee improved appliance-like and teleoperated devices with highly automated systems that are reliable, safe and trustworthy.”

HOPES: “As human-centered AI becomes more common, interest in user-experience design will grow. Already, Google is offering MOOCs for training UX designers more widely, helping to promote the design excellence that made web-based services and mobile device apps such successes. Google’s People and AI Research guidelines are a good step forward and Apple Design Guidelines are even more effective in clarifying that the goal in high levels of human control and high levels of automation. The misleading directions of humanoid robots and full machine autonomy will continue to be promoted by some researchers, journalists and Hollywood script writers, but those ideas seem more archaic daily. AI and machine learning have a valuable role, maybe as the embedded chips of the future, important, but under human control through exploratory user interfaces that give users better understanding of how the embedded algorithms perform in meaningful cases that are relevant to their needs.”

WORRIES: “Shoshanna Zuboff’s analysis in her book ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ describes the dangers and also raises awareness enough to promote some changes. I believe the arrival of independent oversight methods will help in many cases. Facebook’s current semi-independent oversight board is a small step forward but changing Facebook’s culture and Zuckerberg’s attitudes is a high priority to ensuring better outcomes. True change will come when corporate business choices are designed to limit the activity of malicious actors – criminals, political operatives, hate groups and terrorists– while increasing user privacy.”

Benjamin Grosof, chief scientist at Kyndi, a Silicon Valley start-up aimed at the reasoning and knowledge representation side of AI, wrote, “ANON People and organizations will be more comfortable, skilled, effective and, overall, accustomed to interacting remotely for work, health care and socializing. They will be more willing to trade off reductions in commuting effort and real estate property expenses for the sake of other aspects of life, including to have more time in their day, more physical space and closeness to nature and lower stress overall. I wish I could say that employment and economic security will be improved, but whether that will happen depends much more on political activism to combat the fundamentals of economic inequality and to install more rational policies such as universal health care; that’s likely to take many more years than just five.”

HOPES: “People and organizations will be more comfortable, skilled, effective and overall accustomed, to interacting remotely for work, health care and socializing. They will be more willing to trade off reductions in commuting effort and real estate property expenses for the sake of other aspects of life, including to have more time in their day, more physical space and closeness to nature and lower stress overall. For many kinds of work, that will create more career security because one will have more choice of what organization to work for and be less tied to the particular geographical location of the employer or customer. The rise of AI will result in increases in productivity. That creates an opportunity for society to economically distribute the benefits of productivity increases widely to the individuals in society.”

WORRIES: “There is tremendous opportunity for the increased concentration of military power – including police power and political power – in the hands of a very small number of people due to the potential for effective surveillance and physical control, by using AI (e.g., facial recognition and integrated data analysis) and drones (e.g., to track, drug or kill). This is an unprecedented challenge for the whole world. It will start playing out in some nations over the next five years as well as beyond that for the next several decades. There is an urgent need for governments to make their ‘default setting’ a policy of strong privacy for individuals – including in shopping and communicating – rather than the current policy which results typically in cognitively burdensome, confusing and overall weak choices and protections about privacy.”

Benjamin Shestakofsky, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, commented, “The COVID-19 crisis has already spurred new organizing efforts among essential workers in sectors including logistics, food service and education. The impact of social movements supporting workers’ demands for improved compensation, working conditions and recognition in the workplace is likely to extend far beyond it. The lasting impact of the crisis on our use of digital technologies is likely to depend on the duration of the pandemic itself. The longer it lasts, the more governments, businesses and individuals will generate and maintain new, digitally mediated routines (e.g., increased telework, increased use of tracking technologies in the workplace). The most-vulnerable workers are most likely to see their privacy, wellbeing and economic security threatened by digital technologies.”

HOPES: “’Low-tech’ changes may be just as important as ‘high-tech’ improvements. For example, states can protect voters from COVID-19 while simultaneously bolstering democratic participation in the long term by switching from in-person voting to vote-by-mail systems. By 2025, the increased appetite for regulating tech giants could result in an industry that is more accountable to principles of democratic discourse (e.g., Facebook) and workers’ rights (e.g., Amazon).”

WORRIES: “The most-vulnerable workers are most likely to see their privacy, well-being and economic security threatened by digital technologies.I fear that employers will continue to use technology to intensify work and subject workers to new systems of surveillance and control in ways that will jeopardize their wellbeing and economic security. Barring legislative and regulatory changes, low-wage workers will continue to be most vulnerable to these changes.”

Bernie Hogan, senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, responded, “Crises tend to provide the motivation for change that would otherwise be seen as ‘not now.’ The internet has had many moments up to this point, but this might be the moment where distance working and flex working is seen as a net positive. The gig economy is collapsing around us, and for good reason. Just because a worker’s job is flexible does not mean that the business can absolve itself of responsibility for the many ways in which work intervenes in our lives, from healthcare to wages for time spent. Seeing how real employees are working at a distance elevates gig work by allowing us to see the organisation as more than just an office. Normalising the idea that I can have a meeting from afar really simplifies a lot of work life. That idea is likely to persist after social distancing has (hopefully) abated. One thing I do worry about is whether this is yet another opportunity for state-sanctioned information technology surveillance to creep further in our lives. Fortunately, this time around the pushback was swift and coherent while privacy enhancing technologies were available at the outset.”

HOPES: “The fundamental change needed is a shift towards greater ease of management of the address book. This simple list has been traded in for lecherous social media because people worry about how they are going to stay in contact. Having a common standard across platforms and local privacy-aware management of contacts will be a sea change. It will upset the monopolies of audiences that currently happen on Facebook Inc.’s properties, and it will hopefully enable third parties to innovate again in this space. Facebook has locked down its API for friend lists and stifled the creative innovation that was a staple of its apps a decade ago. Now it should be legislated.”

WORRIES: “Digital and computational propaganda is likely to continue to be an issue as long as profit-making enterprises are in charge of mediating our relationships to each other. Using the lowest-cost solution to receiving information is like trying to stay informed using only free newspapers from a city street corner – saturated with ads and cynical and sensationalist. Governments around the world are cracking down on arms-length national broadcasters like BBC and PBS while at the same time enabling corporate media. When people say defeatist statements like ‘you just can’t tell anymore,’ they are really saying they are exhausted by having to cut through the noise. But I only see it getting noisier.”

Calton Pu, professor and chair in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech, noted, “The crisis forces us to focus on the essentials of life and economy. For example, the luxury brands have fallen quickly. This focus on the essentials will help most people to improve the important aspects of their lives. Technology, e.g., mobile phones and internet, have become essential in the new normal. We use the internet and mobile apps to help entire sectors of economy work (e.g., schools) through the pandemic. For those people who have been in isolation, for example, access to internet enables communications with friends and family. Without technology, we would not be talking about the ‘new normal.’ The society would not be anywhere near normal. Technology is where the ‘new’ of ‘new normal’ is. In a way, we are fortunate that the digital technology had already advanced sufficiently that we were able to leverage it to create the new normal without much trouble. For example, online shopping was developed over the last few decades, and it was ready when the pandemic hit. Similarly, online education has been developed over the years, and schools were able to adopt the same tools when physical contact became dangerous. Many other examples abound. Although the technology was already mature, the degree of our reliance on the technology is ‘new’ to many. In recent years, there has been a growing tradeoff between privacy and efficiency/security of services. The European Union’s GDPR is an example of an effort toward protection of privacy, while the widespread adoption of digital financial services in China illustrates the other side of the tradeoff. The new normal, e.g., contact tracing through mobile apps, seem to be part of this tradeoff: less privacy (e.g., sharing the location and time of proximity) would enable more efficient manual contact tracing by authorities. This tradeoff will likely continue, reflecting the prevailing sociopolitical climate of each country and region.”

HOPES: “As mentioned before, the digital technologies that form the foundations of new normal are actually mature, from the internet to applications such as online shopping and online education. Therefore, the development of new technologies should continue or even accelerate, but it is part of an ongoing process. The ‘new’ is about our unprecedented reliance on the technology, which may or may not lessen as the pandemic becomes manageable through effective vaccines and treatments. These are the factual parts of the equation. Whether our opinions about the new normal would change is quite unpredictable. For example, luxury goods were considered indicators of a ‘better’ life, and they are no longer. There will be technological ‘innovations’ (not really new) that may be maligned one day but quickly adopted and praised a week later. The technologists and scientists should develop new technologies and let the public and politicians decide on what they can accept and adopt. There is much hope about ‘new’ technologies in general, but they are not really new. The real question is whether there is hope for rational decisions by the politicians and the public on making life better, and what ‘better’ means.”

WORRIES: “There are no new worries, since the technologies are not really new, and the worries remain the same as today. The real worries are about the public perception and the politicians’ decisions on what is better life. For example, at the time I am writing this the U.S. leads the world with 4 million-plus confirmed cases, and many attribute this unenviable position to a precipitated reopening due to political pressure against the advice of scientists. The role of politics is dominant over technology by far. That’s the case now and it will be in 2025.”

Carol Woody, technical manager for the Cyber Security Engineering (CSE) team at Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, commented, “By 2025 there is much less fear of technology by the typical citizen. With the sudden shift, people in church, school, office, family, friends are all using more technology and recognizing its limitations as well as its value. There is a growing recognition that the tools can be improved, and that using them is not magic, but requires some investment of time. Privacy has been slipping away slowly for a long time, and this is not widely recognized as a bad thing. Too many artificial constructs have been put in place to respond to privacy efforts like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that are seen to only hinder information sharing and create added paperwork and delay for every step. Adoption of new technology for its own sake seems to be weakening. Buying the next version does not seem to be an automatic need.”

HOPES: “Autonomous vehicles can create a public transportation system that is door-to-door and not limited by bus routes and the cost of drivers. This will help with an elderly population who should not drive and are not mobile enough to walk blocks to a bus stop. Smaller vehicles that support social distancing limitations are feasible. More effective online meeting environments that are widely known and supported will make connecting remotely easier. More people will move to where they want to be instead of having to move to where the job is based. I am also looking forward to better ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions for phones, cameras, connections and other Internet of Things products that support better security of solutions to reduce the risk of compromise.”

WORRIES: “Today’s technology companies do not have to prove their products meet any level of success. Automobiles have to pass crash tests, and results are compared across various models; safety features are mandated. Software vendors require agreements that remove any level of confirmation and redress for the user. They should have to meet minimum acceptable standards for data handling, privacy and safety which can be compared across all vendors with similar products.”

Charlie Kaufman, a security architect with Dell EMC, said, “Society will change in ways that will make some people’s lives significantly better and other people’s lives significantly worse. Once COVID-19 stops being a direct major influence on society – which is probably at least two years away, but probably fewer than five – it will have accelerated changes that would have happened eventually anyway. The biggest of these is that more of our lives will take place in cyberspace, with more people telecommuting from home using conferencing tools for meetings. This will be a huge benefit for the environment, reducing both carbon emissions from commuting and the need for the duplicate indoor space we consume having both an office and a home. This will benefit the people who thrive in such an environment and hurt the people who don’t. Also important the continuing trend of physical stores disappearing, as people favor ordering things on the web and having them delivered. In social interactions, being tall, big and loud will no longer give people the ability to dominate an interaction. On the other hand, being aggressive and rude will probably still win out. For people who live alone, it could be a very lonely existence, and there will likely be an increase in mental health problems.”

HOPES: “There is enormous potential for improvements in software that enables people to work together. We have been focusing on making teleconferencing as similar as possible to face-to-face meetings, missing out on opportunities to have a superior experience. For example, when multiple people are competing for airtime to express their ideas in a meeting, in a face-to-face meeting it often goes to the most aggressive. In virtual meetings, things get awkward as there is a delay in people discovering that they are talking over one another. In a meeting where listeners get to vote on who they want to hear more from a whole new social dynamic could develop. It’s also possible that all parties could talk simultaneously but be heard serially by listeners. Technology will obsolete more of society’s worst jobs, which could be good news for some people but may be bad news for the people currently occupying those jobs. The richer society that results could enable them to do more-rewarding jobs, or it could leave them in a permanent underclass. The increase in telecommuting will be a boon to the economy and the environment.”

WORRIES: “We are losing our privacy at an alarming rate, and I don’t believe there is anything we can do about it. If the technology exists, society will use it. The ability to track where everyone is at all times will be a boon to law enforcement and to advertisers but it will be a nightmare for cheating spouses. The increase in telecommuting will place an increased strain on already stressed relationships. With no plausible reason to go anywhere, people living together who grate on one another will reach a breaking point much sooner.”

Chris Caine, president and founder of Mercator XXI, previously with IBM for 25 years, observed, “Business models will be changed significantly. People will be more socially conscious of our interdependencies with each other. Government will address gaps in the social and economic supply chains that the pandemic revealed. And a new focus, appreciation for and investment in healthcare and scientific research will come forward to help prevent future impacts of virus-like pandemics. Public sector management practices will be different and more real-time.”

HOPES: “We will develop a more mature and complete understanding of the power of new technologies (i.e., AI, machine learning, remote sensing) as well as of the risks to society and individuals. We will improve life because new, civilized protocols will be created to govern behavior that aligns with societies’ civil norms. These protocols will allow new technologies to be applied to aspects of our lives that will reveal the power of having more information upon which to make more real-time, informed decisions and the accountability that vastly increased transparency will bring with it.”

WORRIES: “I only worry that there exists a lack of civil norms and behavior standards that individual societies have identified and chosen for themselves. Technology companies have an opportunity and obligation to lead the way in developing these new norms and protocols.”

Christine Boese, a consultant and independent scholar, wrote, “Thanks to the horrors of COVID-19, as we sit in our homes and take stock of our personal economic situations, make hard decisions, suddenly what is absolutely essential becomes clear. It is a reset, and – despite the horrors – it was long, long overdue. As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic is, with loss of life and horrific viral spreading, it is about the most disruptive thing to happen to the U.S. consumer culture churn engine. My heart hurts and I mourn for the losses and the breakdown of our essential services. The nightmare of the refrigerated morgue trucks is the absolute worst. It is in difficult times when we see the seams and frayed edges of our thin veneer of civilization, the illusions of the fractured U.S. healthcare system and even the severe limits to much-touted electronic medical records innovations. In times like this, we don’t have to look so hard to separate technology hype from reality. We face failing infrastructure across the U.S. Other countries have systems that work, at all levels, while ours falters. Without this horrific stress test, we would not be able to see, let alone correct for, these fault lines. That thin veneer of civilization balances precariously on a consumption engine, and American culture is literally consuming itself, even as Rush Limbaugh suggests we need to adapt to this self-consumption, ‘like the Donner Party did.’ As with most absurdities, it comes with its own irony: like the Roman Empire, we make little ourselves and instead consume the cheaply-produced, slavery-inducing trifles created elsewhere, as if it fills some kind of deep emptiness inside.”

HOPES: “ANON I hope for the disruption of the consumption churn and a return to making, keeping and living within a culture of life that is not created by media, without values aligned with each person’s self-reflection.”

WORRIES: “The extremis of the COVID-19 situation glaringly exposes several things that had previously been invisible: 1) The actual power of mass media, even as channels multiply and become diffuse. One channel, Fox News, has created an entire class of people who are actively putting themselves at risk of death or lifelong health problems. As someone with relatives who have fallen prey to this external programming, I can attest that no rhetoric, no persuasion, no methods currently known to me can penetrate this closed belief set. What we are living in right now makes Leni Riefenstahl look like a mere piker. 2) The manipulative panoptic power of interactive social media in the hands of malevolent agents. When I began to do internet research in the 1990s, I speculated that the active and interactive power of user-directed and navigated media would lead to a more-aware and awake populace, even if not fully democratized. What I did not anticipate (and I am currently studying now), is the power of dark UX patterns driven by algorithmic assumptions, whether accurate or not, and, very soon, a real Pandora’s Box of AI-driven machine learning. 3) How dangerously hollowed-out the U.S. infrastructure is, from endemic underfunding of systems and anything that requires attention to detail below the surface to business-school ‘top-line’ summaries of a management layer that flies above anything that takes more than five minutes to scan. Newspapers and universities were hollowed out first, the agents that created and fostered critical thinkers. The gutting of public education was the third leg of that stool. Remove anything that might question the status quo, that engages in detailed work (even engineering!) or requires long-term planning. Boeing itself fell prey to something that, from the outside looks like the Agile-ification of all work, which must, despite protestations by the manifesto’s philosophy, degenerate into surface-level patch work, and the delivery of marginal improvements, called ‘features.’ 4) Lastly, how deeply distorted the cultural fabric of American life has become, when, upon being forced to actually live in our homes for extended months on end rather than merely using them as places to sleep and consume things because our primary away-from-home activity was work, we discovered how much our homes lacked in all those ‘things’ we own that actually enrich our lives. As livelihoods were put perilously at risk, many of us came to realize what we were being expected to die for, and discovered that that was as hollowed out as everything else, driven by a churn to consume as a red herring, to keep us from noticing how thin our lives were becoming, even as we all, as a society at large, have consumed ourselves into larger and larger sizes.”

David Karger, professor at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said, “Rapid technological progress has created many opportunities to do things differently from the past, but we creatures of habit have often stuck to the old ways. The pandemic has forced us to change, broken us of our old habits, and helped us realize the benefits of new approaches. We’ll see far more working from home, shopping from home and learning from home. In academia, we’ve talked for years about moving our conferences online ‘someday.’ That day is here; it’s hard to justify burning carbon for thousands of people to travel thousands of miles just because it’s more fun to grab drinks together in person. We’re making strides in infrastructure for online learning in fall 2020; that infrastructure will remain even when the pandemic is over. In knowledge work, work-from-home won’t be universal (many people need a better environment than they can find at home), but it will be common. I expect many companies to evolve towards time-shared spaces for employees who only come in a couple of days per week. We might even see two companies sharing real estate, so one company can be onsite Monday-Tuesday and another Wednesday-Friday. The move towards online encounters has certainly highlighted the limitations of existing technology, and I expect a huge burst of activity and progress in VR/AR, not to create fantasy landscapes but simply to create a full illusion of presence in online meetings. The main remaining reason for in-person encounters is social. I expect activity in cities will evolve away from business and productivity – much of which can happen online – and more towards leisure activities.”

HOPES: “I’m very hopeful that the current social justice movements and their reflection in activism about the damaging impact of current social media platforms will lead to a renewed effort to create digital public spaces that exist for the benefit of citizens rather than advertisers. This requires substantial work towards reducing the manipulation and falsification of information and giving individuals more power to curate their own information feeds.”

WORRIES: “I believe that capitalism is an effective way to steer work to where it can have the most effect, but I fear that our current system has lost the ability to properly value certain intangibles of individual welfare, that steering effect is broken. Solving the problems of the underprivileged doesn’t generate enough measurable value, so the companies with the talent and resources to do so are instead directing their efforts towards luxuries for the well-off. I think a key role for government is to materialize the value implicit in social goods, in order to attract companies to provide them. I fear that our current polarized government is simply unable to do that. Technology has also created an irresistible drive towards monopolies. Economies of scale are everywhere, and our technology lets us use them optimally. When I can use the internet to find a product anywhere – a ride, a vacation rental, an education, a meal – the best provider will win everywhere. Again, government is the only real defense, but it hasn’t been functional.”

Dan S. Wallach, a professor in the systems group at Rice University’s Department of Computer Science, said, “By 2025, I expect that the population will be immunized against COVID-19, and we’ll certainly be capable of resuming the ‘old’ normal, if that’s what we want. What will change in the meanwhile is that we’re (by necessity) getting much better at distance working and learning, meaning we’ll be able to get together in person because we want to, rather than because it’s the default. Just considering ‘work from home,’ it’s easy to see a sea change in people working where they live versus where they work. There’s no need to physically be in Silicon Valley to do a wide variety of software development tasks, nor to physically be in New York to do a wide variety of financial tasks. As with too many other things, there’s going to be something of a divide between poor and rich workers. A low-income professional doesn’t just need the right credentials and clothes to get hired. They need the right sort of home-office environment. This suggests a market opportunity for ‘hot desking’ services, where you rent a 10×10 foot cubicle with a decent network and computing facilities. If done right, this could be pretty cool. Imagine all-in-one services where you’ve got daycare adjacent to an office facility. If a substantial fraction of office work shifts from in-person to remote, that will have a variety of downstream impacts. There will be less commuting, less pollution and less air travel for business meetings. That also means more development in suburbia and less development in downtown areas. On the flip side, what we’re almost certainly figuring out right now are the limits of work-from-home, especially in K-12 and higher education. Everybody who thought that online education would render the traditional university obsolete is now observing what that would be like, and so far, it’s not looking very attractive. For similar reasons, work-from-home will inevitably hit its own limitations.”

HOPES: “William Gibson famously said (in 2003) that ‘the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.’ To that end, we can look at what’s really expensive or exotic today and assume that such things will become cheaper and more widespread. That’s likely to include things like faster residential broadband. Similarly, you can look at home health measuring smartwatches. Today, at the high-end, you get heart rate measurement, including abnormality detection, blood oxygen saturation and a variety of AI-driven features on top of that (sports activity measurement, sleep cycle measurement, etc.). That sort of thing will become much more present. It’s also easy to predict electric cars and solar panels becoming cheaper and more popular. All of these changes plus the broader adoption of work-from-home will have real impacts on fossil fuel usage and thus impacts on pollution, although the bigger impacts will be well beyond 2025.”

WORRIES: “I repeat the fact that William Gibson famously said (in 2003) that ‘the future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.’ To look for dystopian aspects of technology in 2025, we can look for them today. One example is Amazon’s invasive monitoring of its warehouse workers’ productivity. It’s easy to predict this sort of close monitoring stretching to all sorts of disciplines, ranging from farm labor through any of a variety of office tasks. Inevitably, that will come with pushes to ‘optimize’ productivity, creating stress and burnout. Relatively few workers will have the luxury of working at their own pace. Needless to say, more-invasive monitoring implies issues with privacy. If every conversation happens through a computer, will there still be a place for ‘private’ conversations? Will it be possible to separate one’s personal life from one’s professional life? It’s easy to see concerns for people who have reason to hide their whereabouts (e.g., victims of spousal abuse).”

Lee McKnight, associate professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, wrote, “By 2025 I expect we will be on a new, long-run, more-sustainable growth path with a new wave of crisis-spawned innovations finding wide application and new uses. Just one example of how daily life will be smarter in 2025: the wastewater in university dorms and buildings, hotels, cruise ships, ports and airports, office buildings and schools will routinely be monitored for an ‘early warning’ indicator of a hazard, contributing to a ‘global immune system for the planet’ as Dr. David Bray of the Atlantic Council has described. The new normal on average worldwide in 2025 will be smarter – that is, a wide array of innovations in sensed and computed conditions developed after the pandemic will also improve other aspects of life. For example, every county or local jurisdiction will know if COVID-19 is present in the community (wastewater is one measure). If another infectious disease has emerged it will be monitored and the risks will be assessed in the first instance while protecting anonymity and individual privacy by design. The average person in 2025 will be smarter – smarter than the CDC and WHO were in June 2020, when both were still denying the spread of COVID-19 via aerosol particles. Communities will have all experienced a life lesson in epidemiology and be more realistic in recognizing both the risks and potential benefits from new technologies. Communities will take control with their own secure cloud architecture to guard against viruses of the computer type and malicious actors. These systems can build in governance of privacy, security and human and property rights, improving well-being by confirming individual and community autonomy even in this dangerous world. Many people will continue to work remotely or come into gathering places (also known as offices) for only short periods. The economic and social inequities made blatantly clear by the pandemic and the racial and economic injustices also very apparent today will remain a focus for social and political action, and this will impact everyday life.”

HOPES: “I know life will be better in 2025 in areas where there is ‘freedom from disease, as the epidemiologists put it. An area ‘free from disease’ one day, however, may be a new hotspot the next day, so regrettably, or fortunately, just as with security spending after 9/11, the new normal in 2025 will benefit from significant investment and innovation in monitoring the health of individuals and communities. And, investment in mitigation will increase. We all have been forced in 2020 to face the need for trusted – also known as blockchain-including, rights-upholding – cloud-to-edge services. Therefore, in 2025 cyber-physical systems and infrastructure will be the new normal ‘digital’ technologies. To ensure those digital technologies are not misused as surveillance technologies, or are not routinely stealing user’s data, certified ethical AI will be required by any municipality before it agrees to deploy anything. Life will be better when most people’s waste is semi-routinely tested for infectious diseases. Life will be better when smart buildings do not only optimize on energy use or on economic efficiency, but also on disease prevention. Today this is a manual override. New construction will similarly design for smarter buildings for monitoring and protecting the health of those who live, work or just spend time there. Planes, trains and cruise ships will similarly all be smarter, and be able to give health report cards or at least share data to Open Data Observatories worldwide for civic scientists to also contribute to the health of their and other communities.”

WORRIES: “ANON The extreme economic inequality and separate realities of the most successful technology platform companies is worrisome; some comeuppance is predictable, even if their concentrated economic power continues to increase. But, actually, I expect technology and technology companies to be more in tune with the public good in 2025 than today, and not just in a sideshow/corporate social responsibility/PR fashion. Companies abusing their customers or competitors or the planet will be the newly unsustainable ones by 2025, so they should be worried, starting today.”

David Cake, an active leader of ICANN’s Non-Commercial Users Constituency, noted, “Long-term changes of more flexible working hours and conditions, reduced commuting, climate change improvements and increased health, hopefully leading to improved physical well-being for many. However, these will be balanced by increased workplace surveillance by other means than the physical, less employment security and serious risks of physical and emotional conditions made worse by lack of regular contact. As to how the average person’s life will have improved or not depends on government and employers’ choices about how to balance more flexible options with a changed range of services that are important to offer.”

HOPES: “Full acceptance of the practicality of virtual workplaces in industries that had not previously considered it will change established norms in many industries that had previously taken a physical workplace as a necessity, and full acceptance of it should force workplaces to properly deal with issues like disability, family care responsibilities, costs of commuting, the downsides of urban centralisation and many other problematic issues. For many workers who are essentially knowledge workers this increased flexibility, total or partial, will improve quality of life significantly.”

WORRIES: “One significant worry is that companies may take advantage of an increasingly online workplace to use globalisation and informally-set hours to continue to push workers towards increasingly economically uncertain and precarious employment. Some employers may try to shift costs towards workers using private equipment, taking on both expenses and liability, and increasing economic divides. Another worry is that as employers unused to remote working in their industry use it more they will begin to make increasing use of surveillance techniques on their workers, and this surveillance and control may become increasingly intrusive into workers’ homes.”

Ed Terpening, consultant and industry analyst with the Altimeter Group, noted, “As an optimist, I believe the tragedy of COVID-19 will result in renewed focus on health as a community-wide concern, including economic security. From a business standpoint, renewed focus on fragile supply chains will build much-needed resilience and perhaps diminish the perceived benefits of ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing. Health systems should improve preparedness, and organizations that rely on face-to-face interaction will be better prepared for future viral events. My hope is that all we’re going through will build resilience, but I’m not naive. I think we still have yet to learn the lessons learned after the 2008 financial crisis, for example, but I maintain hope.”

HOPES: “With a background in banking, I’m cognizant of how far tech has created distance between employees and customers. At each step – from ATMs to online banking and tele-banking – we have made business less personal. What gives me hope in the face of today’s COVID-19 outbreak is that video technology is being used so pervasively to connect people to people, rather than simply connecting people to automation. My hope is that brick-and-mortar based Internet of Things devices, for example, will give frontline employees more time to service customers directly and take out some of the mundane steps that can be automated, in inventory control, payments, etc.”

WORRIES: “Without a doubt I am concerned about privacy, but that is closely followed by the impact of automation – for instance, as robotics replace people at a greater rate than re-training can occur we need to give displaced workers another profession. Just as Carbon Credits are seen as a means to reduce harmful air pollution, perhaps a ‘Robotic Credit’ system can be created whereby savings from the first year of robotic automation is used for worker retraining. We can’t let the next phase of technology automation come at the expense of human dignity – which, like it or not, is so often tied to a person’s profession.”

Carol Smith, a senior research scientist in human-machine interaction at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, said, “The ‘new normal’ in the U.S. will include greater flexibility of when and how people do work. Remote work and learning will have become common and expected. The tools and interfaces used for remote work and learning will have finally been improved to the point that people can be even more productive than they are currently. Commutes will no longer be a major concern in many people’s lives, and they will have more time to spend on things that are important in their lives, adding to overall satisfaction. I’m hopeful that this will help to ‘democratise’ access to the internet and computing, and that this will facilitate the access for the broader communities. Schooling will enable more-equivalent access to learning regardless of location and/or disability. This will just be starting to really take root in 2025, as there is much to do in these areas.”

WORRIES: “Privacy is definitely a major concern. As AI is developed, overall control and ethics become more important in addition to privacy.”

David Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication and Leadership, based in Switzerland, commented, “One of the results of the pandemic is that it is finally obvious to everyone that we are global. Not only did global connectivity and flows of people spread the virus throughout the world in a matter of weeks, but subsequent shortages of protective materials and medical equipment showed international dependencies. The nationalist reaction of closing borders and blocking flows of people and materials represents a ‘lockdown’ mentality aimed to disrupt connectivity and stop the flow of the virus, but at the cost of disrupting the economic, social and political foundations of the globally networked society. Politically, anti-globalist factions see themselves justified, whereas those who see the nation-state and its populist supporters as outdated point to the need to strengthen international organizations, such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Following these two possible trajectories into the economic realm, some expect a reorganization of supply chains and production favoring national independence under the regime of stronger centralized control and regulation even to the point of nationalizing some industries, while others look to decentralized and networked organizations that alone are capable of dealing with the complexity of the situation. The left is calling for a universal basic income and increased government support for those who have lost jobs and income, while the right is calling for deregulation to spur innovation and the quick development and deployment of new business models and new products and services. More interesting than the rehearsal of well-known political mythologies is the role of science and technology in the post-pandemic world. Some see the growing dependence of politics on science as a trend toward technocracy, whereas others see how science is unable to deal with pressing moral and social concerns the pandemic raises. On the one hand, society must be guided by scientific evidence and not political ideology, while on the other hand, scientists cannot tell us what values and visions for the future society should follow. Is it right to ‘sacrifice’ lives to ‘preserve’ economic prosperity? How much money is a human life worth? When is life no longer ‘worth’ living? Calls for economic sacrifices in the name of generational solidarity no longer go unquestioned. And these are questions that cannot be answered by science. The growing need for a viable vision of a global future will (hopefully) shift political discourse away from traditional ideologies toward new horizons. Even if the impact of medical science on politics may be short-lived and ambiguous, the impact of digital technologies on society is enormous and will continue. Both in the private and the public sectors, in education, healthcare, research and other areas, organizations of all kinds have realized that home office, virtual delivery of services and products, virtual collaborative work, new work and decentralization function very well and reduce costs as well as solve pressing environmental problems. Many digital immigrants have been quickly and even forcibly ‘naturalized’ into the digital world, and traditional top-down, command and control management has received perhaps a death blow. There is a clear need to reduce bureaucracy and cut red tape, not only in healthcare but in all areas of society. The virus has disabled not only many people, but also many traditional convictions about social and economic order, about the way things have to be done. A further impact of the pandemic will probably lead to increasing demands for transparency and open information. Already many accuse China of dangerous censorship and secrecy with regard to information about the outbreak. Scientists have joined in a worldwide exchange of data and research. Publishers have torn down paywalls. Open access to information of all kinds is considered a priority. Intellectual property claims are becoming suspect. In addition to this, governments are deploying tracking apps, and citizens are accepting more disclosure of so-called ‘personal information.’ In the tradeoff between liberty and security/health, security seems to have better cards. This becomes even more apparent when we consider that the shift of more governmental and business activities into the cyber realm will bring greater dangers of cyber criminality and cyber warfare, which in turn demand much greater investments in cybersecurity, or indeed, entirely new concepts of security and accompanying social and organizational changes. Taken together, it appears that in the wake of the pandemic, we are moving faster towards the data-driven global network society than ever before. Some have predicted that the pandemic will end the ‘techlash,’ since what we need to survive is more information and not less about everyone and everything. This information needs to be analyzed and used as quickly as possible, which spurs on investments in AI and Big Data analytics. Calls for privacy, for regulation of tech giants and for moratoriums on the deployment of tracking, surveillance and AI are becoming weaker and losing support throughout the world. Perhaps traditional notions of civil liberties need to be revised and updated for a world in which connectivity, flow, transparency and participation are the major values.”

David Mussington, a senior fellow at CIGI and professor and director at the Center for Public Policy and Private Enterprise at the University of Maryland, wrote, “An optimal future is possible in 2025. That future will involve the better use of technology to manage risks, both at the personal level and at the local, state and national levels. At the international level, however, I see new sources of risk. Some of these can be mitigated through collaboration with like-minded, democratic countries. Some authoritarian countries will seek to exploit vulnerabilities in the ‘new normal’ in order to advance their positions and to suppress their domestic opponents. I think that the democratization of computing and communications technology suggests that the advantages of large institutions for risk-awareness and response may be eroding. Communities may be able to exercise greater self-help and self-protection through local cooperation. This also leads to the empowerment of disadvantaged groups to more effectively point out discriminatory or standards-breaking behavior, imposing costs on offending individuals who previously acted with impunity. Black Lives Matter and the emergence of smartphone video and citizen protest is an aspect of this kind of future – at least in democratic countries.”

HOPES: “I hope for greater access to the global internet and access to digital services including financial system access. Greater access to information and the ability to leverage skills for distance-agnostic employment. Lower energy intensity of production, lowering environmental stress. Greater access to medical information and educational resources in order to re-skill those who have lost employment due to individual or systemic economic changes. The ability to live further from urban centers could lower population density in big cities, enabling more-livable environments and more-optimal transportation infrastructure efficiencies.”

WORRIES: “Technology can be abused to establish unaccountable surveillance of individuals. This is a more pronounced danger in undemocratic countries. For democracies, however, unauthorized private sector surveillance through digital marketing and security services poses a particular challenge. Additionally, governmental repurposing of private data for government services and tracking of citizens may thwart proper oversight. New transparency mechanisms will be necessary to keep these trends in check. Companies’ claimed ownership of sensitive personal identifiable information and intellectual property will become more contentious, as private citizens seek to claim ownership of data about them and their activities. Legal and standards progress will need to be made to adapt economic and political conditions to meet new citizen sensitivities. The needs of minorities (protection, inclusion) will need to be respected – but progress cannot be expected to protect these needs without direction – and probably legislative interventions.”

Deirdre Williams, an independent researcher expert in global technology policy, commented, “I prefer using the term ‘now normal.” Normal is always a standard, although it may change over time. The standard now is probably not the standard that will be ‘normal’ in 2025. The virus appears to be carrying out a ruthless pruning process that may affect world demographics and may also change global priorities for the investment of resources. The ‘average person in 2025’ will probably have a more-convenient but less-private life. The virus reminds us that there is such a thing as ‘too big,’ so I think big cities, big political groupings, will begin to break down into many smaller but networked units. I hope for an improved awareness at ‘average-person’ level that will lead to a similar breakup of big businesses – multinational corporations – but I am more pessimistic about this. I would make Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ required reading in all schools.”

HOPES: “I hope for more government transactions being available online – a reduction in queueing, chasing papers, driving, wasting time – but this will probably take more than five years. I’ve observed beneficial changes over 50 years, but five years may be a bit too short for this one. For example – when I first moved to Saint Lucia in 1972, everyone’s driving license needed renewal in January. There was only one place this could be done, and there were long, long queues in the hot sun. Staggering the due dates helped a lot. Now, the queue is shorter and it is indoors in an air-conditioned building. You still need to go to two places, but they are both in the same building. One is to submit the forms, and one to pay. This process is being digitized.”

WORRIES: “My worry is the opportunities governments and corporations have to manipulate and indoctrinate the ‘average citizen.’ Perhaps we should add Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’ to the reading list. The proliferation of new projects, initiatives, platforms. Divide and rule?”

Dmitri Williams, a communications professor at the University of Southern California expert in technology and society, commented, “Technology is a disruptor, and the pandemic is accelerating its power in several areas in ways we can see and others that will become clearer later. Work-from-remote is the obvious one. This may lead to efficiency, social distance in a bad way and perhaps to some new setting of priorities. Getting Americans out of cars is likely to be a net positive, while jobs lost to automation will be a net negative. Education was ripe for disruption, and in fall of 2020 we will see a large shift in how universities and colleges grapple with their roles and how people see them. I expect a lot of smaller colleges to fail and top-tier ones to survive, but the net effect may be more access to more information by more people in the long run, and that’s a good thing. Our general reliance on digital tools for socialization has been in overdrive during lockdowns, and I hope it’s shown the importance of physical presence. We miss each other! When we can reconnect, I hope we’ll have learned something about this, though convenience and shallow relationships will still play an outsized and harmful role. Our well-being has suffered in the crisis. Here’s hoping we learn from all of this and emerge with a commitment to valuing healthy lives over just having more apps.”

HOPES: “Technology should free up our time for things that matter. Getting out of cars would be a huge boon for our well-being, our free time, the safety of our neighborhoods and the cleanliness of our air. If tele-work allows more of us to use that new time for things that contribute to community and our social lives, that will be a big upside. If it’s merely more working hours to squeeze out of the middle and lower classes, it will set the stage for upheaval.”

WORRIES: “I don’t worry about tech and tech companies as much as I worry about the outsized influence of capital in American life. We are increasingly in a system created to maximize corporate profits, not aimed at improving citizens’ lives, their social mobility, or to advance the core values of democracy. Tech accelerates trends, and if companies continue to make decisions on our laws, it will make that worse via a lack of privacy and the shifting of citizens into being merely consumers. However, we have the power to shift those trends so technology can be harnessed in favor of the citizen side of the equation. This is a seesaw, and right now it looks bleak. In the long run, our core values may emerge and be more resilient.”

Doris Marie Provine, emeritus professor of justice and social inquiry at Arizona State University, noted, “China’s growing importance is part of the new normal, in part because of its success in manufacturing digital technology, e.g., iPhones. And China’s capacity to spend has important implications. American companies are already very sensitive to that big market. Within the next few years, I expect some blowback, however. U.S. companies will be encouraged by law and public opinion to take more account of U.S. demand for U.S. goods, and to compete better with Chinese tech. I also think that this competition with China may encourage Americans to think more about what it means to be an American – especially the balance between government and the private sector. How to preserve innovation while doing a better job of protecting Americans from harm will be a big question that is finally coming into focus. With Black Lives Matter and associated movements, we will also be thinking more about membership and exclusion and disadvantage. Digital tools may assist in this examination. The new normal will also have more room for technological solutions to problems of getting together. Hopefully, there will be less business travel and more Zoom meetings. There will be more work-from-home days. I don’t see this extending to primary and secondary schools, but the trend at colleges and universities has been in this direction for some time. It’s cheaper and solves space limitations. At a cultural level, these technologies of working from home may make kids more reluctant to act out in adolescent ways. There will be lots more college-aged kids living at home, with working parents, and maybe live-in grandparents (since nursing homes and assisted living are going to be less sought after). That intergenerational mix and the economic situation may drive our young people in a more responsible direction. At the same time, youth has a lot to say to the older generation on inclusion of all stripes so there should be a good give-and-take that will affect political choices on all sides. Achieving full employment will be a significant problem. Not everyone’s brain is wired for coding, and we have a lot of folks who don’t really appreciate education – adjusting realistically to human limitations in finding work, and making non-technological work rewarding and meaningful are challenges that we are not very well-prepared to meet.”

HOPES: “I hope to see more work-from-home businesses and more laddered workday start and finish times to relieve the crowded roads and the resulting assault on the natural environment. I’d like to see shorter workdays and work weeks, with a growth of interest in physical self-improvement and caring for each other and animals and plants. I’d like to see tech embraced to eliminate truly awful jobs, like picking fruit in hot weather or searching for explosives in war zones. For national security, I’d like to see strong investment in tech in the U.S. to compete successfully with more control-based economies.”

WORRIES: “I worry that the American educational system and Americans are not well prepared for the resilience needed to ‘keep up’ with technological developments. I hate the thought of tech helping promote American workaholism at the top through 24-hour availability requirements and productivity measures, and at the same time leave much of the rest of the workforce without meaningful employment. I’d like to see tech embraced to eliminate truly awful jobs, like picking fruit in hot weather or searching for explosives in war zones. Achieving full employment will be a significant problem. Not everyone’s brain is wired for coding, and we have a lot of folks who don’t really appreciate education – adjusting realistically to human limitations in finding work, and making non-technological work rewarding and meaningful are challenges that we are not very well-prepared to meet. I worry that the American educational system and Americans are not well prepared for the resilience needed to ‘keep up’ with technological developments. Tech can, and has, been used to maintain and exacerbate current power relations. Perhaps a much more progressive tax structure that actually is implemented can push back against the growing inequality we are seeing in the U.S. and elsewhere. Tech has not been part of the solution. Tech’s power in influencing government policy is another concern. Where there is wealth, there is political power in this country, especially after Citizens United and other decisions equating money with speech and turning a blind eye to the lack of a level playing field for political influence. Public funding of elections and controls on truth in political advertising (as Mexico has, for example), might help. Technology can demonstrate the realities of inequality, but without strong political commitment, nothing will change.”

Doug Schepers, a longtime expert in Web technologies and founder of Fizz Studio, observed, “On the whole and in the long term I believe things will get better for most people, including in the digital arena, because of reassessment of priorities due to the pandemic. However, it’s hard to know on what time scale these changes will occur and under what circumstances. The primary factor for whether things will improve or degrade will be the result of the U.S. presidential election, which of course will be affected by the pandemic in multiple ways. If Trump retains his position, then any possible improvements will be stymied, while if he is removed from office, meaningful change will be possible in many areas. My answers are mostly U.S.-centric. Education: The new emphasis on remote learning will put pressure on educators to revamp their pedagogical and assessment methodologies and will likely result in improvements for students with disabilities. The ‘curb cut effect’ [in which regulation and programs designed to benefit vulnerable groups often benefiting all of society] will lead to improvements for all students. In higher education, the move to remote learning will likely be a disruption of ‘old boy networks’ and economic disparity that could result in greater equity to wider populations. However, this assumes that improvements to infrastructure (below) are taken seriously. Rural public infrastructure: The pandemic has led to greater awareness of the poor state of our rural internet-access infrastructure, which has been largely left to inadequate private-company investment and subject to ‘market forces’ (i.e., lower population density means lower profits, so rural broadband has been ignored). Now that remote services are seen as more essential, there could be enough public pressure for the government to mandate better rural high-speed and high-capacity infrastructure (supplemented by 5G networks). This will be emphasized by the diaspora from high-population cities into smaller cities and even rural areas by wealthy people who want to flee the health risks of the big cities. Remote working: Many companies have abandoned their insistence that workers work from the office. This will put greater financial power behind digital-remote-work resources, such as video conferencing, distributed project creation, collaboration, management and other services. The quality of these services will have to improve. More people will be able to work from home and from lower-cost regions (again, see public infrastructure). Voting, governing and social justice: Voting and governing will likely have more digital components going forward, despite known and unknown risks. The increasing use of the ‘social media panopticon,’ where mobile phone videos document antisocial behavior by citizens and law enforcement officers alike, has dramatically increased during the pandemic, partly as a function of increased tensions, partly because many people are spending more time on social media. This has already increased awareness of the need for more substantive reform in policing. The backlash will likely also increase privacy laws, akin to the European laws against photographing or publishing photos of individuals. This is a superficial analysis, with a lot of conjecture and lots of gaps, but I hope this captures the general tenor of my sentiments on how the pandemic will affect digital life. I emphasized the social over the technological.”

HOPES: “I hope for advances in digital voting; distributed and accountable governing, with more recorded on video and available by live webcast; more-secure, more-private messaging for text and video; better broadband infrastructure; decreased reliance on fossil fuels and more public infrastructure for renewable energy.”

WORRIES: “My worries are the steady erosion of privacy in the form of surveillance capitalism; the growing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands, especially executives of tech companies; the decrease in empathy for others due to physical distancing and remote working and living; increasing influencing of elections via digital tools like social media, deepfakes and sockpuppets.”

Vint Cerf, Internet Hall of Fame member and vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google, observed, “We may see more flexibility in work-from-home provisions. Travel may be less necessary thanks to video conferencing. I have maintained significant international interactions despite time zone challenges for the past three months. Cloud computing and cloud commuting! We will see an Internet of Medical Things (sensors mostly), as remote doctor housecalls escalate.”

HOPES: “There is an interesting tension about digitally linking a lot of one’s online life: calendar, messaging, travel, geo-tracking/location – all this information can be usefully correlated to make life easier but, if exposed, also erodes (destroys?) privacy. The more we rely on online resources, the more tempting it is to interlink information to take automatic and useful actions. Reminders and notifications, etc. For example, I am on email a lot of my time, and getting an email saying a FedEx package has arrived is actually very helpful. Of course, if there are too many ‘messaging’ applications all running at once they ‘self-pollute’ as in getting an email because you have a linked-in message (Aaaaargh!). Still, I am optimistic about the use of information technology to automate some chores and to facilitate cooperative work. I have noted that shared access to Google Docs has been a remarkably enabling capability. For example, shared spreadsheets for tracking group activity has been very useful.”

WORRIES: “Still, there is the exposure of personal information, lax security leading to serious compromises, poor user attention to security. Reliance on autonomous software leading to unexpected failures and consequences.”

Warren Yoder, longtime director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, now an executive coach, responded, “2020 was the final break from the 20th century, which reached its stated centenary so well and then went so quickly awry. In response to 9/11, the American allies blundered into two ridiculous wars. In response to the Great Recession the emergent monetary stimuli benefited the rich but left everyone else worse off. Now the response to COVID-19 in populist-led countries is increasing the death toll. Finally, people seem to be ready for real change. The Black Lives Matter movement burst aflame after sputtering for years. Guaranteed income and other ideas only recently outside the pale are being seriously discussed. Much depends on the American election and the next administration to set the direction for this belated century. The old liberal-conservative division is gone. I expect the American-based tech monopolies to be broken up because regulation is seen as too likely to fail. I expect a resurgence of trust in life sciences with a successful COVID-19 vaccine. I expect that as there is some serious grappling with the future of AI now that we are past its hype cycle and into a dawning realization of the things it can and cannot do. And I hope for a genuine reworking of the social contract to restore respect for labor (broadly defined) and increase its share of the economic and cultural wealth we produce together.”

HOPES: “I hope some degenerative diseases start to yield to the life sciences: cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, autoimmune disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes. There are large groups of people denied full lives by chronic disease. With scientific advances, useful technology would become quickly possible. So much of human life is a struggle that could be made substantially easier; I hope augmentation tech moves from the experimental to common and affordable: smart glasses that work for sight-impaired people, brain stimulation for epilepsy, exoskeletons for manual workers, assistants for the elderly. I hope for new approaches to artificial intelligence. We seem to be stuck with the same techniques in machine learning, natural language processing, pattern recognition. Let’s think more deeply about using the edges to inform the graph. Or embodied computing. Or think about how computation-built environments work and might be improved (think about the contemporary monetary/banking system as an example.)”

WORRIES: “The tech sector has become way too centralized. This is diminishing innovation, reducing consumer choice and incentivizing big tech companies to lobby for regulation that cements-in their dominant position. If this trend continues, big tech will govern the world in with a neo-authoritarianism that I find deeply disturbing.”

Willie Currie, who became known globally as an active leader with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, commented, “I’m hopeful that by 2025 many people will have technology at their command as opposed to the current situation where people are at the command of technology. People will become wiser to the manipulations of algorithms, and greater accountability will be demanded of all platforms with respect to user control, privacy and usability. Algorithmic regulation will have developed to a point where user interests are prioritized and the oligopoly of the tech giants will be pulled back. This will unfold partly because the COVID-19 shift to online work and communications will increase pressure on the arbitrary and frankly lunatic behavior of Silicon Valley executives, owners and techies to behave less as Tsars and more as democrats. Anyway, this may all be wishful thinking, but I feel the fact that our lives will be more fully online will force accountability on the tech industry. My life under lockdown in South Africa is entirely governed by access to mobile and fiber broadband. I do executive coaching on Zoom, Skype or WhatsApp. I order food, things and entertainment online. I do Pilates online. I’m learning to play the piano online. I’m marketing a book online. Last week I facilitated a workshop online. I no longer fly. Driving a car is minimal. I’m unlikely to return to the real world to do these things as a matter of normality. Going out for any of these things is likely to be the exception rather than the norm. I expect this will be what it is like in 2025.”

HOPES: “We have been guinea pigs in an unethical tech experiment, conducted by the tech industry with the collusion of governments. I expect there to be a reaction from the public and political leaders who understand the implications of what is happening to this technological excess of power and control. So, the tech-related changes that I hope to see in the next few years relate to regulation. Regulation, regulation, regulation. I think we have passed peak tech-innovation. It is now all about managing what we’ve got and restoring some stability to important social, political and economic functions that have been disrupted by tech excess. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone – similarly with journalism, music, democracy, etc. These will not necessarily return to how they were before, but their reorganization will have to be done. The biggest challenge will be to get a collective grip on tech as a hyper object that is at once global and individual in its reach and regulate it in the human interest.”

WORRIES: “That we will not be far enough down the track to regulating tech as a hyper object.”

Yves Mathieu, co-director at Missions Publiques, based in Paris, France, wrote, “For the average person in 2025 it will be normal to conduct social relationships online. Real meetings will receive a higher social value. People will focus on relationships that matter. Being together will be more appreciated. Personal risk management will be different; people will be more informed about risks and will accept physical distancing. The use of technologies other than the telephone to keep in contact will be more common. Online medicine will be practiced more on a global scale. It will be possible for a U.S. resident to consult a physician in Asia for example.”

HOPES: “I hope that individual technologies for personal health monitoring will be cheap and widely used to allow a more efficient practice of medicine at a much lower cost. I hope refugees will be equipped with devices that will give them more protection against criminal organisations, more connection with ‘guardian angels’ and much higher chances of survival. I hope that all over the globe people will have their lifespans extended by 10+ years due to better information about the quality of their food thanks to technologies. I hope voting will be easier for all, so the level of participation to elections and public decision-making will reach 90+% of voters.”

WORRIES: “The global ignorance about what is done with individuals’ digital data and the high level of tech illiteracy.”

Valerie Bock, lead at VCB Consulting and former technical services lead at Q2 Learning, said, “I expect a ‘new normal’ for office workers will involve only part-time commuting to an office since the myth that it’s not possible to get teamwork done when teams are not co-located will have been pretty well disproved. Office space is expensive. It can be rotated reasonably effectively. I hope this will not mean a complete abandonment of face-to-face team gatherings, because it really does matter that people gather in full-bandwidth in situations that allow for casual chit-chat before and after formal gatherings. Slack and similar technologies fulfill part of that need, but not completely. It is my experience that work online benefits greatly from the deepening of relationships that happens face-to-face. The importance of quality childcare and quality child education will have been driven home to fathers and mothers forced into the emergency no-care/home-school scenario. Having been exposed to the worst-case online learning scenario, parents will be skeptical about signing kids up for online educational experiences. This is a shame, since excellent online learning programming does exist. But it’s best used in concert with high-quality in-person tutoring, which even the most dedicated parent struggles to balance against their own job responsibilities.”

HOPES: “I hope that people who want to work from home will be much more able to convince their supervisors to permit them to do so, since this is no longer the purview of high-tech companies but has been accomplished successfully now in a wide range of information work. Telehealth should also become much more widespread, fulfilling its promise now that healthcare insurance companies will pay providers for offering it. The option of not dragging one’s sorry sick self to the doctor’s office to infect everybody there will be a major increase in quality of life for all concerned, but especially for those in under-served rural areas. Providers are discovering that they really can do quality diagnostic work over a screen, and patients are finding that they can get in to be seen sooner, with less time lost from the rest of their lives.”

WORRIES: “Bad actors seeking to sow division have weaponized the attention economy. Social media platforms have been slow to understand and grapple with their complicity in this process. It’s now possible for individuals to curate ‘The Daily Me’ news feed predicted by Nicholas Negroponte, and, given the normalization of vulgar discourse previously considered uncouth to verbalize, the temptation to limit one’s information intake to those people and those information providers who do not challenge one’s own pronouncements is significant. Personally, after years online, I’m pretty skilled at disagreeing without becoming disagreeable, but I find that my attempts to add information to conversations in which under-informed people are sharing confirmation-bias-confirming untrue ‘evidence’ is exhausting and a strain on my relationships with these folks. I despair that there is not a social consensus around where truth might reliably be found, and that purveyors of palatable untruth appear to be winning over my neighbors to the point where pointers I might make as evidence for my views are dismissed as ‘mainstream media’ as if that is synonymous with ‘elitist publications not in touch with the common man.’ It is not helping my cause that reporting in mainstream sources these days frequently features word choices which display a point of view. True objectivism never was possible, but it feels sometimes as if too many have just given up on attempting to present multiple angles on the events of the day.”

Edson Prestes, a professor of computer science at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, commented, “COVID-19 showed us how dependent we are on technology. Access to the internet as a human right is an urgent subject that should be included in the agendas of all governments as a priority. Although I understand and, in fact, most of us have understood the benefit of technology to restructure the way we do business, access public and private services and get information, some governments do not provide adequate infrastructure for all of their citizens. As they see it, easy access to information and to doing business gives people the power to tear down governments and/or big corporations. Unfortunately, this is a reality in countries that do not put their citizens in the center of their political debates. If nothing is done, we will witness an amplification of existing inequalities and an increase in poverty. I believe that countries with adequate digital services infrastructure and access to the internet will reshape their lives with technology. Across the globe, anyone, independent of gender, abilities or race, can do business, make money, create new jobs and have a comfortable life. It is not difficult to picture a world where digital infrastructure is available and everyone has digital skills. Telemedicine has proved to be a key technology for diagnosing patients with COVID-19 and is crucial to all aspects of health. My mother lives along the Amazon. She receives medical advice via mobile platform. The use of digital tools allows governments to make agile decisions. Restaurants and supermarkets are now rethinking their business models and delivering food and services. Even gyms are helping some people to get in shape via internet. Unfortunately, along with all of the benefits come new threats. They tend to mainly be directed at people from vulnerable communities. Elders are victims of fraud. Children can be exposed to abusers. Communities are being manipulated by all types of players, including government leaders who consider Fake News to be example of ‘freedom of expression.’ Hence, we, as global society, should find ways to mitigate all these dangerous situations in proactive ways, possibly even before they happen. The digital domain adds new dimensions to society, and we have just started navigating on it. One recent example of movement towards governing digital technologies is the UN Secretary-General’s unveiling of a roadmap on digital cooperation that contains concrete actions for the digital domain. These actions are being pursued by global multilateral, multistakeholder and multidisciplinary teams.”

HOPES: “I believe despite all of the negative consequences brought with COVID-19, we, as society, will understand we need to reinforce our knowledge, infrastructure and voice in the digital domain. The intense use of the digital domain showed some of the benefits and risks that the internet and future advances in artificial intelligence may bring to our society. This awareness of the digital domain will promote a deep reflection about our society, so we are better prepared and actively engage in the discussion and elaboration of public policies to create a brighter world. I’m very optimistic that technology can be mostly beneficial in our global society. Several authors, including myself, have been writing about the use of robotics and artificial intelligence in working to attain the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Digital technology can promote and increase the quality of life and standard of living of people around the globe, facilitating access to public services, good education and better and new jobs and diminishing barriers, reducing inequalities and promoting peace.”

WORRIES: “What concerns me is doing nothing, that is, leaving the decisions that can impact our lives for other people to take. Society should be active in the debate, regulation and governance of technology. However, this will only be possible if we, as citizens, have a clear understanding about the perils of the digital world. We cannot leave it to technology companies to regulate themselves and, consequently, our lives. We already have had a small glimpse of self-regulation in our society. Violations of human rights principles are already taking place due to the misuse of technology. If we do nothing, we will only amplify the world’s status-quo, which by the way, is far beyond being fair.”

Eric Knorr, pioneering technology journalist and editor in chief of IDG, commented, “My hope is that the current disastrous response to the pandemic will induce a permanent political change, giving rise to a global society where science is embraced, common interests are recognized and demagoguery is exposed and rejected.”

HOPES: “Already, in the tech world, location has fallen as a barrier to hiring. You can live anywhere and be an integral part of a remote team. Remote collaboration and conferencing software will continue to improve. And although working at home has its drawbacks, the tradeoff of reducing CO2 emissions through reduction of commuting is well worth the tradeoff. One effect may also be a revitalization of residential neighborhoods.”

WORRIES: “Remote work introduces new privacy and security vulnerabilities. That includes increased monitoring of work and internet activity. Also, reducing face-to-face contact has a distinct psychological downside – isolation breeds depression and can reinforce belief systems that can flourish only if left unchallenged.”

Fabrice Popineau, an expert on AI, computer intelligence and knowledge engineering based in France, responded, “The COVID-19 outbreak will force humanity to focus on important issues more than was the case before the outbreak. It is a ‘common enemy’ that may result in better behaviour. Nothing is for sure in this struggle against a virus, but it might have the consequence of a better use of resources, less unnecessary travel and relocation of production. This may revamp the global economy, hopefully for the better. Remote working and distance education are likely to be the obvious change in this new world.”

HOPES: “I hope that AI and digital technologies will be used for more-efficient education. Education is the key for a global better good. There are many efforts in public and private research, and it is a difficult area. One of the main difficulties is related to data collection because it bumps into privacy. Not all countries value privacy the same way.”

WORRIES: “Civilization cannot undergo development without some stability, and social networks are shaking stability; without speaking, people are subverting those systems to harm democracies. I am concerned about the role of social networks in political activism. Social justice warriors and ‘cancel culture’ are dangerous. Social networks are a new media, in the same way as printed books were a new media at the end of the Middle Ages. Social networks are revolutionizing the way people communicate. It will take time for people to learn to control the kind of monstrosity that these networks can give birth to.”

Garland McCoy, president at the Technology Education Institute, responded, “I believe there is a learning process that seems to have helped humans adapt and change in mostly positive ways. So, I will press ahead with my optimism and look for a future where we will have learned from both the medical and social challenges we are currently facing. That being said, we are quickly approaching the world population tipping point where the UN and other scholarly entities see an extension of what has been unfolding in Japan, Russia and Europe (regardless of the immigration waves). A fundamental transformation will need to take place as consumption of resources and consumer-driven economies will be challenged. We will be seeing the beginning of this in 2025. We have never experienced the precipitous decline in human population, and it will shake society to the core – I know, where is the optimism in this?”

HOPES: “I think life will become much better in the future because of technology. It will challenge humans. Humans need challenges, they need to fix things, they need to be busy in ways that accomplish useful outcomes.”

WORRIES: “People are smart. Just as folks have been ‘cutting the cable’ for some years now (albeit as just another way to get the content they want), they will cut the cord on being tethered 24/7/365 to any form of technology. I do see a backlash in the way ‘smart’ cities are going to be set up. Today’s generation might want to be a part of the new ‘smart’ urban clusters, but the bloom will come off the rose.”

Gary L. Kreps, distinguished professor of communication and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University, responded, “Increasing dependence on digital technologies in most aspects of life will enable people to participate in public life, stay in touch with family members, friends and colleagues, and – in many cases – continue working and engaging in commerce. This will not only minimize disruptions to life due to the pandemic, but it will also reduce the risks of contagion, reduce traffic, air travel and resulting energy use related to global warming and pollution. It will also force people to develop their digital communication competencies, enhancing use of information tools for many purposes. It will also enable people to spend more time at home with their immediate families.”

HOPES: “As dependence on the use of digital communication technologies increases due to the pandemic, it will force greater investments into building our digital infrastructure, technologies and programs, providing new and improved ways to use digital tools to achieve goals. It will increase opportunities for interactions and collaborations between people and improve access to relevant news and information. It will also improve access to needed social support.”

WORRIES: “The public is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and technology companies, so any disruption in digital services can block achievement of important tasks and goals. I hope that digital services companies will be responsive to user needs. With increased dependence on digital tools, there will also be greater risks of digital scams, thefts and invasions of privacy. In addition, those who do not have good access to digital information and/or don’t have good digital communication competencies will be left out of many important activities, and won’t get relevant information they need.”

Glynn Rogers, retired, previously senior principal engineer and a founding member at the CSIRO Centre for Complex Systems Science, said, “The drastic response to the COVID-19 crisis has forced a reevaluation of the way in which work and other group activities are performed, forcing changes, some aspects of which may well be retained after the crisis has ended. For example, both employers and employees have discovered the personal, social and environmental advantages of online work from home made possible by the wide availability of broadband internet technology. It can be expected that incremental evolution of the technologies involved will enhance the effectiveness and desirability of working from home with consequent improvements in productivity. Here in Australia there has been a remarkable decrease in influenza during the winter months pointing to major public health benefits as well. However, important social activities have been severely impacted by the crisis; these types of activities may be able to emerge in a new form with some technological help. A good example is community choirs. Singing, particularly at volume, has been shown to project saliva droplets and aerosols to large distances making choir singing especially dangerous. Enabling some form of online choral activity provides particular technical demands in terms of acoustic fidelity and imaging as well as latency control. In addition, the well-understood and critical role of body language in the communication between conductor and choir provides a major challenge for display technology and video transmission. Enabling this emergence may well require the full implementation of the Internet Quality of Service technology explored by the IETF some two decades ago as well as the widespread deployment of software-defined network technology. The latter in particular would enable internet service providers to create specialised products to support new forms of online social and professional activity that would come to be experienced as entirely natural, i.e., the ‘new normal.’”

HOPES: “Over and above the immediate COVID-19 crisis, climate change looms as the major threat to our way of life. There are a number of ‘tech-related changes’ that can at least ameliorate the impact. 1) Evolution of new forms of online social and professional interaction enabled by a ubiquitous high-speed internet based on software-defined networking technology. 2) The rapid deployment of electric vehicle technology with the required infrastructure of charging stations, etc., as well as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the transport sector. This would have a major impact on city pollution levels both in terms of gas and particulate emissions, as well as noise. 3) The development and adoption of the hydrogen economy will enable us to maintain a reasonable level of transport of people and goods over large distances, preventing a major disruption of the economy and our way of life.”

WORRIES: “The lawless frontier of social media is having a major negative impact on society with the bullying of children, the perversion of the political process and the contagious spread of absurd conspiracy theories. It is also a major threat to professional journalism. Clearly, the companies providing the social media platforms cannot be allowed to continue to develop with their shareholder’s interests as their sole focus. As a civilisation we have millennia of experience in regulating the behaviour of various social instruments, and we need to apply that experience to creating an international regulatory framework for defining and detecting abuses by social media institutions and mounting an appropriate regulatory response. This presumably would require the development of new technologies for policing the regulations. My worry is that a great deal of damage is being done to individuals, groups and institutions before we are motivated to properly develop this response.”

Greg Shatan, a partner in Moses and Singer LLC’s intellectual property group and a member of its internet and technology practice, wrote, “These are enormously unpredictable times; thus, a prediction that things will be better represents a guarded optimism, and a focus on technology issues. The current focus on the effects of the digital divide and the necessity of internet connectivity for equality and equity should result in concentrated efforts in bridging the digital divide, and not merely with connectivity. There is a chance that the poisonous discourse on social media platforms will evolve in a way that is less toxic, but without requiring oppressive content regulation. But perhaps that depends too much on people’s better natures, which don’t seem to be drawn out by internet discourse. I am hopeful that more people will have better, cheaper access to the internet, which will provide more remote-working options and opportunities. The evolution of the Internet of Things will bring more and cheaper smart devices and smart homes. Privacy may be at greater risk, but this will be more than offset by the greater assertion of privacy rights by the EU and other jurisdictions on behalf of their citizens. There will be another kind of digital divide that will come to the forefront – the divide between those who can work from anywhere they have connectivity, and those who can only work at the physical location of their jobs. This has already had public health effects during the COVID-19 pandemic, as those who could work at a distance benefited. Other than doctors and managers, most of those on the physical side of the digital divide are in lower socioeconomic categories. The effect of this is yet to be recognized.”

HOPES: “I hope for faster, cheaper connectivity. More equity in connectivity, so that your income and where you live do not dictate whether you have internet connectivity, broadband access, etc. More smart, time-saving technology. Cheaper hardware! Where is the $100 laptop?”

WORRIES: “This is the dystopian side of the equation. There is far too much invasiveness, persuasion, division and disinformation being sown by tech companies. The monetization of the end user leads to undue influence over daily life by tech companies. In many cases, this is inadvertent, or at least an unintended consequence. Other times, it seems more on point, or considered by these businesses to be ‘collateral damage.’”

Greg Sherwin, vice president for engineering and information technology at Singularity University, responded, “The new normal will include a greater awareness of systemic dependencies and the need for social goods. Linear thinking and highly individualistic, reductionist approaches to society and the planet will shift towards communitarianism. The myth of social atomism is being broken and more will observe the harm of that model on individual belonging and health as well as social and planetary cohesion and survival. That being said, privacy will continue to slide away as a mythical value. Algorithms will continue to rule our lives but will be questioned as to their validity, bias and rules for human appeal. We will also have quickly discovered before 2021 that we over-indexed for how we thought the pandemic would change our view towards health in our surroundings. Instead of the overarching narratives about how offices and architecture will never be the same, we will have found common ground with the human experiences of 1919 – where everyone quickly returned to their normal social habits – and the experiences of Asia with multiple epidemics over the past couple of decades. There will be more general mask wearing from some sensitive to the changes. But on a whole, these habits won’t change. Economics will have bottomed out by 2021-2022 with an emphasis to eliminate and replace the paradigms that were unsustainable and no longer working for employees, consumers and society.”

HOPES: “The hope is that humanity’s social immune system will advance and minimize the many harmful and self-harmful effects of a novel relationship with newer technologies. That technology will no longer be popularity viewed as a cure-all for all humanity’s ills but a measure of some tools that can create as many problems as they attempt to solve if they are not wielded with consciousness.”

WORRIES: “The worry is that the global economics of technology will continue to exacerbate economic inequality, divide society, erode the middle class, decimate political will and favor more growth-at-all-costs approaches. With the old guard replaced by a new guard of technology behemoths, I worry that we will see the decline of innovation, a greater emphasis on patent and copyright litigation and the general defense of virtual monopolies and the status quo.”

Scott Santens, professional writer and full-time advocate of unconditional basic income (UBI), commented, “In order to escape the economic ramifications of the novel coronavirus crisis, we will have to implement some form of basic income guarantee, and also move to shorter working weeks, most likely in the form of a four-day week. These changes will themselves lead to a lot of other positive changes. People will have more power, more freedom, and more time. Due to being trusted more, they will also have more trust in institutions, and each other. UBI and shorter weeks will also lead to a redefinition of the inherent value of work, and thus people will be re-oriented more around spending time with friends and family and letting automation do more of the work. There will be less time spent traveling to and from places of employment, and more time spent working at home, doing both paid and unpaid work, and also more time spent enjoying life. We’ll also see less depression and better health due to greatly reduced economic insecurity and increased social cohesion.”

HOPES: “I hope technology will be seen as something that should be making everyone better off, not just some people, and that, as a result, the paychecks not being provided to machines will instead be provided to every citizen in the form of universal basic income. I also hope that we have come to see our data as ours, and thus everyone starts getting paid for their data.”

WORRIES: “I worry that we haven’t adopted universal basic income yet, and technology is continuing to only cause people more economic insecurity and distress instead of liberating people with more access to resources and more time to access those resources.”

Stephen Downes, senior research officer for digital technologies with the National Research Council of Canada, commented, “The net result of the pandemic will be an increased recognition of the role of governance and civil society, seen in an increased interest in social and economic support, including for example the need for public health care and for income support. It will also be seen in greater social and civic responsibility, including new controls on policing and greater access to services for minorities and underserved populations. And it will be seen in a wider recognition of social responsibility, for example a return to more-progressive taxation, especially corporate taxation, as a response to income inequality.”

HOPES: “The most significant change could be summarized with the slogan ‘protocol, not platform,’ as Mike Masnick argued last year. The idea is that instead of depending on a specific social media application to connect with friends and colleagues, people could use the application of their choice and use a common messaging standard. This makes it more difficult for platforms to shape discourse using algorithms and to monetize discourse using tracking and advertising. The current structure of dialogue and media privileges extreme and provocative content, which tends to polarize society and to make it more difficult to come to consensus on social issues. Discourse that is more cooperative and creative enables constructive responses to be adopted society-wide to pressing issues of the day, including but not limited to equity, environment, prejudice and policing. People are more likely to seek common ground when allowed to manage their own communication. With common communications protocols, technological solutions to pressing issues will begin to emerge. For example, the cost of social and health care support is significantly reduced with electronic transactions, just as has been the case in finance. Common protocols also enable greater security, through such mechanisms of zero-knowledge proofs, for example. This allows better insight into the effectiveness of social programs and enables governments and critics to evaluate innovation on more than merely financial or economic criteria, something pundits like Umair Haque have argued is necessary to respond to broader social issues. Our experience during the pandemic showed clearly how even modest improvements in interoperable communications can have a significant effect. Before the pandemic, there was no incentive to support widely accessible cross-platform video conferencing. Then we had Zoom, a simple tool everyone could use, and suddenly we could work from home, learn remotely, or host conferences online. Even after the end of the pandemic, having learned how convenient and efficient so many online services have become, we will be much less likely to commute to work, attend residence-based campuses, or fly to conferences. This makes the world of work, learning and commerce much more accessible to large populations who previously did not have the resources to participate, and greatly increases our efficiency and productivity.”

WORRIES: “My concern is that our technology choices will force us into mutually exclusive and competing factions. These factions may be defined politically or may be defined by class or race, by economic status or by power and control. Technological dystopia occurs when one faction uses technology against the other, perhaps by means of surveillance and spying, perhaps by means of manipulation and misinformation or ever by means of hacking and disruption. When technology divides us, it also disempowers us, as everything about us becomes subservient to the conflict. Our agency, our identity, our activities – all these become the means and mechanisms for one faction to fight the other. In a sense, this is a worry about technological public spaces becoming private spaces. There’s no application we can use or no online space we can go that isn’t owned by some entity, and designed to further the objectives of that entity, with the social goods of individual freedom and social cohesion taking a back seat to those objectives. It’s the sort of world where we no longer own things, but can merely lease them, subject to the terms, conditions, and digital rights management of the technology company. It’s a world in which there is no space for creativity or free expression outside the constraints of end user licensing agreements, and no public space for discussion, decision and action where the needs of society can prevail over private and corporate interests. By 2025 we will have a clear idea whether we are slipping into technological dystopia. The more difficult we find it to interact on an equal basis with people from other countries, other cultures, other political beliefs or even other platforms or social networks, the less likely we are to be able to find common solutions to global problems. The more prevalent surveillance and control through technological means becomes, the less likely a less powerful people can redress the excesses of the more powerful. These, eventually, will manifest in physical symptoms of dystopia: shortages, outages, civil unrest, open conflict.”

Stowe Boyd, a consulting futurist expert in technological evolution and the future of work, noted, “We frame the discussion about ‘working from home’ in the wrong way. It’s not that we’re ‘working from home,’ which many of us did relatively regularly before the plague. It’s that we are not working at the office, at all. Unlike some, I don’t think that the new norm will be zero time in the office, it will be minimum office. Research has shown that the people who are most productive and engaged are those who spend 60%-80% working out of office. That translates to 20% to 40% in the office. So, remote isn’t. It isn’t remote, I mean, psychologically or emotionally. Management has wised up and seen that what was formerly considered impossible, isn’t. Connecting the dots, businesses are likely to consider downtown office space a costly indulgence rather than a necessary requirement, so they will decrease that cash outlay as an obsolete cultural belief. This will translate to increased use of communication and community-cation technologies: most obviously video conferencing, but work technologies across the board will be more widely adopted and provide a basis for deep analytics and AI underlying the post-normal workspace (no longer a ‘workplace’). These techniques will see more of the work of managers being taken up by the machinery of what can best be considered business operating systems. There was a time when a customer on one cell network could not text message someone on a competitor network. That was overturned by legal requirements from governmental bodies. Today, if I am a user of Slack and you are a user of Microsoft Teams, we can’t share a chat room. This is an artificial barrier to cross-company collaboration, and I hope that the (minimal) technological barriers to fixing this will be overcome, perhaps by government intervention.”

WORRIES: “There seems to be no end to the precarious nature of personal information shared with online services. I despair. I don’t believe that companies like Facebook can be ‘fixed’ so that they don’t amplify hate speech, don’t spread falsehoods, and don’t increase societal polarization. Perhaps breakthroughs in AI can solve this problem, but in the meantime I expect things to continue as has been going on in recent years.”

Susan Crawford, a professor at Harvard Law School and former special assistant in the Obama White House for Science Technology and Innovation Policy, noted, “Like clean water, functioning public health infrastructure and stable electricity, world-class internet access – persistent, cheap, ubiquitous and symmetric – is clearly something everyone from every walk of life needs in order to thrive. Along with every other infrastructural/social values failure that has been made obvious, the COVID crisis has revealed just how inadequate the American ‘things could turn out great!’ approach to internet access continues to be. The status quo is clearly intolerable for great numbers of people. Even though what we have now is utterly unreasonable we will have to wait until it is in the interest of federal leadership to act. Perhaps that will happen by 2025. Like many workers in the knowledge industry, I’m happy to be working remotely, on my own schedule, near my own kitchen. I recognize what a privilege it is to hold a job down in this fashion. I hope that remote work, remote healthcare and remote education remain key elements of most peoples’ lived experience; it would be good if people could work where they choose to live. I’m hopeful that non-tech, ‘we’re all in this together’ sympathies will expand, take hold and become part of the fabric of life in America in a way they have not been for decades. I recognize that this hope is unreasonable, but I still have it.”

WORRIES: “I am worried that the caste system in America will be increasingly entrenched and amplified by technological asymmetries – as access to health services, jobs and opportunities of all kinds becomes more and more targeted to people who have the money to access the platforms that provide them.”

James Morris, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, noted, “I said ‘better’ because I hope it will be. In either case, we’ll be leaning on technology, including artificial intelligence, at an accelerating rate. This acceleration has been going on since the invention of agriculture or the breakdown of the bicameral mind, but it is an exponential process which looks like an explosion to us – whether beneficiaries or victims. The better/worse question comes down to who is in control, humankind as a democracy, a super-race as a totalitarian system, or (strangely, improbably, but hopefully) the technology itself.”

HOPES: “Our activity, whatever it’s called, will be more like play than work, as computers take over all drudgery.”

Jean Paul Nkurunziza, secretary-general of the Burundi Youth Training Centre, wrote, “People will develop new habits, working remotely, doing their business remotely, ordering their daily needs remotely, etc. Using the internet in their daily lives will tend to be common, even in our developing countries.”

HOPES: “As more and more people will be online, there will be a need to increase global bandwidth. Applications that facilitate the online meetings, online learning, e-health, etc. will be more needed and created.”

WORRIES: “My worries are about the safety and the privacy of the online space.”

Jerome C. Glenn, co-founder and CEO of the futures-research organization The Millennium Project, wrote, “Tele-everything increases. This reduces environmental impact and increases family life for those now able to work at home. AI applications increase. This reduces labor, costs, accidents, and for some, augments and improved labor productivity. Together, Tele-everything and AI will free people to begin to make a living by connecting to those around the world who will pay for what they want to do, eventually leading to more of a self-actualization economy.”

Jim Spohrer, director of cognitive open technologies and the AI developer ecosystem at IBM, noted, “The new normal by 2025 will likely be better. 1) Dealing with pandemics will be improved, vaccine speed of development will be improved, preparedness for next pandemic will be improved. 2) Online education, health and government services will be improved, and more people will have experience with them. 3) Businesses will continue to encourage more online meetings (less travel) and more work from home (less travel). 4) There will be more retail robots, tele-presence robots and robots at home – all with more investment, deployments and success stories. 5) There will be a resurgence in community approaches to local jobs in service of community culture and development.”

HOPES: “See previous. There will be better biotech for vaccine development, better use of online tools, better use of robots.”

WORRIES: “My worries are the use of bots to polarize and provoke harmful emotions in people. And tech billionaires’ money influencing politics.”

Joel Arthur Barker, futurist, lecturer and author, noted, “I chose ‘mostly better’ with some assumptions. 1) A vaccine will have been found and distributed at no cost for COVID-19 and a more generalized vaccine for new viruses. The key is ‘no cost’ because the cost of not having people vaccinated is much higher. 2) The world has begun spending large amounts of money to slow down climate overheating. This spending will increase good paying jobs around the world even as it begins to draw down the CO2 in the air. Also, carbon will be captured from the CO2 and used to make all sorts of carbon products, especially graphene and graphene derivatives which will sequester the CO2 in useful and long-lived ways. The money needed to pay for these things will come from the world’s military budget because the world will have decided that that is the greatest threat to humanity and Gaia.”

John Lazzaro, retired research specialist in electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California-Berkeley, said, “The pandemic has reshaped the way patients access healthcare in the United States, and the current view is that some of the changes may be permanent. To quantify these changes, I quote from several interviews by leaders of Kaiser Permanente (KP), an integrated healthcare system that serves 12.5 million members in the United States. According to KP, telemedicine has grown from 18% of all visits pre-pandemic to 80% at the end of April 2020. KP physicians performed as many video visits in a day as they did in an average month in 2019. Pandemic-era oncology patient consultations have been 95% virtual. KP’s current view is that once the pandemic is over, the ‘new normal’ will be about 60% virtual, 40% in-person. With this setup in mind, I address how digital technology may impact these changes. As described in the KP interviews, virtual visits rely on doctor-patient communication, aided by whatever visual information a well-placed smartphone camera can deliver to the doctor. What is usually missing is the point-of-care data collection that a physician assistant collects during the pre-consultation (blood pressure, heart rate, SpO2, temperature, body weight, etc.), condition-specific measurements the doctor may take during the visit (stethoscope, etc.) and quick-turnaround lab tests that may be needed to confirm a diagnosis (flu diagnostics, urinary tract infection tests, etc.). Remote patient monitors and at-home lab tests for many of these measurements have long been available. However, monitoring is usually prescribed for use by a patient who has been diagnosed with a particular condition. In my view of the ‘new normal,’ when one signs up with a healthcare provider, part of the ‘new member welcome kit’ will be a remote monitoring console, capable of the most common measurements taken during an initial consultation with a primary care physician. When a patient signs up for a video visit, she may be instructed to use the console to take certain measurements in advance. Ideally, the console will have a low-bandwidth cellular data link, so that measurement results will be accessible by the physician before the video visit. The hope is to increase the odds that a patient can be successfully diagnosed during the video visit. Reference: These statistics are from website interviews with Dr. Richard Isaacs, CEO and executive director of the Permanente Medical Group, Dick Daniels, Kaiser Permanente Executive Vice President and CIO and Dr. Stephen Parodi, associate executive director of The Permanente Medical Group, and from an editorial written by KP oncologists in the journal JCO Oncology Practice.”

HOPES: “I think back to 1983, to my first experience with word processing on a computer. An Apple II personal computer running a simple screen editor (PIE Writer), saving its data on a floppy disk, connected to a modified IBM Selectric daisy-wheel typewriter. Simultaneously a modern miracle (compared to manually typing on the typewriter) and a nightmare (everything that could go wrong eventually did, often at the worst possible time). I then fast-forward just a few years, to 1986, and think about writing my master’s thesis using a mature version of Don Knuth’s TeX software, connected to an early HP laser printer. From my vantage point as a user, a giant leap in functionality in only a few years’ time (once I learned how to take the laser printer apart to do maintenance!). I then flash-forward to a podcast I recently listened to by Renee James, the CEO of Ampere Computing, who early in her career worked on Intel’s ProShare video conferencing software (about 20 years ago). Her thoughts on using Zoom to get work done during the pandemic can be paraphrased as ‘I hated using video conferencing 20 years ago. And today, it’s still a nightmare!’ As an optimist, I believe the sort of ‘giant leap’ I experienced as a word-processing user in the 1980s will happen again, to improve the way groups of humans virtually interact using cameras and microphones. If I knew how to make that leap, I would be out there working on it myself. But I believe that out of the millions of K-12 and college students who have been frustrated with their remote education experience, hundreds of them have ideas on how to solve the problem, and several of them will succeed beyond our wildest imagination.”

WORRIES: “I think back to my first airplane flight. I booked it in 1983 for a job interview across the country. There was a travel agent in my neighborhood, so I collected all the information about the trip and walked into her storefront. The first 10 minutes were for small talk and context. Then, she started typing into her IBM 3270 terminal. Ten minutes later, I walked out with a paper punch card ticket to fly the friendly skies. For me, at that time, booking a flight meant interacting with a small-business owner, a career professional, not unlike the accountant who handled her business books. As the years and decades went by, booking a ticket changed. First, it changed to talking to a call center operator, who was reading off a script. Later on, airlines started websites, and I began booking flights without the services of another human to intermediate the interaction with the mainframe. My main worry about the post-pandemic changes wrought by technology is the recapitulation of my 1983 travel agent’s career descent. During the pandemic, safety considerations have led to the substitution of physical interactions (children in the classroom, patients in the doctor’s office, diners in a restaurant, shoppers in a supermarket) for virtual or semi-automated interactions (remote learning, virtual doctor appointments, restaurant takeout, grocery delivery). To varying degrees, each of these temporary changes may be the ‘first domino’ in a wholesale societal change that mirrors the path of my 1983 travel agent. Perhaps the post-pandemic changes will take decades to play out, but there is no guarantee of that – for example, it is not difficult to find someone who believes that the cruise ship industry is facing an extinction event. And it may not be the only one.”

John Verdon, a retired complexity and foresight consultant, said, “The pandemic has revealed to all the real power of a sovereign nation to issue currency (see Modern Monetary Theory) to support any initiative it deems worthy and that there are the resources within the nation to fulfill the initiative. That means there is no barrier to such a nation providing universal health care, universal basic income, free education throughout life, building new infrastructure for the digital environment and renewable energy (e.g., to meet the challenges of climate change) as well as renewing aging infrastructure. The neoliberal economic paradigm has died – and politicians are enacting new policies, protections and systems for human and global flourishing.”

HOPES: “Renewable energy has transformed global energy geopolitics – and thus geopolitics – if not by 2015 – certainly by 2030-2035. With ubiquitous renewable energy, access to water (via desalination) ceases to be life-determining. Ubiquitous access to the internet (via MMT and policies enacting more of the digital environment as public infrastructure). With the transformation of the economic paradigm (via Modern Monetary Theory) new institutions will be created to ensure the equitable distribution of information and resources – the eradication of neoliberal monopolies and privateering (this may take longer than the 2025 time frame, but if the change is not clear by then we are in real trouble). Renewable energy and AI and robots are rapidly changing the transportation paradigm which in turn will see many weak signals of new urban design. Despite COVID-19, the future will see more densely populated cities but with more common spaces/places for a more walkable and more social collective life (not communes but more like co-housing complexes, with both autonomous space and common space/workplaces).”

WORRIES: “I worry about the privateering of information and creativity (the enclosure movement) implicit in the neoliberal paradigm of capitalism. This entrenches deep inequity in social structures, processes and experiences and actually diminishes the flourishing of the human mind and spirit. Always and everywhere technologies can be weaponized – there is no technology designed for good that can’t be used for ill, and there is no technology designed for ill that can’t be harnessed for good. The determining capacity is the ‘response-ability’ of our institutions and our systems of governance. All technology should be open-source, transparent and all copyrights/patents significantly constrained for very limited timeframes. It is not technology itself, it is the business model and supporting economic paradigm, that enables the deeply malevolent use of technology to create monopolistic dependencies and haves-and-have-nots and users-and-used.”

Joseph A. Konstan, distinguished university professor in the department of computer science and engineering at the University of Minnesota, said, “We’re going to see at least two big changes as we move to a new normal: 1) A re-thinking of the benefits of, drawbacks to and alternatives to physical presence. This could lead to greater options for remote work, greater empowerment (and job-to-job mobility) for workers, new models of education, less business travel and – possibly as a result – fairer hiring practices as well (less discrimination based on appearance and against those with mobility limits or no caregivers). I have some hope that even as travel for leisure increases, total travel may not, with positive environmental impacts. 2) Sustained awareness of, and I hope action to rectify, racial and ethnic discrimination. Technology use is central here. There are many other things to be aware of, the lack of ‘off’ time being one, surveillance being another.”

Kenneth A. Grady, adjunct professor at Michigan State University College of Law and editor of “The Algorithmic Society” on Medium, said, “The new normal will involve greater use of technology to monitor and respond to people’s health. The trend to use digital devices to monitor health was established by the time of the pandemic. The relative ease patients and healthcare professionals had switching to telehealth, and the associated reduction in cost, demonstrated that some healthcare practices could benefit from digital technology. As the technology to monitor health becomes less costly and more accessible (e.g., attachments to smartphones that enable monitoring health metrics), telehealth becomes a more attractive alternative. The counterforce of privacy concerns will remain well past 2025 and will serve as a check on the growth of digital technology in healthcare. Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done or that it will be accepted. A prime example in the U.S. has been contact tracing. Using technology to ease contact tracing is not difficult, but, in the U.S. the privacy concerns over using such technology will almost guarantee that it will not see widespread use. People are willing to trade health for privacy.”

HOPES: “The trend to develop less costly, consumer-friendly devices that monitor various aspects of health seems very promising. If a person can monitor key health indicators easily and inexpensively, both the person and healthcare professionals will have more data on which to base healthcare decisions. Blood pressure monitors provide an example. Testing blood pressure only during a visit to the doctor yields almost no data on which to base decisions. Initial home blood pressure monitors allowed the patient to take many readings throughout the day over the course of days and weeks. Still, the patient had to manually record the date, time and blood pressure readings and find a way to transmit those to the doctor. The next evolution came with digital technology. The blood pressure cuff had a small recording-and-transmitting device attached. The device sent the data to a smartphone and the patient could then send the data digitally to her doctor. The pandemic raised our awareness that simple metrics (e.g., temperature, blood oxygen level) can be important indicators of health change. Using digital technology to capture and, when appropriate, share it with healthcare professionals shows the promise of earlier and more effective intervention in negative health changes. On the healthcare side, having such data would help healthcare professionals as they seek to understand the timing and effectiveness of various interventions.”

WORRIES: “We see a steady stream of ways in which companies abuse the privilege of having data about people’s lives. The temptation to misuse the data seems to overwhelm even the most conscientious of companies. Regulatory controls, penalties and public shaming seem to have little effect on preventing misuse. Of course, not all companies misuse data and not all incidents involve egregious abuse of the trust placed in those who have access to data. Nevertheless, the risks of data misuse present a formidable counterweight to the benefits of the data. Unfortunately, the pandemic seems to have exacerbated the challenge. Those companies that had already amassed great data troves have grown more powerful and have found additional ways to gather more data. The impact regulating trillion-dollar companies could have on the economy will be balanced against the perceived benefits of the regulation. It is unlikely that any legislative body will want to pass legislation that could harm such companies, especially given that the projected time for the economy to recover from the pandemic lasts well past 2025. This will leave consumers having to answer the question: How much privacy risk am I willing to incur in exchange for the perceived healthcare benefits I may get?”

Mark Deuze, professor of media studies at the University of Amsterdam, said, “What life under pandemic conditions has forcefully shown us is how much media are part and parcel of our everyday lives. It has been a crash course in digital literacy and accelerating trends well underway before the virus hit. On the one hand, it integrated the use of video calling, social gaming and online watch parties faster into our daily lives than we could have predicted. On the other hand, it has come with lessons learned about what losing oneself in media can produce (amplifying feelings associated with anxiety, loneliness and fear as much as experiences related to joy, a new sense of community and social support).”

HOPES: “In recent months, major tech companies have undertaken significant steps to moderate the content distributed on their platforms. It is a sign of things to come; more social responsibility taken by the corporations that have come to determine so much of our social interactions online.”

WORRIES: “As technology and life fuse beyond meaningful separation (or contradiction), we may be increasingly less likely and capable of effectively critiquing the role media and information technologies play in society.”

Mark Maben, a general manager at Seton Hall University, wrote, “Post-pandemic, we will live in a much more digital and technological world than we did on January 1, 2020. This will be true in every country across the globe. In the United States, the technological impact of the ‘new normal’ will be seen in two profound ways in which the pandemic will reshape America by 2025: through an increase in remote work and a decline in employer-based health insurance. The massive unemployment caused by COVID-19 has finally awakened a critical mass of Americans to weaknesses inherent in a health insurance system that is dependent on employment. Simultaneously, the pandemic has also helped telemedicine flourish. The benefits of telehealth during COVID-19 will drive the creation of a form of healthcare and health insurance that isn’t employer-based and relies heavily on technology to control costs. Whether this will be a public or private form of healthcare/health insurance will depend on a number of factors, but the need for such an alternative has never been clearer to consumers and policy makers alike. Released from the bonds of employer-based health insurance, individuals will be better positioned to flourish as entrepreneurs, small business creators, or independent workers. The pandemic has also accelerated the switch to remote work and helped dispel the notion that people are less productive when they work from home. The improved worker productivity that many businesses have seen during the outbreak, coupled with the improvement to the bottom line that comes from having a smaller facilities footprint, means companies will be adopting policies that encourage work from home on either a flexible or full-time basis. Small businesses will be changing, too. Curbside pickup from local shops will continue after the pandemic. While companies like Staples, Amazon and Kroger will utilize autonomous vehicles for contactless delivery of household and business supplies, so too will small businesses use technology to alter the way they deliver goods and services. There is always a dark side to digital technology, but the pandemic is giving us a once in a 100-year opportunity to reshape market capitalism into something more responsive to the needs of workers and our society. Our current reawakening on social justice, economic inequality and the need for a more activist government will help drive digital technology to uses that benefit most people.”

HOPES: “The tech-related changes that will facilitate the expansion of working from home will have a positive impact on the environment as less commuters means less pollution. There will be a positive impact as well on the mental health of those who will see a reduction in stress by being able reduce or eliminate commuting from their daily/weekly schedule. Those still going to work in an office or store will benefit from improved and new technologies designed to keep employees safe and more productive. The post-pandemic world will continue to value and embrace the benefits of social distancing, improved safety protocols, and more efficient ways to work. I am also hopeful that the current experiences of remote learning will lead to new approaches to supporting students even after K-12 schooling fully returns to in-person instruction. Student/teacher and peer-to-peer interactions are essential to the development of children and adolescents but being able to supplement teaching remotely through technology will make a significant difference for things like universal pre-K, individualized tutoring for all, collaboration across district lines, and more. Remote learning got off to a rocky start in many places, but it has shown us the possibilities in fusing traditional and technological instruction to create a more robust and impactful learning experience for students. We have an opportunity to truly put our children first when it comes to education, especially those traditionally underserved by the current system.”

WORRIES: “My worries about the role of technology and technology companies in 2025 are the same worries I have now. First, we simply do not have enough privacy protections when it comes to people’s data. The United States especially is lagging behind in protecting its citizens from exploitation by technology companies. Until there are sufficient laws and safeguards in place to hold companies accountable and protect privacy, Americans will remain vulnerable to harm at the hands of both technology companies and the bad actors who take advantage of the lax approach to data protection. Second, our current political and economic structures are designed to ensure that there will be citizens who are denied equal access to digital technologies. That means a portion of our population will be shut out from the benefits of a more digital and technological post-pandemic world. The digital divide must be addressed if all are to share in the benefits in 2025.”

Ryan Sweeney, director of analytics for Ignite Social Media commented, “One of the biggest changes will be in terms of working from home. Looking specifically at companies and people who can afford to work from home, the value of doing so will be redefined. The ‘office’ has been evolving away from tradition, as working from home becomes more commonplace. As a significant portion of people are moving to permanent-for-the-foreseeable-future work from home situations, we will likely get more comfortable with that way of things. Additionally, there’s the financial angle when running a business. If all of your employees are WFH (Work From Home), do you need to even pay rent and utilities each month for a physical space? There could be more opportunities for technology to identify ways to virtually bring people together in more meaningful ways. Additionally, with work from home isolation items like Jackbox Games saw increases in popularity because people were using this online group entertainment as a means to virtually socialize. Pessimistically, in the ‘new normal’ for people who are unable to afford to work from home and have been financially harmed by the pandemic we will likely see further isolation. If it becomes commonplace for social interaction and financial transaction to happen online those who are unable to afford high-speed internet (or even the internet in general) will continue to be left behind, furthering the class gap. We’re also seeing businesses evolve and adapt. Restaurants that previously didn’t have online ordering functionalities are adding them. Farms are adding online pre-orders for pickup at markets. Unfortunately, those that cannot keep up or are slow to adapt are going to encounter a point of sink or swim. Generally, I think that this pandemic and the issues it has raised within our society will, hopefully, lead to positive innovation as opposed to further class segregation. Hopefully as we acknowledge where technology leaves people and businesses behind we will leverage technology to solve for those predicted negative outcomes.”

HOPES: “Affordable (or tax-funded) high-speed internet access for all residents.”

WORRIES: “I’m worried most about the furthering of the class divide in a country which is already sitting on a powder keg of inequality.”

Thomas F. Remington, a political science professor, observed, “The devastating impact of the pandemic has made it far harder for the right wing to deny basic facts about deep trends in society that have contributed to political polarization, worsening racial injustice, stagnant incomes and a lack of opportunities for the great majority of the population, the erosion of health and social protection for most people and the takeover of our political system by a narrow caste of oligarchs and ideologues. I hope and believe that as a result of the pandemic, American society will undertake a major overhaul on the scale of the New Deal. That would require us to ensure that digital technologies are used as much as possible to complement rather than replace labor. We would need to give priority to work and the people who do it rather than to finding ways of squeezing more profit out of the economy for a small group at the top.”

HOPES: “I hope for far greater joint investment of public and private resources into equipping individuals for technology-enabled jobs and job opportunity.”

WORRIES: “I worry about: 1) The illusion that advances in digital technology mean no one has to work. 2) The expectation that machines can replace people.”

Olévié Kouami, an activist and IT specialist based in Africa, said, “I have more than 30 years of professional experience in this domain. In 2025, the ‘new normal’ will be the digital transformation of the global world. People will use more and more connected objects to exchange and to interface. The development of e-learning and e-commerce will grow up, as e-services will become the main solution for the world to continue to function.”

HOPES: “My hopes are that the use of smartphones, particularly in Africa, will accelerate and support more progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

WORRIES: “My worries are about privacy and personal data protection.”

Mark Monchek, author, keynote speaker and self-described “culture of opportunity strategist,” responded, “New Normal; I don’t believe there will be anything like ‘normal’ for several years. I can’t predict how long it will be before we ‘settle into’ some state of being that feels stable and predictable. The reason I say this is that the COVID-19 pandemic is a symptom of capitalism’s inability to evolve into an economic and social model that is sustainable. My hope is that the collective WE, including all of our planet’s inhabitants, will be able to change our beliefs and behaviors fast enough to arrive at a much more inclusive, reverent and collaborative way of co-existence. As a start, we will have to manage COVID and its health, social, economic and environmental impact. I hope this will begin with individuals, families and communities understanding that in order to live sustainably we will need to be see life as sacred and act in accordance. This means realizing we can only exist as interdependent with all other forms of life. For COVID-19, this means accepting responsibility for how we live in this new reality. Behaviors would include wearing masks and social distancing when required by government, the businesses and organizations we participate in and when our fellow citizens ask us to. I believe each of us need to be responsible for our actions and not rely solely on government to direct us. Owners and leaders of businesses and organizations and the people who work in them will need to rewrite the social contract between employers and employees and other stakeholders. This would include an open and collaborative process to decide when, where and how we perform the work we do. No longer can employers dictate the way work is done. I can say much more, for now I will limit myself to this.”

HOPES: “My hope is that we will see technology as a set of knowledge and tools that we created and use. That we means that while not all of us participate in the development of a particular technology, it is our collective knowledge and experience that enable it to come into existence. In order for technology to be a useful tool and not a constraint with a lot of collateral damage, we will need to be much more intentional. For example, rather than using our devices as emotional companions, checking them hundreds of times per day, living a state of continual partial attention, we will be more fully engaged in being citizens of our world, using our devices as tools in that pursuit. We will learn to better integrate technology-empowered communication like video conferencing with in-person communication. We will consciously assess the needs of a situation and employ the best set of practices and tools, rather than react from habit. Also, we need to provide access to technology to the entire world, giving access to the web and the tools needed to access it to people and communities that currently don’t have access.”

WORRIES: “My concern is that we won’t be as intentional as I hope we can be. In addition, that we won’t provide access to those who currently don’t have it.”

Marvin Borisch, technical manager for Red Eagle Digital, based in Berlin, wrote, “By 2025 I expect our lives to change dramatically compared to the ‘before COVID-19’ era. We’ve already seen how technical solutions can be put into place and be adopted by the general population of this planet. COVID-19 contact-tracing apps have been used in many places around the world, and whole industries are jumping in to help when their expertise is needed, for instance, when pupils around the world couldn’t study due to the lack of digital classrooms. People are starting to see the benefits of technology for things other than home entertainment, and tech connectivity has become even more important for work. We are learning to dig deeper, to verify and to find comfort and identify discomfort in information. From today’s perspective it seems like we, the humans of planet Earth, are starting to shine more light on the fact that global problems need global solutions. With this ‘new normal’ we can and hopefully will start to find global solutions and an informative re-awakening of individuals. We will start to be more critical about new things but also learn how to turn this critical thinking into decisions. In short, we humans will stop regressing in regard to applying critical thinking and move on to make better decisions about our uses of digital technologies. See it as a young child who had hesitated just as it began taking its first steps but then started to walk more confidently toward a destination.”

HOPES: “I hope extremely conservative thinking towards technology will fade, so we can start again to not only improve our lives. For example, advancing health technology with decentralized, private and personal health monitoring or opening conversations about the ethical issues in the use of progressive technologies like CRISPR. I hope we will start to make participation in such conversations within the global community more accessible for humans around the world, no matter what their origin, beliefs, health condition or world view may be. This could be achieved with globally connected and accessible solutions with a very low entrance barrier. I hope technology in the future will help us give everyone the chance to participate in these conversations, even if they have no ‘expertise’ on the topic, as every human has expertise in living here on this planet and should be involved in shaping our global community.”

WORRIES: “We are undeniably a species with a free will. Free will also allows room for humans who want to abuse that power. We can’t completely stop abuses of technology, or fraud, or scams or the fact that some humans build up so much power that they reach the status of ‘too big to fail.’ The spread of technology might also contribute to the demise of our environment, our home, our planet. In a setting where companies may go too far a technology could arise that goes too far. The power of technology – especially connected technology – could theoretically help us understand and enjoy the wonders of the universe, but it could also lead us to instant extinction in just one click. Technology that is created for the greater good can be abused by individuals, groups, companies and even countries to harm others. It can be a jealous person stalking a person of desire, a group of people organizing to commit crimes, companies excluding people or nation-states abusing technology to influence other countries. As the power of technology becomes more crucial and beneficial to our lives it also grows in its ability to be more harmful. We’ve all consumed modern dystopic movies, books or other forms of entertainment. I leave the rest to science and science fiction.”

Michael Richardson, open source consulting engineer, responded, “I believe that the U.S. has completely lost its global lead. Conferences already were shying away from meeting in the U.S. due to visa issues, and now they basically cannot. Citizens of the U.S. will not be welcome in many places long after COVID-19 is gone. Many short-haul, no-frills airlines in Europe will die and will be replaced by high-quality overnight rail service; this will have a profound effect on the frequency and quality of vacations. The recognition that people do not need to be physically present will free them to take long workations. This change will not be distributed equitably: it will further exacerbate the divide between white collar and blue-collar workers. This will likely further elevate lawyers and lower the social status of doctors, nurses and teachers. This is not that good a thing. White collar workers will leave the U.S. in the thousands. Canada, Europe and Oceania will be the net beneficiaries. A proposal for a national health care system will be a key issue for the 2024 U.S. election, partially due to this ‘brain drain.’ Something significant will happen in China. It will be horrifying, but it will lead to something better. It will probably start in Hong Kong, but then lead to something in Tibet. India will change.”

HOPES: “Facebook will begin to charge a fee. There will be many ways to pay it. The result will be that the Facebook newsfeed API will become defacto but open standard, and there will be a market for plug-in AIs to sort news based upon criteria that puts the reader’s interest first. The result will be a federated system. Google will try twice more to create its own successful social network and will apply some of the better Facebook news feed filters. Google will divest/spin off many of its Alphabet companies, and SpaceX will buy a key few of them. There will be weird alliances in the Microsoft/Amazon/Google cloud – think Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ Oceania/Eurasia/Eastasia here. At least one major energy (‘oil’) company will stop selling and transporting energy and start selling compute services. There will be a major cyberattack involving the loss of lives, and the culprit will be revealed to be a backdoor installed by Five Eyes. This will lead to the end of the G7 SIGINT BS. Huawei will open source absolutely everything in an attempt to prove it has no back doors.”

WORRIES: “Due to technology, people will forget how to do things. Reading maps is one thing many complain about (70% of people could never read a map). Sitting together as a family to watch TV is dying, perhaps it is already dead; people today remember the days when they used to do it but they won’t in five years. Individuals will become less relevant and group membership will become too important.”

Michael Wollowski, a professor of computer science at Rose-Hulman Institute, said, “People will more seamlessly integrate technology into their lives, especially communication technology. I see the immediate impact as very positive. Among others, I think it will speed up the interchange of information through virtual conferences and workshops that can be organized at a very low cost and within a very short time frame. On a personal level, more and more people will use video conferencing to stay in touch with friends and family. With regard to employment, I see the use of virtual systems, whether designed to teach learners new things or whether intended to interact with people as a productivity booster. However, as with all productivity boosters, it appears that this will require more work rather than less.”

HOPES: “Perhaps the best change will be that people realize that technology is just a tool, something to be used and used up.”

WORRIES: “We will be required to be ‘on’ (or available) at an even higher rate than is expected today. This will add more stress to our lives. Perhaps AI can help; think along the lines of a personal digital assistant that answers most of the trivial questions people might ask you, or one that politely suggests that someone will call them back.”

Pamela McCorduck, writer, consultant and author of several books, including “Machines Who Think,” commented, “I expect the new normal will be better for people of color, given the plethora of alternative paths being proposed in the wake of the pandemic. I hope that the way economic and social inequality has been exposed will lead to better efforts toward such equality. Technology will continue to pervade everyone’s personal and professional lives – perhaps lessening travel, perhaps exposing even further cases of egregious salary differences. Technology will play a bigger role in education, and that role will be more sophisticated than it is right now. New educational programs in China, especially, suggest that technology has an important, even vital role in new ways of educating K-12 students as well as in higher education.”

HOPES: “I hope present alarms about the sacrifice of privacy will have translated into genuine personal privacy safeguards. I hope improved transportation – driverless cars, for example – will be closer to reality, though this will be incremental. I hope medicine will be transformed – so much of it is ad hoc – in a way that physicians can spend time with patients doing what they do best while technology does the undergirding diagnostics and pharmaceutical research.”

WORRIES: “Whatever my hopes for technology and tech firms in the coming years, I know very well that the temptation to succumb to unscrupulous behavior, whether for economic or political gain, is very real. Succumbing to those temptations will not, at first, be considered actionable (see Facebook’s present brokering of private information), but in 2025 sufficient numbers of citizens will be offended and demand legal action. I also worry about the present total lack of decency excused under the rubric of ‘free speech.’ It is indefensible now, yet a simple-minded view of ‘free speech’ will make it difficult to end hate speech and downright political lies propagated on the internet. It could be that sheer public disgust will make such behavior more and more counterproductive, but I’m afraid it will take legal action to quell it substantially.”

Paul Epping, chairman and co-founder of XponentialEQ and well-known keynote speaker on exponential change, wrote, “The term ‘new normal’ is very misleading – a hype introduced by McKinsey. It is completely based on linear thinking and how to get back to business as usual and getting us back on the GDP growth curve. It does not relate to real foresight because ‘normal’ means something constant. The only constant, however, is change. By 2025, more people will have access to information at 5G speed, including people in countries who are currently underserved. Their intellectual capabilities and drive to create a better life will shift the balance in our economies. People continue to underestimate the speed of exponential growth of technologies and the accompanying deflationary effect on the economy. People are doing far more themselves, digital services are cheaper and far more scalable and less labor-intensive. This will lead to unemployment in jobs that we see now (for instance in the production of goods). One of the variables of the GDP is unemployment. A lot of work will be done online by you and me. This is productivity, but it is not included nor calculated and thus has a negative impact on the GDP. This is just one example of deflation. People will be increasingly dependent on the online world and the algorithms that determine a major part of our lives (with intended and unintended consequences). Sensors will flood the world, measuring whatever you can think of, including our bodies. It is not clear who will own the data, nor what the analyses might be and what the results of that will do to us. We will face big control issues that will lead to political instability. The growing dependency on digital technology will create a paradise for hackers, so cybersecurity will be one of the top priorities, costing society trillions. It can eventually evolve into a ‘symmetrical escalation war’ between AI and ML and less control by humans because we can’t oversee the entire spectrum anymore. Education will eventually get up to speed with future skills and capability programs that help people become more adaptable. Also, we will see a 20-hour (or less) workweek, leading to less income and more spare time that has to be organised. This may lead to further global instability and, because the mindset of the human nature is still backwards, this may lead to wars. The world’s biggest problem is probably leadership, because most leaders are too set in their ways to be willing to work to understand the dynamics of exponential technologies.”

HOPES: “The main benefit of the global crisis is that we have the opportunity to collaborate worldwide, circumventing all sorts of country-related boundaries. The level of openness of the use of the internet will determine integration of intellectual connections (collective intelligence => DIY communities), business connections (distributed autonomous organizations => DAOs), ideological communities (e.g., circular economy, green energy, CO2-decrease activists). All of these new organizations are purpose-driven to make the world a better place to live. This will ignite ideas to solve the world’s biggest problems as activists build on each other’s insights. The drive is to make life better for all, therefore a lot will be open source and free to use. However, this shift is hard to grasp by the rigor of the establishment. There are zombie countries, regions and companies, dictatorial countries are on the rise because of fear to lose political control. This will intensify among some the erection of barriers.”

WORRIES: “Tech giants will increasingly use our personal data for many reasons and continue to be used to manipulate our behaviour. People are not able to adapt fast enough to the changing technologies or factor in new business models. Companies, individuals and governments have a difficult time understanding the difference between scarcity and abundance business models. We are mainly in a scarcity (linear) mindset! Cybercrime will jeopardize vital systems in our societies, including electricity, water and communication.”

Peter Padbury, chief futurist at Policy Horizons Canada, responded, “There will be: More-flexible work arrangements, including more people working virtually for some part of the work week. More use of digital work platforms that enable companies to track work and be more flexible and adaptive as needed. Dramatic leaps in AI use as it is built into digital work platforms for routine tasks for high and low skilled work. More gig work and more virtual gig work; many people are their own micro-enterprise, as companies try to reduce their overhead costs. Access and affordability of digital infrastructure become important public policy issues regarding equity and competitiveness. Growing demands to address income inequity. Detailed health tracking accepted by a majority as a valuable public good after it proves essential in ending the pandemic. Re-invention of health care and education to improve service and reduce costs as we learn the lessons from several COVID-19 waves.”

HOPES: “If we do not get an effective COVID-19 vaccine, then daily tracking of individual health may be the only way to return to normal. Clearly there are data privacy issues to resolve. A need for at home antibody and diagnostic tests and virtual data and tracking technology to tie it all together.”

WORRIES: “It is not possible to resolve individual versus long-term collective interests.”

Philip J. Salem, a professor emeritus at Texas State University expert in the complexity of organizational change, wrote, “The physical distancing limitations have made most people aware of the importance of human communication. We use the newest technologies to compensate for the lack of unmediated face-to-face communication, and we have become more mindful of our choices during communication. Our new hybrid mix of communication technologies, from unmediated face-to-face communication to the most advanced digital alternatives, will form a richer social ecology for most of us.”

HOPES: “The changes will give us greater opportunities to be closer, and the changes will stimulate more purposeful use of the technologies – more function. Sadly, prior to the pandemic and in the early stages, people used the communion parts of the technology to amplify and express with no interaction. A sort of hit and run. I think this is giving way to actual communication.”

WORRIES: “It is time to apply the anti-trust laws to the companies. Although most of the CEOs have performed admirably, others have not. Time to break them up.”

Randall Mayes, an analyst at TechCast Global, said, “Although the two questions are technically different topics, there is a nexus and that is trade-offs. What is normal in the context of geography – cities, states, regions and countries will vary. This is because the hierarchy of values differs. Using an AI/deep learning analogy, the nodes are economic development, international competitiveness and the social impacts. China, Europe and the United States weigh the value of these nodes differently. For similar situations in the future, policy makers and businesses will not have to start from scratch in working with supply chains, medical responses and economic safety nets, rather they will have case studies for what works effectively.”

HOPES: “My research focuses on the convergence of AI, synthetic biology and advanced manufacturing. Each sector of the economy will experience transformations that enable it to perform more efficiently. Individuals who understand these changes and are prepared for them will become better off.”

WORRIES: “Individual private data doesn’t have economic value, but, collectively, private data does. Without a mechanism for compensation to individuals, technology companies will reap the economic benefits. Once possible solution is blockchain/Etherium which utilizes smart contracts and micropayments to individuals. Several companies are proposing placing electronic health records and our genomes in accounts where we can sell our data directly to pharmaceutical companies and bypass middlemen (tech companies).”

Ravi Parikh, a senior technical staff member at a global software company, responded, “People will understand the importance of social distancing. Technology will evolve where testing for COVID-19-like diseases will become much faster – similar to people measuring their diabetes at home. The service industry will be hit the hardest post-pandemic. Hopefully we as a society can come up with a model to help generate new jobs. New grocery options like Amazon Go will be more popular – people will seek no action to minimal interaction getting groceries. Technology workers in Silicon Valley will get used to spending more time at home than at the office. The economy will suffer short-term impact, but every economic dip has its peak-in-waiting. Overall, people adjust to the new reality.”

HOPES: “Working from home or anywhere is going to have a positive impact. Parents will have better control of their children’s lives. People will learn more about aspects of life they had not explored due to commuting and eight hours or more daily in the office. Cooking, gardening, etc.”

WORRIES: “Not everyone can separate work and personal life when working from home. Companies may benefit from work-from-home employees if production stays level or increases, but eventually workers will suffer burnout. This may cause delays in projects/products. Employees will fear lay-offs and try to enhance their value by performing more and staying active on company networks more. Personal lives could suffer, and depression cases may rise in the longer term.”

Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor of online learning at the University of Illinois-Springfield, responded, “The fourth industrial revolution is accelerating due to the pandemic. As we have become a work-from-home society, we are implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to enable and enhance remote collaboration and control of technologies. This creates a more-inclusive and powerful environment, providing access and engagement across geography and cultures.”

HOPES: “Many of our prior limitations in education and engagement in society have been founded in geographic and cultural exclusion. Rural facilities for education have historically been poorer than those in more urban centers. Class, culture, race and gender all have defined the quality of engagement in business opportunities, political influence and economic success. By bridging the boundaries of these areas – through the largely blind access of the internet in which one does not immediately identify race, gender or related characteristics – we will diminish these barriers to success. I envision a society where, increasingly, we will engage in society from where we reside rather than exclusively from the cities and neighborhoods where corporations are centered.”

WORRIES: “As we deploy 5G networking technologies it is essential that we assure these technologies are available to all. The unique characteristics of extreme broadband, coupled with low latency will enable powerful potential for virtual/augmented reality, big data collection and robust educational opportunities. I worry that the next generation of the internet will not be equally deployed, and that there will be segments of our population worldwide that will experience long-term delays in accessing the benefits of enhanced networking.”

Rich Ling, professor of media technology at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, responded, “It is hard to say what ‘better’ or ‘worse’ means. My sense is that the COVID-19 episode has pushed forward the adoption of a set of technologies that were on the way in already. Remote meetings, ‘uberized’ delivery of food and services, remote education, etc., have all been on the way in, but this event has provided the impetus for their domestication. This means that they will become a part of our repertoire of techniques when dealing with our daily tasks. This can play into how we work, shop, inform, educate and entertain ourselves. Will it lead to more efficiency? Will it lead to more social isolation? Will it lead to more social justice? These tea leaves are difficult to read.”

HOPES: “The things that may be better will be more efficiency when dealing with everyday issues. It is easier to work out meetings, order food, etc.”

WORRIES: “The major social networking companies need to better clarify their position with regard to the use of their platforms for extreme political groups. Misinformation and false news have the potential to disrupt democratic processes.”

Robert W. Ferguson, a hardware robotics engineer at Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute, wrote, “We will see renewed interest and support for public health, for public health policy and for universal health care. Companies will require vaccination records for employment. There will also be additional recognition of the need for a new policy on climate change. Everyone living in a city saw how much cleaner the air was during April-May when fewer automobiles were on the road. Many discovered that it is possible to work remotely much of the time. There is still value in casual conversation in the workplace. One needs a chance to mull over an idea with a colleague.”

HOPES: “Perhaps we will learn to be more cautious about conclusions from machine learning. Causal analysis has already demonstrated our ability to extend philosophy of science. It also forces the researcher to make explicit about the way in which he considered the problem. Unsupervised machine learning, on the other hand, is still fundamentally flawed. The data contains biases, so we have discovered a pattern that suffers from what Rene Descartes said: ‘We do not describe the world we see. We see the world we can describe.’ The data is sampled based on the pattern set by the data collectors. They are simply unaware of their own biases.”

WORRIES: “Unsupervised machine learning is generally malfeasance and bad practice.”

Scott Morgan, senior associate with the Leadership Academy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote, “COVID-19 has made the shift to remote technology a crucial part of business and several clients have already expressed that they will keep a majority of work online. From a non-technological view, COVID-19 has made us aware of how interconnected we are, and this can only be for the better.”

HOPES: “More bandwidth for seamless video conferencing is a must.”

WORRIES: “Face-to-face interaction will always be the most effective and a reliance on technology could overshadow this primary form of communication.”

Thomas Birkland, professor of public and international affairs at North Carolina State University, wrote, “Under the right conditions things may be better in 2025 than they are now. The current pandemic is a strong learning opportunity for leaders in government, the private sector, and nonprofits. We have learned that we need a robust system of disease surveillance and that wishing away a pandemic of the sort we are now experiencing simply does not work. While current ways of living and working are less than ideal now, this current pandemic may be revealing that, for many professionals it is possible to do one’s work from home without necessarily commuting to an office. We will need to study the extent to which professional productivity improved or suffered, but anecdotally, so far, many people believe that this period is an opportunity to demonstrate to skeptical managers that people can be productive working from home. This may have downstream effects such as reducing commuting time and reducing the amount of office space that organizations must lease to house their staffs. On the other hand, physical workplaces are important for other reasons. The current pandemic suggests that large open-plan office layouts may not be a sound idea from a public health standpoint. What the workplace looks like in 2025 is going to be interesting. These comments are all offered from the perspective of a privileged professional who has the means to work from home (in particular, with reliable and fast internet access) and whose work can be done at home. What we need to ask is whether the technologies we have at our disposal will make life better for ‘essential’ people such as health care workers, delivery drivers, teachers and the like, who must interact with the public and cannot do most of their work from home. Technology has helped some of these people to work – telemedicine, for example, has seen increased demand. But, again, what about the people who don’t have access to fast internet? In terms of daily routines, the current situation has exposed a large number of people to telepresence platforms like Zoom that they hadn’t experienced before. Many people are discovering that these platforms are useful for social connections. I know that my in-laws have semi-regular Zoom get-togethers, because there’s no practical way for us to all get together during this pandemic. The use of such tools, and of consumer-grade tools like Facetime, may increase somewhat, although it’s also true that many people are becoming burned out and overloaded by Zoom meetings. I wonder about the effects on professional travel. In my academic discipline, our conferences are being moved to an online format. Will we travel as often for conferences as we did in the past? By 2025 I think our professional meetings will move to hybrid models in which some people participate in person, and others remotely, because both types of participation have their own advantages. If nothing else, reducing the demand on air travel, while not good news for airlines, may reduce pressure on airports and the airways system, and air travel may become more oriented toward leisure travel by 2025, as companies and organizations realize that a great deal of business travel may not be necessary. Of course, this has long been the promise of telepresence companies, but the pandemic has forced the adoption of these tools in a way not seen before. I also wonder if these tools will make it possible for people to work in tech companies without having to live in the vicinity of these companies. The housing crunch in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley is well known, and cities like Portland and Seattle are seeing similar effects. There are successful companies that are partially or wholly online. Do such companies need a large physical presence in these kinds of cities? What would work look like if someone could work from, say, rural Iowa, or Yakima, or Fresno? Of course, some people may not want to work in such places. But with the proliferation of coding camps and the touting of STEM education and careers among people who don’t live in tech hubs, would it not make sense to make jobs available to people who, by necessity or choice, cannot live in the Bay Area or other expensive places? The benefits of these changes are going to be unevenly distributed. Privacy is potentially at risk as we expose more of our personal lives to technology companies. The use of mobile phones as part of a contact tracing scheme will raise significant privacy concerns, but strong voices will emerge claiming that some loss of privacy is needed to promote public health. Of course, wealthy and educated professionals who understand technology may be better able to protect their privacy, which exacerbates inequities. One area of possible improvement may be the realm of social media and on-line news. Social media companies are now, to some extent, realizing that they have some responsibility to monitor misbehavior and misinformation on their platforms. This trend, coupled with the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement, suggests that overt racism is less likely to be tolerated on these platforms. This may increase trust in these platforms; at the same time, it is likely that niche products that are less prone to monitor such behavior may emerge. To summarize: the new normal, aided by technology, is going to enable people to work, shop, and recreate from home if they need or want to do so. This will create opportunities in some sectors, and significant dislocation in other sectors. White-collar professionals are likely to see the most benefits from these shifts. Inequities could be reduced if, among other things, greater efforts were undertaken by government and the private sector to provide broadband access to underserved areas. Even then, some professions are not going to reap great benefits from technology, and the gap between what we call “service workers” and well-paid professionals is likely to grow. This gap is an income gap, but this income gap is created both by differences in wages and differences in individuals’ employment histories, where service workers’ jobs are often more precarious than are professional jobs. Public policy should attempt to alleviate these inequities through, among other things, robust systems of unemployment insurance, some sort of universal health care system, access to training and education, and, perhaps, increases in minimum wages to ensure that the lowest paid among us are paid a living wage. What is not going to change, I think, is the way in which we value human connectedness and the need for us to be physically among other people. Once this pandemic passes we will be able to gather in groups again, at sporting events, conferences, in bars and night clubs, at concert venues, and we are going to notice how deeply good this feels, and how we don’t want to lose this again. But while the pandemic is happening, people are learning how to use technology to at least partially fill this void, and people are going to learn that they like some of these tools. It’s a pity that it took a pandemic to teach these lessons.”

HOPES: “Increased opportunities for interactions with other people through telepresence tools such as Zoom. Increased acceptance of telemedicine for routine medical care. Increased ability of people to work from home and increased acceptance of home working from senior managers. If done well, increased opportunities for disease surveillance”

WORRIES: “Ongoing opportunities for misinformation in social media platforms. Diminished privacy as people become more dependent on technology tools like mobile apps and devices.  Increasing gaps between haves and have-nots with respect to tech adoption and use.”

Sean Munson, professor of human-centered design and engineering at the University of Washington, observed, “We can look at this pandemic and all the structural problems and inequalities it has made ever more salient and stay on the same course, or we can take this moment for collective reflection and action for the better. I hope the latter, but I emphasize this is a choice that we have to make.”

HOPES: “More widespread disease surveillance, but (hopefully) in ways that are privacy-preserving. Greater use of advances in telemedicine, perhaps with more in-home devices. In general, we will give more care and intention to when we gather in person versus when people are remote, so that companies and other organizations can be more person-friendly. Hopefully more small-business friendly platforms for ordering and deliveries, rather than a few mega platforms.”

WORRIES: “All of this could go a very bad way too. We could have: – Greater surveillance framed as for the public good, but that is invasive and oppressive (disease surveillance, surveillance of students and workers who are participating remotely, etc.) – Greater consolidation of platforms, basically transforming small businesses into gig workers (in some ways, you see this with restaurants and the exploitative approaches that delivery/takeout platforms use). – Greater use of algorithmic decision making, without care and attention to the ways that it hurts people, especially those who have been historically oppressed”

Sharon Sputz, executive director of strategic programs at The Data Science Institute at Columbia University, said, “More people will be open to the use of technology. Not just from a comfort perspective but also from an economic barrier perspective. I hope this causes increased access by children of all economic levels to have the use of technology. I think we will be better positioned to adopt more hybrid approaches to technology. Instead of being on the extremes of either fear of technology or the lack of humanity in technology I hope for a world that increases the hybrid human-plus-technology. In terms of privacy we must strike a balance of privacy, safety and fairness. I hope this increases the individual awareness of the need for this balance by use case.”

HOPES: “Perhaps we will increase our social nature by introductions through platforms that include visual as the norm for initial introductions. I hope they are still followed by in person but perhaps an increase of introduction which includes a more personal encounter than a text, email or phone call.”

WORRIES: “That privacy will be ignored for profitability. That hidden bias will be buried and not brought to the forefront.”

Stephan G. Humer, lecturer expert in digital life at Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, noted, “Due to its advantages, digitization will become much more integral to our everyday lives in times of pandemic. As a result, digital skills will increase, both in the professional and private sphere. Digitization will probably even be classified as systemically relevant in some areas. This will also lead to a reassessment of risks, for example in areas like online banking, communication and learning. Many old ‘wisdoms’ will be obsolete. The usefulness of digitization will thus lead to a kind of forced modernisation because of online shopping, video conferencing and home office possibilities. Modern societies came through the pandemic much better.”

HOPES: “We will certainly see a wide range of small and large improvements. I think that digitization is still at the beginning of its history, but the pandemic is now pushing so many changes at once that many areas will benefit. My hope is that the socially disadvantaged will not be left out in the cold, because digitization or internet policy is always social policy. The internet always rewards those who are strong, because they can become even stronger, while those without sufficient knowledge and possibilities are increasingly falling behind. That is why all improvements should be accompanied by social balance: opportunities and possibilities for all. But: people then must follow suit. The historical change brought about by digitization must also be shaped. People must be empowered, but their participation must also be demanded.”

WORRIES: “Clearly the power gap is a concern, both in the corporate world and in private life. Digitization will continue to be a tool for those who have the necessary skills. Those who can should participate. Those who cannot should get help. Those who do not want to should see that they are harming themselves. Many people place too much hope in the government, especially here in Europe. Digitization is a revolution that challenges the individual above all, but also rewards him or her for doing so. Those who are digitally fit can only win. The government can help less than ever.”

Thomas Vander Wal, head of developmental operations strategy and planning at UTC Aerospace Systems, responded, “The ‘new normal’ by 2025 breaks into two parts: 1) Office- and enterprise-related work. 2) Support systems and services in communities around offices (food service, custodial services, transportation, civic support services). The office-related work will change drastically and much for the better as people will be commuting less and the quality-of-life result shows that remote-work capabilities are not only functional, but also an improvement (knowledge and information is actually captured and shared rather than lost in the ether). People working face-to-face will still be needed for planning and working through negotiation and mitigation for path(s) forward. Some creative work with physical products will still require in-person discussions for some work as well. But large portions of work can work just as well remotely, if not better. The second category of average people’s work is where I’m not fully sure what will happen. Jobs that are created / held which support people work in ‘second place’ may be reduced. Whether these jobs shift closer to where people are working remotely, or they go away isn’t clear. What happens to unused real estate when the need for ‘second place’ work environments gets drastically reduced? Best practices reports are available from companies who have had large segments of their people working remotely for years or from those who run companies that support this type of work. The figuring as to what is ‘work time’ and what is ‘personal time’ needs to be better demarcated than it has been interwoven in the last 10 to 15 years, as the health and well-being results from that well-known demarcation is much clearer to more people now.”

HOPES: “The tools that support digital work need improvement. There have been large gaps in these tools that have been left to continue for far too long. A focus on how people actually work and work socially in teams and small groups needs to be better supported. These are not short or simple fixes. They take time and a lot of effort. Tools that can adapt far more easily to human needs are necessary, rather than expecting people to adjust to poor tools. The realization that this change is needed has been getting heard more and more, with the need for improvement sinking in, and planning and selection of tools that fit these needs coming more to the forefront.”

WORRIES: “Privacy and personal control of privacy is key. Many commercial social platforms have been grossly negligent in protecting people but are also keeping cross-border sharing of data and information in check.”

Thornton May, futurist and co-founder of The Digital Value Institute, noted, “The importance of technology – i.e., you can’t work remotely without it; you can’t consume information and culture without it; you can’t remain connected without it – is no longer in dispute. Senior management groups will come to appreciate the role of the chief information officer and the IT department to keep business operating. Crisis-mastering professionals and institutions take the time and allocate the resources required to make sure that all constituencies are comfortable/facile with the expanding array of digital technologies that make life and work possible.”

HOPES: “My hope is that people understand technology and technologists and they conduct truthful assessments of their digital competence and take steps to improve. People will know where they are spending time (through time tracking); and with whom they are spending time.”

WORRIES: “What worries me is that some people will be left behind. Technology companies have a great opportunity to repair their brand images as profit-obsessed data suckers and create a global competence-building program for communities lacking digital skills. Failing to create these outreach programs opens the door to innovation-destroying government regulation.”

Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said, HOPES: “The technology-enabled ‘new normal’ will make ‘remote everything’ much more common, with all the benefits of convenience and savings that brings with it. It turns out that IT is actually more capable of letting us operate a more-remote economy and society, and it took the COVID shock to force organizations to allow it to happen. Now that they have, there is no going back, at least not completely.”

WORRIES: “I worry that technology platforms will cave into pressure to limit free speech on the internet.”

Frederico Links, a journalist, governance researcher, trainer, activist and editor of Insight Namibia, observed, “If implemented and managed reasonably well, technology (i.e., affordable and accessible internet connectivity) that enables individual and communal empowerment should be more readily available to many more nationally and locally. Issues of individual and societal health and wellness should be much more foregrounded and prioritised, while societies should be in a relatively good position in terms of crisis preparedness and management. Personal devices will be much more connected to national health systems. Remote work for most professional fields could be a ‘new normal,’ while schooling could also be using more technology-facilitated teaching and learning. Issues of personal data privacy will have evolved as people – as part of the new normal – let go of more privacy in a tradeoff for more potential crisis security.”

David Robertson, professor and chair of political science at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, observed, “I expect humans will adjust, as they are adjusting now, to the reality of pandemics and pandemic threats. There will be a demand for technologies that can engage groups of people more effectively while keeping individual more separate. The economic incentives for such new technologies will be strong. More immediate human interaction without physical presence is likely to result. For education, health consultation and a wide range of services, these innovations will prove a blessing (though with many technological advances, a mixed one). Employment and economic benefits can be measurable, but the implementation of the technology – partly a political choice – will determine whether these technologies are a force more reduced or increased equality.”

HOPES: “I would hope that learning becomes greatly improved at all levels. Right now, technology falls short of providing the personal interaction that facilitates learning.”

WORRIES: “I worry greatly about the loss of privacy and efforts by governments to monitor citizens’ behavior closely.”

Dharmendra K. Sachdev, a telecommunications pioneer and founder-president of Spacetel Consultancy LLC, said, “Right now in the U.S., the recovery from COVID-19 is mixed up in the election politics. However, the rest of the world – both rich and poor – have demonstrated that at times of unexpected peril, societies can come together and follow a plan developed by experts in the area involved. This is my basis for optimism. That said, the U.S. has the largest economy and it can pull down the rest of the world if we continue on our present path. I am hopeful that the American population at large will begin to exert overt pressure on politicians to reverse course and to follow what other countries have already achieved. The second reason for being hopeful is that over 100 vaccines are in development and some of the will begin to eradicate this virus. Lastly, I am hopeful that this experience will bring about global cooperation for global warming and future pandemics ahead of their arrival.”

HOPES: “Hopes: 1) Changes that reduce income inequality around the world. This includes distance-learning tools and access to internet for everybody. 2) Real steps to reduce global warming. Tech can play a role in the development of electric and connected cars, interactive classes for training entry-level high school graduates. 3) Reduction in crime, terrorism and police excessive use of force through smart facial recognition and pervasive video recording.”

WORRIES: “Worries: 1) Tech is too focused on increasing the number of ‘eyeballs’ to sell ads. There has to be a better balance between profits and social responsibility. 2) In the tech world it is just too easy to make a lot of equity through just a few algorithms; see Uber, etc. While millions of taxi drivers lost their jobs, those who developed a smart app or two are on their way to becoming rich. Investors should look at other sectors too; for example, new medicines.”

Ian Thomson, a pioneer developer of the Pacific Knowledge Hub, observed, “Most people will travel less and do more working and schooling/learning/professional development from home. Developing countries will enable more of their citizens to interact with them online and improve their delivery of services (especially health and education) through the use of ICTs. There will be many changes to how we do globalization and global supply chains, with a stronger focus on diversity and supporting local businesses. The strong sense of communities working together and sacrificing for the greater good in emergency conditions will evaporate. Technologies will continue to be developed (probably more quickly than we are comfortable with) and will be used for good and bad.”

HOPES: “I hope that new technologies will help us to reduce the harm we do to people and the environment and allow greater sustainability.”

WORRIES: “I worry that the rate of change in technology and our society will be too fast for us to put in place safeguards and protections. I worry that the inspiration for innovation will be driven by greed and not by serving the good of society.”

Ibon Zugasti, futurist, strategist and director with Prospektiker, wrote, “The ‘new normal’ could be better for the average person in 2025 if we address the global challenges related to it in the right way, mainly as regards to digital and climate transformations. I expect that by 2025, governments, business and civil society will be happy to integrate digital technologies in their daily lives in a way that can help reduce the negative impacts of risks such as global pandemics. Solving privacy issues could contribute to an extended use of digital technologies for health security.”

HOPES: “Through digital and experiential channels, companies seek to assure the consumer that the spaces are safe and recovery is stable.”

WORRIES: “Aggressive adoption of digital tools for sales, profitability and for communicating.”

Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab at American University, observed, “The new normal will include vastly improved and more equitable health care for all. The pandemic demonstrated the need and the costs of supplying health care on the fly. Technology can help supply the data to make informed health care decisions by both elected officials and health consumers. I think the new normal will involve an enhanced awareness of the outsourced manufacturing of many ‘essential products’ and technology could play a role in developing efficient manufacturing systems within the U.S. that could be competitive with cheap labor overseas. Technology has a role to play in efficient voting mechanisms that can encourage across-the-board voting. I think the new normal will include greater efforts to ensure workers are paid a living wage so that government doesn’t, again on the fly, need to provide emergency relief. In entrepreneurship-speak, the pandemic revealed new ‘jobs that need to be done,’ and smart entrepreneurs will come up with ideas to alter childcare, higher ed, climate health and more. I think individuals, generally, will forego some privacy in return for some common-sense improvements for society at large.”

HOPES: “Tech can improve health care, manufacturing, working conditions, voting and running for office and even journalism. One caveat is that technologists don’t get too greedy.”

WORRIES: “ANON I am most worried that the profit motive of technology companies will trump civic good. I also worry that extreme data mining of individuals’ private information could compromise their efforts to get jobs or health care.”

Jannick Pedersen, a co-founder, CEO and futurist based in Europe, commented, “Considerably more work and meetings will be virtual. There will be a major permanent shift to online shopping. Better digital skills will keep families and friends connected.”

HOPES: “See above”

WORRIES: “Ransomware and other cybercrime will grow.”

John Haywood, a researcher at Eastern Carolina University, observed, “I feel like the question might as well have been ‘are you an optimist or pessimist or neither.’ I went for the optimist option. I’m hopeful the policy failures of the demagogues we’ve got running a lot of our government now will result in a shift to pragmatism and greater respect for one another (living wages, better schools, better healthcare) and global problems (climate change, wealth concentration in the hands of a few). If the next five years turns out to be like the last three and a half, we’re screwed. Adults need better boundaries between work and the rest of their lives.”

HOPES: “Cleaner tech; greener tech (less/zero carbon emissions). Tech that gives us more time for things we enjoy.”

WORRIES: “Lack of privacy. The tendency of people to be manipulated into supporting un-democratic demagoguery, particularly via social media.”

Mark Warschauer, professor of education and informatics at the University of California-Irvine, commented, “Most importantly, we will have a new administration. With Democrats in control of both houses and the presidency, we will make progress and legislation and programs to better provide for people’s education, health care and welfare, while better tackling climate change, environmental destruction and institutional racism. As for technology, I expect that while we will mostly return to face-to-face learning, there will be an increase in both the quality and quantity of online and hybrid education due to the experiences people have gained through the pandemic. In addition, I think there will also be an increase in both the quality and quantity of working from home, remote meetings and online conferences for all of the same reasons. This will give people more options about where to live, allow them to spend less time commuting and have a positive impact on the environment due to less travel.”

HOPES: “I hope that technologies will continue to be developed that improve the quality of online interaction, networking and instruction, both for asynchronous and synchronous communication. I also hope that more companies will allow people to work from home part- or full-time, and that major organizations will schedule fewer face-to-face meetings, and conferences, thus reducing the need for travel.”

WORRIES: “I worry that a rush to online learning will undermine the quality of instruction. I also worry that a move to work from home could shift many of the costs of the work environment from companies to families and could negatively impact families with children.”

José Cordeiro, fellow at the World Academy of Art and Science, commented, “COVID-19 has brought an incredible level of competition and collaboration across the world, and this is good to fight diseases. After this pandemic, humanity will be better prepared to meet similar changes, and unknown others, too. In fact, this could be the last global pandemic before we are almost immediately ready for antiviral medications, quick vaccines, even preventive medicine and other treatments. It is time to turn this big crisis into a big opportunity, to move towards a New Renaissance.”

HOPES: “Technology helps us to live better, in fact, technology is what makes us human, and with more technology, we will be more human!”

WORRIES: “My only worry is that technology might not move fast enough!”

Karen Yesinkus, a creative and digital services professional, observed, “Technology will aid people in their everyday lives as we move through the next decade at an incredible pace. However, as technology enhances everyday living on the ‘surface,’ at the same time it will continue to burrow deeper and deeper into individuals’ privacy. The next decade could be a preview to a reckoning of tradeoffs – benefit versus invasion on a case-by-case basis.”

HOPES: “Improvement, access and advancement in medical services and outcomes, particularly the goal of ‘aging in place.’”

WORRIES: “ANON The balance and tradeoffs for benefit (small to enormous) and the realization that you cannot go back once you reach a certain point.”

Kelly Quinn, professor of communication at the University of Illinois-Chicago, responded, “The pandemic has created a new lifestyle for individuals – one that is more centered on home or a home-like base and on smaller social circles. Trust is becoming a valued element in many relationships, because of a need to monitor one’s own safety. This bodes well for society, as it recalibrates on the ‘things that matter.’ The use of technology to stay connected is shifting as well, as individuals gain more experience with using tools to support important relationships that may have dwindled through time and distance. The countless Zoom calls and happy hours with college friends or extended families are examples of this reconnection. These newly strengthened bonds will maintain some presence in an individual’s everyday life, though they will not equal the bonds of a face-to-face relationship. One aspect that should not be overlooked is the importance of media literacy and privacy literacy when using these technologies. One concern that I have is that, in the rush to acquire proficiency with new tools to support relationships (and the need to create the ability to work from home), privacy has been disregarded in its importance. This bodes poorly for the future – as individuals’ online activities and information becomes increasingly exploited for private gain. Ultimately, this will be detrimental to wellbeing, and society at large.”

HOPES: “I have hope that recent legislative efforts in the U.S., such as the CCPA and the Washington Privacy Act (in its evolution), will begin to restore more balance between the individual and large organizations that trade on individuals’ information, such as the large media platforms and data brokers. I don’t have much hope for a national effort in this area, but because some states have found/are finding the political will and muscle to create change, I have hope.”

WORRIES: “My worry is that, without some form of checks and balances, the trading of individuals’ information will become so pervasive and intrusive that it will destroy us. Already, we are seeing that the effects of these activities disproportionately affect those who are already marginalized.”

Marc H. Noble, a retired technology developer/administrator, wrote, “There is still a lot of development that has to be done in making technology easy and safe to use. The pandemic has opened the door for many positions to be viewed as being able to be done from a remote location. This will allow more freedom to people, particularly in office positions, to be able to work not just from home but from remote locations. The advantage is that commuting will be done much less often, helping the environment that has been under siege for years from carbon pollution. I would also think that this will enable business to need to rent less office space, reducing somewhat the cost of doing business. I would also believe that those who commute less will be happier in their lives since they will not have to commute as often, sometimes an hour each way, they will be able to put that time to better use. One downside is that there is still a great need to provide stronger security and privacy controls to protect the individuals’ private lives.”

HOPES: “I’m hopeful that technology will open the doors to opportunities to a broad base of our population. Granted, this will focus on those with higher degrees but with the expansion of technologies, there will be a greater need for more knowledge workers that will lift up broader parts of our society.”

WORRIES: “AI does concern me in its development. I’ve already read about how some of the AI experiments have not been able to be controlled. I read that one company had two AI machines that started communicating beyond normal human communication and so had to be turned off to gain control. In my opinion, in the development of AI, I believe that we should be treating it extremely carefully and slowly, in highly controlled environments, like a deadly virus.”

Mark Jamison, a professor at the University of Florida and visiting scholar at American Enterprise Institute, previously manager of regulatory policy at Sprint, wrote, “I am generally suspicious of predictions of what a future year holds, so I don’t won’t give a vision for 2025. I am confident, though, that we will be better off than we would have without COVID-19 because we have tried things that we would not have tried otherwise and the learning allows us to make better choices. For example, we are rapidly developing better ways to learn from, communicate with and build relationships with people that we will never meet in person.”

Emmanuel Evans Ntekop, founder of Ntekop Corporation, based in Lagos, Nigeria, wrote, “People have faced many challenges, they have survived a lot, and in 2025 they will just have overcome a pandemic. It will be really hard for the poor. I can’t really predict their future professional lives, routine, employment and economic security because, yes, unemployment is going to work against any economic breakthrough. Technology is something humans can no longer do without.”

HOPES: “Improvements in online meetings, classes, webinars, digital business-to-business trade, innovations in AI and online marketing.”

Predictions from respondents who said most people’s lives will be about the same in 2025 as they were prior to the arrival of the pandemic

Gary A. Bolles, chair for the future of work at Singularity University, responded, “This transition period is ‘The Great Reset.’ It has been suggested for some time that people need to leverage digital technologies more in their personal and professional lives. The pandemic response has accelerated a range of uses of certain technologies. In the next five years what’s likely is: A much higher percentage of people will work at least part of the week in non-office environments. Many workers will have ‘portfolios of work,’ a variety of work activities including a day job, gig work and startup activity. While this will encourage more variety and fluid relationships with hirers, it will also create more economic uncertainty and precarity for many. Many businesses will have accelerated their use of a range of enterprise technologies – from implementing digital non-human labor such as software bots to utilizing skills banks – to manage their increasingly-fluid organizations. More workers and teams will use AI-fueled tools to help them coordinate and collaborate more effectively. Education will become significantly unbundled, with a range of learning contexts beyond traditional schooling. Privacy will be under much deeper strain, as governments and high-tech giants continually iterate their ability to gather data with relative impunity. The framing of the question is a little challenging, because ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in the context of technology use is extremely subjective. If the most basic macroanalysis is, say, how many people could be helped out of poverty worldwide, then the net impact is likely to be that we could have had more people elevated from poverty by 2025 if the pandemic hadn’t occurred. But it sounds like we’re equating ‘more tech use’ with ‘more good in the world,’ which I don’t think is guaranteed.”

HOPES: “My hope is for a human-centric world that requires new technologies to be designed for the benefit of people, with penalties for what used to be considered negative externalities. Software will help humans to better understand, develop and augment their skills and help them find and create a broader range of work opportunities. Hirers will embrace software-fueled strategies to ensure that workers in non-standard work roles will have many of the same rights as full-time employees, such as unbundled benefits and reliable shift work. As a result, high-tech and other companies will stop depending on non-standard workers as a fungible commodity. Organizations will shift to a ‘NetWork’ model that maximizes the human potential of all their stakeholders, in a range of different work relationships with the organization. Teams will have the toolset that will allow them to dynamically and rapidly bond around problems to solve.”

WORRIES: “My worry is over the increasing power of the winner-take-all tech companies and the lack of viable competition; a venture-fueled, extractive approach to innovation that guarantees the incumbents will win, as they buy startups designed specifically to be purchased. There is a lack of collective commitment to default processes that work primarily to the benefit of humans, such as a fundamental right to data ownership and privacy. The continued dependence by many governments on legacy processes and old technology that keep them from nimble response to citizen needs is a negative. There is a lack of widespread commitment to ethics and inclusion, leading to the continuing dehumanization of technology.”

Art Brodsky, communications consultant and former vice president of communications for Public Knowledge, responded, “People have short memories. In five years, life will go on as pre-COVID-19-normal until something happens again.”

HOPES: “It would be nice if unserved and under-served areas got real internet access. That won’t happen unless the government gets more aggressive, because companies won’t do it on their own.”

WORRIES: “Social media and accompanying tech are dominating public discourse through their actions and – importantly – their inaction. They cannot be allowed to create an ecosystem and then disavow any knowledge of what they have done.”

Glenn Edens, professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona State University, previously a vice president at PARC, observed, “There is a good chance by 2025 society will have forgotten all about the current crisis. A key question is, how soon do we find a viable vaccine and how long does it take to put that into production, and when does it become part of the annual flu-season vaccine? If for some reason a vaccine and treatment continue to be elusive, then all bets are off for recovery by 2025. The economic fallout from the current crisis will likely take a decade to ‘fix’ – we should be prepared for five to seven years of lower growth prospects, higher taxes, continued failures of firms and an uneven recovery. It is reasonable to expect that some industries will find it harder to return to ‘pre-COVID-19’ status quo. Some will not recover – for example, e-commerce, on-demand delivery and working from home are not retreating. Many firms are realizing they don’t need huge commercial real estate or physical infrastructure – I’d predict a significant restructuring of commercial real estate. The displacement of brick-and-mortar retail by e-commerce, which has been steady and slow, has been kicked into high gear – how will the convenience of e-commerce versus the experience of physical retail unfold? My bet is that many brands and chains will not survive and the very nature of a ‘shopping mall’ will have to change dramatically – these facilities will survive, as will site-specific retail experiences. Consumption = convenience, so I’d suggest e-commerce is likely to jump to account for 50% or more of all retail sales and it will continue to grow. The conflict of the individual versus the good for the commons has been vividly brought to the forefront, and so far the results are not looking so good for the commons. While working from home (or remotely under different scenarios), is not perfect or anywhere near as good as it could be, it is here to stay. Many firms are discovering it is very cost-effective. The jury is still out on the true impact of productivity gains or losses due to working from home. Many of the firms I’ve talked to are seriously thinking about incorporating working from home as a long-term part of their human resources and commercial real estate strategy. This will continue to provide funding for more innovations in the communications technology sector – we are already seeing improved security and some small advances in user interface and user experience improvements (we may finally get real spatialized audio). There is a dark side of these tools, which is not well understood yet – many managers I’ve spoken to are intrigued with (giddy about?)  the increased tools for monitoring employees, their work output, productivity, work styles and intricate details of their behavior – this will be exploited and may lead to unintended consequences. At the same time, it is interesting that the ‘internet’ didn’t collapse – it held up pretty well, and it is pretty clear that investing in high-speed internet access is going to continue to set geographic areas apart economically. We seem to also be getting more serious about security. Longer-term it is clear, of course, that society will continue to increase its dependence on digitally intermediated systems for every facet of life: health care, education, shopping, groceries, entertainment, transportation, work and finance – that trend is unstoppable. At the same time, we are a social species and we crave social interaction – risks will not sway us. :)”

Gregory Shannon, chief scientist at the CERT software engineering institute at Carnegie Mellon University, responded, “I see willingness to trust and flexibility in trust as a key element of the ‘new normal.’ Previous trust modes/models/habits/norms will evolve, and those most successful in the new normal will have adapted/optimized their approaches on trust. Those who don’t adapt/evolve their approach to trust will be hampered, inefficient and even isolated in the new normal. The new normal will continue and accelerate the move towards digital spaces, which, without in-person interaction are abstract and hard for many to grasp. I find it interesting that many modern efficiencies are based on getting many people physically close together. Transportation, sports events, restaurants, education, work teams, hospitals, city parks, gyms, places of worship, 5th Avenue, etc. Who and where do we each trust to get close to others? Can we get ‘close’ in a meaningful way via technology? It’s not clear to me how. Will we see an exodus from cities as density becomes more of a bug than a feature? How will we meet new people? Will it be much more localized, like to our neighborhood? I expect a real increase in social isolation, especially for those older, or less tech savvy, or with few resources to connect virtually.”

HOPES: “Smart virtual avatars/agents will make and manage connections. They can suggest/negotiate introductions to new colleagues with relevant yet diverse perspectives. The agents could also warn/caution when new colleagues seem insincere, untrustworthy or even artificial. I expect we’ll see much better virtual-collaboration technologies. From wikis and such to continuous virtual conferencing.”

WORRIES: “The availability of accessible, stable and secure bandwidth is a worry. The current ‘best-effort’ residential-connectivity plans are failing. There are too many dropped calls, glitchy video, audio drops (every other word) and a lack of scalability for group discussions. Privacy is also certainly an issue. If these are not addressed well it will increase social isolation.”

John Harlow, smart cities research specialist at the Engagement Lab @ Emerson College, said, “Requisite prediction is folly caveat. I expect change and not a ‘new normal’ whatsoever. We are stacking crises here: state violence, climate change, opioid epidemic, COVID-19 pandemic, historic unemployment and the disastrous Trump presidency’s effects on geopolitics. I’m sure you could name more. The ‘new normal’ in 2025 seems most likely to be constant change to absorb historically unusual threats, zoonotic pandemics, extreme weather, food insecurity, housing insecurity, unstable political systems, etc. I think the world will be less stable because of these drivers. This cuts at least two ways, first, the most-vulnerable people (poor, disabled, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA+, women, children, religious minorities, geographically vulnerable) will likely suffer between now and 2025. Second, the status quo arguably suffers from widespread indications that it cannot address the above collective action problems. I am guessing that whatever status quo (if any) emerges on the other side could be better or worse, but that even if it’s better it likely doesn’t materialize and scale sufficiently for the average person to benefit by 2025. Now to address the actual question: I don’t think we’ll have a vaccinated world in 2025, so what’s changed most is interpersonal contact. I think society will anchor to the relative safety of outside and remote. Maybe school years shift to support the most outdoor education possible in the local climate? I think life will shift toward more outdoor everything, with less technology density than indoor school and office settings had. Technology use interpersonally will probably increase remotely, with emerging players iterating on current video chat, messaging, collaboration and social media models. We want to connect, and we have settled for tools good enough in a reality that allowed for interrupting remote interactions with having a walk, or coffee, or conference, or concert, or hug. I think these tools get much better if people spend dramatically less time together in physical space. I can’t get my head around privacy or employment in 2025. There are so many paths from here to 2025. Could we all be on Signal, Protonmail and Mastodon, or literally raising a generation of teens addicted to a Chinese Communist Party intelligence agency spy platform? The internet could cease to exist as we know it, due to trolls, the concentration of everything into walled gardens or infrastructure challenges. Could we all be deep into solving climate change problems? 2025 feels like 2020, constant change and uncertainty.”

HOPES: “A move to telemedicine as default and to remote work. Both come with additional benefits. Default telemedicine forces the question of how to best protect personal medical information when doctors and patients videoconference (or use treatment apps, etc.). Remote work has always offered clear transportation emissions benefits. Open source, privacy-first applications will replace walled gardens SMS action moves to Signal, Facebook to Mastodon, etc., there will be movement from data-extractive privacy-destroying business models to public goods. Mask tech will likely move fast, and there are already very promising prototypes from professionals. Masks suck, they are super uncomfortable, hot, make breathing annoying, hide facial expressions, etc. I anticipate a lot of innovation in this space for comfort, aesthetics and safety. Similarly, contact tracing will likely see an explosion of international activity. Some innovations will be useful beyond COVID and may help fight other diseases. Some will be dark and become permanent surveillance architecture. Any antitrust action against big tech companies – Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle, Netflix, Amazon, Facebook – would drive a lot of innovation by lowering barriers to entry and (hopefully) changing exit strategies in order to mature and maintain new players in tech markets rather than selling new ideas to old companies to be buried. Most importantly, the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests against a half millennium of white supremacist state violence and extrajudicial killings have amassed support and momentum for change beyond anything I can remember from my lifetime. The premise of abolition invites us to imagine a world without police and policing, and there is building to be done to replace those retributive oppressive structures with care-based, harm-reducing alternatives.”

WORRIES: “My worries for 2025 are all the same things that worry me today. The amount of data generated about an individual and how it can coalesce into a cross-referenced profile across sources, i.e., simplicity of tying government data to mobile phone data to hacked purchase data to society-scale, real-time gait and facial (and other) recognition across widespread public surveillance video feeds. The role of technology in undermining democracy is my largest worry. As long as we are creating radicalization and conspiracy bubbles at scale, social media companies will remain massive threats to the stability of societies. Who mediates this? Who decides which technologies the public is offered? Who decides what tech companies affect which individuals lives? Governments make many of these decisions, and from the Chinese Communist Party to ICE under Trump to Duterte’s recent anti-terrorism law, the world seems to be steadily slipping from the remains of Reagan-Thatcherism into a more-authoritarian era, empowered by technology-based government tracking of ever more individual activity.”

Chris Savage, an expert in legal and regulatory issues based in Washington, D.C., wrote, “The pandemic has shown the degree to which very large swaths of the economy can work effectively using technology rather than physical presence. Remote meetings and remote work will be part of the new normal. This will lead to significant contraction in commercial real estate (who needs a full-time office?) and business travel, even when fear of infection has passed. This in turn will lower employment in those sectors. It is also much easier to engage in surveillance of what employees are doing when more of what they do is mediated by computers/the internet. Therefore, I suspect that overall privacy will be degraded as a result of these changes. With less ‘organic,’ work-based, person-to-person interaction, people will become more isolated, with negative mental and emotional health effects. Interacting with others is a benefit of working in an office or other group-working environment that people will lose with an increase in remote work.”

HOPES: “As remote conferencing improves, people will be able to have more realistic ‘face-to-face’ get-togethers with friends and family who are geographically distant. That’s good.”

WORRIES: “Two things: 1) increased physical isolation (even with better online meeting capabilities) will lead to loneliness and isolation; 2) continuing increase in reliance on technology for both business and personal communication will tend to degrade privacy.”

Leiska Evanson, futurist and consultant, wrote, “Remote work will not become mainstream. Most management is learned physically – years of playing on the playground, leading a sports or debate team, heading a volunteer club or doing education/personal projects. Most of humanity is built on close physical ties – family, friends, neighbourhoods, tribes, towns, cities, countries. Undoing centuries of human relationship and business practice is simply not feasible over five years. Furthermore, technology services in companies are currently stretched thin providing and assisting users remotely; chief information security officers will most likely centralise services once more with company computers and use only company networks. Worldwide, COVID-19 response will most likely take away funds from internet backbone development. Already, 5G towers have been targeted and telecommunications companies are losing money as some nations have branded their services as ‘essential’ thus they have been forced to offer service at fixed rates or for free for education. When the pandemic ends, prices will soar or costs (i.e. employees) will be dropped. This will lead to stagnation on internet speeds and the ability to connect. People will continue to enjoy online shopping, and already the transportation network that is shopping’s backbone is unable to keep up. That will hamper significant growth. People will not change their current online behaviours regarding the ways in which data privacy is balanced against their need to socialise. After a period of protected quarantines, lockdowns and illness, they will lean more on social media to stay connected, with less concern that their data is a commodity. Only if the service requires payment will users care, as this type of contract is well-known to be legally binding vs. free use still requiring due diligence, e.g., a bank or Amazon breach vs. Facebook selling data to third parties.”

HOPES: “None.”

WORRIES: “Programmers are creating biased AI based on biased data that cannot be cleaned because data cleaners are biased and don’t realise it. Facebook may die off at the pace of AOL. It is still going to command, farm and influence influential generations in the 40-and-over age demographic. So will many social media platforms. Elections will be psychologically rigged with online gerrymandering, as echo chambers continue to evolve, shepherded by biased algorithms and AI. What is commonly referred to as AI is not AI, it is machine learning that eats data and spits out patterns – not all of which are useful. Tech companies will use the noise to sell themselves and bury the signals for profit. Google is wholesale buying children’s information as governments lean on the company for online educational support. No one knows what they are doing with all this young-consumer data, but my children get new YouTube recommendations.”

Michael G. Dyer, a professor emeritus of computer science at UCLA expert in Natural Language Processing, responded, “The major change due to COVID-19 five years from now will have been the acceleration of the already ongoing trend of many transactions moving from physical to virtual, of those transactions that can move. More people will order products online and have them delivered than going to stores to shop. However, some areas cannot be virtualized. A haircut must be physical, and a virtual party as viewed through a computer screen is a very mediocre experience compared to a physical gathering. More food will be delivered to the home. Restaurants will be back to normal – you can’t eat a virtual steak or drink virtual wine. The question of change being worse or better is ambiguous. Worse vs. better for who? The wealthy? The poor? Better or worse where? In the U.S.? Throughout the world? For island nations? For the young? For the old? In what areas of life? Education? Manufacturing? Over what time period? Better or worse in the time just before 2025 or the time strictly after 2025? In much less than five years, COVID-19 will be managed like any other influenza, with yearly vaccines and also with antivirals. However, those in the West will have become much more likely to wear masks in public when they feel ill – like those in Asian countries were already doing. Seeing more people in masks for one person might mean ‘life is worse’ but it might be a neutral change for someone else. COVID-19 will accelerate the trend toward more robotics (they can’t get sick). Is this better or worse? It will obviously be worse for those who lose jobs in meat processing plants or in warehouses but will be a benefit to shareholders and the public at large. Technology for improved virtual reality will also accelerate over the coming five years, but I do not see widespread use of the sensory suits, body motion sensors, 3D glasses, multimedia databases and network bandwidth that are needed for full 3D virtual experiences (which not become more common until 10 years from now). With COVID-19 well managed, people will return to airline travel but, relatively speaking, a larger percentage of travel will be for vacation, rather than for business because the process of virtualizing business will have been accelerated by the COVID-19 experience. If people happen to be contagious with some virus but not very ill, they can still join in a virtual business meeting while a physical meeting would be problematic. It is much more cost-effective to have virtual versus physical meetings (avoid exploding gasoline or using up batteries to drive; avoid traffic; avoid cost of a physical venue, etc.). Those involved in areas of virtualization will be better off. A larger percentage of the educational experience will be virtual. Many educational institutions (the smaller ones) will have gone bankrupt, but new ones will rise up because students want largely a social educational experience, not one just through a screen. Consider music, already 99.9% of all music is experienced virtually; less than 0.1% of music is experienced by physically listening to physical musicians physically performing in real time. Is the world worse or better because of this fact? Music has been virtual for so long (with the advent of records, then CDs, then thumb drives, then downloading, then streaming) that no one is even old enough to bemoan the transition of music to “virtuality.” For years I told my students that bookstores were about to disappear, but I was off by 15 years. It has taken longer for books to disappear because they still have advantages: you can read a book without needing electricity. However, you can carry hundreds of books on a smartphone, while carrying 100 physically books would be very difficult. I would say that the world is better off at large; although worse for those whose business is physical bookstores. Even though virtuality will have been accelerated by COVID-19, the physical world will still remain very important. You cannot share virtual food or share intimacy virtually (with regard to intimacy, at least not yet). You cannot get a virtual haircut. You can see moving images of ocean waves but cannot swim in virtual waves. Traditions on their way out already will be accelerated, such as viewing films in movie theaters (for a long time in decline, as people can afford clearer and larger flatscreens at home). Restaurants and bars and cruise ships will have long sprung back by 2025 because they offer physical experiences that virtual technology cannot offer (at least not by 2025 or even 2030). The acceleration of the already ongoing trends of robotics and virtual interactions will continue to make life worse for the poorly educated and better for the highly educated. Some form of universal basic income (UBI) will need to be implemented, hopefully coupled with the requirement that those who receive it must at the same time be acquiring educational credits. Over time, more and more people will be educated via online targeted courses with targeted certifications. Only the wealthiest will be able to afford a traditional education in which they physically gather on campuses to learn philosophy, history, science, mathematics, etc. Virtual education will not be competitive with physically based education until virtual reality technology is much more advanced (give VR another 10 years). As new generations grow up in this new environment, they will take for granted this new environment while, as always, the elderly will bemoan the loss of an older way of life. Nothing we currently have will disappear. Although they are now rarely used for transport and never for plowing, the U.S. still has many domestic horses (less than 7 million) although fewer than in 1900 (greater than 21 million). By 2025 large automatic trucks will be seen commonly on major freeways – mainly restricted in those areas, but still, that will make life worse for those who worked as long-haul truckers. Regarding privacy, the trend toward loss of privacy will continue because without laws to force that all communication and resulting data be highly encrypted, more and more of everyone’s life will become less and less private. This is a ‘natural’ consequence of virtuality. Without legalized encryption, consider a tiny portion of a virtual day: I attend any type of virtual meeting: everything I saw and heard at that meeting can be captured and stored digitally, for some authority (or hacker) to later analyze at leisure. If I wore a virtual suit, then authorities would be able to know also everything I have felt during those virtual interactions. People already find physical changes are accelerating and this is stressful and disruptive, but consider more-distant virtual-environment technologies. The ‘commuter’ no longer commutes to a physical building but to a virtual building – that is, to a multimedia virtual database – and interacts with others via virtual reality glasses and body suits (or body sensors placed in a physical room). Since the ‘building’ is virtual, its ‘physical’ architecture and interior decoration (as images projected to the retina) can be changed easily because it is software. Changes in virtual environments will come much, much faster than in physical ones, but I am discussing post-2025. In any case, what really counts is the trend, and that is to ever more virtuality where possible.”

HOPES: “There have been many developments in the 20th century: laparoscopic surgeries, beginning of stem-cell treatments, recombinant techniques (PCR = Polymerase Chain Reaction). New CRISPR developments and RNA vaccines will continue to make people healthier. Big data analysis and developments in causal modeling (a la Judea Pearl) will someday revolutionize medicine. For example, rather than treating obesity and diabetes, people will learn to avoid sugars and high-carb foods (except for those with alternate genetics). Continuing advances in genetics will make diagnosis faster and more accurate. Food production: Instead of growing a complete animal who has to then be butchered, large vats of genetically engineered bacteria that move/stretch to simulate muscle stimulation will directly produce meat proteins, thus feeding the world’s masses without needing all those methane-burping cattle or millions of slaughtered pigs and chicken. Nuclear fusion: Assuming that the joke “fusion power is always 40 years away” ceases to be true, fusion power would transform the entire world. Water could be desalinated and transported via artificial rivers to all deserts of the world, enabling the planting of billions of trees for carbon sequestration and the reduction of the trend toward global warming (I dislike the term ‘climate change’ because the climate is always changing; call it what it is: man-caused global warming.) Solar and batteries: We need a big breakthrough in battery technology but once it happens, the world will be completely transformed. You can’t have a personal robot – even one that is very small and lightweight – until battery technology improves.”

WORRIES: “I worry that, as the world becomes more virtual, companies could end up owning and controlling all our virtual ‘possessions.’ If you buy a physical book you can give it to someone else; not so with a virtual book. You will use someone else’s software to create your virtual ‘building’ in which your employees meet and interact. What happens if you, for any reason, annoy the company that maintains and licenses to you that business environment? We already are seeing the incredible power that Amazon, Facebook and Google have over the businesses and people who use their software. At some point such companies will have to be broken up unless proper laws can be crafted that rein in that power.”

Paul Henman, professor of social sciences at the University of Queensland, observed, “There is no doubt there are going to be changes from pre-COVID-19 to the new normal post-COVID-19. The experience of the virus has forced many changes – such as working and socialising online instead of in person. This is likely to stimulate growth of working from home using online technologies in various sectors, but certainly not universally. It is also likely to speed up online services provision. The various experiences of health systems (including public health and communicable disease) and safety net/social security responses are likely to have an ongoing effect on socio-political discussions about the quality, design and funding of health and social security systems. There may be some flow on discussions about taxation and revenue reform. That said, the essential power imbalances between rich and poor, disadvantaged and advantaged – both within and between countries – will continue to be a strong force that will draw the above changes back to pre-COVID-19 realities and fissures, albeit with a post-COVID-19 hue. In short, COVID-19 has not fundamentally challenged these social structural realities.”

HOPES: “There will be some tech-related changes, but more social changes involving tech. The new normal is being constructed out of our experiences of having to use tech to navigate our worlds during COVID. These experiences will create ‘lessons’ for how we use tech in ways we may not have wanted to or have considered feasible prior to COVID.”

WORRIES: “I worry that the use of tracing and public health surveillance technologies and the associated supporting legislation necessary to respond to the pandemic will continue to be deployed once the pandemic justification has receded. These will be used by actors who will seek to reinforce control and reinforce preexisting social categorisations of dis/advantaged.”

Randy Marchany, a Virginia Tech information technology security officer who has worked with the White House Partnership for Critical Infrastructure Security, commented, “There will not be much change in individuals’ behavior, but there will be change in internet access. The pandemic has demonstrated the need for ‘universal’ high-speed internet access. Work from home will continue, and school from home may become more prevalent as school staffs’ health concerns can’t be addressed. Internet access has been shown to be a vital component in a post-pandemic world. It’s become a utility like power, water, etc., and will need to be regulated as such.”

Rebecca Theobald, assistant research professor at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, observed, “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the understanding of the importance of geospatial-analysis tools. They have been instrumental in highlighting current and historical inequalities across the United States and the world. The way societies are responding to the challenges faced by the pandemic reflects their willingness to invest in the future. This is demonstrated by the sacrifices or inconveniences the people living in a country agree to undertake; the amount of resources designated for children, young people and the disadvantaged; and the ability of the community to discuss differences in a rational manner, starting by agreement about basic frameworks of the state, whether that is democracy, theocracy, or autocracy. In 2025, the ‘new normal’ will be most affected by the changes brought about by rising seas, warming temperatures, changing habitats, increasing vulnerability to disease and multiple other issues documented by scientists across the world. The communities that will be most successful – countries, provinces, cities or towns – are those that are able to examine the facts of a situation, whether it be details of insufficient wealth due to systemic discrimination based on a characteristic the dominant group finds abhorrent or irritating or the evidence of how common food sources are no longer producing the nutrition necessary for a society to subsist and alter their activities so that all people in their community benefit. If income inequality, both at the national and global level, persists, then there will be a dystopian existence, with only a few people benefiting from the technological improvements created by clever minds, locked away in their gated communities and hopping from wormhole to wormhole ignoring the majority of people. If there is to be an ‘average person’ in 2025, then people will need to figure out how to maintain their connections to families, geographies, cultures and ideologies without squashing others in the process. We need people to speak truth to power, and to have the power to listen. And we need people to cooperate. From the vantage point of 2020, in 2025, people will likely be more entrenched in smaller and smaller tribes, talking only to each other and less inclined to give up what they feel they have earned. People in developed regions will have more flexibility in work and will be continually monitored. Health care will change because people’s health and genetic history will become available, and we will grapple with questions about who should or should not receive treatment. We will still not be willing to pay people who do what has been deemed ‘essential work’ during the pandemic a living wage. Without a change in philosophy, particularly in the United States of America, geospatial technology will be used to manage and manipulate people rather than to make their lives better.”

HOPES: “I hope that through transparent electoral redistricting at the national, state and local level, people in the United States will be guaranteed fair representation, as occurs in most democracies in the rest of the world, using geospatial technology as a check. Access to online educational resources will become easier, and educators will have figured out which subjects are best taught via computer and which are best taught in person, and how to help students learn well in each situation. More students – especially in the United States – will study math and science and will be prepared to address the challenges facing the world as a result of climate issues and economic inequality. I hope by 2025 efficient pooling of information about ways to improve people’s lives – whether it be about health, economic, or social issues – can be readily transferred from community to community. Economic inequality will decrease because everyone will be able to access how much money people make, how much they pay in taxes, and how they contribute to their community through contributions to philanthropic causes or political campaigns. Public transportation will become more efficient with more information about which bus/train/metro/trolley is arriving when and where, with more participants and public funds, fewer individual vehicles and less pollution. People who make public statements or declaim something on social media about scientific or historical issues not based in fact will be immediately quashed with data.”

WORRIES: “If those in power – governments and corporations – contain technology advances and manage them to their advantage, everyone will suffer over time. Others know more about this than I do, but it is a scary issue. See https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/world/asia/china-surveillance-xinjiang.htm and https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-chinas-government-is-using-ai-on-its-uighur-muslim-population/. This is not an imaginary problem.”

Sarita Schoenebeck, an associate professor at the School of Information at the University of Michigan, noted, “The pandemic has made visible country-level variances in childcare policies, worker rights, healthcare policies and economic issues. However, it has not changed discourse around technology in any meaningful way. Misinformation, privacy, doomscrolling and other aspects of technological concern persist in spite of COVID-19, with perhaps only more time and attention spent online to fuel the concerns. The new normal will look eerily similar to the current normal, with hopefully more mask-wearing and more attention to community health. If we want to build more-just technologies, it seems it will take more than even a global pandemic.”

HOPES: “I’m hopeful that by 2025 technology activists have been able to impact technology design and law in areas like facial recognition and privacy. I’m hopeful that similar advocacy will encourage technology that meets the needs of people with disabilities, reduces harm towards minoritized groups, and prioritizes democratic principles.”

WORRIES: “I’m worried about the unfettered role that technology companies have in people’s lives. Some of it produces good, but it also produces so much harm for people and societies, including harassment, disinformation and inequity, and those harms seem to be gaining steam rather than losing it.”

Simeon Yates, a professor of digital culture at the University of Liverpool and the research lead for the UK government’s Digital Culture team, said, “The arguments reek of technological determinism. There is an assumption that society and human interaction will fundamentally change due to the greater use of technology in response to COVID-19 measures, especially lockdown. But this is not the case. Many recent technologies have exacerbated, enhanced or extended the effects of long-standing social, economic, cultural and political issues. But they have not fundamentally changed them. Inequality is still excessive in nearly all nations. The benefits of ‘working from home’ accrue to a smaller proportion of the population. Shifts to new forms of remote access to services (e.g., health) end up excluding those most in need. The drive by governments towards greater use of data and algorithms in response to acute planning need will only likely lead to further automation of inequality. In general, the predictions as ever focus on the technology and what it can do, and not on the underlying social forces and structures and general human behaviour. I, therefore, think that by the close of the year the new normal will just be a variation on the pre-COVID-19 normal. It will see change for some that are seen by them as a positive – usually the wealthy. Changes good for some and ill for others. But no massive changes to the general social order and structures.”

HOPES: “Tech is not something that has singular impacts, good or ill. Where it will help is in managing COVID-19 – though it might come at the cost of privacy (see the failed UK virus app). Make it better for whom? In what ways better? Working from home is great for me (less commuting, more time with family). For some friends and colleagues, it has been devastatingly lonely. Again, this is a question that assumes technological determinism. Less commuting means less carbon – great! But this is neither a product of COVID-19 nor technology in and of themselves. We could have done all of this two, five, even 30 years ago. No, this is a set of social responses to the circumstances that are aided by tech but not caused by it. We need to change the politics and the economics of things.”

WORRIES: “A key point is a lack of accountability of technology companies and their sheer arrogance at not addressing the identifiable harms caused by their products. As operators of limited-choice platform economies they have both a moral and an ethical duty to address these issues, to become more transparent and frankly more open and democratic in how they are run. They need to show citizens and consumers greater respect. Rather than cosying up to these platforms, governments should be protecting their citizens from the worst excesses of these companies.”

Bill Dutton, professor of media and information policy at Michigan State University and former director of the Oxford Internet Institute, observed, “This is not the first pandemic, nor the last. The driving forces behind urbanisation, mass transportation and other trends over the decades will intensify rather than disappear.”

HOPES: “The pandemic has underscored the centrality of the internet and related digital media to everyday life and work, so that efforts to paint digital media as harmful will face increased scrutiny, along with the policies and regulations that a harm model is fostering, such as censorship of online content. There may also be more acknowledgement of and awareness of the importance of grappling with the digital divides locally and globally.”

WORRIES: “Efforts to recover revenues and institute more governmental regulation of digital media will undermine innovation and the promises of an open, global internet.”

Lenhart Schubert, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, noted, “To the extent that infrastructure for distance learning, distance medicine, at-home employment, etc., will have been enhanced and proven viable, I expect at least some shift towards that mode of societal functioning. There would also be a new impetus towards development of robotic medical procedures and services, self-driving trucks and cars and increased reliance on online shopping (with further decline of brick-and-mortar venues), perhaps with increasing use of drone delivery of small goods and mail. But society at large has a short memory and little foresight, and I think attitudes and practices will largely revert to pre-COVID-19 norms. We will not be much better prepared for new pandemics, climate disasters and other crises.”

Marcin Cieślak, a futurist based in Europe, said, “I am afraid we will take the silent acceptance of the surveillance technology to the next level.”

WORRIES: “More surveillance technologies.”

Steve Jones, professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago and editor of New Media and Society, commented, “ANON For some, things will be better, and for others, it will be worse. However, society tends to revert to the mean. Ultimately, I suspect for many things society will revert to normal, pending 1) development of a vaccine/immunity and 2) political outcomes in the U.S. in 2020.”

HOPES: “I hope for a greater understanding among the general population of the complicated and prominent role that social media plays in knowledge and action. I’ve long believed and argued that in many ways there is less difference between the online and offline worlds than we seem to admit, and I’d like to see greater acknowledgement of the blurring of that boundary. Will that make life better? Well… not in a techno-utopian sense, I suppose, but it might make us better users of technology, particularly social media, and it might make for more sensible policy discussions, too.”

WORRIES: “The obvious worries include surveillance, privacy and data rights. Nothing really new here. I suspect we’ll have the same worries then as we do now, with the possible addition of concerns regarding skin electronics and vehicle security.”

Tommy Johnson, a technology developer/administrator, observed, “The internet has been more and more dominated by proprietary systems. Email is probably the last protocol in use which one can use without having to agree to terms of service with some pointless third party. Even the web has been usurped by requiring that one have a signed key from a gatekeeper like Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt may give you a key now, but the keys they distribute are intentionally short-lived and can disappear at any time. They are as much a gatekeeper as Verisign. People could have used SIP clients instead of Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams. But they aren’t. And the final result is that participating in society while also managing to avoid the pointless rent seekers is impossible. The pandemic has changed the set of winning rent seekers, but not the fact that the public square is now under an end-user licensing agreement.”

HOPES: “Absent some unimaginable event, I cannot imagine the rent seekers being reined in.”

WORRIES: “That all ‘modern’ communications systems are centralized. We used to have internet relay chat and a zillion different clients for a couple of different operating systems. Now we have Mattermost, and the only client is a web page. Software as a service means no software.”

Tuija Aalto, an expert in social media and media strategy based in Helsinki, Finland, wrote, “Collaboration tools will hopefully develop with leaps as the new normal introduces work-from-home for all. I’m thinking of the possibilities of rural Finland, for instance the beautiful, and scarcely populated Ostrobothnia area on the country’s west coast. What if engineers from overcrowded metropolises from U.S. and India chose to live there, close to nature and the sea, while still working for their global employers. Finland is highly livable, and our connectivity is easily expanded to make such work arrangements feasible. Perhaps the small town of Närpiö, Finland, is the next gold standard for work-life balance in the new normal.”

David Clark, Internet Hall of Fame member and senior research scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, responded, “It will be different. Things will not go back the way they were. Work at home will increase and travel will decrease (but will pick up to some extent from where it stands now). I suspect that this new normal will not be ‘better’ or ‘worse’ overall. Some industries will suffer. It will take a while for things to stabilize. It will be, in part, better (less commuting is a good thing), in part worse.”

Denise N. Rall, a researcher of popular culture based at a New Zealand University, said, “People with above-average incomes will probably not experience life any differently, with perhaps slightly fewer employment possibilities due to AI and other technological advances, perhaps more video messaging, meaning fewer overseas trips and potentially, slightly more medical expenses due to rising costs of all types of equipment. Their use of technology will continue to rise and play a more important role in their daily routines. It is unlikely that personal privacy will be maintained as it is being eroded even now. The number of people having to survive on much less (shall we say, less than $50 U.S./month) is rapidly growing now and it is destined to continue rapidly growing in the future. For the poorest people in the world, life will be harder than ever. They will continue to have even more limited access to employment and education, and that will substantially change their standard of living even though they will all have mobile phones. The increasing role of AI in making products and providing services will mean further unemployment and increase world migration and detention at borders.”

HOPES: “Perhaps telemedicine, so that the poorer people will have a bit more medical help. Health improvement will require Big Pharma lowering their prices and the rich nations providing assistance for the ‘new technology.’”

WORRIES: “I worry about taxation policies aimed towards tech companies. I worry over how large tech companies can undermine local economies and the independent production of goods and services. Of major concern is the imbalance of resources between the wealthy and the poorest segments of society.”

G. Philip Hughes, senior director for the White House Writers Group and veteran of many senior foreign policy posts in the White House and the Departments of State, Commerce and Defense, predicted, “Outside of the development of COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines and greater surveillance/enforcement of cross-border movements of people and goods – particularly from China – the COVID-19 pandemic will at most accelerate trends in technology, workplace, transportation and living that were already in motion before the infection began.”

Gerry Ellis, an accessibility and usability consultant, said, “More people will work from home than they do now, but not full-time. Employers will try to set the balance at a point where people spend most time at home as this can save the organization money. This will suit some employees fine – e.g., those who live far away from their office – so they do not have a long daily commute, and those with adequate physical space in which to work who do not have children or other caring responsibilities at home. However, for many it will not suit. They may not have a large living space and thus nowhere from which to work. Their Wi-Fi connection may be poor. They may have children at home who interrupt them as they work. They may not wish to interrupt others in the home. They may miss the personal collegiality of working in an office. They may miss the technical support or support of others when an issue arises, particularly if they are new to the organization. Some may find it difficult to learn and adopt to the particular ways of working of the organization if they are not physically working close to their peers, again particularly for new employees. There are also costs to staying at home rather than going to an office such as those for extra food, heating, lighting and insurance costs. Insurance is a particular issue of concern; if an employee does not inform their insurer that they are working from home, is their insurance valid should they – for instance – have a fall during normal working hours? If they do inform the insurer, will their insurance costs rise as their home is being used as an office? Working from home for people with disabilities has its own particular issues. Reasonable accommodations that may be available in the office may not be available at home, e.g., adapted furniture and specialized technical support. I would expect that there will be conflict in the next number of years between employers who wish to make savings and the unions representing employees who may not wish to be at home full-time because of the issues raised above. The final point I would make is that line managers may find it much more difficult to build good teamwork, brainstorm and assess employee performance if regular physical meetings do not occur.”

HOPES: “Hopefully, adequate broadband will become available to more rural areas allowing for better Wi-Fi access and all that implies. Automation of tedious tasks should lead to efficiencies for organizations and more interesting work for employees instead of doing that tedious work. There is a danger that this will lead to less employment for poorly qualified employees, but history has shown that new opportunities arise all the time. Tech that is expensive now should become increasingly available to smaller organizations and even individuals such as those who are self-employed. In the shorter term, this could include faster computers and 3D printers. In the longer term, it may be AI and possibly robots to do tedious or dangerous work. Tech in the future should be of great assistance to persons with disabilities. Robots, new materials like graphene, better battery life, exoskeletons and AI are all examples of evolving tech that could help persons with disabilities become more independent and contribute in ways that are practically difficult today. That, of course, means that they also have a better standard of living by acquiring better employment and they may contribute more to their communities and society through taxes and disposable income.”

WORRIES: “Two big issues concern me particularly. As big companies gather more and more data about our daily lives and we do not have any control over how they use that data, there is danger that prejudices that already exist in society will be repeated in how the data are used. For instance, will people who have disabilities be charged more for insurance because prejudice assumes that it is likely that persons with disabilities are more prone to be ill or out of work? (Research shows this is not true.) The second issue is that of bias and fairness, or the lack of these, in how AI is propagated into tech and used for routine activities. For instance, if AI is used to create shortlists of people for job interviews and there is bias against persons with disabilities, will we be excluded from ever having a chance at some employment opportunities before a human ever even gets to assess our suitability? In the shorter term, automation is suitable for tedious and dangerous jobs, but if it is linked with AI that has built-in discrimination against the abilities of persons with disabilities, then the danger is clear.”

J. Francisco Álvarez, professor of logic and philosophy of science at UNED, the National University of Distance Education in Spain, said, “2025 is a very short period for recovery to be sufficient. We are not out of the pandemic yet. The changes in the use of technology will be many and will allow us to do many things in other ways, but that will not change the well-being of people very much. Newly emerging capabilities will help people carry out activities that they did not expect; the implementation of remote-action technologies will allow a new type of activities and access to services hitherto physically limited and new mobility will be generated. The implementation of digital public services will be essential so that new types of inequalities do not occur.”

HOPES: “I hope that as the changes necessary to relaunch the economy will depend on an expansion of human capabilities to promote a new technosocial framework, the necessary state intervention is aimed, at least in part, at facilitating functional digital literacy that helps all citizens to join in the technosocial transformation. For example, the enormous benefits that digital government can bring to citizens in the past have served more to increase inequalities than to make life easier for the majority. Now it seems to me that it is essential that the public administration be concerned with generalizing digital training for full access to digital services.”

WORRIES: “I am more concerned with the action of governments than those by companies. Governments have not been concerned enough with quality digital education, public library services and open access to knowledge. The focus should not be merely upon regulation of companies, but on offering public services and taking advantage of the possibilities of technology to improve the lives of citizens.”

Jeff Johnson, a professor of computer science at the University of San Francisco who previously worked at Xerox, HP Labs and Sun Microsystems, responded, “Some aspects of life will be better, and some will be worse, but predicting whether the improvements will outweigh the declines seems impossible for several reasons. Better/worse for whom? Some advancements will benefit some people more than others. Some problems will harm some people more than others. Life may be better for some and worse for others. What is important? Some advancements and problems are more important than others. The devil is in the details. Predicting the future is fraught with error.”

HOPES: “I hope better speech recognition, automatic translation, captioning, autocorrect, etc., will have many useful applications. Better (lighter, longer-lived, smaller) batteries will improve many existing devices and enable many new ones. More ubiquitous Wi-Fi will mean more universal internet connectivity, which will be a positive development. More-universal internet connectivity will make it possible to find devices, possibly making theft (and even kidnapping) a thing of the past. And, in the right hands, drones have a variety of applications that could really improve society.”

WORRIES: “My worries are that tracking people’s behavior will become more ubiquitous, invading their privacy and inundating them with advertisements. I worry that tech companies will continue to exploit human psychological weaknesses, e.g., promoting addiction to mobile phones and social networks, thereby distracting people from leading productive, useful lives. And that, in the wrong hands, drones have a variety of nefarious applications that could really damage society.”

Jim Fenton, a government contractor based in North America, wrote, “Some things will be better, some worse, but on balance, the overall quality of life will not have much changed. We are learning a lot about remote work, and the opportunity to do that will be there for those who do work that lends itself to that. That will probably lead to improved ecological effects. But remote work also has the potential to exacerbate the inequality between those who do ‘knowledge work’ and those in service industries that often require in-person participation. I worry about people becoming generally less social as a result of fear of the virus, and that could continue well beyond the hoped-for availability of a vaccine. Caveat: if we find out that there are long-term chronic effects from the virus, things could be substantially worse if millions of people require supplemental care and themselves have much lower quality of life.”

HOPES: “Better recognition of the communications challenges associated with remote work. In particular, the uneven balance between in-person meeting attendees and those attending remotely, trying to hear people over a speakerphone. I’m also hoping for development of tools that will facilitate better ways of having accidental interactions at ‘virtual’ (non-in-person) conferences.”

WORRIES: “I’m concerned about technology/companies that affect people’s behavior, either through privacy concerns about what they do or what people are concerned they might be doing. But this is a concern at present as well.”

John L. King, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information, commented, “No one can answer without knowing what happened with the pandemic, and the pandemic is ‘novel.’ No one can foresee what will happen. And even then, it depends on your point of view. Some argue that the Black Death improved the lives of those who came after, although it probably was no picnic when it was happening. The role of digital technologies will probably be reinforced. What won’t change: most of the Enlightenment insights about power and such.”

HOPES: “The fact that the infrastructure (web, etc.) has held up despite huge shifts in use will increase use. Some of these uses will be valuable. There might be a big decline in travel, which could be good after the economic dislocation (transportation, travel and tourism is bigger than health care in GDP).”

WORRIES: “Dependency. Necessity is the mother of invention, but invention is the mother of necessity. We are likely to find ourselves far more dependent on things we didn’t think about before than most realize.”

John Laudun, professor of culture analytics, commented, “My response that ‘not much’ will change should be noted as focusing on the U.S. My sense is that the pandemic might very well accelerate some changes in the American economy, and thus also in the society that it underlies, but those changes were already under way and the acceleration will not be significant enough, I think, to be marked as necessarily a product of COVID-19 – though I am sure pundits will feel free to say so. Our country’s fundamental problem is the undermining of the common good and of fair play. This has been a large and well-managed campaign by conservatives who have persuaded a large swath of the American population to believe that ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’ is a laugh line and not a noble goal (thanks, Reagan). They have also been led to believe that almost any good that is shared is not a good at all, but a needless social program that will help others more than it helps them and will unnecessarily cost them money. Under this regime, the support for public infrastructure has dwindled, and I don’t see this being reversed by 2025. Fairness has been overwhelmed by a sense that the only thing that matters is competition. I do not see this trend declining. The result is that the current path we are on, where inequality increases, will only continue. Yes, things will be worse, but that was already our path. For what it’s worth, my experience is shaped by being a humanities faculty member in a regional public university in the South, where administrative salaries have skyrocketed and faculty salaries have flatlined. Indeed, support for faculty has decreased: our travel budget, which was meager to start with, was halved so that the associate dean’s salary could be doubled; the library book and subscription budget has been regularly slashed; and computers are increasingly locked down and policed.”

HOPES: “The original promise of the web was that data, information and knowledge would be available everywhere and all the time to anyone who can access the web. We have made great strides in making that happen, but there is more work to be done. I also have little doubt that smart uses of tech will produce advances in energy production and distribution and in medical technologies that will make our lives better.”

WORRIES: “I worry less about any given technology and more about who is wielding it and how. Thanks to the reversed consumer model on which media production and consumption is based, where users are the product sold to advertisers, and to the pinched wallets of most Americans (thanks to depressed wages), I don’t see most of us escaping the information bubbles of our own making in which so many of us now live. In addition to their efforts elsewhere, but especially in their campaigns to undermine science and journalism, what American conservatives have done is to convince us that everything is simply opinion and everything is biased.”

Joshua Hatch, a journalist who covers technology issues, commented, “There have been pandemics before; people revert to human nature. I’m skeptical that things will change that much for most people – at least in terms of change from what would have happened anyway. Of course, it’s impossible to know for certain, but I think broader social, political and economic changes were already in motion that COVID-19 is unlikely to alter. To the degree that COVID-19 will have an impact, I suspect it will be on the need to close the digital divide: providing high-speed internet as a utility and trying to raise the digital skills of more people. But even there, I’m skeptical the country will take appropriate action and that there will be much in the way of meaningful change. I just don’t see the U.S. being that responsive.”

HOPES: “I hope that there’s a recognition that high-speed internet isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity for connecting people and providing access to tools and information. I’m not terribly optimistic that leaders will take the steps necessary to provide it, though.”

WORRIES: “Clearly, privacy is an issue and it’s one that most companies don’t really care about. There’s too much incentive to trade in people’s data. I’m also worried about the digital divide. I think it has the potential to really separate the haves and the have-nots. Ultimately, there’s an imbalance between technology companies and the public at large. The public can’t have expertise in the issues around technology and so at some point, I think they throw up their hands and give in. A lack of trust in government, and a government that can be bought off, means the public’s guardian won’t be there to protect them. So, ultimately, the public is going to have a difficult time fighting off unscrupulous technology companies — a problem we already see.”

Miguel Alcaine, head of the International Telecommunication Union area office in Central America, said, “It is adventurous to think about the 2025 ‘new normal’ in the middle of the pandemic. Economists expect we be set back at least 10 years, on average, in terms of development around the world. What we know is that the status of digital transformation before COVID-19 was directly proportional to a country’s resilience. The digital world has shown us preexisting human conditions on steroids. Unconnected people living in urban areas have been the most affected. Vulnerable groups have been the most affected, as is always the case during catastrophes. In contrast, the better-connected a country is or a people are, the better their resilience. One thing that has changed for the time being as the pandemic evolves is the general awareness is that digital transformation is a must. Even those in politics realize that now. We need to work to take advantage of this window of opportunity, which might close after the emergency abates.”

HOPES: “I hope the renewed commitment to digital transformation makes meaningful connectivity a reality for a much larger population around the world. This connectivity will also help to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”

WORRIES: “I am concerned about two very different scenarios: If meaningful connectivity materializes, there will be an increase in cybersecurity threats and cybercrimes. And, if connectivity progress does not accelerate globally after the pandemic, we will have lost a window of opportunity to better use this important tool to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and we will be in bad shape when we have to face the next crisis, either global or localized.”

Stanley Maloy, associate vice president for research and innovation and professor of biology at San Diego State University, responded, “ANON Expect that 2025 will be better for some and worse for others. In general, I expect that the more digitally literate will succeed with distance work and will thrive, while certain in-person businesses will be challenged. Service workers will likely come back to the low-paying jobs akin to what they have now. Global trade and travel will likely still be less robust than pre-COVID-19.”

HOPES: “The ‘work from home’ experience has made it clear to many employers and employees that this can be an effective and efficient way of doing business, and I expect that it will continue for those who have computer skills and access to adequate computing technology/connectivity. Although many educators do not have sufficient experience to do remote teaching effectively, those that are very effective have revived the potential for this approach for higher education and technical education. Those who lack these tools will be left behind, both educationally and professionally. Telemedicine will become much more commonplace as we exit the pandemic, providing financial benefits for our medical system and reducing the number of contagious individuals sitting in waiting rooms and exposing others. Another side effect of this is that travel will take a long time to catch up to the pre-pandemic levels.”

WORRIES: “One of the biggest challenges is the people who are left behind because they lack training or resources needed to perform digital roles. A second issue is the psychological impact of less face-to-face interaction.”

Sean D. Young, executive director at the Institute for Prediction Technology in the University of California-Los Angeles Center for Digital Behavior, commented, “ANON There will be more use of technologies, for better and worse, that impact people’s behaviors and relationships in better and worse ways, so overall it will be a wash.”

HOPES: “People are being forced to find creative ways to use technologies. The positive side of this is that tech for good will rapidly advance.”

WORRIES: “People are being forced to find creative ways to use technologies. The negative side of this is that tech use among many will lead to greater isolation as well as social, health and economic disparities and negative outcomes.”

Georges Chapouthier, neuroscientist, philosopher and writer and emeritus professor at Sorbonne University, France, said, “Humans are likely to behave the same way after this big crisis.”

HOPES: “Improvement of everyday life, better monitoring of some medical treatments, reduction of working time, exploration of other planets.”

WORRIES: “Like any other technical progress, from knife to plane, they can be used for good and for bad!”

Judith Schoßböck, research fellow at Danube University-Krems, said, “ANON Existing inequalities are going to be more, the gap between societal classes is going to widen, hence both good and bad developments, depending on which group you look at.”

HOPES: “I have hopes in the area of urban planning, smart cities and in general a more energy-efficient way of living together. I also hope that better digital literacy will lead to better options of networking and more personalized ways of living together, particularly for certain groups of society like the elderly.”

WORRIES: “I am worried that a focus on fear in a pandemic world will lead us to accept even more surveillance and loss of critical views. I am worried that governments will be less powerful compared to tech companies.”

Brien Hallett, an expert on the ethics of peace and war, based at the Matsunaga Institute for Peace, University of Hawaii-Manoa, said, “The 1918 Spanish Flu was a tragic event, but it had few lasting impacts. I assume that the same will be true of the present pandemic.”

HOPES: “I have no hopes. Large social forces will shape tech changes in the future as in the past.”

WORRIES: “I have no worries. Political and social responses are moving to regulate and moderate tech.”

Jaak Tepandi, professor of knowledge-based systems at Tallinn University of Technology, based in Estonia, noted, “Teleworking is becoming more popular. People may be more careful when communicating.”

HOPES: “Telemedicine, remote work.”

WORRIES: “Uncertainty about artificial general intelligence.”

The following respondents did not select any of the three possible choices as to the likely future of digital life in 2025 in the wake of the global pandemic

Rosalie Day, a policy leader and consultancy owner specializing in system approaches to data ethics, compliance and trust, wrote, “In 2025, the pandemic will have caused the widening wealth gap to be hastened. American society will stratify a little differently with respect to who gains and who loses. Employment will mostly be better for the last half of Millennials through college graduates in 2020. Employers will cite experience with remote access, gamification and general economic malaise as further reason to cut total salaries. Older Millennials and Generation X will be lumped together as being too expensive. This will result in even more ageism and increased AI-driven ageism, and the ‘out’ generations’ fortunes will fall even further. Retired Boomers who have good retirements will continue to have good retirements because the capital markets will still be driven by corporate boards that look like much they do today; and further, the same incentives will apply. The Boomers who have inadequate financial reserves who have stayed at home during the virus due to health risk will not be rehired. Their places will be filled with adults in their 20s who are not college graduates. Who knows the impact of the virus on anyone younger than 22 today? Every month without teachers who inspire will be a net negative. I can imagine productivity leveling off because the gains of machine learning and deep learning will be a wash or swamped by the losses of experienced middle managers and specialists. Since most data scientists surveyed say that decision makers at their companies do not use their evidence to support important decisions, data will continue to be artificially valued. I expect reinvention of the wheel, or the not-well-founded conventional wisdom of consultants who have never worked in large organizations (for example, McKinsey’s open-office floor plans to ‘increase collaboration’) to be prevalent.”

HOPES: “Telehealth for some health care issues is going to come into its own. If it is done correctly, including physicians who know how to triage whether someone needs to be seen in person, then it could be a great thing for health care access. Certainly, medical and other scientific research with AI and renewed vigor (not just expected return on investment from big pharma) is going to pay off. The viability of remote business meetings is going to decrease air travel and the resulting emissions of carbon and carbon-equivalents.”

WORRIES: “Individual isolation is going to become ever more of a problem. Meeting people who don’t share your hobbies or religion will be exacerbated even more than the filter bubble of values and political ideology. People meet people by engaging – for example, on public transit – and they mutually benefit (see the work of Dr. Nicholas Eppley). People will become more sedentary, and obesity will grow from not having to commute and not having to leave your chair. You can ask Alexa to do your shopping and to change your music selection. Further, general nutrition will suffer, because as exposure decreases – becomes less diverse – the individuals and communities eating junk food will know nothing else.”

Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations for the European Broadcasting Union and Eurovision, commented, “I am afraid that the post-COVID-19 scenario could accelerate change for the worst for those who are already excluded and for the better for those who are already ‘digital citizens.’ The COVID-19 crisis will accelerate changes that normally would have occurred in two decades; they now very likely will happen within the next five years. If Europe will not be able to counter and resist the pressure of the internet giants and re-establish ethical and human rights-based principles in the digital world, nobody else will do it for us. Especially not China, Russia or other totalitarian states that see in this change an opportunity to replace the old-fashioned Stasi’s service with more efficient and less costly apps, like Clearview. It also will be important to understand the 2020 elections in the U.S. Those with wealth will pay to protect (as much as they can) their privacy and their valuable information. The new poor will simply give their identity in exchange to access to basic services that appear to be available for free.”

HOPES: “Nobody could realistically predict how digitalization will evolve in the post-COVID-19 world. Technology could change life for the better in theory. My hope is that a new global order will be established to insert these changes into a global framework. This is similar to what it was like in November 1945, after World War II, when all countries of the world worked toward building a future path based on human rights. That frame lasted for nearly 50 years and produced the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Then we crashed into the wave of new nationalism (from Trump to Bolsonaro, from Johnson to Xi Jin Ping), and since the turn of the century multilateral institutions are proving their impotence against the bully-ism exercised by various countries against others and even on their own citizens. Digitalization of the world will have an impact on nation-states’ regulation worse than the destruction and deaths provoked by World War II. Let’s look at some basic examples. For instance, teleworking is a wonderful innovation, that could potentially reduce pollution provoked by commuting to work, make urban centers less congested and favor more decentralization. But what is the impact on social rights when workers are isolated and fragmented against an invisible owner who could hire and sack them via a simple tweet? What sort of impact will there be on taxation when each individual worker could de-localize himself by seeking and teleworking for an employer in another country with a more favorable tax regime? Another example is privacy. Today personal data online provides immediate benefit to advertisers and sales agents. Tomorrow, artificial intelligence combined with big data can be used to interfere with or to condition the lives of citizens.”

Faisal Nasr, an advocate, research scientist, futurist and professor, described his personal experience under contract as a consultant during the COVID outbreak early in 2020: “I was on an overseas trip and I got locked down in another country where I had to remain until ‘normal’ travel opened again. During this time, I was invited to take the lead on a significant component of a donor-funded project to assess the health and economic impact of COVID-19 in nine countries in an important region of the world. The contractor was unethical in manipulating the length of employment (LOE) of the team of 20 global professionals, including the home team. In the traditional labor markets, employees came to work at the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In the new setup, the technical lead, who happened to be the president of the company, kept an unyielding pressure to work 24/7 while getting compensated for five hours, which translated to daily input of 18-21 hours of work, often going for extended periods of 30 hours without sleep! Hence, the contracting company extracted 90% of the work effort and ended up canceling the remaining LOE of most consultants, especially those like myself whose consulting daily rates were very high. I lost nearly 50% of my negotiated LOE and corresponding earnings! Due to the extremely stressful work environment, lengthy hours of work with sleep deprivation and ruined dietary postures, I ended up being seriously ill and now – two months after the end of my contribution – I remain with problems and under medical treatment… The focus of the project was to help these countries in developing the set of economic and health policies to mitigate the economic impact, but the real underlying objective was very different. The was a very frustrating experience for committed professionals, especially experts on the region in question, who envision economic growth and development as a comprehensive and inclusive – addressing the needs of each country based on its own strengths and weaknesses. COVID-19 provided an opportunity to see our mistakes of the past and incorporate the learning process into the policy response to mitigate the health and economic impact, but the underlying objectives of the contractor in their efforts to partially please the donor prevented an honest and realistic assessment. For example, climate change and the environment were completely ignored, despite the clear connection between many disease vectors and the global environmental abuse thus far witnessed. The meetings, conducted at least twice weekly, were done over the new ICT technology platforms, including Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Team Viewer, Skype, etc., and were exercises of control more than a productive sharing of ideas and team effort.”

HOPES: “If national policies fail to address the use of digital technology in all walks of life, especially ensuring access to all layers of society, then other responsible organizations – public, private, CSOs, universities and others – have to do their part in ensuring productive and fair digital technology utilization free of abuse in labor markets and mindful of people’s work and meaningful contributions.”

WORRIES: “As a professional economist since 1975 in academia and international development, I have found that the excessive emphasis on the profit motive is very dangerous, is contaminating the world and is negatively influencing democratic governance and the real role of the public sector as the conscience of society to ensure fair and inclusive economic growth and development. The private sector is very important for economic growth, but private sector institutions have to see themselves in a very different light than the past: one with a social responsibility to share the gains which stem from society, to ensure future balance and stability.”

George Lessard, vice president of Canada Without Poverty, commented, “There will be great change, yes, but what kind? At the very least, it will be a USSR fall/Berlin Wall/moon landing kind of change. What/when/how will that be? We’ll all learn at the same time, some faster than others. Some will survive, some will not. All will change. It’s the only constant. With change there is very rarely only two paths. Change is very broad and different for each affected person and process.”

HOPES: “I don’t have many hopes if the past is a predictor, but there will be a lot of folks who think they have the ‘best,’ ‘right’ thing and it will turn out that it’s just another manifestation of the same-old-same-old.”

WORRIES: “My worry is over folks being sold the idea that any mere tech is the only and best answer.”

Wendy M. Grossman, a UK-based science writer, author of “net.wars” and founder of the magazine The Skeptic, noted, “‘Better’ and ‘worse’ will co-exist both for broad sectors of society and at the individual level. If we’re talking about just the U.S., at the moment it looks like large numbers of people – disproportionately people of color – will die unnecessarily. Many of the people most at risk are essential workers, leaving the possibility of a severely depleted workforce in the short term and forcing people who currently can have everything delivered while staying safe to take more risks. The upcoming economic catastrophe as government support runs out and rents come due means short-term damage to millions of households, who may recover by 2025, but whose children will be permanently changed. My parents and many of my friends’ parents lived through the 1930s Depression. It permanently changed how they thought about work, money and safety nets, often making them more frugal, less interested in consumerism for its own sake and more concerned to ensure that others could survive in difficult times. Even President Richard Nixon, hated by many in his time, understood the importance of access to medical care because he had grown up poor. It’s impossible to predict 2025 without knowing the outcome of this year’s presidential election. Biden would seek to return the U.S. to some semblance of its familiar self, presumably rebuilding with an eye to other pressing problems such as climate change, social justice and economic sustainability. If Trump is re-elected, his administration (it won’t be him; his mind is going, and he won’t have any reason to care anyway) may have changed the country out of all recognition by 2025. A lot of things are going to be reconfigured, regardless. I don’t think most people will remain enthusiastic about full-time working from home, and I don’t think it will serve most businesses as much as they think right now. We are currently coasting on social relationships that we’ve built over years of personal interaction. Everyone I know is tired of Zoom meetings. Side channels – an important part of any meeting – are missing in action; random meetings that produce new ideas don’t happen; and newcomers find it very hard to establish themselves as part of the group. My prediction is that the people who are now eyeing living in remote locations because they don’t have to commute any more will, in a few years, find the constant flying back for meetings annoying and expensive, and will be thinking of moving closer to work again, especially as climate change will force air travel to become more expensive and/or difficult. In the next five years, though, cities face a lot of challenges. So: if you’re an immigrant who’s come looking to build a better life, or if you are an essential worker in an inner city, what will there be for you?”

HOPES: “I’m hoping less for actual tech changes than for changes in our response to technology changes. I’d like to see us be more thoughtful both as individuals and as a society about the technology we adopt and how we let it permeate our lives. Surveillance capitalism is possible partly because companies take advantage of us, but partly because of weak regulation and a social and educational failure to push back against it. The early promise of the internet was a decentralized system in which millions of small businesses flourished. Increasingly, we have built a highly centralized system that supports mass surveillance. This is the structure we are transferring into the physical world via the Internet of Things, smart cities, connected cars, algorithmic decision-making and robots. Often, adoption of these technologies is proceeding against what most people would want. I’m thinking of real-time, automated facial recognition, for example – airports and police forces don’t ask public opinion before running trials or adopting the technology.”

WORRIES: “There is loss of choice and autonomy and the loss of anonymity. Increasingly, every transaction – financial or personal – is being intermediated. People talk to their friends and Facebook takes a slice; they pay for a newspaper article and Apple takes a slice – and in both cases the data gathered is then repackaged, resold and repurposed. There is a lot wrong with Europe’s GDPR but it *is* a valid attempt to restore the balance of power between these large, remote corporations and individuals.”

J. Scott Marcus, an economist, political scientist and engineer who works as a telecommunications consultant, wrote, “The impact of the pandemic is large, but the world will eventually recover (assuming that the virus does not mutate to a still-more-dangerous form). This was the case in 1919 and there is no reason to expect anything different here. Changes such as remote work, teleconferencing, telemedicine and remote learning are mostly positive. The changes that have emerged were technically feasible for years but held up by institutional rigidities. Things will not go back to where they were – not entirely, anyway. As a whole, I think most people will be worse off, not solely because of the pandemic, but at least as much due to intensifying trade wars, a decline in international cooperation and more. The impact of climate change will still not be catastrophic, but it will continue to grow.”

HOPES: “Acceleration of trends toward remote work for jobs in the upper-income quartile or two. Greatly increased use of teleconferencing, with a corresponding decline in travel; tourism will take a long time to return to previous levels, if ever. Increased reliance on telemedicine. Major re-tooling of the education and training systems was needed anyway, not only to shift to remote learning (which is not simply the same as current practice done from afar), but also to lifelong learning.”

WORRIES: “Information bubbles, fake news and the negative impact on traditional (more-reliable) news media and public broadcasting. The growing dominance of a small number of platforms. My worry for AI and big data is challenges with explainability.”

Katie McAuliffe, executive director for Digital Liberty, wrote, “Life will be different. Change is hard and often painful, but humanity overall has a remarkable ability to adapt. We will continue to adapt to new routines over the next few years, as comfort levels will remain variable. The obvious beneficiary of the pandemic is telehealth. Individuals, regulators and businesses have been forced to accept and incorporate it – this makes us better off. We must stay vigilant on privacy in terms of Fourth Amendment protections – warrantless search and seizure looks different digitally. Privacy in a commercial sense is a joke, and I have not yet seen a law that does more good than harm. All the laws and suggested fixes leave individual private data control in the hands of the government and companies. Individual humans have no control, and I don’t think that changes. What we, as individuals, will have to focus on is protecting sensitive data via encryption. In terms of employment, contract, gig and distance-based positions will become more important, and large employers will need to learn how to manage without micromanaging a dispersed workforce. The industries and individuals who adapt to this environment will be better off. I imagine a new type of economy will emerge – like the app economy after the introduction of the iPhone – but I don’t know what that might look like. Automation has likely received a bit of a jolt, but humans will still need to maintain oversight and quality control – this makes us better off preventing injuries and creating distance but does decrease some job availability. Individual tutoring online will likely supplant or augment much of teaching, especially if schools don’t start teaching coding. Learning to code early on will make people better off in terms of employment options.”

Anthony Judge, editor of the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential, observed, “I think framing the question in the shape of a ‘new normal’ or ‘better/worse’ is totally misleading. There will be far more variety between zones of greater uniformity. How that gets managed calls for reflection.”

HOPES: “Things will be much, much better for some; much, much worse for others. Unfortunately, the latter may not be able to tell the difference because of the way the tech is used to manipulate opinion.”

WORRIES: “Oversight of any kind has become a joke inherent in the ambiguity of the term – meaning selective negligence – perhaps carefully orchestrated, as with stacking committees with the unvigilant and failing to use simulation of potential oversight failure (‘Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions,’ 2016;  and ‘Vigorous Application of Derivative Thinking to Derivative Problems,’ 2013.”

James Blodgett, futurist, author and consultant, said, “I didn’t answer the ‘pick one of these’ question because all of the answers are possible.”

HOPES: “Tech has been increasing exponentially. Exponential growth sometimes hits limits. Tech sometimes makes things better, sometimes not. Tech has in general been making things better recently.”

WORRIES: “Tech can have bad results.”

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