This is the second of two reports emerging from a “Future of the Internet” canvassing conducted in summer 2021 by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and Pew Research Center. The questions focused on the prospects for improvements in the tone and activities of the digital public sphere by 2035. Here, the experts share how they imagine what an improved digital world might be like if reformers, big tech, governments and activists tackle the problems underlying misinformation, disinformation and toxic discourse.
Results released February 7, 2022 – Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked experts in a Summer 2021 canvassing if it might be possible for social media platforms and other online public-discussion spaces to be improved by 2035 in ways that significantly serve the public good. More than 860 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists responded to that question. These experts were also asked to imagine better world online in 2035, and 434 of them responded.
This long-scroll page holds no analysis, only the written responses from experts who were willing to take credit for their comments about what a better online world might be like in 2035. The full, official report with analysis is here.
First, here’s the research question and a brief outline of the most common themes found among these experts’ hopes.
The Question – What is one example of an aspect of digital life that you think could be different in 2035 than it is today? We invite you to create a vignette of something you would like to see taking place in a “new and improved” digital realm in 2035. Your example might involve politics or social activities or jobs or physical and mental health or community life or education. Feel free to think expansively – and specifically.
Note: The insights experts shared in response to this question were written AFTER they first weighed in on a question asking them whether or not digital spaces and people’s uses of them will change in ways that significantly serve the public good by 2035. In a nutshell: Of the 862 respondents to that first question 61% said they either hope or expect that by 2035 digital spaces and people’s uses of them WILL change in ways that significantly serve the public good; 39% said there will not be much improvement. (The earlier report with a full analysis of those responses is here.)
Click here to download the print version of the “Visions of 2035” report
Common themes found among the experts qualitative responses were:
Building better spaces – Many hope for redesigned and new digital platforms that codify better norms for discourse and facilitate open, honest conversations and hope that: people will have control over their data and their relationships with commercial and other entities; interoperable systems will allow people to move seamlessly from digital public space to space; artificial intelligence (AI) will play a greater role in isolating bad actors and encouraging positive connections; government-and-public-funded “public media” spaces will arise; big social media firms will be regulated. Constructing effective communities – They look for digital communities that focus on collecting, organizing, publishing and archiving useful, reality-based knowledge; inspire healthy debates that build trust in the knowledge they generate; feature AI that helps usefully organize the input of humans; clamp down on divisive anti-social contributions that dampen public participation in democracy; help serve to diminish social inequalities; and build a global culture of lifelong education built around people supporting each other’s growth. Empowering individuals – They hope for a future in which the trust people invest in each other and organizations is enabled by tech tools, including: blockchain; localized mesh networks; digital passports; digital “credit unions” that facilitate interactions; supportive AI and bots; privacy “nutrition labels” for online activities; encryption; data cooperatives; simple language translation interfaces; and the creation of “digital twins” that can help people be more productive. Changing economic life and work – Many experts mentioned the benefits they expect better digital spheres might bring to economic development and people’s transition into new kinds of work. Altering “reality” – Some focused on the transformative potential of AI, VR and AR, saying these enhancements will have growing impact on everything online and in the physical world. They salute the possibilities inherent these but worry they can be abused in ways that are yet to be discovered. Tackling wicked problems – Some said many of humanity’s grand challenges (climate change, advancing human rights, addressing global health issues) will begin to be solved in the next decade thanks to new digital technologies.
Responses from all those preferring to make their remarks anonymous. Some are longer versions of expert responses contained in shorter form in the survey report.
Some people chose not to provide a written elaboration, so there are not 400-plus recorded. Some of the following are the longer versions of responses that are contained in shorter form in one or more places the “Visions of 2035” survey report. Credited responses are carried on a separate page. 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 Summer 2021.
A professor who is an expert on the politics of inequality commented, “We have the potential to use digital media and digital platforms for the social good in future, but whether we succeed is by no means assured. The key is to realize that the digital media are only extensions of existing social relations. These can be hierarchical, unequal power relations, or horizontal. They can be ‘bridging’ or ‘bonding’ social capital.
“We often fall into the error of supposing that digital media are transformative in and of themselves. In fact, they accelerate and extend the trends in our society. So, if we have the capacity to use the new communications technologies to expand our sense of common good, common purpose, we can take advantage of their ability to connect people who are widely separated in space. But if the digital communications technologies replace live, face-to-face communication, there is a real danger that people will lose the ability to relate to one another directly. Likewise, if we replace actual mechanisms for democratic decision-making—such as one person, one vote—with the illusion of online debate, we often allow the most vehement voices to crowd out the majority, or to bully moderates out of the discussion. This is already widespread.
“Dictatorships now are growing adept at using the pretense of online communication with their citizens as a substitute for actual accountability and democratic choice. Thinking of the digital spaces as extensions of our existing social ties, to the extent that they enhance existing capacities to acquire and share information, or express preferences rather than replace them, the digital technologies play a positive role. But basic democratic mechanisms for acquiring, sharing and acting on information have to remain in place.”
An eminent expert in technology and global political policy said in a better world in 2035, “The much-celebrated tech concept of ‘permissionless innovation’ will be replaced by ‘responsible and accountable innovation,’ in which digital businesses engage in serious dialogue with those with expertise in the areas likely to be affected by digital innovation and truly take into account, as an integral part of decision-making, its non-commercial impacts and risks (such as those that have impact on people’s rights, the environment and (in)equality).”
An advocacy manager for a major global internet organization responded, “There will be digital spaces that are designed for societal well-being and are operated by stakeholders who are accountable to that objective rather than to profit.”
An enterprise software expert with one of the world’s leading technology companies wrote, “The current framework of social networks is untenable. A more trustworthy social network framework would include:
- Infrastructure not financially supported by the collection of personal information.
- Accountability for users’ actions.
- Reduced use of unknown AI algorithms that inject hidden biases into their decision-making process.
“Such a system will, by necessity, need to be a subscription-based service to ensure that the organization running it has a financial means of maintaining the service without the need to monetize the users.”
A professor who studies civil society and intelligence elites wrote, “Rather than monetising user engagement by exploiting their attention and emotions, I would like to see a public sphere (social media and mainstream media) that prioritises and nudges people toward the development of empathy, mutual understanding and factual content. To achieve this, I think the media ecology needs strong publicly funded platforms and media that have the capacity to gain audience attention and trust and that have public service as their fundamental mission.”
A retired U.S. military strategist commented, “I hope that by 2035 totalitarian regimes and their cyber capabilities—the methods and capabilities they have used and could use to continue to interfere in the public square, will have been—somehow, marginalized. When I write ‘marginalized,’ I mean that they no longer are able to use cyber power to manipulate the macro cyber ecosystem. Most importantly, I hope that the broader non-totalitarian regimes will have together to mandate truth content markings and warning labels on online content to indicate that which is demonstrably false, inaccurate or misleading.”
An editorial manager for a high-tech market research firm said, “As a society, we need to stop the march toward the ‘digital-first’ mindset being aided and abetted by the corporate drive for profit. Digital technology has to start serving people not corporations. I have no scenario for how this can be turned around at the moment.”
The president and founder of an internet architecture company wrote, “There will be better systems to support individual ownership and monetization of online content and activity. For example, instead of using commercial platforms people will use personal servers hosting a user’s published content, preferences and activities that they will share, for their personal benefit with other users, while commercial platforms or retailers would be expected to pay them market prices to publish that content.”
An activist and voice of the people wrote, “Ultimately the internet has to be governed like a public utility on which operational entities are held responsible for outcomes.”
A senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote, “Imagine a world where the promise of digital technologies—improving health, improving services and livelihoods, improving communities—could exist without the extraction and monetization of personal data. How would business models be reshaped to serve this common good? How would online experiences be reconfigured? Could there be healthy debate without the proliferation of fake news? Could there be true discussion forums, absent trolling? In the early years of the U.S., and throughout much of its history, the media environment has been exploited by individuals seeking to make political, social or economic gains over others. This is unlikely to change, but the magnification of these characteristics that the digital environment provides might. One of the great benefits of the digital world is making information available easily and inexpensively to anyone connected. Imagine if we could use that capability to better inform and educate, to improve environments and encourage the better nature of humanity. Many aspects and elements of this already exist but are not yet mainstream.”
The founding director of an institute for analytics recommended, “Shut down the advertising business model for social media platforms by using privacy laws with hefty fines and criminal penalties. Let them make money metering distribution (like broadcast radio and television). Example: Tweet to your 100 family/friend followers, and it’s free. Tweet to 1 million followers, and you get a bill for a $250,000. And no retweets on mass distribution, no anonymity. That kills viral behavior. Also dampens misinformation/disinformation. Twitter, et al., can provide accommodation for public service tweets. Free consumption combined with free distribution is why we are where we are today. Paid consumption alone (via subscription) doesn’t solve the problem. Billing distribution in a cleverly devised metered way will greatly reduce opportunity for the viral spread of misinformation/disinformation, which is killing us, literally.”
A professor of architecture and urban planning at a major U.S. university wrote, “By 2035, the era of coevolution between humans and living digital beings could well be in its afternoon. Do not expect a Singularity but do expect the eventual resolution to the coevolution to involve a more-complete obsolescence of humanity. What would be to Google as Google was to Microsoft? What kind of transcendent global noosphere would make Google’s consolidation, mining and coevolution of all documentable knowledge seem like a smokestack industry by comparison? By then the idea of a global brain will be nearly a century old. But what of the global mind? Never reduce mind to brain.”
An educator based in Oceania said, “Given what we see occurring already, there will be no way that those with the power now will allow any relaxing of their grip on it. There are already those who work to subvert any laws that may be made to ensure the world is safer, cleaner, less polluted, less controlled. We do need control, but everything really does depend on who is in control. The U.S. seems to be in a perilous state, and it is to the U.S. the world generally looks for ideas on how to work the digital commons. If there were fewer people in the world vying for the dwindling resources we have, then perhaps some peace and prosperity of all might ensue.
“Connectivity is useful and convenient, but it is not the answer to all our issues. That idea—that internet and digital connectivity and technology will be saving of humanity—is a distraction and perhaps a bit of a con. How can things be improved by 2035? Break up the big companies. Allow start-ups to germinate, especially locally. But who is going to do this? Who will allow it?
“Instead, we will see people actually inviting themselves to be microchipped—for ‘convenience’—there’s the language we can use to convince people that technology can help enhance our lives. Convenience. The microchip will allow each and every one of us to seamlessly access the internet via satellites and the increased storage capacity will also allow us to upload and store as much data as we please and access it wherever we go on the globe. No more need to carry a passport. Certainly that’s already here, but if we have an iris implant connected to the internet as well there will be no need to carry a mobile phone—we can access our files in the cloud with voice and/or iris-scan technology wherever we are. No more places to hide. I do not see this as good.
“In 2035 medicine might be much better, but again, if we follow the U.S. example, this will only be for those who pull their forelocks, have a job no matter how menial and pay for healthcare insurance.”
A director for a research project focused on digital civil society wrote, “We will create no-digital-tracking physical spaces: As our online lives move offline—into streets, transports, restaurants, etc.—we are likely to see current online harms extending into our physical world. I would love to see the emergence of data-tracking-free zones, physical places where people can come together without being followed by their digital trails or tracked by all kinds of sensors. The spaces would not only provide a safe harbour but would also raise awareness among the public that most other spaces—online and offline—are not safe, hereby raising consciousness about the need to create community and regulatory safeguards against digital threats.”
A professor of information production and systems who is based in Japan said, “It will be a world in which everything is recorded, monitored and managed.”
A professor of informatics based in Athens, Greece, responded, “In 2035 the better-educated citizens will use internet tools to do their best to not lose their tether to reality.”
A scholar, practitioner and teacher of legislation and national security law responded, “We will need efforts in 2035 to address: 1) the use of digital modalities by authoritarians (in democracies and authoritarian states), and 2) digital addiction by people with addictive personalities, children and unsophisticated users.”
A distinguished engineer at one of the world’s leading technology companies noted, “We need to stop acting like technology is smarter than it is. There has to be significantly more attention paid to security and privacy. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble thinking of a solution. Technology provides tremendous power that can be used for both good and bad. If good parties can use it to impact the world at scale, then bad parties can use it to cripple the world at scale. I don’t see how this can end well.”
A machine learning research scientist based in the U.S. wrote this futuristic news report: “October 1st, 2035. After five years of litigation, trillions in fines and countless incidents of civil strife, today YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter collectively announced they are abandoning the algorithmic ranking of user content. Content will now no longer be personalized to individual users but will instead present communities of information indifferent to the preferences of the user. The action follows a long series of incidents related to violent extremism as people’s worst instincts were reinforced in deepening filter bubbles.”
An AI scientist at a major global technology company said the best setting for 2035 could be one in which: “Social media and tech companies that provide basic internet services (i.e., internet connectivity, internet search, email, website hosting) are categorized as utilities and forced to be open about how their algorithms work. Certified auditors monitor their algorithms in a secure manner to protect their intellectual property, but they are able to see when algorithms violate human rights or social good, for instance, selling private data without consent, targeting ads to vulnerable populations (e.g., gambling ads to addicts) or promoting violent, hateful or disinformation content. When this activity is detected, companies are immediately warned to take action, victims are notified and compensated, and companies are fined if they do not alter the algorithms within 48 hours. Broadband is considered a basic necessity like water and electricity and provided to every citizen as a public good.”
An award-winning globally-recognized AI ethics expert commented, “I’d like to see full privacy of each individual’s personal space, personal choices and identity and a digital public service requirement.”
An internet pioneer said, “I’m sorry but I can’t write a scenario that cures the human ills causing most difficulties. I foresee a continued descent for the same reason that ice cream trucks will always receive greater interest than would broccoli and kale trucks. The preference for the fast, entertaining, easy to grasp and simply-stated will not go away—and the digital world, in all its remarkable variety, will continue to feed the preference.”
A researcher working in the field of global humanitarianism commented, “The American workplace, perhaps especially in white-collar professions, has shown its true hostility and willingness to marginalize those it deems ‘other’ or less-powerful.
“During the pandemic, moving the workplace online and out of a shared physical environment into one that workers are able to navigate with different kinds of agency has so far proved beneficial. That said, I don’t take those benefits for granted. Power doesn’t shift readily. There will be new, increased and worse abuses manifested for these types of work environments (for instance, digital surveillance of remote workers—much of which can directly undermine their rights and security—with zero parallel accountability structures for management). But for the sake of this exercise, I’ll try to focus on the positives.
“It should simply be clear that there is no scenario in which only the positive outcomes will occur. Resistance to progress is not only inevitable, it must be anticipated if positive changes are to be designed appropriately.
“Here is an optimistic view of 2035: Knowledge economies are emerging and growing more rapidly in the Global South than anyone predicted in 2021. Refugees and migrants are able to safely and effectively access information and operate online along their journeys, supported by a rise in peer-to-peer networking that also facilitates a global crackdown on human trafficking and sexual and labor exploitation and enslavement.
“As fossil fuel use rapidly declines in the Global North, the use of smart-home systems exponentially increases per-capita energy efficiency. A major percentage of households in the Global North are now contributing energy to the grid and have back-up energy storage capacity to support both household and communitywide resilience to disasters and blackouts. The Global South is benefitting directly from its production and use of energy-efficient, low-water and low-waste technologies, while also experiencing greater levels of stability due to the limitations placed on information weaponization, cyberattack and other digital war-making activities through the 5th Geneva Convention.
“Global corruption and organized crime are no longer as able to move money, as human trafficking ceases to be such an exploitable venue. The new blockchain and digital currency regulations make dark money harder to hide and serve to rein in the rampant mining of e-currency.”
An expert in urban studies based in Venezuela observed, “We find ourselves in the middle of a digital emergency today, similar to the one we already recognize regarding climate change and with dramatic consequences if we do not act promptly. There are two complementary fronts that should be addressed in parallel. One is information literacy. That is, disruptive educational programs (not under traditional pedagogical models) so that people are continuously (throughout life, from children to adults) developing skills that allow them a critical use of digital tools. The other aspect is the construction of socially acceptable behavior patterns to be applied to the development and use of these technological resources. Ethical codes agreed between the various social actors and gradually implemented are necessary. The goal would be to consolidate a culture towards information (infoculture) that recognizes the peculiarities of each set of actors (children, developers, teachers, officials, entrepreneurs, parents, etc.) and that regulates the relationships between all these groups.”
A network operations practitioner said, “In 2035 there are international standards on digital rights with cross-border implementations that are respected and enforced by different national agencies. There is regular consultation and discourse on how development, regulation and security can be made on an annual basis in both national and international conventions.”
A consulting business communications analyst commented, “Trends to watch tied to business communications but also to be widely implemented by others:
- Adoption of graph databases and data standards, taxonomies and ontologies, for example, XBRL, a global framework for exchanging business information; global LEIs offering standardized legal reference data; and authentication APIs that allow people to manage user identity.
- Cryptocurrencies in the global-remittance space and central bank digital currencies.
- Alternatives to credit reporting-based wealth profiles such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion; plus, the availability of digital doubles and alternate personas.
- Hyperlocal, data-driven journalism
- Exascale graphics processing units (GPUs), quantum networking and quantum computing.”
A leading professor of legal studies and business ethics responded, “The expectation that persistent metaverse experiences will be more widespread by 2035 isn’t a prediction, it is a certainty given current development and investment trends. I have wonderful experiences in the digital space of World of Warcraft, which started in 2004. With the huge investment in metaverse platforms, I expect that more people will have that kind of social experience, extending beyond it simply being used for gaming. But that doesn’t mean that digital life will be better or worse on average for 8 billion people in the world.”
A professor and researcher said, “Because the business model will not change, the chief solution would be society learning how to read and interpret what is said in digital spaces. This would include the ability to recognize social manipulation (as we are learning to recognize social-engineering attacks in email and texts) and being able to identify the speaker (attribution) and their point of view. Basic education plays a role, but I suspect most of this knowledge will be generated and learned through an informal peer-driven process. In the internet business model operators of digital spaces are complicit with those actively seeking to manipulate those in a digital space. There are few incentives for a telephone network operator to limit fraudulent uses since there is a financial benefit to carrying the traffic and a financial penalty for the improvements needed to block it. Similarly, there are few incentives for the operator of a digital space to moderate its use because there is no financial benefit in doing so and a cost to do so. Incentives are out of alignment.”
A former executive at a national funding initiative commented, “The thermodynamics of the present trends are truly awful, even if one considers both ‘bad guys’ and ‘countervailing agents.’ It adds up to a Nash equilibrium (there is no incentive to deviate from the initial strategy), similar to what led to so many species’ extinctions in the past when niches changed this much. (See Robert May’s ‘Stability and Complexity in Model Ecosystems’). Having funded the key guy who led to Facebook’s new AI, and having seen their recent plans, I am ever-more worried. The only way out would be a higher level of consciousness, focus and design intelligence, which is possible but is an uphill struggle at best. These issues are so much easier for people with normal backgrounds to understand than climate change is, and our failure to network enough to save our lives on that one… Well, it is irrational to give up, but even less rational to feel secure right now.”
A scholar, knowledge manager and adjunct professor listed the following as his top wishes for improvement of the digital public sphere by 2035:
- “Establish a clear distinction between open crowdsourcing and ‘qualified crowdsourcing’—including in the latter only those with demonstrable competence.
- Make free and open-access the default mode for all internet content.
- Make exertion of intellectual property rights possible but difficult, and free ALL legacy sci-tech materials from intellectual property constraints, with the exception of potentially dangerous content—for example insider information on chemical/ biological/nuclear technology.
- All university courses should be free and open worldwide.
- Medical care should be freely and directly available on global scale.”
An associate professor of philosophy based in the American South wrote, “Nationalize Amazon, Google and Facebook. End the capitalist internet. Make everything a public utility.”
An award-winning author and journalist based in the Northeast U.S. said, “I would love to imagine interactions with digital spaces that are led by my thoughts, not vice versa. Whether or not we are using digital realms as steppingstones to communicating with other humans or as information-rich destinations in themselves, we are increasingly pestered by suggestions, chidings and temptations of the systems that we are trying to use. These and other scoldings in effect relate to me that I do not conform or measure up to the algorithms that rule online spaces, and hence I feel demeaned by something that is supposed to be a tool for my communications purposes.
“It’s as though the telephone that I am using to call a friend or the journal into which I am pouring my inner reflections were simultaneously an unwanted critic of my efforts. Some of these intrusions can be turned off, of course. But it’s crucial to note that the norm is the intrusion. (The fact that it takes multiple steps, often via hidden settings, to turn off these intrusions underscores this point.)
“The idiosyncratic style and creativity of humans using these systems are being devalued. A more human-centric digital world would value the sometimes-blemished nature of human thinking, and so make room for intrinsically-driven improvements in our communications and thinking. Free or semi-free from the current tyranny of the internet, people could be alone with their thoughts and so better learn to heed, shape and critique their inner worlds to standards that are far higher than the narrow and technical metrics by which the internet operates.”
A foresight strategist based in Washington, D.C., said, “Probably the most significant change in ‘digital life’ in the next 14 years will be the geometric expansion of the power and ubiquity of artificial intelligence. I consider it likely that bots (writ large) will be responsible for generating an increasing portion of our cultural and social information, from entertainment media to news media to autonomous agents that attend our medical and psychosocial needs. Obviously, a lot can go right or wrong in this scenario, and it’s incumbent upon those of us who work in and with digital tech to anticipate these challenges and to help center human dignity and agency as AI becomes more pervasive and powerful.”
A senior vice president for strategy and enterprise development responded, “Imagine a situation where the technology for revenue generation is unhinged from the selective dissemination of emotionally charged information. That’s a start. Getting to one set of facts that all can accept if not agree on is the challenge ahead of us.”
A researcher, educator and international statesman in the field of medicine commented, “I expect to see: 1) The end of anonymity on any social media site and in the comment sections of public platforms. Today, this would include platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and the comment sections to political sites, newspapers and TV networks. This would not include online support groups and similar platforms. 2) I would like most of our communication to be multi-signal. That is, I want greater use of options such as FaceTime and Zoom. This should be for one-on-one communication or for groups with less than 10 members. We make sense in conversation, and we make sense of events and ourselves in conversation. We make sense of each other with each other in conversation. It is difficult to do this in text-only environments, and these environments are inefficient for doing this. Also, larger groups create an even larger audience effect, and we should not feel ‘on stage’ when discussing important matters. We should be able to choose when we are ‘public.’”
An expert on media and information policy commented, “I envision a hybrid, physical-digital space where individuals with very different values can interact to solve problems and find shared positions, unconstrained by the shrill hype the is currently present in most of the digital landscape. Such deliberations will be supported by simulation environments (possibly informed by AI) that help individuals to understand in a playful way how dynamic, non-linear processes unfold. This will allow people to move discussions from dogmatic battles for the ‘truth’ or the ‘correct facts’ to a better understanding of the complexities of our highly interdependent and interrelated world.”
A Southeast Asia-based expert on the opportunities and challenges of digital life wrote, “The internet user of the future may be able to take advantage of new forms of information—primary sources and direct opinions—and will hopefully be better at listening to others. Today’s users seem to be overwhelmed by the idea that there are no truths and everything is a matter of opinion. While this is unhelpful in facing current challenges—like income inequality, Covid-19 and climate change, for instance—this does not mean the willingness to accept divergent interpretations is inherently negative. Users who are better equipped for synthesizing sources and forming their own conclusions would represent a better online world. Antonio Gramsci is famous for saying that all people are intellectuals, but not everyone is given the opportunity to become one. Online, it is possible for more people to have access to primary sources than ever before. Many users today seem ready and able to summarize information supplied to them others, and their quest for ‘hidden’ stories from ‘authentic’ sources leads them to propel conspiracy theories willingly and makes them hesitant to listen to alternative points of view.”
A Washington-based political consultant and policy attorney wrote, “Antimonopoly policy will lead to a more diversified internet that enables speech, democracy, commerce, etc.”
An expert in marketing and commercialization of machine learning tools commented, “Regulators will come to understand all of the facets associated with digital life and they will work with thought leaders and business leaders in the space to architect a better digital life to benefit society rather than platforms or data brokers. Blockchain will be utilized for societal good as a contract, in ways associated with usage and how people agree to conduct themselves when interacting in digital spaces. The internet will revert back to one of its initial tenets as a global forum to get together connect, share and solve challenging problems at a local, regional and national level. This could be something as localized as cross-regional law agencies that will identify mechanisms to police and patrol online spaces, not to the detriment of society but rather to work with society in determining the right means, implications and punitive mechanisms to root out detrimental activity online. Mental health professionals will identify the clinical associations between excessive online digital engagement and brain activity and provide clinical data and recommendations/controls.”
A vice president for learning technologies commented, “There will be education and training platforms that take full advantage of the highly representational aspects of digital possibilities that benefit learning:
- Easy access to references and resources (valid, reliable, transparent origins).
- Easy access to valid, reliable, recognized competency-based assessments of learning.
- Easy access to the human connections necessary for learning.”
An internationally known clinical psychologist said, “I would like to see the establishment of a Universal Ethical Code of Digital Citizenship based on pro-social, pro-democracy principles. There would be an international board of governance and there would be transparent regulatory systems that supervise all users. Children would be taught these values and codes of conduct from first use.”
An online security expert based in New York City wrote, “From the beginning, tech industry ‘visionaries’ have encouraged us to imagine a world without editors as a utopia of free speech and self-governance. The policy world has largely accepted these libertarian claims from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg as the truth about the impact of moderation, when, in fact, the impact is not only a race to the bottom of incendiary speech and communications pollution but even a weaponization of apparent free speech by nation states in disinformation and propaganda campaigns. For the owners of these companies, ‘free speech’ continues to provide cover for their hand-over-fist profits.
“There will be no fighting disinformation without a return to an ecosphere of trusted editors who can identify human content, weed out garbage and surface the most compelling and useful stuff. This may not look like traditional newspapers and magazines; it may look more like content that is traceable back to the influencers who spread it (and no, that’s not going to involve blockchain). But we’re going to need it if we want things not to melt down.
“I’d also like to see a radical overhaul of what ‘literacy’ means in schools, that involves a lot more reading to find the source, evaluating claims being made, assessing whether content is paid for, and listening for whether content is playing on the user’s emotions and sympathies. Basically, a more thorough incorporation of what’s been called ‘media literacy’ or ‘news literacy’ and the findings of the New Literacy scholars, from earlier grades.
“The good news is that in the wake of the past four years, these approaches are finally getting funded at a larger scale in the U.S., which historically has been the last English-speaking country in the world that hasn’t had media literacy mandated at the federal level.”
A professor based in Australia responded, “The internet is thoroughly owned by and operated out of the first world. The first world has a standard of living that has been obtained through the relentless exploitation of underdeveloped nations. Perhaps now is the time for things to change? It would be amazing to take what is seemingly the peak product of the developed world to redress the disadvantage suffered in developing nations.
“I would love to be able to mentor/tutor individuals in the third world, but since I know my health would be challenged greatly by living conditions there I would have to do so via the internet. It would be a true marvel. There are one-to-many tutoring systems like Khan Academy, but many forms of technical knowledge and skilling can only really be successful if enacted through more personalized and direct one-to-one training. Mixing this with an Uber model would be very interesting.
“Of course, there would need to be systems to avoid the direct identification of individuals involved and avoid any physical meeting between parties. Similarly, there would be many opportunities for individual investors to back emergent industries and services in underdeveloped regions. Internet-based exchanges for such funding would be a good step forward, countering, one would hope, the intentional technological development of leftover colonies. With global warming looming as a severe destabilising influence in the world, it is a very high priority to use the internet and IoT to provide fine-grained, timely information on the state of micro-environments.”
A North American research scientist wrote, “In an improved 2035 we will use tech to be our best selves. The government will be making big tech pay big fines and pay taxes, and there will be far fewer tech billionaires because the U.S. government has a big stick. High-speed internet will be cheap and abundant everywhere. There will be lots of competitors for our time and resources when it comes to social media and tech. Tech devices will be sustainable and recyclable, and we will be able to easily get things repaired locally when stuff breaks.”
A Pacific Islands-based activist for internet freedom wrote, “2035 should feature an environment with interoperability, giving the public the ability to change platforms and still communicate with people. End-to-end encryption should be the norm, under end-user control. There should be an end to mega, centralised corporations (no more Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft or equivalents). Effective data-protection regulation should be the norm worldwide, and it should be enforced. Responsibility for censorship and/or copyright regulation should be moved back to the courts, with equivalent judicial appeal mechanisms. Copyright and other intellectual property-type reach being reduced rather than expanded. Digital access to communication abilities should be extended to the places in the world that are currently unable to connect to the internet for technical or financial reasons. Media literacy must be a core part of every education system.”
The director and co-founder of a nonprofit organization that seeks social solutions to grand challenges responded, “The more we use digital spaces to strengthen our relationship to the abstract, the more people and society will suffer. The biggest improvement in future might come from a transfer in individuals’ time use from typical uses of ‘screen time’ to civic engagement and the commons. Digital spaces need to become more focused on helping us better manage the material and relational aspects of life, not simply be a distraction from an embodied life of caring for oneself, others and our physical and social communities.”
A sociologist based in North America observed, “For me, an aspect of digital life in a ‘new and improved’ realm in 2035 would target socioeconomic/class-based inequalities without simultaneously exploiting these group members. For example, municipalities that so far have explored offering free public wi-fi generally do not include in their plans the necessary security measures or related education that would promote users’ safe navigation. In addition, a concerted effort could be made to enhance the neutrality of AI technologies to decrease the established biases of social media APIs and other realms of digital data.”
A professor of internet studies wrote, “More overt filters, tagging systems and the like can make users aware of deep fakes, lies and other misinformation. Systems can help people understand that not all points of view are equal (false equivalence). With all the gerrymandering and voter suppression laws right now, it would be nice to see innovative uses of digital spaces to: 1) overturn these laws, and 2) find ways to get out the vote despite these laws. Sites and spaces that enhance local communities are another good thing.”
The president and co-founder of a U.S. software company said, “I believe it is possible to envision a world where the interests of personal health and well-being support both broad-based research and improved personal health management. This will require clear and effective personal privacy protection, data anonymization and a restructured model for delivery of personal health care services around the world—and particularly within the United States. It should no longer be possible to deny health services or raise insurance rates based on disclosure of personal health information.”
A French professor of information science suggested a revamp for 2035 that divides the internet into non-commercial and commercial branches, writing, “I propose a division of the Internet into two distinct networks: the Original Internet and the Business Internet.
“The original internet would have a general ban on all for-profit activities, advertising, sales, marketing and so on. The Original Internet would be refocused on human activities: art, science, nature, knowledge, education, health, leisure, amateur sport, gardening, games (non-gambling games). An e-reputation for users in this setting is but only their non-commercial human activities can be mentioned. Any solicitation by email or sales of lists would be prohibited. The original network could be moderated a priori. No private company could impose anything on the Original Internet, which would be placed under the control and authority of a commission (for example a National Commission for Data Processing and Freedoms) from a government of sovereign states. The Original Internet would be maintained by accredited companies and under the control of the CNIL which could, at any time, withdraw its approval and take legal action in case of breach and fraud.
“The Business Internet would be dedicated to commercial activity and allow advertising, online shopping and so forth. Individuals’ secondary, business email addresses would be available on the business internet to those who would like them (but people would not be required to have one). If a user deems that their Business email address is misused, they can at any time delete it and create a new one. All lucrative activities (transactions, sales, advertising revenues) on the Business Internet are taxed and all such proceeds are earmarked for the updating and maintenance of the non-profit activities of the Original Internet. As these two networks are created it is also vital to do as well as possible to ensure that they are no longer so vulnerable to crime, trafficking and fraud.”
A Chinese social media researcher wrote, “There could be some innovative technologies that help individuals to team up in peer-to-peer ways to generate a higher level of intelligence or social consciousness to help information getting into order in a way that will not torture or confuse the common public, especially the young generations.”
An anonymous respondent predicted, “There will be real-time matching of displaced people with housing.”
An analytics director for a social media strategies consultancy said, “The ideal digital life would be one of collaboration as opposed to reaction.”
A professor of public administration based in the U.S. South said, “The move to broader adoption of work from home (WFH) will likely reshape cities. If WFH becomes a norm it may be the impetus for better high-speed connectivity to penetrate communities that do not currently have good access. Small towns in places such as in the Midwest may become more attractive places to live due to lower costs of living, lower population densities and the like, also boosting economies across the country.”
An internet pioneer who helped lead its diffusion in Southeast Asia wrote, “I hope that digital developments should move towards a stage, where, when using digital communication—both public and individual, it would be a free space in which we would not have to constantly consider the economic or political implications of what we do.”
A staff attorney for a global internet rights organization wrote, “It would be very nice to be able to use any digital device or service, on the web or elsewhere, without having to worry that some company or some government was collecting data about you/your activities unless you actually wanted them to, and even when you agreed, you were absolutely entitled to know how your data was being used and who had what data.”
An educator and director based in Texas commented, “In an imagined better world, we might have robust digital spaces where people can connect with one another but that are more protected from interference from adversaries/global bad actors seeking to stir up trouble with disinformation. Spaces that could quickly remove misinformation, racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic propaganda, and the like.”
A researcher wearily observed, “I am not sure that today’s societies will survive the current climate crisis, but if the online world is still running in 14 years, we will need more social-norm enforcement online, done by human beings. We don’t need artificial intelligence, we already have enough human intelligence, and people need jobs (although they need decent jobs).”
A professor of sociology at an American Ivy League university responded, “I imagine a world where I wake up to my digital alarm clock that is not talking to a server in the Netherlands and listening to me state the command to start my coffee machine downstairs, invoking low-paid workers in the Philippines to see if they can decipher my non-standard American English accent under the appearance of artificial intelligence. I imagine a world where I built my alarm clock, and my coffeemaker and my fridge may be ‘intelligent’ but only insofar as they talk to my home server. A world where my home is fire-walled, where the movies I watch online are held in my own possession in my own server (I pay for them once, and then download them locally, so they do not sit in anyone else’s ‘cloud’). Where the personal assistant I built using an open-source voice-recognition library (not from Google) processes what I say locally instead of in someone else’s cloud. Where the machines in all homes use less energy than the enormous grids used for cloud computing, hidden from the world in random parts of the globe. Where going online and connecting with friends and colleagues does not expose me to death threats, rape threats, violence promised against my family.”
A professor of psychology at a major U.S. technological university whose specialty is human-computer interaction wrote, “My hope is that I can bring people to my community with values that align with mine: pro-education, pro-social activism, pro-diversity. And I use digital space to crowdsource opportunities for these newcomers. Different subgroups find low-cost housing, jobs, schools, etc. And the people come, and it goes on.”
An advocate for free expression and open access to the internet wrote, “The internet has brought a lot of improvements around the globe—from education, business and entrepreneurship, communication, religious activities and entertainment to telemedicine, among others. Another aspect worth mentioning is the role of the internet and social media platforms in enhancing participatory governance in a democratic society. They provide a platform for communicating, advancing public debate, seeking information on election processes and candidates and holding governments accountable for their actions—including their promises to the people. The internet and digital tools also enable journalists, human rights defenders, election observers, civil society actors and other relevant stakeholders to monitor and report on elections, facilitating transparency, inclusiveness and openness in the process.”
A writer and editor based in Venezuela wrote, “In 2035, augmented reality and artificial intelligence will empower humans in the first and second world (and a few hundred thousand in the third world) by improving their experience of daily interaction with their environment and providing feedback to their peers. Thus, a simple event such as transiting the world will open up possibilities for enhancing tourism, but also knowledge and new forms of sociability. This could happen if governments (national and local) begin today to design public policies that encourage digital awareness as a sure way to raise the consciousness of humanity.”
A futurist based in North America commented, “I’d like to see our lives simplified by moving more of the detail into digital systems. For example, a digitally managed ID, either or a card or in the cloud, that handles all the details of our everyday lives, such as health care, dealings with government, driver’s license, an intelligent shopping agent, universal basic income, etc.”
A communications professor based in Canada said, “The best world we could have is rapid fragmentation and decentralization of the spheres in order for the smaller political spheres to actually see how small and fragmented they are, then more people will be more likely to join larger spheres.”
An expert on cybersecurity and cyberspace wrote, “By 2035 I can see great integration of work and social life, where spaces are fluid and can transition from digital to physical quickly and easily and vice versa. I liked the unrealized vision from at least a decade ago where you would be out and be able to see people nearby you can connect with that alerts you of someone in the area, it brings up suggestions for nearby coffee places, for example, and pings each other. While there, a phone or device and spark some conversation with topics you know each other to like. Then when you get back home, a variety of interest videos, etc., on certain topics can be further explored. Another space where similar interactions can occur is in video games.”
A prolific programmer and innovator based in Berkeley, CA, said, “There is potential for substantial advancement in terms of medical diagnosis and treatments.”
An Australian writer whose focus is on legal, political and moral philosophy commented, “I’m probably too pessimistic for this question. What I’d like to see is a space for more civil discussion—I’m not talking here about people being completely temperate all the time. Passions often run hot, and that’s inevitable. I’m talking about very basic civility in which we might sometimes lose our tempers, but we at least make some effort to discuss ideas, even intemperately at times, rather than trying to destroy each other. But I see absolutely no sign that we are moving in such a direction.”
An Australian researcher of cyberculture said, “I don’t see much opportunity in the future to get people away from their screens and focus on heathy food, healthy exercise and a more conciliatory frame of mind. I don’t envision the internet will help this, as the uneducated will continue to outnumber the educated and they are prepared to shoot people to defend their misled ideals.”
A leading expert in human-computer interfaces for one of the world’s largest technology companies commented, “A space for actual constructive conversations about important topics. Could there be a place for constructive arguments? Yes, there could. Will someone build it and host it? I don’t know.”
A futures strategist and lecturer in sociology said, “Speaking honestly, it’s very hard to muster the motivation to think optimistically at this precise moment.”
An anonymous activist wrote, “There will be more interactive features with pseudo-anonymity—similar to how Usenet used to be.”
A director of strategic initiatives wrote, “Every child would have opportunities to have experiential learning to develop their ethical reasoning as applied to data and digital life.”
A UK-based expert on well-being in the digital age observed, “I would love a way to develop a mental health app for a world in which mental health is a commitment and something we are proud of. Yes, there’s meditation and coaching questions and positive affirmations and a place to build a positive reservoir of photos, and a vision board and tools to focus on our goals (all of this I teach but would love to put in an app), and each day we’re given little tasks to top up our mental well-being, e.g., ‘Today, text a good friend.’”
A distinguished professor at a major U.S. university observed, “There has to be an easy way to distinguish truth from falsehoods, flag misinformation and promote democracy and actual free speech rather than the practice of shouting others down.”
A computer science and engineering professor at a major U.S. technological university said, “There should be less ability to hide from view and write misleading, nasty stuff without consequences.”
An expert at helping developing countries to strategically implement ICT solutions said, “It is not about ‘new and improved.’ It is about ‘different.’ People are addicted to digital devices and contents. The coming years are critical to learn how to free ourselves from these addictions despite powers that try to maintain this situation.”
An educator based in North America wrote, “In 2035 there will be more remote work and more ability to learn about issues independently of mass media.”
An attorney expert in international law said, “There will be greater broadband service everywhere at lower prices. It is possible to greatly limit the digital divide. Poorer people and people with fewer options will be able to get education and degrees online, enhancing their future. Telework will be more acceptable, resulting in a greater distribution of people and wealth throughout the country and not just in major urban areas.”
A futurist and transformational business leader commented, “There should be for-purpose social sites that focus on specific needs and interests in which consumers have control over how/if their data is used. There should be support for communities of interest; this could be commercial support, but only if it comes from carefully curated sources only.”
A professor of computer science and data studies wrote, “Connectivity is improving over time. People are able to stay in touch in more meaningful ways over digital channels including video chat. People will be able to maintain stronger social support networks.”
A professor emerita of informatics and computing said, “I do think that promotion of the ‘commons’ might be a good start. Of late—both online and off—I note that many people are concerned about their individual rights and freedoms, rather than the good of society. If we could find a way for internet companies (and particularly social media) to organize themselves such that people begin thinking about ways to work together for the common good, rather than constantly screaming that they don’t want others to tell them what to do, perhaps we could make some headway on major national and international issues, such as climate change, the election of populist and authoritarian governments, defeating diseases like coronavirus, etc. I would welcome some discussions around this approach by leaders in online media and communication.”
An angel and venture investor who previously led innovation and investment for a major U.S. government organization predicted, “There will be no such thing as passwords. All digital behavior will be discoverable and trackable. It will be impossible to turn off location services because of legal mandates, so all people will be trackable physically wherever they are all the time.”
An experienced sociological and demographic researcher commented, “One of the upsides of the pandemic was the ability to have global conversations. I could attend far more talks with less effort than ever before. While Zoom is a poor substitute for certain kinds of interactions (for instance, in the classroom), it was great for tactical meetings and just staying in touch. I can see more of that ability to have connections. This could help reduce business travel—I think it will—so that will be another positive of technology.”
A marketing and business consultant based in Ohio wrote, “The only thing I’d like to see at this point is more and different type of people guiding any type of evolution. The current leadership is lacking.”
A North American technology professional wrote, “The sets of online services will continue to expand and make many mundane tasks much simpler. A clear example is that we’ve talked for years about the benefits of telemedicine, yet it took the pandemic to actually force the medical community to embrace this in a significant way.”
A professor based at a national technological institute in Europe said, “Digital spaces will create new services for sure, however there is a risk of increasing isolation for some people and amplifying inequalities due to numerical fracture.”
A retired educator who has been active in the Second Life community wrote, “Education will open minds to be accepting of different peoples and their cultures and to think critically.” A business professor researching smart cities and artificial intelligence said, “The ‘new and improved’ digital realm of 2035 would require changes from two perspectives. First, greater public self-control and skepticism about what we read online. This can only be achieved through investment in education (at all levels). Second, the development of a counter-Turing test: Something (an app?) that is required to be used in every context in which AI is being used, and which warns users that they are dealing with a machine.”
A North America-based entrepreneur said, “I imagine a digital world that invites international and intercultural exchange with simultaneous language translation that allows us to expand our world to erase physical borders. This could allow people from all walks of life to digitally interact in virtual 3D or holographic communities. The internet could become a global exchange that facilitates interaction among people, promoting and creating digital relationships and friendships. It would be like living in a united global nation that promotes peaceful interactions that focus on learning, education, cultural exchange that emphasizes cooperation and understanding.”
A professor of public affairs whose research is focused on the governance of AI wrote, “More of everyday life, such as education, shopping and social activities (e.g., weddings, funerals, etc.), will likely be mostly online by 2035. This move online could be supported by new hardware devices (small-embedded cameras, improved VR, etc.) that improve seamless digital communication.”
A professor based in Oceania said, “The current pandemic has highlighted the possibilities for a digitally enabled flexibility in work practices and in information sharing, problem solving and collaboration previously unimagined. This has led to a rapid upskilling and enhanced comfort level in the population with engaging with and through technology. In a new and improved digital realm, I see the possibility of global collaboration among new social movements and scientific investigation tackling very real global challenges of climate change and associated pressures, health issues and diseases, opportunities identified for efficient sharing of resources, and the use of AI and algorithmic use to enhance and accelerate these processes and outcomes in socially beneficial ways.”
A North American entrepreneur wrote, “The internet is an amazing tool for democratizing information and content. I am hopeful that education can be transformed by digital tools.”
A professor and researcher commented, “There will be better tools that allow people to make intentional choices about how they consume digital media and to exercise greater self-control over its use”
An anonymous respondent suggested, “Make social media companies register as media companies. Hold them legally accountable for knowingly spreading disinformation.”
A futurist/consultant based in Europe said, “I hope for fewer idiots and trolls online and that by 2035 misinformation is controlled by people really ‘knowing.’ Politicians and their followers would be restricted.”
A communications professor wrote, “Hopefully, there will be better online time-management.”
A writer and editor whose expertise is in researching and reporting about management issues affecting global business leaders said, “I am encouraged when I see online small groups of people coming together to help individuals with specific needs, i.e., micro-donations for food, healthcare or another pressing need. While these situations almost always have, to this point, involved the large systems that have failed society, there is still a lot of positive action that can come out of 1:1 crowdsourced fundraising.”
An Ivy League professor of science and technology studies noted, “I think of radical house cleaning every year or two. There should be an automatic elimination of people’s data at regular intervals so there is no build-up of the archeology of individual and collective lives, far beyond what people have opted in to record and preserve of themselves and their interactions.”
A managing director working in the space of sustainable technologies for cities responded, “The two biggest improvements to online activity in a democratic, capitalist system (we are not talking about China here), are: 1) people own their own data (and possibly get paid for commercial use), and 2) the use of decentralized identifiers.
An independent technology writer observed, “We have one good example of a better world online—The Well. They’ve been doing digital spaces for decades now and have established a stable online community. I’m not a member of The Well, but I have an acquaintance whose opinions I trust has been a member since The Well’s earliest days, and he describes it in glowing terms.
“I would like to think that artificial intelligence can be harnessed to gently monitor and moderate digital spaces and effectively weed out the trolls, bots, etc. We shouldn’t have human minds subjected to moderating out the cesspool of human depravity that the sickest of humanity want to foist on the rest of us. For digital spaces, we should have the AI equivalent of industrial assembly robots that can take on the worst tasks in the factory like painting, or squirting sealant all day long.
“Another hope for AI is to see what your interests are in an online space and altruistically suggest people you might want to meet online (like minds, similar attitudes) and communities. I’m surprised that Facebook figures out some things I’m interested in, but I always suspect its motives, so I don’t trust its recommendations at face value. I also hope that there will be digital spaces that are the equivalent of PBS—content that is intended to uplift, rather than ‘grab eyeballs and hold them for the ads’ like commercial networks are right now.
“My fondest wish is for a single digital space where all my friends are comfortable, and that I can trust. Some friends are on Facebook. Others are on Twitter. Others don’t do social media at all. Some only respond to email. Others don’t use anything but their phone to talk to people. Etc. If I need a quick brain trust pulled together to hash out a big question, the ‘space’ should try to round up my friends.”
A professor of political communication based in Hong Kong observed, “In the future, social movements will make more effective use of digital technologies and solidarity across borders will be strengthened. Machine-translation technology will accelerate this trend.”
An expert in regional and urban economics, public finance and economic development policy predicted, “There will be a lively digital life available for elders in nursing homes and for those with limited mobility. We need a culture of civility online that also promotes discussions and digital attendance for learning opportunities. Methods for the public to find ways separate truth from fiction need to be better.”
An expert in data structures, software design and linguistics said, “There could be a global ‘balance sheet’ for global warming and its causes and effects—CO2 emissions, other greenhouse gases, sea-level rise, melting of ice caps, glaciers, wildfires, the whole range of phenomena. People would be able to see clearly the cost and benefit for actions they could be considering, e.g., buying an electric car versus continuing to use the old gasoline-burning one, biking for more local trips, etc.”
A futurist, researcher and writer observed, “One improvement will be empowered users. To begin with, they will have had more exposure to digital tools and critical issues in school, from kindergarten on. They will have more experience with the digital world from politics to banking, love to shopping. They will also have learned more about how to work skeptically and critically within cyberspace than those operating in the world of 2021.”
An internet pioneer working at the intersection of technology, business/economics and policy to drive effective change said, “I’d like to see digital spaces that give us a sense of ‘shared experience.’ Who am I talking to? Are they generally friendly? Looking for a debate, or just a platform to spew? Can I stop interacting with them, if I choose? Can I readily verify facts in what is being discussed? Can we move digital spaces beyond the sharing of memes and general giggling in the back of the room?”
A technology researcher and developer working in the areas of productivity and digital well-being said, “I imagine a public that has gotten over the novelty of being online, when behavior normalizes, just as in any public sphere. This may require an identified [non-anonymous] internet, so to speak, but we’ve already moved there significantly in the past few years. In this internet I envision new forms of collaboration, with a goal of solving societal problems, from the local neighborhood to countries.”
A futurist, writer, researcher and consultant said, “Colleges and universities will move increasing amounts of schooling online, broadening the reach of their programs and lowering the costs for both students and institutions. ‘Ghost kitchens’ will become a model for remote college lab work. Students taking sciences remotely will do their lab practicums in labs located in their towns. ‘Going away’ to college will start to fade out.”
A tech CEO, founder and digital strategist said, “It’s important to acknowledge the substantial positives associated with the appearance, mainstreaming and evolution of the internet over the last three decades. I suspect we will continue to see global improvement associated with pervasive network access. We see ongoing improvements in collaborative capability, distribution of information, effective monitoring of global natural and technical systems, etc. So, in many ways we already have a better world today. At the same time, we have urgent issues that have so far not been well addressed: e.g., climate change, global health challenges (potential pandemics) and the uneven management and distribution of resources. A better world online depends on how well we address these issues. By 2035 I would hope to see increasingly effective collaboration to address these and other challenges, with increased widespread digital literacy and emphasis on critical thinking. This is my ‘expansive’ thought: We can remedy the misuse of social media and email to spread falsehoods and practice cultural manipulation; we could have smarter and better uses of social media—support for our best efforts and intentions—versus the current fog of ignorance and polarizing conflict.”
A writer, speaker and teacher commented, “People can come together from around the world to think through problems together. The technology has tons of potential.”
A professor based in North America observed, “The world right now is overloaded with subjective opinion masquerading as objective information. We, humans, TRY to make decisions, or more precisely strive to make objective decisions (since they are better) in this environment. Any help in making this process easier (could be either restricting labeling (explicit or implicit) of subjective opinion as objective information (or unbiased data) or aiding in processes that help in making objective decision from subjective opinion(s), would go a long way.”
The director of an institute for media based in India commented, “By 2035 people will recognise fake news more easily and that is a great leap forward.”
The CEO of a professional services company helping clients engage in the global economy wrote, “Digital life will enable me to see my health condition in real time and make adjustments to my behavior to extend my active and healthy life.”
A professor whose work is focused on technology and society observed, “Wouldn’t it be beautiful if people had a good reason to gather and deliberate and exchange ideas in safe spaces? Capitalism rules the roost and likely will have sway for a long, long time, so I hopefully imagine future spaces in which companies are incented to create these kinds of structures. It’s extremely Pollyanna-ish, but you asked! I love James Fishkin’s model of deliberative polling and gathering people of all stripes. Once gathered and in a neutral space, Americans do great things. They’re less stupid, less reactive, more tolerant and come up with better ideas. I would like to imagine structures online that incentivize these kinds of civic gatherings and mixings, as opposed to our social network-based echo chambers.”
The co- founder of a global association for digital analytics commented, “By 2035 cloud computing will have ceased to exist, replaced by low-level personal servers and mesh networking. Online surveillance and profiling will be replaced by individuals’ personal control of their own data, accessible to companies only through mediated broker services in which the consumer is paid directly for access to their personal profile. There will be widespread use of small-scale AI that is directly owned by and serves each individual to provide a defensive net around their data and personal control of social/civic services. Politicians will no longer vote to determine laws—there will be direct citizen voting on all laws via secure digital services (not that I think this ideal is likely to occur).”
A futurist and consultant based in Europe wrote, “I’d love to see unions for all companies, but especially tech companies. I’d love to see more and more regulation. I’d love to see a place where tech employees feel like they can leave, that they can safely leave, and that they can whistleblow or share what they’ve seen and have some protection in that sharing. But I guess my first dream is I’d love to see more unions for workers across the U.S. I believe that’s a step in making this dream of a better internet happen.”
An ICT CEO based in Africa responded, “By 2035 my dream is to see the following well-improved in Africa and in the world: Data management (big data and data mining) and e-government services.”
An executive with an African nation’s directorate for finance for development wrote, “By 2035, universal access to all online services will be a reality. Access to energy and the internet for all will be funded in all countries to enable online lifelong education and access to an online specialist for universal medical assistance.”
A writer and linguist who is expert in local initiatives commented, “I imagine an online world in which people can connect with each other on a broader scale around a problem or issue, where they can share their solutions with wider audiences and can learn and choose and apply pieces of what they learn to better their communities. I think of this as a digital town hall that pushes its boundaries to include regions or even more. A public digital town hall that exists over time, grows, poses and answers questions, can become a valuable space. Personal storytelling can be unintimidating, accessible and valuable. The situation: many towns’ populations are aging. The question: how to keep young people from moving away from their hometowns, or how to attract them back once they have seen a bigger world? The answers lie in many places: education, quality of life, jobs and careers, broadband (!), space and safety, housing, civic engagement, commitment. That is a lot to work for any one town to undertake. Listening to the stories from others’ towns, borrowing from novel ideas that might apply from one town to another, hearing the successes and failures, seeing tiny steps—many more aspects can come into play.”
A professor emeritus of computer science wrote, “I now spend a lot of time just deleting e-mail messages that arrive by the dozens over most time periods. Unsubscribing doesn’t work particularly well: it just seems to increase the flow. Setting up filters could be made simpler and more effective. Further, I have hope for the utility of automated means for labeling and possibly removing postings that violate clearly stated criteria. I also think automated means for presenting competing views on controversial issues can help mitigate the filter bubble problem.”
A principal architect for one of the world’s leading technology companies responded, “I’d love to see the primary debates replaced by a ‘national town hall,’ forcing candidates to answer questions from a nationwide audience, demonstrate command of the issues and think on their feet. Maybe this would make it easier for a ‘fresh face’ to gain the nomination, displacing the current ‘geriatric olympics.’”
An expert in computational law responded, “People should be able to express their own individual personal identities in ways they own and control and thereby participate in civic, social and market-based environments from a more solid position of self, rather than being subsumed fully within the civic, social and market-based systems of large organizations providing identity to people.”
A professor of computer science and entrepreneur shared this 2035 scenario, “Wearing augmented-reality hardware, a child is learning by doing while moving—launching a rocket, planting a tree, solving an animal-enclosure puzzle in a virtual zoo. In the next room, a sitting parent is teaming with colleagues across the globe to design the next version of a flying car. Grandpa downstairs is baking cookies from the porch Adirondack chair by controlling—via a tablet and instrumented gloves—a couple of chef-robots in the kitchen. While Grandma, from an adjacent chair, is interacting with a granddaughter who lives across the country via virtual-reality goggles.”
A professor of computer science based in Canada wrote, “Social media are the new public square. 1A has to apply or Section 230 be removed.”
An expert in digital learning environments said, “In the realm of formal education during the COVID-19 pandemic, isolated students and families sought information and options. They sought factual and trusted information about safety precautions, treatment and prevention, and they experimented with new ways to continue learning. After evaluating information from mainstream media and social platforms, many turned to their education and local government institutions for guidance. These organizations used varying communications channels, evolving them quickly to reach their communities, and developed new strategies that will endure and will form foundations for community spaces.”
A professor and director of an institute for data science and intelligent systems wrote, “With increasingly better internet service around the world and our recent experience with meeting experts and using services online, I expect that more of the world’s barriers can drop. That one can hire an expert around the world if the service can be provided online, rather than only within your local area. This will increase international communication and understanding and reduce social barriers between countries.”
A professor of information science wrote, “The biggest challenge is the sheer explosion of sources. This has multiple effects. Each of us still has only 168 hours in a week and so for many the experience of any given source shrinks to smaller and smaller measures of attention. For others there’s an awareness (or a sense) of just how much they are missing out on by focusing on what they DO focus on. This latter is then compounded by the fact that this perception is always inaccurate—the world in fact is much bigger even than what you know you are missing out on. Humans exist in a large number of non-overlapping worlds of information, styles of thought and other humans, but it doesn’t need to be a dystopia. A new form of knowledge aggregation and summarization can feed in as a foundational element in the creation of all sources of information, entertainment, science, government and personal activity. The resulting ‘genetic’ relations between all the sources can yield a kind of mutual consideration that effects both a consonance and a creative and inspirational dissonance.”
A Germany-based CEO commented, “In my opinion there is not so much that needs to improve in the digital world. What is needed is education of users to make a better guess and better decisions what is real and what is fake. It is up to the people to use the digital world to their benefit.”
A professor of business said, “Acknowledgement of the dangers posed by mis/disinformation and alternative facts. No one likes to be wrong, so being misinformed continuously will grow tiresome and result in a more-honest commitment to personal responsibility for online behavior. Coupled with self-regulation and government regulations of social media companies and more investment in AI to sift through and flag bad actors, social media will become a more hospitable place—maybe not forever, as new platforms and ways of interacting will emerge, but the big companies will become more careful about how their platforms are used toward manipulation of facts.”
A leader in global internet governance exclaimed, “Artificial intelligence will further develop to be at the service of humans and public good.”
The founder and director of a digital consultancy said, “I would like to envision a digital future where we assemble around communities—geographical or interest-based—that provide real support and a plethora of viewpoints. This is really more of a return to the days before Facebook took over the social web and a development from there. AR and VR technologies can do more to bring us together, teach us about distant places, cultures and experiences, and help us become healthier through virtual diagnostics and digital wellness tools. I suppose what I’m really envisioning is a future where the entities that provide digital social services are re-oriented to serve users rather than shareholders; a new class of not-for-profit digital utilities regulated by an international network of civic-minded experts.”
A user-experience designer based in Boston wrote, “By 2035 work from home—or wherever you want to work—will be the norm. Office buildings will be reinvented to serve a better purpose. The changeover to having millions more digital nomads who work wherever they want to work, no longer tied to a physical location, will give workers new freedoms. It will also interrupt workforces because if labor is cheaper in one part of the world than in other parts, the cheaper regions will get more business and more jobs. This will be somewhat driven by how well-educated and trained a local populace is, but that offset will gradually disappear as education also becomes increasingly digital and more equitably distributed. Online voting will make democracy more accessible to a wider range of people. Medical attention in the form of virtual visits will make medical care easier to obtain.”
A professor of information science based in Norway said, “In the future there will be better public awareness of data collection and tracking and there will be better regulations regarding data collection and tracking, probably a curb on how much and what kind of targeted advertising can be deployed.”
The managing partner of a consultancy helping clients reach digital objectives responded, “Expect that automation will be embedded in all tasks and workflows. This won’t necessarily result in less work, rather more complex problems to solve.”
An entrepreneur based in the American South said, “A better world online for me is a world that has an army of protection for its users that is determined by its users. Each platform creator is responsible for what they allow their platforms to become over time. Each platform leader/creator has to solve for questions such as whether or not the platform they have created can be a safe haven for children, people with mental health issues, the elderly and/or others with expressed interest to have more privacy and or visibility into how their data is used. It’s a world of inspiration, design, creativity and hope. Each individual has their unique voice in this space and can heard in constructive ways. These platforms enable users the ability to easily navigate their unique digital life experience with fewer concerns. It is a world where individuals can learn more about themselves, if they choose. It is a world where the mind is valued and nurtured, a career or passion can emerge or grow, healing can take place, therapy can be administered, business can flourish, exploration happens and access to resources is abundant. It is a world that allows individuals to filter through some of the harmful digital experiences with more ease.”
An ICT entrepreneur based in Tanzania said, “Against the background of COVID-19, the internet will revolutionize the education sector. There will be tens of thousands of e-learning platforms that will transform learning and, especially, vocational training.”
A North American futurist/consultant responded, “The future world and an individual’s digital life will have government protections in place to require that the use of all personal identifiable data requires and express permission of the user, with annual certification that the user still gives permission for the use of their data. I see more global cooperation and agreements between countries/governments to continue to support the free flow of content. This will enable more individuals to collaborate on solving problems and issues. I see governments stepping back from creating so many domestic regulations and laws and moving towards international agreements that provide a framework for guidance that allows the marketplace to grow and innovation to thrive.”
A professor of sociology and anthropology commented, “The key benefit of digital spaces remains the same as it was with the first widespread availability of the internet in the 1990s: the ability of people who are geographically dispersed to come together around niche interests and needs. This benefit can now be augmented by the power of AI to help people make connections that they might not be able to see or accomplish on their own. The Covid pandemic has given many people a glimpse into the possibilities for these spaces, whether it is in education, group exercise programs, political organizing or rich discussions about esoteric topics such as planted aquariums.”
A futurist and consultant commented, “I’d like to see these social media platforms actually share all the money they make off their users with the users.”
The founder and chief scientist of a network consultancy commented, “The destruction of ‘distance’ enhances diversity. No matter what the topic or driving point. It might the desire to garden, craft or knit. It might be an abiding interest in mathematics, specialisation in engineering, etc. No matter what, distance is no longer an issue. I interact with more than 300 individuals worldwide daily to weekly on complex technical issues. This will only increase. When individuals experience diversity and embrace it in these communities of interest (and in general) they have an opportunity to grow. There are still arseholes (no other word for it) in such spaces—but good interaction combined with attempts to reach out is working at the moment. The way I would hope it would mature is that the depth of virtual interactions I currently enjoy could also lead into improved social cohesion in the physically-near realm—there is only so much you can do remotely. The challenges of the next 15 years (and beyond) are to create a just and equitable society that can live within the planet’s means. It needs groups of like-minded people to organise and act, both physically and digitally.”
A professor of information science based in Illinois wrote, “I expect a resurgence of free culture and a reduction in commercialization online.”
A director with an African nation’s regulatory authority for communications said, “One aspect which I think it should be different in 2035 is that the internet should be used to benefit everybody, in both developing and developed countries. The dominance by the developed countries in internet governance at the expense of developing countries should stop. An international framework that gives everybody an equal opportunity should be established to allow people from all countries to have a say in the development of policies and laws which affect them.”
A professor and graduate director of sociology wrote, “I would be pleased to see digital spaces unite people around addressing systemic inequalities.”
An American innovation lab’s director emeritus commented, “I think we have to understand the effects on the pandemic and technology’s reaction to it. Although I don’t agree with him a lot, I think this quote from Marc Andreesen is pretty smart. ‘Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place.’”
An anonymous respondent said, “Certainly transportation is going to improve with software as a service, connected vehicles and use of technology to reduce accidents and fatalities.”
An African researcher based in Australia said, “Users will be more aware of security threats to their use of digital spaces.”
An author and social media and content marketing expert wrote, “One very simple way in which digital spaces—specifically social media platforms—can be improved is users having to verify they are indeed a real person with a real name. That alone would begin to improve social discourse. If you look at a platform like LinkedIn, it is a much more pleasant atmosphere. No one hides behind a username that is anything but who they are. Their job is a way of verifying they are indeed who they are. Another improvement would be breaking up the major players through the anti-trust legislation currently in Congress. This would allow room for new and perhaps more creative social platforms and more choice.”
A digital researcher based in India responded, “I imagine a number of accurate small satellites and drones providing infrastructure for digital. From surveillance to health tagging, everyone will be under the radar. Their likes, dislikes, health patterns, future investments all would come in to one place. Yes, I am talking about profiling but within ethics and respecting the privacy of individuals. Securing cities, preventing riots, preventing hateful acts and living an organic way can be fulfilled by 6G internet.”
An expert on the future of software engineering presented the following scenario: “A political operative writes a misleading story and attempts to circulate it via social media. By means of a carefully engineered network topology, it reaches trusted community members representing diverse views, and with the assistance of sophisticated AI that helps to find and evaluate the provenance of the story and related information, the network determines that the story is likely a fabrication and damps its tendency to spread. The process and technology are very reliable and trusted across the political spectrum.”
A professor of information science based in California said, “I hope that by 2035 we will have survived the growing pains of this disruptive time and will be using online connectivity to successfully allow for robust, open debate that is inclusive and reflects an America whose people are again able to agree on many things and simply agree to disagree on the rest. I hope that society will have reversed the isolating influences that Robert Putnam has identified and that digital technology will be aiding rather than undermining a revived de Toquevillesque society. I think people in this country still long for this but that many forces are pushing things the other way—the powerful interests in fossil fuels, financial services and media (traditional and social) that are motivated by corporate interests. Technology can be part of the solution rather than the problem, but it won’t happen without deliberate change, and such change will probably have to involve a fight against those with deep pockets.”
A distinguished professor of communication commented, “Convenient interactive and collaborative online workplaces and social spaces should become good ways for people to share information, work together on projects, build interpersonal relationships, provide social support to one another and help to solve individual, group, and societal issues. Use of these spaces will reduce dependence on fossil fuel for transportation, helping to minimize global warming problems, reduce pollution, and preserve energy and natural resources. These digital spaces will provide easier opportunities for exchanging information and solving problems collaboratively. I can envision these digital spaces being used for a number of applications, such as promoting virtual business, educational, community, religious and commercial settings for transacting with one another. We will be able to combine face-to-face and virtual meetings, so some people who prefer to attend these events in person can do so, while others who may have barriers to attending in person, can also participate in these activities. This will enable greater access to participating with many different diverse partners in work, social, educational, political, religious and other group activities.”
A vice president for research and economic development responded, “Active social media posts are currently a constant in bringing attention to a variety of social and political issues. However, only in rare cases there’s recognition that crowdsourcing approaches could be a means for addressing the really protracted problems in the socio-economic realms of society. Digital life and tools could be re-focused on housing concerns, food and water insecurity, health disparities, etc. However, it appears that the slowness in achieving impactful and significant change becomes prohibitive for the digital generation who expects instantaneous responses and speedy outcomes.”
A veteran investigative reporter for a global news organization said, “People of like minds, experiences and identities have always used the internet to create micro-communities of interest. I expect them to continue to be able to use it to find one another; that is one of the great legacies of the rise of the online world. There will be fora for constructive engagement, the arts, the exchange of shared experiences and strategies for combatting climate change, endemic corruption and inequality. Encryption will never be broken despite all attempts of repressive and ignorant politicians to do so. I hope that ‘healthy’ online activities are not forced underground. If that happens, there will be much more serious global challenges. Online censorship and surveillance will not go away, but the next digital generation will at least be more conscious of how to circumvent them.”
The leader of a faith-based organization said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how faith-based organizations can bind traditional digital media (like email or discussion forums) with synchronous media (lots and lots of Zoom video meetings) to create more-integrated social learning spaces. I see us exploring how to bind those digital spaces to in-person activities. Both in-person social practice and digital tools will have to evolve in light of each other’s strengths and drawbacks.”
A computer science professor noted, “By 2035, I anticipate that the ‘aging out’ of previous generations where digital spaces seemed like an addition to previous spaces and more like native spaces will lead to a world where the non-use of digital spaces to mediate collaboration and community engagement will seem odd and unsustainable. This will mean that there are more purpose-built digital spaces supporting things like civic engagement at the local level. Challenges there include managing consolidation of platforms (vs. the utopian dream of federation on which the Internet is built) and managing malign activity while keeping spaces open and participatory.”
A computer science professor based in Japan said, “People should be more aware of the actual long-term benefits and dangers of using digital technology in all its forms.”
A professor of social policy and practice at a major U.S. university wrote, “There would be recommendation system that takes into account my deepest interests and steers me away from clickbait.”
A leading technology foresight expert wrote, “Some type of monitoring of the accuracy of digital communications is badly needed. Government regulation is possible.”
A technology policy writer/editor based in Europe wrote, “I hope for the ability to share all human knowledge freely, unconstrained by intellectual monopolies.”
A researcher who works for a federal government wrote that they expect “more sophisticated and widespread online banking, despite continuing security challenges; voting, despite current partisan challenges; and education and communication.”
A professor of technology and society based in Portugal wrote, “Effective regulation for the digital world is the only path to a better digital world.”
A military leader specializing in understanding the impact of social information systems wrote, “In a democratic and free society, I can imagine a digital public sphere in which each of us possesses a certified/verified online identity whose metadata and data we control fully. Fake/alternate identities will be available, but they will be clearly marked as such and we will understand that whoever is using a fake/alt ID is doing so for particular reasons. There will still be the ability to fake this new ‘Real ID’ of course, but it will be rare enough, and difficult enough that it will take a great deal of effort, time and money to do so.
“This will not necessarily be a good for refugees, because immigration will now involve being issued a Real ID, but so long as we don’t tie such ID to all forms of commerce it might be tolerable. Such an infrastructure can only exist, of course, in a benevolent state with no interest in controlling its citizens. In such a scenario, we might escape some of the weirder/wilder problems of people saying things in the digital public sphere, but, honestly, the people shouting the loudest right now are real, identifiable people, and we can’t know if they actually mean the crazy stuff they say or if they are saying it for attention, power, money or due to some other motivation.
“This scenario won’t solve problems arising from the actions of such individuals, but it might tamp down the swirl of misinformation created by adversarial state and non-state actors. As a folklorist, I don’t think misinformation is going to go away in such a scenario, because misinformation did just fine before any kind of digital public sphere, and it will continue to do just fine within one, but we might be able to return to something more like a pre-internet moment, in which we were not all seized by the latest bit of misinformation. To be clear, the ‘pre-internet moment’ was an historical oddity in which mass media dominated the American, and many other, information landscapes.”
An internet architecture expert based in Europe said, “A digital and connected society can help in the transition towards a green economy and can get rid of current societal and spacial boundaries.”
A retired consultant based in Canada said, “I grew up in a school system that incorporates and supports ubiquitous access to information. Education systems have been designed to enhance the collective intelligence of citizens. It is taken for granted that the quality of a nation is not measured by its representatives, for they are not leaders. The quality of a nation is measured by the quality of its citizenry, those who can step up and then step back for others to step up.
“Nations such as Canada, the UK, the U.S., Australia and many others create their own currencies. In the 21st century it is most often not ‘printed’ but rather is issued digitally from one account into another account — a matter of accounting. This type of nation can never run out of money. It is like a scorekeeper who can never run out of points. What this means is that the nation does not really fund its spending by taxation. Taxes serve other purposes, including keeping the ‘playing field level enough’ or nudging the public’s behaviors (for example, taxing tobacco or alcohol, etc.).”
An activist technologist based in North America said, “Disinformation and misinformation will be huge challenges to tackle within the next decade.”
A senior economic analyst who works for the U.S. government commented, “Society must arrive at a rough consensus over what kinds of data and information are important for individuals to maintain control over and what kinds are all right for commercial and other entities to traffic. Then, it will be possible to develop norms, policies and rules to protect concerns like privacy and the quality of public discourse while allowing the market to innovate. Over time, I would expect the rough consensus to evolve.”
An anonymous respondent said, “Ideally, in my dream digital world of 2035 digital literacy will have improved, and we will have a better way of stemming the flow of malicious misinformation, also lifting voices that are marginalized now.
- We will do away with algorithms that narrow our exposure and return to being able to discover information we aren’t commercially associated with in some way.
- We will travel the world and remain connected without having to consider buying a new phone or replacing the card within it. Everywhere we go, whether that be a public or private space, an urban area or a rural one, the middle of wilderness or desert, river or ocean, we will have a strong connection.
- Children will be able to access high-speed online learning anywhere, anytime, without disparities due income or due to their location in any country or the world.
- We will have also searched for and preserved the early era of the internet and all the digital spaces of the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.
- Individuals’ medical records from birth through adulthood will have been uncovered, digitalized and are owned by them, no one else, in a personal space that they can give healthcare access to.
- All of us will have protected, private, personal storage of data that we can give access to as we wish, instead of having to try to acquire and download our data from corporations.”
An internet pioneer now working as an internet privacy consultant commented, “I would love to see an internet in which, instead of a few big platforms relying on surveillance and building private fiefdoms, we would see a multiplicity of independent services competing honestly.”
A principal consultant for a major analytics platform wrote, “In an ideal future digital spaces would have free speech and ways to filter out anything that your freedom says that I don’t want to hear. While there are negatives, there is also a lot of good.”
A North American research scientist commented, “We will be working in a virtual 3D space that will give people around the world access each other. This will broaden our understanding of our role in the world; we will become more understanding of different groups and races.”
A professor of humanities and award-winning expert in cultural commentary wrote, “De-growth, non-consumption, radical rethinking of information infrastructure and its ecological and social costs are all issues that need to be taken seriously and acted upon far before 2035. Time is running out. We have lost any sense of accountability for actions and rhetoric. That has to change. A society must have limits on behaviors, and that includes speech. All of our current systems are corrupted by the concentration of wealth into corporate and private hands, and by the need for tax laws to change to ensure distribution of wealth and for the flow of information to be independent of money. All are nearly impossible to achieve in current circumstances.”
An anonymous respondent commented, “Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but by 2035 I do see the internet and technology changing. I believe that people will grow tired of all things internet and start questioning their usage. First and foremost is the idea of smart homes. While these technologies can be helpful, they open up your home and life to hackers. Once we hear more stories of people struggling with hackers within their own homes people will think twice about putting their homes online. Nothing will ever be 100% hack-proof.
“As for social media, I live in Georgia and use Facebook to promote my business. The people I interact with online tend to be an older demographic. It is my opinion that they are in the majority of those believing misinformation and then sharing it with others. My own mother is guilty of this. Younger people have seemed to move on to Snap, TikTok and Instagram to avoid the anger of Facebook. Perhaps TV news and social media should issue a clear warning to viewers that opinions should not be considered to be news or even factual.
“I believe Covid-19 pushed us forward in our use and understanding of technology. It exposed its strengths and weaknesses and how those affected certain segments of the population. Now armed with that information, we can change our behavior and expectations in and around technology. The pandemic had several other positive outcomes when it comes to technology. One is the ability to work from home. This saves people time and money and helps reduce pollution. It also created some fatigue around how business was conducted at home. I am hopeful that people and businesses will work out the kinks and make a better work/life balance for employees.
“Another outcome of the pandemic was that society was able to clearly see the glaring difference between the technological haves and haves-nots. This issue is already being addressed in the latest infrastructure bill, but much more needs to happen and I am optimistic that it will. As a country we cannot leave people behind due to a lack of access to the internet.”
The CEO of a technology futures consultancy said, “I would like to see technology used to complement human existence in ways that create efficiency, allow us thrive and make our planet stronger. I would like to see a better mix of elected officials that include historically excluded members of society. I would like for it to be normal for a child who lives in a remote part of the world to attend any school they choose. I would like for the elderly to speak into their personal care system, make a request and have it fulfilled, so they can maintain a sense of independence.”
A program officer for an international organization focused on supporting democracy said, “I hope that by 2035, we will see barriers to access continue to lower, driven in part by the desire of many governments around the world to employ digital solutions to boosting economic development and providing public goods like education, access to healthcare, etc., beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A research director who is expert in community health policy wrote, “Use of telehealth will be even more effective in reaching and maintaining contacts in remote settings and assisting physically and mentally fragile patients. Educational opportunities will be much more affordable and accessible. Online and hybrid courses—albeit not as effective as in-person, particularly where lab and hands-on learning is required—will likely improve and will likely push traditional forms of teaching to also be more innovative.”
The director of a European nation’s center promoting internet safety for children wrote, “My hope is for a more accessible and more inclusive internet, reflecting society. User voices, including youth voices, being heard, user skills heightened to manage misinformation, services built safer by design.”
A senior systems engineer based in Canada said, “Providing rural people with ubiquitous access, AI to improve the lives of the disabled and the elderly, and fuller access to services that is independent of a person’s location in the world.”
An international economics and e-transformation expert wrote, “There will be less false information circulating.”
An information science professional based in Europe responded, “I hope for a complete recalibration of people’s understanding so that they recognize that actions and behavior in the digital space/life are equal to actions in physical public space. They need to accept that what you wouldn’t do in public you shouldn’t do in the digital public space or there will be consequences. To rein in the tech giants that own and develop digital platforms on which digital public spaces are created, it all about regulation, regulation, regulation and just taxation.”
A lecturer at Columbia University commented, “I would like to see the digital realm be used as an education platform with fewer displays of self-interested self-promotion and more social, cultural, historical and political content. Right now, we see incredibly powerful social media platforms used in place of actual social engagement. The presentation of one’s life activities has become a replacement for actual social contact or even the reason for social experiences. I would like to see this become a rarity and even socially passe and out of touch. Sharing personal experiences could be the minority of activity and instead become a reason for more meaningful demonstrations of art and culture or learning about history and politics. I would prefer to see all educational content become more highly prioritized and social activity become less so. I would like to see more varied and distinct platforms to contain more varied and distinct ‘channels’ with varied and distinct programs. This might enable more social conversation about our choices and more room for voices and perspectives. This is the kind of democratization of media and popular culture that many of us have been waiting for during what appears to be society’s moment of extreme self-obsession.”
A professor of computer science based in the northwestern U.S. said, “I would like to see easily accessible authoritative sources for different kinds of information on any topic ranging from politics to health to science. Wikipedia is a good example of such authoritative information. However, it is hard to search, often does not cover some current and controversial topics, and does not have a ‘natural’ user interface, say in the form of questions and answers. If there are multiple positions on a controversial topic, the system could summarize the different positions, the evidence and the sources for each. Imagine a system that helps with debate preparation on an important topic by gathering relevant data and summarizing it with relevant examples and evidence. It will have a strong impact on politics, science, journalism and general education of the public.”
A professor emeritus of social sciences commented, “By 2035 the problem of spam has been solved by charging advertisers the cost of all the time they are wasting, with the money to be credited to an individual’s account whenever an ad is displayed to them. Special rules for telemarketers include rehabilitation programs for executives (not call center employees) that include extensive periods of listening to someone trying to get their auto insurance business.”
A policy scholar commented, “I think any ‘creative improvement’ that is politically imposed instead of organic will only serve to increase people’s willingness to believe and circulate misinformation.”
An ICANN and IEEE leader based in India responded, “Our lives, the lives of other humans linked to us, and the lives of non-human entities (pets, garden plants, homes, devices and household appliances) will all be connected in ways that enhance the sharing of information in order for people to have more meaningful lives. We will be able to upload our thoughts directly to the internet and others would be able to download and experience them. The ‘thoughts’ (experiences, sensory information, states of mind) of other non-human entities would also be uploaded. Among these online thought-objects, there will also be ‘bots’ (AI thought entities), and the internet will become a bus for thoughts and awareness. This would lead to stunning emergent properties that could transform the human experience.”
A futures strategist and consultant commented, “All technological advances have the potential for greatness or destruction, it all depends upon how it is applied. Within the next 15 years the AI singularity could happen. Humanity can only hope that the optimistic beliefs of Isaac Asimov will hold true. Even in the present-day some AI platforms that were developed in research settings have evolved into somewhat psychopathic personalities, for lack of a better description. We might, in future, see AI forecasting events based on accumulated information and making decisions that could limit humanity in some facets of life. Many more jobs than present will be run and controlled by this AI—major companies will literally jump at the nearly free workforce that AI will provide, but at what cost for humanity? We can only hope as we wait and see how this technology will play out. AI lacks the human element that makes us who we are: the ability to dream, to be illogical, to make decisions based on a ‘gut feeling.’ Society could become logic-based, as this is the perception that AI will base its decisions on. Humanity could lose its ability for compassion and, with that, for understanding.”
A researcher of digital trends and social behavior wrote, “Our digital life will be applied more to the reality of our lives, and there will be more equilibrium in the use of digital space.”
A communications expert and associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “There will be a better overall sense of connectivity and awareness of the plight of others.”
A distinguished scientist and expert at data management who works at Microsoft said, “In 2035 there will be more ‘face-to-face’ discussion in digital spaces that opens people’s minds to alternative viewpoints.”
A professor and researcher who studies the media’s role in shaping people’s political attitudes and behaviors said, “We will make better connections with people that are more fluidly transferred into face-to-face connections and efforts to improve communities.”
An associate professor whose research focuses on information policy wrote, “I would like to imagine that journalism/reporting will have improved significantly by 2035. In my vision, local news-reporting has been again recognized as vital for communities, rural areas, towns and urban centers. The core values of journalism should be celebrated and respected—and adhered to. Entities that disregard these values (for example, by spewing biased stories) are seen as fringe institutions and are given few resources and little attention.”
A technology developer responded, “There will be more internet connections that support safety of children and vulnerable adults, internet connections that provide virtual connections to medical sites, libraries, schools and moderated forums that enforce good journalism and provide non-politicized facts.”
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