Internet Visions 2035

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This is the second of two reports issued by the Pew Research Center and the Center for Internet Imagining at Elon University thirteenth “The Future of the Internet” that together have conducted expert opinions on important digital issues. In this report, questions focused on prospects for improvements in the tone and activities of the public digital sphere by 2035. This is an unscientific survey based on a non-random sample; This wide range of opinions about where current trends may lead in the next decade is only representative of the views of individuals who responded to inquiries.

Pew Research Center and Elon Center Imagine the Internet have built a database of experts to survey from a wide range of fields, inviting professionals and political people located in government agencies, non-profit organizations and foundations, technology companies and think tanks, as well as interested academics and innovative technology. The forecasts presented here were in response to a set of questions in an online survey conducted between June 29 and August 2, 2021. In total, 434 innovators, tech developers, business and policy leaders, researchers, and activists answered the question covered in this report. More on the methodology behind this survey participants can be found in the section entitled “About this survey of experts”.

This report is the second of two analyzing the opinions of hundreds of technology experts who responded in the summer of 2021 to a survey of their expectations about the evolution of online public spaces and their role in democracy in the coming years. In response to the basic research question, many said they expect these forums to improve dramatically by 2035 if reformers, big tech companies, governments, and activists address the problems created by disinformation, disinformation, and toxic rhetoric. At the same time, they expressed their persistent concerns about the destructive forces in culture and technology that could continue to harm life online and disrupt beneficial change in the years to come.

In this survey, the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked a follow-up question inviting these experts to share their vision of what a better digital world could be in 2035. This report covers dozens of such responses. Many have envisioned a highly hospitable online environment that facilitates enriching social relationships; knowledge-producing societies flourish; growth of group discussions searching for the truth; and new types of interactions enabled by artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). At best, they imagine technology-assisted collaboration — sometimes on a global scale — that can tackle the world’s most pressing questions.

In all, 434 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers, and activists provided open answers to this question:

We invite you to imagine a better world online: 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 summary of something you would like to see happen in a “new and improved” digital world in 2035. Your example might include politics, social activities, jobs, physical and mental health, community life, or education. Feel free to think broadly – specifically.

The main themes expressed by these experts in their written responses are outlined in the following table.

This is an unscientific examination, based on a non-random sample. The results represent only the opinions of individuals who responded to inquiries and cannot be shown to any other demographic.

It is important to note that even those who painted things in the desired way can evolve By 2035, we often acknowledge that bad actors and bad systems can thwart change in life online. Indeed, in answering other questions in the survey, they outlined ways businesses, governments, and the public can disrupt positive change in digital spaces. It should also be noted that the responses were collected in the middle of the summer of 2021. The people’s responses came in the cultural context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and at a time when growing concerns about climate change, racial justice and social inequality in particular were prominent – and half a year after the 6 January 2021 on the US Capitol in the wake of one of the most controversial US presidential elections in modern history.

Many of the answers given here follow the core issues raised by Mike Liebhold Distinguished Fellow, retired, Institute for the Future, in his answer to this inquiry. He commented, “A revolution in technology education and media services is needed to help the population safely adapt to the drastic changes in digital experiences expected to arrive by 2035. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • How do we develop adequate security and privacy technologies and practices to protect most people and organizations in these new settings?
  • How can we develop core curricula, pedagogy, and cognitive and behavioral sciences that support cyber-science to protect humans (provide immunity) from systemic vulnerabilities to epidemics of false, misleading, or real malicious data and media?
  • How do we live and thrive in a dangerous digital world of cross-system vulnerabilities and a constant whirlpool of exploits and patches – a world with the constant potential for massive internet outages?
  • How do we find a way to live and thrive in an environment characterized by these three simultaneous economies?
    • Securing identity and private data
    • Data and Open/Public Identity
    • Monitoring data (diffuse sensing and intrusive analytics)”.

Some of the more interesting predictions from those polled included:

  • Physical spaces and virtual spaces will be seamlessly integrated, and digital technologies will completely disappear into our lives and the environments around us to the point that we will hardly even notice them. Some call it a “metaverse”, but it has several meanings and manifestations for different experts.
  • Ultra-complex warning systems will be widely used in many areas, including health care, community well-being, environmental assessments, housing and commercial activities; Collaborative groups with rapid response will be on standby to address problems identified by these alert systems. Likewise, community service centers will be located to deal with the issues of citizens and clients.
  • A new class of professionals – programmers, custodians, and literacy consultants – will emerge to help digital platforms encourage democratic behaviours. You will enable a “culture of accountability” in parts of the Internet that you trust deeply.
  • Networked groups of activists will arise in younger generations to press for structural political change and a large part of civic life will be shaped by “armies of K-pop fans”.
  • In the process of making laws itself, “citizen juries” can be empowered to bring the “collective imagination” into legislation and rule-making and then make their own decisions about ultimately economic and civic life. This will lead to more public input into everything from the government budget to environmental regulation.
  • New forms of digital ownership and a new system of copyright and ownership will be commonplace.
  • A human API (application programming interface) will be designed to store and enforce the rules people make about what is allowed to access their consciousness, what takes their time and what information is shared about their activities.
  • Persistent challenges to large systems such as capitalism, representative democracy, and nation-states will push people toward a hyper-local “sovereignty”—whether through geographic or personal affiliations.
  • An extensive learning ecosystem will emerge to cater to people’s formal and informal learning needs, and it will be backed by a similarly impressive accreditation and testing system to give people and employers feedback on the participants in the system.
  • The DRC will govern at least a share of the activity that occurs online.
  • A sharing economy will arise to challenge the property-based economy; Subscription models also replace proprietary systems.
  • Service science sensibilities will emerge and be employed in societies and industries.

In his answer to this question, Doc Searles, The internet pioneer, co-author of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” and “The Intention Economy” and co-founder and board member of Customer Commons, shared a detailed insight based on ongoing work to improve the Internet, including details on Sovereign Self-Identity, Emancipay, Intention Byway, Constant arithmetic objects (or picos), “algorithms” and “intentrons”.

In the next section, we highlight his observations along with the thoughts of several experts who have provided some of the most comprehensive answers or definitive responses to our request for them to describe a better online world by 2035. We then present a number of additional sections with respondent comments organized within The set of topics shown in the table above.

Observations made by respondents to this survey reflect their personal attitudes and not those of their employers; Descriptions of their leadership roles help define their background and location of expertise. Some responses are lightly edited for style and readability.