The Internet will become so interwoven into daily life that, by 2025, it will become invisible to us, flowing like electricity, seamlessly integrating with the world around us.
This is one of 15 theories and predictions about the digital future in 2025, as investigated by Pew Research Center and Elon University.
According to a new report released by the institutions, experts have outlined where they see the world’s digital future in the next 10 years, with predictions both optimistic and significantly less so.
The report canvasses the responses of 2,558 experts and technology builders about where the world will stand by the year 2025.
“The world is moving rapidly towards ubiquitous connectivity that will further change how and where people associate, gather and share information, and consume media,” the researchers said.
“To a notable extent, the experts agree on the technology change that lies ahead, even as they disagree about its ramifications. ”
Simplifying all the predictions Pew Research summarised consensus amongst the experts to the belief that there will be:
- A global, immersive, invisible, ambient networked computing environment built through the Internet of Things;
- Augmented reality enhancements to the real-world input that people perceive through the use of portable/wearable/implantable technologies;
- Disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting finance, entertainment, publishers of all sorts, and education);
- Tagging, databasing, and intelligent analytical mapping of the physical and social realms.
While all the experts surveyed by the group had different ideas on how the Internet will shape our world, all agreed that the Internet will become an all-encompassing beast.
The Internet – and its influence – will be inescapable, as it permeates all sectors of society and becomes as integral as electricity is today.
On the positive side, researchers predicted that the Internet would break down established borders between people across the globe – bringing everyone closer and expanding access to knowledge across the planet.
People will gain a stronger social and political voice as they learn more about themselves and society, while connected technology adds a new layer of data to our interactions with the world.
Some of the brighter aspects of the digital future include:
- Information sharing will seamlessly integrate, flowing like electricity, through machine intermediaries.
- The spread of the Internet will enhance global connectivity and relationships between people across the globe.
- With all the information collected online, we will become more aware of the world and our own behaviour.
- Augemented reality and wearable tech will be more fully implemented into daily life.
- As more people get connected, there will be an increase in socio-political awareness – for better (peaceful change) or worse (uprisings).
- Nation states, and geographic boundaries, diminish as people form new digital ‘nations’ on the “Ubernet”.
- The Internet will fragment, leading to many ‘internets’ with different requirements for entry.
- Revolution in education – with unversal access to knowledge.
Less optimistic views
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however, as experts predict that the dark side of human nature and our indifference towards people we cannot see online will lead to greater abuse, and detachment from reality.
Additionally, as more people get connected and become more liberal with personal information (whether you choose to or not), the concept of privacy will diminish, and society will be left wide open for abuses they may not even comprehend.
Some of the negative impacts of the digital future include:
- The digital divide will grow even larger, leading to greater resentment and violence.
- Abuse will evolve and scale; cyber-crime, -terrorism and -bullying will grow proportionally to technology, beyond control.
- Governments will rise to implement political and social control through regulation.
- Privacy will disappear, and only the wealthy will preserve any sense of it.
- Humans will be unable to cope and keep up with challenges presented by complex networks.
- People will be unable to comprehend and adapt as a virtual world alters fundamental social structures like communication, interaction, politics and what it means to be human.
The final prediction listed in the report serves as a piece of advice regarding the interconnected digital future: “The best way to predict the future, is to invent it”.
- As technology continues to shape the world, we must remember that it is people shaping the world with the technology.
According to Internet law and policy expert, Robert Cannon, the Internet, automation, and robotics will disrupt the economy as we know it.
“How will we provide for the humans who can no longer earn money through labor? The opportunities are simply tremendous,” he said.
“Information, the ability to understand that information, and the ability to act on that information will be available ubiquitously.”
“The good news is that the technology that promises to turn our world on its head is also the technology with which we can build our new world,” Cannon said.
“It offers an unbridled ability to collaborate, share, and interact. ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’ It is a very good time to start inventing the future.”