How good is the internet?!

In 2014, the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project, together with Elon University, are releasing 8 reports to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.


14 May: The Internet of Things will thrive by 2025

Many experts believe the growth of the Internet of Things and embedded and wearable devices will have widespread and beneficial effects by 2025. Networking of everything and everyone continues through the proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases, massive data centres, tagging and analytical mapping of physical and social realms. People receive information from portable, wearable & implantable technologies.


There will be sensors that provide patients’ vital signs; devices giving feedback on our fitness; smart cities with GPS readouts for traffic and pollution; sensored roads & infrastructure that provide alerts when repairs are needed; smartphone apps for adjusting household heating etc; readings from forests, oceans, soil, resources.  Voice and touch commands will increase. However, there will also be privacy concerns with higher levels of profiling and targeting, as well as equity issues. Disruption of business models will occur – notably in finance, entertainment, publishing and education. But maintaining all this? “We will live in a world where many things won’t work and nobody will know how to fix them.” (gulp) – Howard Rheingold.


11 March: Digital life in 2025

Experts predict the Internet will become ‘like electricity’ — less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people’s lives for good and ill.

Good things:

Effortless information sharing; more global relationships and less ignorance; Internet of Things; augmented reality; political awareness facilitated with more uprisings (Arab Spring); increased awareness of  massive disparities in health care, clear water, education, food, and human rights. The internet may even become “the internets”, with separate channels and layers of privacy.

An internet-enabled revolution in education will spread more opportunities, with less money spent on real estate and teachers – “the biggest impact on the world will be universal access to all human knowledge” (Hal Varian, Google). He states that cheap mobile devices and tools such as the Khan Academy will have a huge impact on literacy & numeracy. Access to the internet will be a human right and with global perspectives, there will be breakthroughs in many issues such as poverty, inequality and the environment (Tiffany Shlain).

Bad things:

Equity issues; loss of privacy; commonplace cyber-terrorism; mob mentality; governments will try to assert political and social control;  people will lose their grounding in the realities of life and work; too many superficial interactions (not face-to-face). Privacy may end up being only for the privileged. The increasing proportion of non face-to-face online human interactions will lead to less respect and integrity in our relations (Bob Briscoe). 


27 Feb: The web at 25 in the US

The overall verdict: The internet has been a plus for society and an especially good thing for individual users.

Personally – 90% say it has been good; 6% bad; 3% both. For society – 76% good; 15% bad; 8% both.

The internet would be harder to give up then mobile phones, TV, email, landlines and social media. Most internet users thought online communication had strengthened their relationships and that the environment was kind.


Upcoming reports – net access & copyright; killer apps in the gigabit age; cyber attacks; security and privacy; artificial intelligence and robotics; corporations most likely to succeed:


Imagining the Internet

Insights into the internet’s future and past: