The Pew Research Center is marking the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web with a number of reports on the current state and potential future of our digital lives. Last week I discussed the first such report, The Web at 25 in the US, which looked at the fast growth of the Internet and mobile usage and presented the findings of a national survey on their impact on everyday life. “The internet has been a plus for society and an especially good thing for individual users,” was the survey’s overall verdict.
But what about the future? A second report, Digital Life in 2025, analyzed the responses of over 1,800 experts to an open-ended question: “Good and/or bad, what do you expect to be the most significant overall impacts of our uses of the Internet on humanity between now and 2025?”
“Experts predict the Internet will become like electricity - less visible, yet more deeply embedded in people’s lives for good and ill,” was the report’s overriding consensus. But, beyond this general agreement, there were widely different views on the Internet’s impact on the economy and society. The Pew study grouped its diverse responses into 15 different theses about the digital future, - with eight classified as hopeful, six as concerned, and the last one as neutral, sensible advice. Let’s discuss a few of the theses.