Both internet experts and internet-engaged members of the general public have a generally optimistic view of how the internet will change society, politics and the economy by 2020, according to a new study [pdf] from the Pew Research Center‘s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.
The “Future of the Internet” survey gave respondents two scenarios that the internet might create by the year 2020, and asked them to select the more likely scenario.
Google Won’t Make Us Stupid
When asked what affect the internet will have on overall human intelligence by 2020, 81% of experts and 76% of total respondents agreed that unprecedented to access to more information (such as that offered by Google) will allow people to become smarter and make better choices. Sixteen percent of experts and 21% of total respondents agreed that the internet will not enhance human intelligence and could even lower the IQ of its users.
Reading Will Survive
When asked how the internet will impact reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge, 69% of experts and 65% of total respondents agreed that by 2020 it will be clear the internet has enhanced these areas. Twenty-seven percent of experts and 32% of total respondents agreed by 2020 it will be clear the internet has diminished these areas. Thus it appears there will still be a book market (though possibly electronic) in 10 years.
New Gadgets Await
In good news for gadget lovers, when asked whether hot gadgets and applications that capture the imagination of users in 2020 will be ones that are evident today or will “come out of the blue,” only 16% of experts and 17% of total respondents said future hot gadgets are evident today. Eighty-one percent of experts and 80% of general respondents said future hot gadgets will be radically new and different.
Internet Architecture will Remain End-to-end
Most respondents expect internet architecture will retain its current “end-to-end” architecture, with minimal restrictions placed by intermediary institutions that control the architecture and its content. Sixty-three percent of experts and 61% of total respondents agree the architecture will remain in its current format, while 29% of experts and 33% of total respondents agree intermediaries will gain control of managing online information and how it is distributed and shared.
Anonymity’s Future is Cloudy
The only area where experts and total respondents did not agree on a single outcome by a wide margin is anonymity. Forty-two percent of experts and 41% of total respondents agree the use of ID systems such as fingerprint and retina scans and/or DNA scans will be required for a large amount of online activity by 2020. Fifty-four percent of experts and 55% of total respondents agree internet users will still be able to conduct most online activities anonymously.
Consumers Swap Privacy for Customization
A new economy is set to emerge for digital media distribution in which global consumers will be willing to divulge their private details in exchange for highly sophisticated customization, but companies will have to earn their customers’ trust first, according to research from Oracle.
The study, which gathered insights from a British panel of industry experts, predicts that in the next five to 10 years, consumers will be willing to share a much deeper level of personal information with companies that offer online services such as digitally augmented reality, individually tailored advertising, and TV surfing driven by preference-based options.