Future of the Internet: Networked or Shallow?

Dolphin Tale Wave

SxSW starts next weekend, and the whole sector will be focused on the immediate future of the Internet. It seems fitting that the fifth “Future of the Internet” survey was released last week by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. More than 1,000 people participated in the study, including me.

From the report’s executive summary: “Technology experts and stakeholders were fairly evenly split as to whether the younger generation’s always-on connection to people and information will turn out to be a net positive or a net negative by 2020. They said many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects.

“At the same time, these experts predicted that the impact of networked living on today’s young will drive them to thirst for instant gratification, settle for quick choices, and lack patience. A number of the survey respondents argued that it is vital to reform education and emphasize digital literacy. A notable number expressed concerns that trends are leading to a future in which most people are shallow consumers of information, and some mentioned George Orwell’s 1984 or expressed their fears of control by powerful interests in an age of entertaining distractions.”

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