What the internet will be like in 2025
The internet is encouraging humans to indulge their base instincts at the expense of social progress, respondents have told a survey exploring the impact the internet will have on our lives by 2025.
The sentiment resonates through much of the survey, Digital Life in 2025, published last month by the Pew Research Centre and Elon University's Centre for Imagining the Internet.
The researchers proposed two theses: "hopeful" and "less-than hopeful".
There were the usual predictions that the internet would continue to achieve positive outcomes for everyone around the world, including the emergence of an internet of things where all devices talk to each other, and a greater occurrence of Arab Spring revolutions.
But the other half of respondents were sceptical to the point of pessimism.
One of the 1500 respondents, a PhD candidate participating in civil society efforts, anonymously said: "we are able to develop technology but not justice, equality, and freedom. I am afraid the more advanced ICT of 2025 will not make the human being a better being."
There is one certainty about the world in 2025: the internet will be more pervasive than it already is. It will also be bleaker.
Respondents said the internet will simply augment man's tendencies towards the seven deadly sins: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath.
John Saguto, a geospatial information systems analyst, said: "Immediate satisfaction and ADD-type mentalities will be accepted as being normal."
Others said there will be an increase in adult content, cyber bullying and stalking, and child pornography. The internet will make it easier to spread lies and disinformation and people will lose the ability to question, and understand the motives, of sources. Responsibly using information will become the biggest challenge.
People will simply seek information that confirms their own views and the world will continue to splinter. They may surrender their ability to think and judge, the survey found.
"It will narrow our horizons," one respondent said, "even as we delve evermore deep".
According to Richard Forno, director of the University of Baltimore Maryland County's graduate cyber security program, this fracturing will coincide with the internet's Balkanisation.
More people will be disadvantaged. The internet will be an instrument of control not liberation. Jonathan Sterne, a professor at McGill University, said the internet's main guardians treat it as "an agent of the commercialisation of life".
"Right now, it is headed toward a highly commercialised, profit-driven, opaque and privatised domain, much like the mass media of the 1980s," said Sterne, who argues the internet should be understood in the same way as clean air.
The internet is turning people into machines, a professor at Grand Valley State University said anonymously.
"It will increase the distance between the super-wealthy and impoverished, a further digital divide, increased emotional illness among the wired, the undermining of sensitive child-rearing, increased image-consciousness egoism and social envy, the further distancing of people from the air/water/earth that they need in order to function, and loss of sensuality and aesthetics associated with skill," he or she said.
Ultimately, the biggest impact the internet will have is on itself. Rex Troumbley, a researcher at the Hawaii Research Centre for Future Studies, said new technologies or policies would displace and disperse the internet.
"The hybrid information commons/commercial zone that is the internet is not sustainable as we know it," an executive director of a futures coalition added anonymously.
"It's therefore destined to change. Whether it's towards a more locked-down corporate/security panopticon or an asymmetric ecosystem, where digital freedoms depend on where the user is based, remains to be seen."
- Sydney Morning Herald