The expert predictions reported here about the impact of the internet between 2018 and 2030 came in response to questions asked by Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center in an online canvassing conducted between July 4, 2018, and Aug. 6, 2018. This is the 10th Future of the Internet study the two organizations have conducted together. For this project, we invited more than 10,000 experts and members of the interested public to share their opinions on the likely future of the internet, and 985 responded to at least one of the questions we asked. This report covers only the answers to our questions about AI and the future of humans. We also asked respondents to answer a series of questions tied to the 50th anniversary of the ARPANET/internet; additional reports tied to those responses will be released in 2019, the anniversary year.
Specifically related to artificial intelligence, the participants in the nonscientific canvassing were asked:
“Please think forward to the year 2030. Analysts expect that people will become even more dependent on networked artificial intelligence (AI) in complex digital systems. Some say we will continue on the historic arc of augmenting our lives with mostly positive results as we widely implement these networked tools. Some say our increasing dependence on these AI and related systems is likely to lead to widespread difficulties.
Our question: By 2030, do you think it is most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will enhance human capacities and empower them? That is, most of the time, will most people be better off than they are today? Or is it most likely that advancing AI and related technology systems will lessen human autonomy and agency to such an extent that most people will not be better off than the way things are today?”
The answers of the 979 respondents include:
- 63% who said most people will be better off
- 37% who said most people will not be better off
- 25 respondents who chose not to select either option
Additionally, they were also asked:
“Please explain why you chose the answer you did and sketch out a vision of how the human-machine/AI collaboration will function in 2030. Please consider giving an example of how a typical human-machine interaction will look and feel in a specific area, for instance, in the workplace, in family life, in a health care setting or in a learning environment. Why? What is your hope or fear? What actions might be taken to assure the best future?”
The web-based instrument was first sent directly to a list of targeted experts identified and accumulated by Pew Research Center and Elon University during previous “Future of the Internet” studies, as well as those identified in an earlier study of people who made predictions about the likely future of the internet between 1990 to 1995. Additional experts with proven interest in this particular research topic were also added to the list. Among those invited were artificial intelligence researchers, developers and business leaders from leading global organizations, including, to name a few, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Kernel, Kyndi, BT and Cloudflare; leaders active in global internet governance and internet research activities, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Internet Society (ISOC), International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). We also invited a large number of professionals and policy people working in government, including the National Science Foundation, Federal Communications Commission, U.S. military and European Union; think tanks and interest networks (for instance, those that include professionals and academics in anthropology, sociology, psychology, law, political science and communications); engineering/computer science and business/entrepreneurship faculty, graduate students and postgraduate researchers who have published work tied to these topics; plus many who are active in civil society organizations such as Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Access Now; and those affiliated with newly emerging nonprofits and other research units. Invitees were encouraged to share the survey link with others they believed would have an interest in participating, thus there was a small “snowball” effect as a small percentage of these invitees invited others to weigh in.
Since the data are based on a nonrandom sample, the results are not projectable to any population other than the individuals expressing their points of view in this sample.
The respondents’ remarks reflect their personal positions and are not the positions of their employers; the descriptions of their leadership roles help identify their background and the locus of their expertise.
About half of the expert respondents elected to remain anonymous. Because people’s level of expertise is an important element of their participation in the conversation, anonymous respondents were given the opportunity to share a description of their internet expertise or background and this was noted where relevant in this report.
Some 519 respondents answered the demographic questions on the canvassing. About 70% identified themselves as being based in North America, while 30% hail from other corners of the world. When asked about their “primary area of internet interest,” 33% identified themselves as professor/teacher; 17% as research scientists; 13% as futurists or consultants; 8% as technology developers or administrators; 5% as entrepreneurs or business leaders; 5% as advocates or activist users; 4% as pioneers or originators; 1% as legislators, politicians or lawyers; and an additional 13% specified their primary area of interest as “other.”
Following is a list of some of the key respondents in this canvassing:
Walid Al-Saqaf, senior lecturer at Sodertorn University, Sweden, and member of the board of trustees of the Internet Society (ISOC); Aneesh Aneesh, author of “Global Labor: Algocratic Modes of Organization”; Kostas Alexandridis, author of “Exploring Complex Dynamics in Multi-agent-based Intelligent Systems”; Micah Altman, director of research and head scientist for the program on information science at MIT; Geoff Arnold, CTO for the Verizon Smart Communities organization; Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Collin Baker, senior AI researcher at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley; Brian Behlendorf, executive director of the Hyperledger project at The Linux Foundation; Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at Mimecast; danah boyd, founder and president of the Data & Society Research Institute, and principal researcher at Microsoft; Stowe Boyd, founder and managing director at Work Futures; Henry E. Brady, dean, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and author of “Machine, Platform, Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future”; Jamais Cascio, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future; Vint Cerf, Internet Hall of Fame member and vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google; Barry Chudakov, founder and principal at Sertain Research and StreamFuzion Corp.; Joël Colloc, professor at Université du Havre Normandy University and author of “Ethics of Autonomous Information Systems”; Steve Crocker, CEO and co-founder of Shinkuro Inc. and Internet Hall of Fame member; Kenneth Cukier, author and senior editor at The Economist; Wout de Natris, internet cybercrime and security consultant; Eileen Donahoe, executive director of the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University, Judith Donath, Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; William Dutton, Oxford Martin Fellow at the Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre; Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist and founding director of the Loebner Prize Competition in Artificial Intelligence, Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst for Altimeter Group; Jean-Daniel Fekete, researcher in information visualization, visual analytics and human-computer interaction at INRIA, France; Seth Finkelstein, consulting programmer and EFF Pioneer Award winner; Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s communications and society program; Bob Frankston, internet pioneer and software innovator; Divina Frau-Meigs, UNESCO chair for sustainable digital development; Richard Forno, of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Oscar Gandy, professor emeritus of communication at the University of Pennsylvania; Charles Geiger, head of the executive secretariat for the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society; Ashok Goel, director of the Human-Centered Computing Ph.D. Program at Georgia Tech; Ken Goldberg, distinguished chair in engineering, and founding member, Berkeley AI Research Lab; Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future; Shigeki Goto, Asia-Pacific internet pioneer and Internet Hall of Fame member; Theodore Gordon, futurist and co-founder of the Millennium Project; Kenneth Grady, futurist and founding author of The Algorithmic Society blog; Sam Gregory, director of WITNESS and digital human rights activist; Wendy Hall, executive director of the Web Science Institute; John C. Havens, executive director of the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems and the Council on Extended Intelligence; Marek Havrda, director at NEOPAS and strategic adviser for the GoodAI project; Jim Hendler, director of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for Data Exploration and Application; Perry Hewitt, a marketing, content and technology executive; Brock Hinzmann, a partner in the Business Futures Network who worked for 40 years as a futures researcher at SRI International; Bernie Hogan, senior research fellow, Oxford Internet Institute; Barry Hughes, senior scientist at the Center for International Futures, University of Denver; Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center at City University of New York’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism; Bryan Johnson, founder and CEO of Kernel (developer of advanced neural interfaces) and OS Fund; Anthony Judge, editor of tbe Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential; James Kadtke, expert on converging technologies at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, U.S. National Defense University; Sonia Katyal, co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology and a member of the inaugural U.S. Commerce Department Digital Economy Board of Advisors; Frank Kaufmann, founder and director of the Values in Knowledge Foundation; Fiona Kerr, professor of neural systems and complexity at the University of Adelaide; Annalie Killian, futurist and vice president at Sparks & Honey; Andreas Kirsch, fellow at Newspeak House, formerly with Google and DeepMind in Zurich and London; Michael Kleeman, a senior fellow at the University of California, San Diego and board member at the Institute for the Future; Leonard Kleinrock, Internet Hall of Fame member and professor of computer science at the University of California, Los Angeles; Bart Knijnenburg, researcher on decision-making and recommender systems at Clemson University; Gary L. Kreps, distinguished professor and director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University; Larry Lannom, internet pioneer and vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI); Peter Levine, professor and associate dean for research at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life; John Markoff, fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University; Matt Mason, roboticist and former director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University; Craig J. Mathias, principal for the Farpoint Group; Giacomo Mazzone, head of institutional relations at the European Broadcasting Union; Andrew McLaughlin, executive director of the Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale, previously deputy CTO of the U.S. and global public policy lead for Google; Panagiotis T. Metaxas, author of “Technology, Propaganda and the Limits of Human Intellect” and professor of computer science, Wellesley College; Robert Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3Com and Internet Hall of Fame member; Jerry Michalski, founder of the Relationship Economy eXpedition (REX); Steven Miller, vice provost and professor of information systems at Singapore Management University; Mario Morino, chair of the Morino Institute and co-founder of Venture Philanthropy Partners; Monica Murero, director of the E-Life International Institute, Italy; Grace Mutung’u, co-leader of the Kenya ICT Action Network; Martijn van Otterlo, author of “Gatekeeping Algorithms with Human Ethical Bias,” Tilburg University, Netherlands; Ian Peter, internet pioneer and advocate and co-founder of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC); Justin Reich, executive director of the MIT Teaching Systems Lab; Peter Reiner, professor and co-founder of the National Core for Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia; Lawrence Roberts, designer and manager of ARPANET (the precursor to the global internet) and Internet Hall of Fame member; Michael Roberts, Internet Hall of Fame member and first president and CEO of ICANN; Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC; Douglas Rushkoff, writer, documentarian, and lecturer who focuses on human autonomy in a digital age; David Sarokin, author of “Missed Information: Better Information for Building a Wealthier, More Sustainable Future”; Thomas Schneider, vice-director at the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM) in Switzerland; L. Schomaker, professor at the University of Groningen and scientific director of the Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) research institute; Ben Shneiderman, distinguished professor and founder of the Human Computer Interaction Lab at the University of Maryland; Dan Schultz, senior creative technologist at Internet Archive; Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member and professor at Columbia University; Evan Selinger, professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology; Wendy Seltzer, strategy lead and counsel at the World Wide Web Consortium; Greg Shannon, chief scientist for the CERT Division at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute; Daniel Siewiorek, professor with the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University; Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation; Brad Templeton, chair emeritus for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Baratunde Thurston, futurist and former director of digital at The Onion; Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and author of “Alone Together”; Joseph Turow, professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania; Stuart A. Umpleby, professor emeritus at George Washington University; Karl M. van Meter, author of “Computational Social Science in the Era of Big Data”; Michael Veale, co-author of “Fairness and Accountability Designs Needs for Algorithmic Support in High-Stakes Public Sector Decision-Making”; Amy Webb, futurist, professor and founder of the Future Today Institute; David Wells, chief financial officer at Netflix; David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Paul Werbos, former program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation; Betsy Williams, Center for Digital Society and Data Studies at the University of Arizona; John Willinsky, professor and director of the Public Knowledge Project at Stanford Graduate School of Education; Yvette Wohn, director of the Social Interaction Lab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and expert on human-computer interaction; Andrew Wycoff, the director of OECD’s directorate for science, technology and innovation; Cliff Zukin, professor of public policy and political science at the School for Planning and Public Policy and the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University.
A selection of institutions at which some of the respondents work or have affiliations:
Abt Associates; Access Now; Aeon; Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence; Alpine Technology Group; Altimeter Group; American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology; American Library Association; Antelope Consulting; Anticipatory Futures Group; Arizona State University; Artificial Intelligence Research Institute, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Aspen Institute; AT&T; Australian National University; Bad Idea Factory; Bar-Ilan University, Israel; Bloomberg Businessweek; Bogazici University, Turkey; Brookings Institution; BT Group; Business Futures Network; California Institute of Technology; Carnegie Mellon University; Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University; Centre for Policy Modelling, Manchester Metropolitan University; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France; Cisco Systems; Clemson University; Cloudflare; Columbia University; Comcast; Constellation Research; Cornell University; Corporation for National Research Initiatives; Council of Europe; Agency for Electronic Government and Information Society in Uruguay; Electronic Frontiers Australia; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Emergent Research; ENIAC Programmers Project; Eurac Research, Italy; FSA Technologies; Farpoint Group; Foresight Alliance; Future of Privacy Forum; Future Today Institute; Futurism.com; Gartner; General Electric; Georgia Tech; Ginkgo Bioworks; Global Forum for Media Development; Google; Harvard University; Hokkaido University, Japan; IBM; Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN); Ignite Social Media; Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Institute for Defense Analyses; Institute for the Future; Instituto Superior Técnico, Portugal; Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies; Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); International Academy for Systems and Cybernetic Sciences; Internet Society; Institute for Communication & Leadership, Lucerne, Switzerland; Jet Propulsion Lab; Johns Hopkins University; Kansai University, Japan; Institute for Systems and Robotics, University of Lisbon; Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE); Keio University, Japan; Kernel; Kyndi; Knowledge and Digital Culture Foundation, Mexico; KPMG; Leading Futurists; LeTourneau University; The Linux Foundation; Los Alamos National Laboratory; Machine Intelligence Research Institute; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Maverick Technologies; McKinsey & Company; Media Psychology Research Center; Microsoft; Millennium Project; Monster Worldwide; Mozilla; Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; National Chengchi University, Taiwan; National Institute of Mental Health; NetLab; The New School; New York University; Netflix; NLnet Foundation; NORC at the University of Chicago; Novartis, Switzerland; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); Ontario College of Art and Design Strategic Foresight and Innovation; Open the Future; Open University of Israel; Oracle; O’Reilly Media; Global Cyber Security Capacity Center, Oxford University; Oxford Internet Institute; Packet Clearing House; People-Centered Internet; Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics; Politecnico di Milano; Princeton University; Privacy International; Purdue University; Queen Mary University of London; Quinnovation; RAND; Research ICT Africa; Rochester Institute of Technology; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Russell Sage Foundation; Salesforce; SRI International; Sciteb, London; Shinkuro; Significance Systems; Singapore Management University; Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, Pakistan; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Södertörn University, Sweden; Social Science Research Council; University of Paris III: Sorbonne Nouvelle; South China University of Technology; Stanford University; Straits Knowledge; Team Human; The Logic; Technische Universität Kaiserslautern, Germany; Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico; The Crucible; United Nations; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Diego; University College London; University of Denver Pardee Center for International Futures; Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal; the Universities of Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Southern California, Utah and Vermont; the Universities of Calcutta, Cambridge, Cologne, Cyprus, Edinburgh, Granada, Groningen, Liverpool, Otago, Pavia, Salford and Waterloo; UNESCO; USENIX Association; U.S. Department of Energy; U.S. Naval Postgraduate School; U.S. Special Operations Command SOFWERX; Telecommunications and Radiocommunications Regulator of Vanuatu; Virginia Tech; Vision & Logic; Vizalytics; World Wide Web Foundation; Wellville; Wikimedia; Witness; Yale Law School Information Society Project.
Complete sets of credited and anonymous responses can be found here: