The expert predictions reported here about the impact of the internet over the next 50 years 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. Nearly 10,000 experts and members of the interested public were invited to share their opinions on two big-picture questions: 1) the likely future of artificial intelligence and humans, and 2) the ARPANET/internet’s 50th anniversary. The first report, “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humans,” was published Dec. 10, 2018. This second report is an analysis of 530 respondents’ answers to questions related to the 50th anniversary of the ARPANET/internet.
The results published here come this nonscientific canvassing. They cover respondents’ answers to these questions:
The year 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first host-to-host internet connection. Please think about the next 50 years. Where will the internet and digital life be a half century from now? Please tell us how you think connected technology, platforms and applications will be integrated into people’s lives. You can tackle any dimension of this question that matters to you. You might consider focusing on questions like this: What changes do you expect to see in the digital world’s platform companies? What changes do you expect to see in the apps and features that will ride on the internet? How will digital tools be integrated into everyday life? What will be entirely new? What will evolve and be recognizable from today’s internet? What new rules, laws or innovations in its engineering over the intervening years will change the character of today’s internet?
Participants were further asked:
Considering what you just wrote about your expectations for the next 50 years, how will individuals’ lives be affected by the changes you foresee?
In the next 50 years, technological change (Please choose only one answer):
… will not produce significant change in individuals’ lives.
… will produce significant change that is mostly for the better for individuals’ lives.
… will produce significant change that is mostly for the worse for individuals’ lives.
Explain your answer and describe the ways you see changes in digital life influencing individuals in the next 50 years.
The answers of the 530 total responses to this question showed the following:
- 72% said technological change will produce significant change that is mostly for the better
- 25% said technological change will produce significant change that is mostly for the worse
- 3% said technological change will not produce significant change in individuals’ lives
An additional 42 respondents (7% of the total number of survey participants) declined to specify if technological change would lead to significant change for the better or worse but did provide long-form responses to describe the ways they expect digital life to influence individuals in the next 50 years.
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 researchers, developers and business leaders from leading global organizations, including Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon universities; Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Kernel, Kyndi, BT and Cloudflare; inductees to the Internet Hall of Fame, most of whom played key roles in the invention and diffusion of the internet; 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 from technology businesses; government, including the National Science Foundation, Federal Communications Commission 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); globally located people working with communications technologies in government positions; technologists and innovators; top universities’ engineering/computer science and business/entrepreneurship faculty, graduate students and postgraduate researchers; plus many who are active in civil society organizations such as Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Access Now; and those affiliated with newly emerging nonprofits and other research units examining the impacts of digital life. Invitees were encouraged to share the survey link with others they believed would have an interest in participating, thus there may have been somewhat of a “snowball” effect as some 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 a third 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.
In the canvassing of experts, in which Pew Research Center and Elon’s Imagining the Internet Center asked about AI and the future of humans and asked questions tied to the internet’s 50th Anniversary, 519 respondents overall answered the demographic questions. 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 are two lists noting a selection of the key respondents in this canvassing.
Internet Hall of Fame members who participated include: Leonard Kleinrock, co-director of the first host-to-host online connection, professor of computer science, University of California, Los Angeles; Vint Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet Protocol, now vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google; Steve Crocker, a co-initiator of many of the processes and organizations that gave the internet its start, now CEO and co-founder of Shinkuro Inc.; Dai Davies, European internet pioneer, a founder of EuropaNet; Elizabeth Feinler, the original manager of the ARPANET Network Information Center; Shigeki Goto, Asia-Pacific internet pioneer; Teus Hagen, Netherlands internet pioneer, former chair and director of NLnet; Bob Metcalfe, co-inventor of Ethernet, founder of 3Com, now professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Texas, Austin; Craig Partridge, chief scientist at Raytheon BBN Technologies for 35 years, now chair of the department of computer science at Colorado State University; Lawrence Roberts, chief scientist, designer and manager of ARPANET and founder of five startups (Dr. Roberts passed away in December 2018); Michael M. Roberts, first president and CEO of ICANN; Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member, co-chair of the Internet Technical Committee of the IEEE and professor at Columbia University; Paul Vixie, best known for designing and implementing major Domain Name System protocol extensions and applications; and several additional Hall of Famers who responded anonymously.
Additional key respondents:
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, chief technology officer for the Verizon Smart Communities organization; Henry E. Brady, dean, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; David Bray, executive director for the People-Centered Internet coalition; 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; 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”; Kenneth Cukier, author and senior editor at The Economist; 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; 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 and vice president 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; Ashok Goel, director of the Human-Centered Computing Ph.D. Program at Georgia Tech; Ken Goldberg, distinguished chair in engineering, director of AUTOLAB and CITRIS at the University of California, Berkeley; Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future; Theodore Gordon, futurist and co-founder of the Millennium Project; Kenneth Grady, futurist, founding author of The Algorithmic Society blog and adjunct and adviser at the Michigan State University College of Law; Sam Gregory, director of WITNESS and digital human rights activist; Wendy Hall, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, UK, and executive director of the Web Science Institute; 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; 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; Frank Kaufmann, president of Filial Projects and founder and director of the Values in Knowledge Foundation; 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; Bart Knijnenburg, assistant professor of computer science active in the Human Factors Institute 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, associate dean for research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Civic Life; John Markoff, fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University and author of “Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots”; Matt Mason, roboticist and former director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University; Craig J. Mathias, principal for the Farpoint Group; Jerry Michalski, founder of the Relationship Economy eXpedition (REX); Steven Miller, vice provost and professor of information systems at Singapore Management University; Monica Murero, director of the E-Life International Institute and associate professor in sociology of new technology at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy; Grace Mutung’u, co-leader of the Kenya ICT Action Network; Ian Peter, pioneer internet activist and internet rights advocate; 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; Marc Rotenberg, director of a major digital civil rights organization; Douglas Rushkoff, writer, documentarian, and professor of media at City University of New York; David Sarokin, author of “Missed Information: Better Information for Building a Wealthier, More Sustainable Future”; 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; Evan Selinger, professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology; 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 and author of “Commonspace: Beyond Virtual Community”; Brad Templeton, chair for computing at Singularity University, software architect and former president of the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Baratunde Thurston, futurist, former director of digital at The Onion and co-founder of the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit; Stuart A. Umpleby, professor and director of the research program in social and organizational learning at George Washington University; Michael Veale, co-author of “Fairness and Accountability Designs Needs for Algorithmic Support in High-Stakes Public Sector Decision-Making”; Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute and professor of strategic foresight at New York University; David Wells, chief financial officer at Netflix; Betsy Williams, researcher at the 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; 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; 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: