Americans and many around the world are not terribly satisfied with the state of democracy and the institutions that undergird it. Experts who were canvassed about the relationship between people’s technology use and democracy also expressed serious concerns about how things will unfold in the next decade.
At the same time, the experts responding to questions about civic and social innovations also foresee scores of innovations between now and 2030 that they think might ease some problems. This chapter covers some of the key open-ended answers they offered, organized in 10 broad themes. It includes comments made by an array of respondents, regardless of their responses to our main question about the impact of technology on innovation by 2030.
Social media: Experts see a reckoning coming for social platform companies and leaders that will lead to large-scale changes
A portion of the experts in this canvassing suggest there will be changes in the overall environment of social media during the next decade. Some say there will be a reckoning for technology companies and their leaders that might produce major revisions to their platforms. Some expect serious efforts to break up such firms, and some predict the rise of new platforms designed to make their users’ best interests paramount.
Sam Adams, a 24-year veteran of IBM now working as a senior research scientist in artificial intelligence for RTI International, architecting national-scale knowledge graphs for global good, said, “I do expect new social platforms to emerge that focus on privacy and ‘fake-free’ information, or at least they will claim to be so. Proving that to a jaded public will be a challenge. Resisting the temptation to exploit all that data will be extremely hard. And how to pay for it all? If it is subscriber-paid, then only the wealthy will be able to afford it. But at the end of the decade, humans will still be humans, and both greed and generosity, love and hate, truth and lies, will likely still exist in the same proportions as they do today.”
Positive change will only happen if users, consumers, buyers, voters insist on it.
Jim Hendler, Tetherless World professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, responded, “Just as we were taught ‘Don’t believe everything you read in the paper,’ the next generations are already learning to take social media with a grain of salt. If we can create some commonsense legislation on local, national and/or international levels, society will adapt to the changes. Don’t get me wrong, there will be social upheaval and significant change – but the techlash we are seeing today is the leading edge not of a new Luddite-revolution, but of positive changes that can result if we maintain traditional social ethics during the time of change. It won’t be easy, but human society has proven to be resilient to change for a long time – I think, or perhaps hope, that civil and social innovation will help us through the current technological change. Perhaps I should note that while I am an optimist about handling these technologies, there are other factors at work, ranging from climate change [to] the growth of authoritarian governments and social inequalities, that worry me far more.”
Janet Salmons, consultant with Vision2Lead, said, “Positive change will only happen if users, consumers, buyers, voters insist on it. If they have the digital literacy needed to discern positive change from new bells and whistles that do nothing to solve the problems discussed in this survey. I am hopeful but not entirely optimistic that they will. Will members-only, perhaps subscription-based ‘online communities’ reemerge instead of ‘post and we’ll sell your data’ forms of social media? I hope so, but at this point a giant investment would be needed to counter the mega-billions of companies like Facebook! I think we’d benefit from cooperative, nonprofit or nongovernmental organization leadership in this sphere.”
Kenneth R. Fleischmann, an associate professor at the School of Information at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote, “I am confident that new platforms will evolve which may better handle provenance [of information]. How popular these platforms will be is hard to estimate. I think that just as traditional media (radio, TV, print) is highly polarized, social media will become increasingly polarized; perhaps not just people with shared beliefs forming distinct friend and follower networks within the same social networking sites, but instead the emergence of specific politically polarized social networking sites, further increasing the encroachment of politics in our everyday lives. I am pessimistic about the degree to which privacy and worker autonomy will be respected. We are headed toward an increasingly panoptic society, as represented by the Chinese government’s emerging social credit scale.”
Alex Halavais, an associate professor of critical data studies, Arizona State University, wrote, “It is always hard to bet against entrenched power, but the current conflicts give me hope. There is an increased recognition of the value of good journalism, and that means a flight to quality. It’s true that digital subscriptions to the ‘big three’ newspapers in the U.S. do not yet mark a sea change, but an interest in these, along with a number of smaller investigative news and data organizations suggest a directional change. I suspect people will be willing to pay for a Facebook replacement that allows for more pro-social outcomes. I am less optimistic about the future battles that will attempt to balance safety with privacy. There are already regulatory rumblings about once again attempting to control cryptographic structures, but there is no turning back from good end-to-end encryption at this stage. As people leave the more easily monitored platforms and turn to more secure spaces for interaction (as well as seeking, for example, trustworthy Internet of Things structures), there will be an ever-increasing set of regulatory tensions that will recapitulate the crypto wars of the last century.”
Caroline Figueres, a strategic consultant based in Europe, said, “Extreme bad behaviour from governments and private companies – GAFAs [Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon] and the like in China – will create a social and civic innovation to compensate and/or to contribute to an innovation jump. I hope for development of human cooperative brain networks.”
William L. Schrader, founder of PSINet and internet pioneer, now with Logixedge, said, “Logic dictates that educated people are willing to learn from one another, allow other reasonable men to [differ] in their opinions and remain tolerant of one another. The social norms of the past century of opening doors for the informed will be translated into new social media. How? People will talk via social media, listen and hear and debate. They may go to private conversations so that the ‘noise’ doesn’t overtake the conversation. But people are people. Technology is here to solve the needs of markets. Otherwise, technology withers. We may see the backlash against Twitter and Facebook intensify, and they may be replaced by new and more balanced (no one fake may apply).”
Much social and civic innovation is possible if the GAAF platform monopolies (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook) are broken up or regulated appropriately.
Byron Reese, CEO, publisher, futurist and author of “The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers and the Future of Humanity,” commented, “Our first attempts at building community online have had both good and bad outcomes. We know them all. But would we have expected otherwise? We are new at digital communities and are inventing them as we move forward. Of course we aren’t going to get it right the first time. But the key question is whether these technologies help us form social bonds or not. Anyone who has posted a question in a forum and received an answer from a stranger knows firsthand that they bring us together. Wikipedia taught us that strangers will work together for a common good. The open source movement and Creative Commons showed that people will labor for free for the benefit of strangers. We haven’t mastered using the internet for social and civic innovation, but it is more than a fair bet that we will.”
Serge Marelli, an IT professional based in Luxembourg who works on and with the net, wrote, “I believe some social platforms may be created where truth and factual news is more prevalent than ‘fake news.’ I do not believe a majority of people will use these platforms. It is easier to believe in the lies than face the truth.”
Warren Yoder, longtime director of the Public Policy Center of Mississippi, now an executive coach, responded, “Much social and civic innovation is possible if the GAAF platform monopolies (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook) are broken up or regulated appropriately. I believe that will happen, and I hope it will happen in appropriate ways. Done right, it will release a torrent of innovation, including social and civic changes. I trust that the general level of competence is growing among digital citizens. So, I am modestly hopeful we can sort out the helpful from the harmful changes for a net positive gain.”
Rich Salz, senior architect at Akamai Technologies, wrote, “A handful of legislators in one (U.S.) or more (EU) countries will impose regulations on the tech giants. I do not know what impact that will have.”
Privacy issues: Actions will be taken to better protect people’s privacy online
Privacy concerns have become an increasingly hot-button topic in politics. A number of these experts suggest ways these concerns might be addressed in the coming decade.
Tracey Follows, futurist and founder of Futuremade, wrote, “Online advertising regulation will get tougher for advertisers; data privacy and protection will become one of the biggest issues there is, and potentially it will be the wealthiest in society who are able to pay for tools and technologies to protect their privacy whilst the poorer have to exchange their data and sacrifice their privacy in return for access to information and education. As far as traditional media is concerned, it is my belief that we will see the emergence of a new category or industry of ‘media forensics’ where experts will trace your privacy infringements through your data trails and seek compensation on your behalf. Media will need to insure themselves against such investigations and a whole new industry will grow and thrive.”
Loren DeJonge Schulman, deputy director of studies and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, previously senior adviser to national security adviser Susan Rice, said, “Privacy norms are the potential ‘positive’ change I see least likely to come to fruition, because there is such a substantial divide in belief and practice – and not just generationally. Mental health seems like an area ripe for real improvement. Digital technologies have both enabled treatment and also encouraged an openness about challenges and opportunities that did not exist before.”
Over the coming years, we can expect a greater debate in civic, academic and political spaces about how digital life is changing our society.
Randall Mayes, technology analyst, writer and futurist, commented, “To address the issue of income equality and privacy rights, a technology solution is a … more advanced version of a blockchain such as Etherium which utilizes smart contracts will compensate citizens for the use of their data – genomes, buying patterns, interests, etc. Whether or not citizens have an expectation of privacy by voluntarily using a technology is a legal issue and part of a social contract. For privacy issues, legislation and fines with lots of zeros should have a positive effect. For the issue of cybercrime, what is not covered in legislation could be addressed by cyberinsurance.”
Prateek Raj, an assistant professor in strategy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, an economics expert, wrote, “Over the coming years, we can expect a greater debate in civic, academic and political spaces about how digital life is changing our society. We lived in a relatively unregulated digital world until now. It was great until the public realized that a few companies wield too much power today in our lives. We will see significant changes in areas like privacy, data protection, algorithm and architecture design guidelines, and platform accountability, etc. which should reduce the pervasiveness of misinformation, hate and visceral content over the internet. These steps will also reduce the power wielded by digital giants. Beyond these immediate effects, it is difficult to say if these social innovations will create a more participative and healthy society. These broader effects are driven by deeper underlying factors, like history, diversity, cohesiveness and social capital, and also political climate and institutions. In other words, just as digital world is shaping the physical world, physical world shapes our digital world as well.”
Sarah Scheffler, a computer science doctoral student at Boston University, commented, “Privacy will be solved one way or another. Either law and public opinion will place protections that are good enough to satisfy most of the populace, or privacy as a concept will change as a matter of values. Not sure which, but either way it’ll be different. (I’m hoping for the first one.) Eventually, companies will realize that some algorithmic bias arises from a lack of information/accuracy about a subpopulation. They will realize that they can make more money by properly serving the subpopulation, gather more data about them, and voila, algorithmic bias gone. Then there will remain biases due to differences in true base rates, and those we will argue about for decades.”
Frederico Links, a journalist, governance researcher, trainer, activist and editor of Insight Namibia, said, “The issues of democracy and human rights – privacy and data protections, etc. – will probably be significantly resolved one way or another over coming years. On issues of mental health and labour disruptions and other long-standing social issues, I’m not too certain whether significant headway will be made between now and 2030. There will be pockets of success, and valuable insights will emerge to deal with such issues beyond the next decade or so. Digital and socioeconomic divides, whatever and wherever they are, are still too great for me to be optimistic about their overcoming between now and 2030. We’ll probably win some and lose some.”
Misinformation: Due to growing concerns about the accuracy of information encountered online, efforts will be made to identify and address misinformation
As people worry about false and misleading information and its place in their online feeds and societal discourse, a number of these experts believe steps will be taken to address this issue. Some think change will come from better educating the public about digital and technology literacy; others expect digital tools to be a mainstay of the campaign against weaponized information.
Daniel Berleant, author of “The Human Race to the Future,” wrote, “People will become more aware of attempts to manipulate them in the digital sphere. This will partially mitigate the problem. Organized efforts to support this will develop in response to realization about the extent and danger of manipulation. These efforts will take root in countries with traditions of freedom. However, totalitarian countries will increasingly veer toward more manipulation and control rather than less, because their bosses, whose powers will be enhanced by technology, will increasingly be able to suppress the compensatory mechanisms free and healthy societies will develop. Educational institutions should teach people how to recognize manipulations and manipulative techniques when they occur. No one wants to be manipulated and that will help free societies develop defenses against such destructive forces.”
Don Davis, a statistics and mathematics teacher at Lakeland Community College, wrote, “The term ‘fake news’ is the elemental social and civic irony of our time. Soon, we will be able to fact-check speeches, news conferences, articles and opinion columns in real time so that deceivers, miscommunicators and propagandists will no longer be able to blur the lines between facts and misdirection.”
Peng Hwa Ang, a professor at the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, wrote, “I tend toward the social-construction-of-technology school of thought. This means that it is not only technology that is determinative. I expect that the innovations will include non-technological ideas but then also those using technology. For example, some work I have seen suggests that it is possible to counter fake news if there can be a trusted group of verifiers composed of sincere fact-seekers from the two opposing camps who are prepared to meet face-to-face to discuss or to confirm facts. There is social capital, there is technology and there is face-to-face encounter.”
Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor of online learning at the University of Illinois, Springfield, said, “We are already seeing the advent of sophisticated fact-checking, image validating and information assurance initiatives. These will continue to expand to assure that people can rely upon the established media, social media and websites are legitimate. People will demand accuracy and value in their consumption of information. This will come in formal and informal conduits. Truth and veracity will be honored and strengthened following the current difficult period of exploitation of facts. The public deserves and will demand no less.”
Filippo Menczer, grantee in the Knight Foundation’s Democracy Project and professor of informatics and computer science, Indiana University, said, “Social and civic innovations to protect information quality and speech must emerge. This will force us to revisit the current absolutist interpretation of the First Amendment in the U.S. Speech amplified by technology (e.g., social bots and fake accounts) can suppress human speech and therefore cannot be unlimited. As the legal framework will evolve to protect legitimate speech, tools will be developed to help disclose information sources and uncover information manipulation.”
Political and government reform: Democratic activity and government policymaking will open to more citizen engagement, and public activism will grow
From greater civic engagement to the possibility of new digital voting systems, a number of these experts predict in the next 10 years there will be changes in how the public is able to interact and engage. Many expect activism to play a large role in the coming years, including activities in international forums and activism within multinational and multi-stakeholder groups.
Mark Maben, a general manager at Seton Hall University, wrote, “I expect to see innovations that give the common American a greater ability to influence many of the institutions that impact daily life. Technology will make governments and corporations more responsive to the people, even if it is just the result of politicians and executives acting out of self-interest.”
By now, only 50% of the global population has access to digital platforms to participate in democracy. But this number will improve as many governments will reduce the digital divide.
Douglas Rushkoff, media theorist, author and professor of media at City University of New York, said, “The primary means of social and civic innovation will occur as people go offline and reconnect with their local communities. So, I don’t see so much positive change occurring from the top down, through policies and regulation – even though it would be nice to try. I do think government and corporations can be pressured to respond to widespread, bottom-up social activism and widespread changes in citizen and consumer behavior.”
Lee McKnight, an associate professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies, commented, “The UN and World Economic Forum’s recently announced collaboration, which does have its limitations, is as much as anything an admission by the ‘techlashed’ Davos elite that they have to humbly try to do more to accept their own limitations, and recognize the roles and contributions of many other actors, and especially civic innovators whose motivations extend beyond being able to afford to hang in Davos. … I know new approaches to civic engagement are bearing fruit and will continue to do so, again because I am close enough to the scene to see the positive indicators that change is underway and cannot be stopped. I know for example that social and civic innovations will improve education and training including on information security awareness across cities, communities, regions and states. … Thomas Jefferson’s aphorism ‘Do well by doing good’ is timely and trendy in a way it hasn’t been for centuries. Because that ethos for technology entrepreneurs is increasingly recognized as the only way many people will expect firms offering technology innovations to approach them: humbly and with a broader social mission and accounting not just as a corporate social responsibility afterthought, but as a core value of the products and companies themselves.”
Osvaldo Larancuent, a professor based in the Dominican Republic with expertise in the governance of cyberspace, responded, “How might the success in social and civic innovation come to pass, and what kinds of new groups, systems and tools will be created? New tools will be available to improve social and civic participation through innovation. By now, only 50% of the global population has access to digital platforms to participate in democracy. But this number will improve as many governments will reduce the digital divide. As we have seen in recent years, different civic groups and hacktivists have stressed the need for governments to hear the needs and wants of populations through digital but general-purpose tools. So, there are opportunities for people to use more-specialized tools to improve democratic participation and to channel responses from politicians and democratic institutions to citizens. And the skills and competences of people will improve as more knowledge will be available to reach well-being by society in general.”
Edson Prestes, a professor of computer science, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, wrote, “In democratic countries, I believe technology use will contribute to social and civic innovation. People will become more aware about the social implications coming from technology and demand effective actions from governmental bodies to address them. In my view, technology will be used as a way to empower people and demand effective solutions from the government. On the other hand, in authoritarian countries, I expect exactly the opposite. … My main concern is always associated to places where democracy is incipient or even does not exist. In these countries, I do not see a bright future. Maybe technology will be used to undermine human rights creating a dystopian scenario.”
Benjamin Shestakofsky, University of Pennsylvania, a researcher focused on the impact of digital life on labor and employment, wrote, “By 2030, new technological tools may emerge that allow voters to fact-check political speech in real time. New apps may also facilitate processes of direct democracy by making it easier for voters to participate in participatory budgeting processes. Of course, technology may also prevent the emergence of social and civic innovation. For example, the emergence of deepfakes may undercut collective belief in the ‘truth’ of public figures’ speech. I am hopeful that legislators and regulators will work to mitigate the vulnerabilities associated with technological disruption in the workplace. Many potential solutions are readily available, but at the moment remain politically fraught. The threats posed by digital labor platforms that undermine labor standards can be mitigated by implementing laws and regulations that guarantee all workers a fair wage and access to health care and other benefits already available to full-time employees. Societies can also mitigate the disparate impact of algorithmic decision-making systems on the most vulnerable workers by updating and enforcing existing anti-discrimination legislation. Given ongoing political gridlock at the federal level, much-needed policy interventions are most likely to arise at the state and local levels.”
Miguel Alcaine, International Telecommunication Union area representative for Central America, commented, “Social and civic innovation will succeed based on social and civic networks oriented to interact with governments, particularly local, and a new social contract that will filter society principles toward a more human goal-oriented society. Still, technology is the easy factor in the success formula.”
Tomslin Samme-Nlar, a consultant in technology security and policy based in Cameroon, wrote, “The kind of innovation I expect to see are new educational systems and methods of educating citizens of their digital rights. I also expect to see new legislative and normative tools that protect netizens and even nation-states in cyberspace.”
Mary Alice McCarthy, senior policy analyst at the Higher Education Initiative, New America, said, “My preferred answer would have been ‘I hope so, but it depends.’ What it depends on is the creation of a bipartisan consensus among leaders from both parties – as well leaders from the business community, labor and other civil society groups – that protecting citizens from misinformation, surveillance, invasions of privacy, etc., are essential for maintaining our democracy and more important than either winning the next election or maximizing short-term gains/profits.”
David Wilkins, instructor of computer science at the University of Oregon, commented, “To take one example: e-courts are proving useful, relatively inexpensive and very much broaden access to courts, especially in areas like family law (divorce, child-custody issues), providing far broader access to those who otherwise would face significant issues (child care, absence from work, attorney costs) to solve these issues.”
Chrissy Zellman, a manager of digital and interactive strategy in the health care industry, commented, “We are in a place where guardrails are needed, and actions need to be more real time. Tech can evolve quickly, and we need to be faster in how we adapt. Information needs to be accurate and parameters around governance/ethics need to be in place by these large tech organizations for the systems to be socially and civically acceptable.”
John Paschoud, elected politician of the Lewisham Council (a London borough), wrote, “Much political and social/community discussion of and decisions on issues are inherently based on physical geography, and often highly localised. Therefore, it’s to be hoped that new online (or technology-enabled) media for resolving issues must recognise geography, and effectively parallel traditional means (such as local assembly meetings of areas representing about 10,000 voting citizens). It will not help for a resident of California to influence public transport policy in London (although the Californian may have good ideas for London, which it is useful to share). Similarly, online identities of those participating should be transparent and linked to real-world people. When decision-making is widened (beyond just elected representatives), then all those participating need to be accountable – as they would expect elected representatives to be.”
Tech can evolve quickly, and we need to be faster in how we adapt.
A vice dean for research at the public policy institute of a technological university based in Southern Europe said, “Technology will foster social and civic innovations by creating new ways for more-convenient voting and new ways to provide public services and enhance direct democracy.”
A researcher based in North America predicted a list of specific likely outcomes, writing, “Statistically selected citizen panels with voting rights; children’s complete right to privacy to age 25; complete transparency of political funding; virtual citizen juries of peer mediators who protect defendants from overcrowded justice systems, unnecessary jail time, lazy or biased judges, and unfair, unaffordable bail; citizen online training to be certified to participate in juries, community committees; certified volunteer hours in lieu of taxes; special court and mediation panels for all ages of the public.”
Social connectivity: A number of innovations will help connect people and bring them together for a common purpose
Many of these experts maintain that people are able to connect easily regardless of geographic distance in the current moment, and they expect that the power of this reality will increase in the future. The internet has opened doors for people to learn of issues faced by others around the world or around the corner. No longer restricted by proximity, people can provide emotional support, financial aid, political advocacy and much more for others around the world without leaving their own home. Experts expect that social innovations in this realm will continue to bring people together.
Joshua New, senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, said, “Connected and data-driven technologies can dramatically reduce barriers to social and civic innovation, such as challenges related to accessing human capital, network building, fundraising and advocacy. One particularly likely result of this will be the creation of significantly more decentralized social and civic innovations. Whereas the social and civic innovations of the past have relied on local communities, technology can allow for the connection of people with similar needs across local, state and even national boundaries.”
Alejandro Pisanty, a professor at UNAM, the National University of Mexico, an activist in multi-stakeholder internet governance, wrote, “Here, as in everything else, technology alone will not do the job. A commons-oriented management of shared resources is one of the political components that will be needed. The internet provides an example, including many failures, of how to manage globally a resource that started as a sort of commons but quickly enabled property rights to arise. They coexist, even if roughly. I expect to see a differentiated approach. From a developing or middle development country point of view, there is room for spontaneous, issue-oriented, temporary campaigns that may give rise to broader social movements and even parties that will better represent and solve problems. Technology’s contribution is limited; it only works as an enabler, at best. We are wasting valuable time for humankind when we focus on technology and platforms, or even in privacy and control over data, and not on conduct, a whole chain of conduct from the active subject of a possible manipulation to the harms suffered by others and society as a consequence of manipulation and other abuses. It’s not that tech is not important; it is that we overlook what goes on around it.”
Louisa Heinrich, a futurist and consultant expert in data and the Internet of Things, wrote, “The history of the internet seems to indicate that where there is a majority of users who understand the technology they are engaging with and are motivated altruistically, peaceful, supportive and healthy communities can be built. The population of the internet has grown exponentially since the early days of Slashdot, but civic responsibility in the digital world is both possible and effective. It is symbiotic with a sense of civic responsibility in the real world and the satisfaction that engenders. None of this will happen unless the people who believe in their causes and neighbourhoods – online and offline – come together and activate.”
Artur Serra, deputy director of i2CQT Foundation and research director of Citilab in Catalonia, Spain, responded, “In spite of the real danger of ‘techlash,’ I do see a lot of success in social and civic innovation across the world. Four billion people are now connected to the same infrastructure, the internet, that we the science and technology community put in place just decades ago. This is creating the conditions for an explosion of open creativity and innovation never seen before. A huge wave of labs of all kinds (living labs, fablabs, social labs, edulabs, innovation spaces, even policy labs) is emerging as the new kind of groups and communities of the digital era. We are moving from the net to the lab. On the 2030 horizon, many of these labs will gather and agree in generating the first universal innovation ecosystems in regions and countries. https://www.ecsite.eu/activities-and-services/news-and-publications/digital-spokes/issue-45.”
A research scientist and co-author of a study on intelligent future internet infrastructure said, “Technology provides multiple tools for engaging citizens among them and can be used to create new communities for virtually every possible objective: from sharing hobbies to attaining objectives that lead to an improvement in the welfare of different communities. Besides that, technology and expert groups continuously attempt to attract users to their field so they can contribute or become interested in topics where typically citizenship does not excel (as in the legal or technologic fields of knowledge). It is highly likely that such trends will continue.”
Moira de Roche, an entrepreneur based in Africa, commented, “The reality is that we do not know the impact in the next decade, because some futurists propose that the world will be totally different in five years, because of the exponential change brought by Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. What we can be sure of is that, used responsibly, digital technologies will and must enable social and civic innovation. We will see more virtual collaboration give rise to new tools being developed and embraced ‘on the fly.’ We will see more and more people grouped by interest rather than a physical location. We need to accept that as innovations occur, they will as quickly become redundant.”
Arzak Khan, director of the Internet Policy Observatory-Pakistan, said, “The growing use of technology and connecting the missing billions will result in more innovation in technology, ultimately bringing social change in the form of new groups and tools that bring transparency and accountability. Civic innovation will occur mostly in the political, economic and human-rights domains.”
June Parris, a member of the Internet Society chapter in Barbados, wrote, “For those who have access to technology their access to social and civic innovation will increase. They will see ways that this can benefit them; these will include marketing. I see an influx of this – use of social media for financial purposes. Not all are looking to improve financially, social groups and charities are also using innovative tools. I personally see new groups emerging daily and ease of access to join these groups. Several tools are in use and more are being created. I see that this will improve and spread widely in the future.”
Garth Graham, a longtime leader of Telecommunities Canada, predicted that “innovation in the creation and sustainability of social institutions acts predominantly at the local level.” He wrote, “In the Internet of Things, for those capacities to emerge in smart cities, communities need the capacity to own and analyse the data created that models what they are experiencing. Local data needs to be seen as a common, pool resource. Where that occurs, communities will have the capacity to learn or innovate their way forward. So far, smart city systems are being set up to appropriate and commercialize individual and community data. So far, communities are not waking up to the realization that a capacity they need is being stolen from them before they have it.”
Healthier living: Innovations will address physical and mental health; major change is coming for the health care sector
Many experts predicted significant medical advancements in the next decade. They expect innovations in every realm of physical and mental health. They foresee change coming for the health care industry and health care professionals, and they expect advances in the ways in which individuals are able to care for themselves.
Jason Hong, a professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “Health care is an area that will likely see many innovations. There are already multiple research prototypes underway looking at monitoring of one’s physical and mental health. Some of my colleagues (and myself as well) are also looking at social behaviors, and how those behaviors not only impact one’s health but also how innovations spread through one’s social network. I’m highly optimistic on this front, given that the problems are clearly there, the sensing technology is feasible, and the interventions should work (based on what has been done in the past using less sophisticated interventions or based on existing theory).”
Rey Junco, director of research at CIRCLE in the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, predicted, “Social and civic innovation will substantially mitigate mental and emotional health problems tied to digital life. Two technologies in particular that are promoted in public conversations as causing mental and emotional harm are social media and smartphones. However, both of these technologies grew out of and thrived because of the human need for connection. Social media were developed at a time when people were feeling especially disconnected to their communities, families and friends – likely due to not just increased geographic mobility, but also economic pressures and global stressors (such as protracted war in the Middle East). … Smartphones were developed shortly thereafter and again provided an easier method for individuals to stay connected to their peer networks and to access the social media they had already integrated into their lives as virtual community spaces. The visibility of communication online and through the use of smartphones has highlighted, more publicly, difficulties in interpersonal interactions that existed well before the advent of these technologies. Plus, some of the uses of these technologies have promoted unhealthy habits, especially by people who were predisposed to have psychological and physical health issues. For instance, a person who was depressed could go online to engage with others and feel more connected. However, another person with similar depressive symptomology could use social technologies to further a more negative view of themselves and their life circumstances, for instance. We have seen a shift toward trying to mitigate the impact of less-healthy forms of technology use. For instance, smartphone operating system developers have started to include controls for limiting a user’s screen time. Additionally, cellphone developers are starting to add models that have less, rather than more, ‘distracting’ features – such as a phone that can only send and receive calls and text messages. We will likely continue to see more innovation in this space as we continue to home in on which approaches to technology positively or negatively impact mental and physical well-being.”
Health care is an area that will likely see many innovations. There are already multiple research prototypes underway looking at monitoring of one’s physical and mental health.
Brian Southwell, director of the Science in the Public Sphere Program, RTI International, said, “Our core human needs have not changed. Although some people are likely more materially comfortable than ever before, we also are facing important disruptions in the physical environment that will cause sufficient discomfort to prompt people to demand policy responses. Because of the physical discomforts we will face, there will be a market for social and civic innovation, suggesting people will capitalize on the opportunity to create and offer social and civic innovations. Workers will continue to be vulnerable in coming years despite social and civic innovations. We are likely to make some gains in personal health, are likely to face some collective concerns in terms of environmental health and are not likely to cope with the alienation and despair that is a part of a life lived largely online. In the latter case, there is a disconnect between the long period of evolution that honed our humanity and the short period of rapid technology change we are facing. Social media platforms that offer human connection and relationships will grow as they offer something people want and need.”
Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Communications and Society Program and vice president at the Aspen Institute, wrote, “Increased time watching screens will initially have a detrimental effect on personal health. But advances in medical technologies, along with improved communications involving health, will lead to advances in personal health by the end of the decade.”
Shane Kerr, lead engineer for NS1 internet domain security, said, “I am fairly confident that the improvements in medical technology, like CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene editing, and related technologies like AI, will result in vastly improved medical care for humankind. Things like the malaria vaccine and golden rice improve the lives of the poorest basically for free.”
Denise N. Rall, an academic researcher of popular culture at Southern Cross University, New South Wales, Australia, commented, “The only area in which I would envision substantial innovation is around health systems – such as individualised gene cancer treatments and other treatments for those able to afford them. World population growth and the scarcity of natural resources will dominate the next decade. Unless Google and other tech companies can substantially reduce population, we are stuck in an untenable position to support the world’s economies that are fixed on growth and the inevitable fact that growth will no longer be possible.”
Matt Moore, innovation manager for Disruptor’s Handbook, Sydney, Australia, responded, “Humans are still going to be human. There will be opportunities to improve the quality of human life – especially in the domain of health and the management of chronic diseases. I see most opportunity for improvement in domains that are not dependent on ‘improving’ human behaviour. Hopefully we are not going to go backwards, but we seem unlikely to improve much more. I see a bleak future for news media and bright future for education. No one knows what will happen to the tech giants – although all of them were around 10 years ago so they are likely to remain around in some form. We may even be able to reclaim some of our privacy back. A big change of the next 10 years is that the internet will finally disappear into the world of technological (and physical) infrastructure. There will be content, data, applications, actions. But we won’t see the internet. Perhaps another big change will be the proliferation of usable translation tools. Although the punchline to Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish story should be remembered here.”
Susan Ariel Aaronson, a research professor of international affairs at George Washington University and fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, wrote, “Innovators and governments are investing substantially in health. Consequently, we will see lots of innovation, and because health is seen as a human right by many, there will be significant regulation to ensure that these rights are respected. But I deeply worry about governance in the developing world, where governments and individuals will be consumers of data-driven services such as AI, and without such sectors they won’t effectively know how to govern them. Governance of data could be particularly weak in nations without a strong feedback loop and lots of expertise and public trust in governance. Data is a development issue.”
Heywood Sloane, entrepreneur and banking and securities consultant, said, “I’m very optimistic about changes to health care. Telemedicine, security and health monitoring, along with mobility and logistics are all evolving in ways that create safe, healthy behaviors and independence for the entire population as it ages. I am less sanguine about where and how data security and content integrity will play out. It will likely require a movement from the grassroots up to take control. Given an adequate set of tools, that is quite possible. There will be pressure from governments and large corporations in opposition to that. But change can occur. After all, Quakers stood up against slavery in their meetings. Samuel Gompers and unions stood up to robber barons. Move On and #MeToo are standing up today. Add in some trusted tools to organise, and people will respond.”
Valerie Bock of VCB Consulting, former technical services lead at Q2 Learning, responded, “Some of the most important innovations currently underway are changes in social norms with regard to mental illness. People have been sharing their own experiences with mental illness on social media in unprecedented numbers, breaking a silence which was difficult to overcome when most interpersonal communications were face-to-face. There are hundreds of online meetings for 12-step groups, allowing people to seek, find and offer support irrespective of time of day or geographical location. The ability to turn to friends who are not personally present for support and to share resources for improving mental health has changed this landscape for many and is likely to continue to do so. Some counseling services have also become available in a technology-mediated format. I expect this sector to grow, increasing availability of mental health services to those whose work hours and/or geographic locations have made them inaccessible previously.”
Eric Vance, director of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis, University of Colorado, Boulder, commented, “We’ll have a growing awareness of the importance of ‘unplugging’ or limiting screen time for children and adults. Maybe we’ll use technology (social media) to advertise more face-to-face meetups and outdoor activities without screens.”
Sam Adams, a 24-year veteran of IBM now working as a senior research scientist in artificial intelligence for RTI International, architecting national-scale knowledge graphs for global good, wrote, “We are already seeing the emergence of ‘tech-free’ camps and vacation packages. Experiencing life ‘offline’ will become a generational goal, much like the Millennial generation introduced ride sharing and home sharing. Ironically, it will be technology that enables this trend, and premiums will be paid for uninterrupted time to focus or to simply enjoy being alive. This may also indicate a new kind of disparity between economic strata, with the more-wealthy affording privacy, peace and quiet while the lower strata remain fodder for 24/7 social media aggregators and botnets.”
Artificial intelligence: AI will continue to improve and be applied to improve human lives online and offline
Algorithms have been improving and advancing for years. The experts in this canvassing don’t see that momentum changing. Addressing issues both on and offline, many experts expect AI to make improvements in people’s lives.
Susan Etlinger, industry analyst, the Altimeter Group, responded, “We need to let go of techno-solutionism – the notion that the problems caused by technology can only be solved by more technology. Yes, we are already seeing useful technology tools (adversarial machine learning techniques to identify bias, or artificial intelligence systems of record for interpretability and accountability, for example), but we also need to incorporate transparent and deliberative decision-making, and, in some cases, actual structural change such as regulation to ensure that we are addressing not just the symptoms but the root causes of inequality. In this respect, there is as much value to considering how social and civic innovation can inform our use of technology as there is the other way around. There are a couple of issues with artificial intelligence in particular that are reasonably tractable from a technology perspective: (1) reducing unwanted bias in datasets, data models and algorithms, and (2) improving interpretability of those algorithms. For the first, it is possible to add data to an image dataset to make it more reflective of human diversity (for an example, see the ‘Gender Shades’ research authored by Joy Buolamwini and Timnit Gebru). For the second, there is a great deal of research being conducted on methods to improve interpretability of algorithms without reducing their performance. These are both good things; first, because algorithms that perform similarly on different groups are less likely to perpetuate harmful outcomes specifically related to accuracy (for example, incorrectly identifying someone as a criminal suspect), and second, because interpretability provides a level of transparency that aids decision-making and, potentially, promotes trustworthiness. But it’s important not to equate bias reduction with fairness. The technology can only take us so far, and it is up to us to construct or adapt our human rights and justice frameworks to ensure that we are using the technology in a trustworthy and humane manner.”
We need to let go of techno-solutionism – the notion that the problems caused by technology can only be solved by more technology.
Sam Lehman-Wilzig, a professor of communications at Bar-Ilan University specializing in Israeli politics and the impact of technological evolution, said, “The biggest advance will be the use of artificial intelligence to fight disinformation, deepfakes and the like. There will be an AI ‘arms’ race between those spreading disinformation and those fighting/preventing it. Overall, I see the latter gaining the upper hand.”
Devin Fidler, futures strategist and founder of Rethinkery Labs, commented, “It is certain that new organizational technologies are being catalyzed and will have a substantial impact over the next decade. Importantly, this includes the emergence of ‘software defined organizations’ that focus on combining the resources available on digital platforms to create value. Ironically, the deployment of these tools could very possibly be sooner than the first widespread deployment of self-driving vehicles. For example, imagine a machine learning-based system designed to autonomously 1) identify real estate that is most likely to be undervalued and 2) determine what interventions are most likely to increase value, and then 3) use work platforms to autonomously identify and deploy builders who have demonstrated themselves to be the best available for these particular renovations before finally 4) again using machine learning to maximize selling price. The exploration of this kind of ‘closed loop’ autonomous or software-defined company is the focus of much of our current work at Rethinkery. There is nothing about the example above that is not at least technically feasible today. The implications here could be both very positive and very negative. You could imagine, for example, a machine learning system that learns through feedback to greatly amplify media that perpetuates fear and uncertainty about a particular asset, currency or region in order to benefit from the volatility created (a short trade, for example), at the expense of stability of the system as a whole. You could even argue that a version of this phenomenon is essentially what we are already seeing play out in our democratic political systems. There is much more to come. These new organizational technologies are now in the process of moving en masse from basic R&D to the deployment phase. Like all design processes, this process will be shaped by the values and stakeholders that the system is built around. At a minimum, it is profoundly important to identify and design around the destabilizing negative externalities that these new organizational technologies create if we are to avoid the possibility of crashing the social ‘operating system’ as a whole.”
Faisal A. Nasr, an advocate, research scientist, futurist and professor, wrote, “Modulating the power of large technology companies is inherent in the legislative and regulatory reform that could take place, possibly prodded on by emerging social and civic innovation. Ethical advances in uses of algorithms can stand a chance through a reformed legal structure and global governance system to deter unethical practices. Improving the economic stability of the news media is a complex issue that involves the functioning and balance among three branches of government and degree of power of the private sector, all critical issues which could enhance the trust in democratic institutions, lead to the creation of social media platforms and [strengthen] self-expression. However, mitigating mental and emotional health problems tied to digital life is a monumental educational process, and social and civic innovation can only have a very small impact.”
A computing science professor emeritus from a top U.S. technological university responded, “I am an expert in artificial intelligence (AI), not in future social/legal policy formation or enforcement. In any case, the problem with applying AI technology will not be with the technology but with the legislative sector. For example, in the area of health, in the U.S. the poor on food stamps (SNAP) are able to use their stamps to eat foods that lead to diabetes at ever-earlier ages, but how can laws decide which of the many thousands of food products should be banned from SNAP, due to offering low-quality nutrition? The problem here is not about the use of technology – an AI machine-learning algorithm could assign a quality score to various foods, based on data mining of health and food use outcomes. But who would decide what data gets mined and what criteria are used by such an algorithm? The makers of all those junk foods would lobby fiercely against any such laws.”
Education reform: Education systems will evolve in response to many multilayered societal changes
As society shifts under the influence of technology, a number of the experts in this canvassing foresee education changing in response. Some expectations include a greater focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects and a greater focus on digital literacy programs in the standard curriculum. Others believe that education systems will make greater shifts toward being digitally based.
Frank Feather, president of AI-Future, predicted, “Education systems will be reformed to include full orientation of the benefits and risks of digital technology applications in the curriculum. Simultaneously, education will increasingly be done remotely. Mass education is obsolete; individualized learning will evolve in all subjects. All students will become STEM-educated and will understand the positive benefits and negative harms of technology. Technology will also decentralize the workplace. In society at large, online social networks will be the predominant form of interaction and creation of socio-political movements as needed.”
Catherine Steiner-Adair, a psychologist, researcher and author, said, “The capacity to create social and civic innovation with tech begins early in life, in the ways that children are educated and cared for, and then throughout their education. I am in schools around the U.S. and abroad every week, working with hundreds of teachers, parents and students from ages 4-18, looking at the impact of tech on their lives. Not enough children are getting the educational experiences they need to have the tools to be thought/design leaders in the domains of social and civic innovation. We need to completely rethink the Core Curriculum in order to prepare the rising generations for the world they are going to inherit 2030. Education is critical! Stop putting kids in front of screens all day in school, and then again for homework. We must make major changes in what we teach, how students learn (project-based learning) and how kids are assessed (mastery portfolios, competency and formative assessment). STEAM (adding arts to STEM) is critically important, but so is ethics, compassion, a sense of stewardship for each other and the planet. We should teach tech ethics, tech literacy, tech politics, tech health and wellness, the politics and economics of the tech industry – along with SEL [social and emotional learning] and DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] and cultural competency to every student – and address the decline in empathy, attention, self-regulation and the capacity for solitude and the spikes in online hate, anxiety and subclinical issues.”
Eileen Ruddin, co-founder and board chair of LearnLaunch, said, “I have spent the last seven years supporting the use of technology to close opportunity and achievement gaps in education, by founding and growing the LearnLaunch education innovation ecosystem (www.learnlaunch.org). It’s not just me – there are groups engaging young people, getting them to create and make, awarding them new credentials (e.g., LRNG, now part of Southern New Hampshire University). … Workforce development will begin to use technology platforms to make it more possible for working adults to get more education and so on. Human nature will not be changed by social and civic innovation. Social and civic innovation that builds communities with norms that value critical thinking and respect for others will be the most needed. Political mechanisms can work to address transition issues, whether they be for individual workers or communities. They can address distribution of income. Additional privacy regulations can be enacted.”
Don Davis, a statistics and mathematics teacher at Lakeland Community College, wrote, “There will be two primary innovations in the next 10 years that will fundamentally change our society. First, education will finally catch up with technology to provide new teaching methods, new ways to access students and [drive] a new modern STEM-based curriculum. Next, the proliferation of firearms in the U.S. will encourage parents to keep their children safe at home so that students will be schooled at home, but thankfully because of technology, will not be home-schooled.”
Thierry Gaudin, co-founder and president of the France 2100 Foundation, commented, “One of the major changes is free access to knowledge and know-how, which should reshape education and training, allowing access to technology and science. Maybe the concept of ‘intellectual property’ will not survive.”
Ian O’Byrne, an assistant professor of education at the College of Charleston, responded, “Multiple factors are needed to enact positive change in civic and social innovation as it relates to technology and discourse systems. The first is education. We need individuals who understand and value digital texts and tools, problematize them and envision a better possible future. They need to instill this in future generations. This also requires that, collectively, we all examine the role and purpose of these digital texts and tools in our daily practices and actively choose to make better, possibly tougher decisions.”
Labor and jobs: Business practices, individuals’ work lives and the larger economy will substantially change by 2030
In light of growing technological developments and shifting sentiments toward capitalism, some experts suggest that innovations will likely occur on the labor front and overall jobs market. From shorter work weeks to technological displacement, they predict an array of changes are possible over the next 10 years.
Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor of online learning at the University of Illinois, Springfield, wrote, “Dramatic shifts in employment and education are likely to take place in the coming decade. Work weeks will diminish. Work will be specialized. Technology will impact most every field, and the demand for continuous upskilling and lifelong continuing education will rise to meet the demands of a well-prepared and well-educated workforce. Social and civic innovation will take place in preparing people to meet the needs of business and industry. New education models such as just-in-time AI-enhanced adaptive learning will emerge, as will truly personalized learning. These will grow in the context of broad social structures that emerge both within and outside formal education as we know it. They will be responsive to the needs and desires of the public at large for education and training to become affordable or free. These changes will result in access to robust and individualized learning opportunities that will serve both the personal and professional interests of individuals and the economy.”
Isaac Mao, director of Sharism Lab, said, “The real social and civic innovations should be disruptive by departing from today’s commercial and capitalism-driven architecture. E.g., people should understand how a system works and how to participate, how to share and how to get incentives without worrying about centralized secret chambers or tyrannies. Many social and civic applications today relying on big tech won’t be sustainable. However, the tendency of chasing and sharing junk information would not be easily stopped by any means, unless we reconstruct a lot of social norms and rules, including the changes in the education system.”
Technology will impact most every field, and the demand for continuous upskilling and lifelong continuing education will rise to meet the demands of a well-prepared and well-educated workforce.
Mary Griffiths, an ssociate professor at the University of Adelaide, Australia, an expert in digital citizenship and e-government, said, “Digital transformation can be as generative of new workforces as it is destructive of the older forms of industrialisation. The challenge is not to exploit, and mindlessly discard things of value to participants. Consider these examples: a) Former taxi-firm ‘employees’ become car-hire ‘contractors’ to a technology platform. What is the further innovation required? Regulatory legislation to protect against any loss of previous rights. b) Health records move online with access to third-party agencies, solely with the object of wholistic health care. What is the further innovation required? Digital stewardship and policing legislation. c) A government wants to develop an area. Innovate by seeing the physical landscape through and with the shared digital infrastructure. Journalists are experimenting with new business models to support public interest journalism. I’m fairly optimistic that – given the urge to know and tell the story on government – some innovations will be successful.”
Kevin Carson, an independent scholar on issues of post-capitalist and post-state transition, commented, “Policies like universal basic income, modern monetary theory and the commons-based economic models are being developed in the various municipalist movements. In the area of the internet and social media itself, I believe the reform we’re headed toward is not so much the 20th century industrial age antitrust model of breaking up ‘Death Star’ corporate platforms, so much as forced opening of protocols and elimination of intellectual property barriers to interoperability and piggybacking on legacy platforms and importing contact lists without permission. We’ll be transforming Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, et al., into mastodon-like ecosystems to host our own self-governed instances, and Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg can howl in impotent rage. I also think the internet will facilitate networked radical labor organization focused on direct action, disrupting nodes in the corporate supply and distribution chain and hitting vulnerabilities in just-in-time distribution models, etc.”
Sarah Scheffler, a computer science doctoral student at Boston University, responded, “Nothing will be done directly about technological unemployment. Eventually, we will either make it much easier for people to em/immigrate to find jobs, establish some kind of universal income, or abolish money entirely in a fully automated society. Probably not for another 100+ years. But since the Boomers are about to retire, we don’t have to worry about this for at least a few decades because we’ll need as much productivity as we can to support the population.”
Robert Cannon, senior counsel for a U.S. government agency and founder of Cybertelecom, a not-for-profit educational project focused on internet law and policy, wrote, “We are moving into a new economy unlike the last one. The industrial economy and the agrarian economy were based on labor. The information economy will not be. We are already seeing massive job loss – along with new job growth at the nascent time of the new economy and firms move in to create and capture arbitrage and surplus (but significant job growth in minimum-wage jobs with middle-class wages melting away). … What will the new economy be based on? Don’t know. Current capitalist notions of economies assume that money flows in ecosystems. Try to imagine an ecosystem that works for the information economy. Will we go the way of ‘Star Trek’ and not have currency or salaries? Doubtful – Gene Roddenberry was wrong about human nature. Will society segregate along economic classes as suggested in ‘Blade Runner’? Maybe.”
Jeanne Dietsch, a New Hampshire state senator and pioneer innovator of affordable robotics, said, “Regarding job displacement, it all depends on whether user interfaces empower content professionals in each field to increase innovation or the technology remains bound to techies, out of the hands of those with the ability to dream new uses that create new industries.”
Ibon Zugasti, futurist, strategist and director with Prospektiker, wrote, “Social innovation platforms related to employment such as cooperative business initiatives will help reduce inequalities due to replacement of jobs by technology.”
Paola Ricaurte, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, predicted, “There will be more labor demands from workers in the technology industry. Awareness of the environmental impact of technology will grow, and technology companies will be required to abandon programmed obsolescence.”
Environmental issues: Climate change and other environmental issues will inspire innovation out of necessity
Several of these experts suggest that climate change and other environmental issues will inspire innovation out of necessity. They say digital technologies are likely to help effect change.
Jamais Cascio, a distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future, wrote, “As Samuel Johnson said, ‘When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.’ Imminence of danger can substantially increase the attention given to developing innovative solutions. The apparent acceleration of climate disruption and disaster is likely to be a useful motivator for groups seeking better political mechanisms. The new ideas won’t necessarily be the right ones, but they will be innovative and disruptive. It’s clear that existing institutions and norms aren’t letting us succeed, so we’re likely going to see experimentation (sometimes desperate experimentation) with new approaches in a fearful drive to avoid catastrophe. Similarly, the growing risks associated with ethically blind or limited technologies will push for greater adoption of programs like the ‘Ethical OS’ model. We’ll probably see multiple examples of technological failures and misbehaviors associated with incomplete ethical approaches over the 2020s, sometimes with truly awful consequences. Especially as complex technologies get used for climate remediation, we’ll want to make sure that the solutions don’t cause more problems than they resolve.”
David Bray, executive director for the People-Centered Internet Coalition, wrote, “I believe we are arriving at multiple simultaneous breaking points. The most obvious is of course the climate crisis, but also consider the mounting levels of inequality, of pollution and of despicable charlatanry exhibited by those in positions of power. These simply cannot go on if we are to survive as a civilization. Since civilization is resilient, the odds are that we develop tools to support a saner society and bring those tools to bear. I’m not prescient enough to enumerate them, but it seems that the single most useful technology would be one that clearly distinguishes verifiable truth from agitprop in an unavoidable and unambiguous way. This is a necessary but not sufficient condition for making progress on any of the key issues we face.”
Miles Fidelman, founder of the Center for Civic Networking and principal at Protocol Technologies Group, responded, “At best, we will see new forms of collaboration among large numbers of people toward beneficial ends. The most obvious example is the changing nature of responses to largescale natural disasters. Perhaps we will see this spirit of volunteer and entrepreneurial cooperation emerge to address such pressing issues as climate change (e.g., maybe, the Green New Deal will be crowdsourced).”
Thierry Gaudin, co-founder and president of the France 2100 Foundation, said, “An important part of social and civic innovation will come through art and culture. The 20th century has, through TV, propagated a soap culture. It is likely that new communication will make people more conscious of their environment, their role in nature-care and their opportunity to communicate with animals, plants and other forms of life.”
Additional innovations expected by experts
Beyond making predictions on these categories, these experts suggested dozens of other innovations they think might occur in the next 10 years. The following responses include additional types of social or civic innovation some expect could be likely by 2030.
Stephen Downes, senior research officer for digital technologies with the National Research Council of Canada, wrote about individual empowerment: “We are seeing a retrenchment against globalization, but this trend will have reversed by 2030 as a result of increasing (and increasingly apparent) interdependence as a single information economy. The cost of physical goods will continue to trend toward zero as productivity increases, and people will be valued less for their labour and more for their individuality and creativity. People will do more for themselves and depend less on centralized services. Those centralized services that will remain will become more like infrastructure, largely reliant on public support and therefore social (rather than private) control. While people will manage their own information, they will also surrender most of their privacy in return for more-effective services, greater security and reduced corruption. Illegal wealth will be harder to create and harder to hide. This will make it much easier for societies to support health, education and social welfare. When borders no longer restrict the flow of goods, information and capital, people will demand an equivalent right for themselves. The right to mobility will be vigorously contested, and it will be the major civil right to be achieved in the 21st century. By the end of the 21st century, hoarding – whether of land, goods, people or capital – will be viewed as socially repugnant. By 2030, the first signs of this transition in social values will be evident.”
Young creatives are designing tech tools to train, educate and connect activists around the world. They are pioneering whole new ways to engage in civic expression and storytelling, using data, graphics and video to build whole new forms of civic engagement and political communication.
Paul Jones, founder and director of ibiblio and a professor of information science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, wrote of an array of changes to norms and activities: “Hardly anyone is called a ‘bookworm’ anymore. So, it will be with connective technologies. Both the panic and the utopianism will become subdued as we normalize and socialize our uses of technologies. But we will seek and require rules, standards and oversights. Individual health monitoring will be commonplace. There will be fewer visits for health checkups as that data will be gathered on an ongoing basis allowing for individual health trends to be identified and deviations tracked and treated. Socially in the near term, tech platforms will ask to be regulated just as AT&T asked for the FCC to be created. In the near term, this will actually slow innovation and secure the places of the dominant players – as it did with AT&T. In the longer run – I hope by 2030 – the innovation cycle will come back into play. My bet is in the biological fields – not limited to health care. Interplanetary exploration will accelerate, with private efforts like SpaceX and Blue Origin being more of a future template than national efforts such as NASA. Vint Cerf is right: The interplanetary internet, even if we are communicating with robots and devices, will be standard. Social movements will form complex accommodations to individual tendencies, with better behavior becoming normalized despite our present seeming chaos.”
Joshua Hatch, a journalist who covers technology issues, said, “Technology use will be a significant driver to civic and civil innovation out of necessity; it will be the pressure that will force it to happen. How effective such innovation will be, though, is harder to answer. I suspect it will be a game of whack-a-mole where every ‘innovation’ simply seeks to remedy a problem that has surfaced. So, what might happen? I can see more technology education in the classroom; I can envision civic groups that look to aid people with limited capability or access; I can see new laws around accessibility. One area that will be difficult to address, though, thanks in part to the First Amendment, is disinformation. And this worries me, because it has the potential to be incredibly destructive and we are limited in how we can mitigate the problem.”
Craig Watkins, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, wrote, “We are seeing the rise of social and civic innovation, especially among what I call ‘young creatives.’ They are at the vanguard of a new movement, an era in ‘civic innovation.’ Young creatives are designing tech tools to train, educate and connect activists around the world. They are pioneering whole new ways to engage in civic expression and storytelling, using data, graphics and video to build whole new forms of civic engagement and political communication. They have turned tech platforms – think smartphones, YouTube, Twitter – into the ‘people’s channel,’ fostering whole new methods for generating awareness about various issues, educating the public and mobilizing communities to take action. The new forms of activism among ‘young creatives’ suggests that rather than diminish civic engagement, their adoption of tech platforms points to an expansion of what counts as civic engagement. We are already seeing pressure applied to tech companies to design tech in ways that address users’ physical and mental health. For example, there is a rise in demand to design tech to better manage how much time we spend with our smartphones, use social media or experience emotional pain from tech engagement. These are concerns that have only come about as a result of growing public pressure and advocacy. The tech companies have long operated under the assumption to drive up usage by keeping people tethered to their platforms. This was their competitive edge. In the not too distant future their competitive edge may be precisely the opposite: designing tech that empowers more efficient engagement with their platforms. Increased public pressure and scrutiny will demand this type of approach to design and product development.”
Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, predicted change in individualized and customized education, writing, “Social and civic innovation are likely. The question I have is whether it will be enabled by or will happen in response to issues that arise from the tech sector. Will we see greater personal data protections? If so, how will it happen? Will it be because the tech giants make the decision to do so, or will it be mandated? My belief is that there will be changes in how children and adults are educated, with a rise in training programs that support the increased availability of trained staff who can work in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, networking and application creation. There will be a move toward more work from home, resulting in the need for more creative ways to collaborate, communicate and socialize. We will see significant changes in the way we manage and receive health care, with telehealth opportunities changing the need for more local specialists and increasing the need for differently trained local medical professionals who can manage the online health care process. Transportation will be transformed by the opportunity to leverage technology. We will require new innovations that will support the new ways we live, learn, work and play.”
David Bernstein, a retired market-research and new-product-development professional, said, “It is my hope that the new generation of citizens will view these challenges as opportunities for innovation. The growth of technology is likely to accelerate some current fledgling innovations in climate science, work-life balance and income disparity.”
Melanie DuPuis, chair and professor of environmental studies and science at Pace University, focused on starting at the global level of innovation: “Liberalism needs some healthy rethinking. It is incapable of dealing with global migrations. We have had Great Migrations before. And in all those cases, people would have rather stayed home, not disrupted their lives. But they felt left with no choice. Social and civic innovation will have to start at the global level, beginning with a serious rethinking of development policy. People need to have good choices for livable lives where they live now. What successful sustainable equitable development will look like, I don’t know. But without global agreements beyond the U.S. and the World Economic Forum we will not overcome the civic problems we have today.”
David Greenfield, founder and medical director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said he expects “equal digital fairness through widespread, accessible high-speed access, ample education and prevention on digital wellness and internet addiction, teaching of sustainable and mindfulness tech and screen use, some government regulation and private/public/industry partnerships on digital wellness.”
Miguel Moreno, a professor of philosophy at the University of Granada, Spain, an expert in ethics, epistemology and technology, commented, “I hope to see progress in social mobilization aimed at preventing environmental catastrophes and health problems in urban and working or professional environments. I have confidence in ambitious regulatory initiatives aimed at guaranteeing the privacy of users and consumers, in order to prevent abuses in accessing personal data from large companies and technological or e-commerce platforms. I have confidence in the development of new instruments to demand transparency and accountability from institutions and political leaders, as an important way to prevent corruption on a large scale. But the main social trend at the global level seems to be in favour of undemocratic governments, probably as a result of many global challenges, which have not been satisfactorily addressed through credible multilateral organisations and bodies.”
Christopher G. Caine, president and founder of Mercator XXI, a professional services firm helping clients engage the global economy, observed, “As our understanding and use of technology evolves, new models will emerge from people seeking a better daily life and greater harmony among their community. These new models will produce new social and civic innovations and ‘authorities.’”
David J. Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication and Leadership, based in Switzerland, wrote, “Datafication, that is, the modelling of the world in data and the application of descriptive, predictive, preventive and prescriptive analytics to this data, will transform all areas of society. Decisions not only in business, but also in health care, education, research and politics will be made no longer on the basis of intuition, experience, emotion or personal expertise, but on the basis of evidence. Many decisions in all these areas will be automated. 2030 may not see this implemented everywhere, but the tendency will be apparent. Personalized products and services in all areas will eliminate the economy of attention which is the basis of traditional media thus enabling new forms of social communication free from the distortions of traditional markets.”
Richard Forno, assistant director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, wrote, “Emerging uses of technology and evolving social expectations will certainly impact social/civic innovation. Technology development/use will always evolve faster than policy, too. However, I believe we’re approaching a tipping point where society may realize that some good-faith attempts to place boundaries on technology use – especially in areas like disinformation, threats, bullying, etc. – is necessary. Of course, this is harder to do in liberal Western societies that have legal protections over things like free speech – but I think this will be the next example of a tech+society crisis point.”
Terri Horton, workforce futurist at FuturePath LLC, wrote “Access to people across all ranks of society, whether emerging economies or traditionally disenfranchised populations, will facilitate innovation.”
A notable share of experts is skeptical about the power and impact of civic and social innovations, especially in the next decade
While impending innovations may hold promising changes in the future, they also may not. Many experts express skepticism about what effects these innovations may have or if any meaningful innovations will even occur in the next decade.
danah boyd, principal researcher at Microsoft Research and founder of Data & Society, wrote, “We haven’t hit peak awful yet. I have every confidence that social and civic innovation can be beneficial in the long run (with a caveat that I think that climate change dynamics might ruin all of that). But no matter what, I don’t think we’re going to see significant positive change by 2030. I think things are going to get much worse before they start to get better. I should also note that I don’t think that many players have taken responsibility for what’s unfolding. Yes, tech companies are starting to see that things might be a problem, but that’s only on the surface. News media does not at all acknowledge its role in amplifying discord (or its financialized dynamics). The major financiers of this economy don’t take any responsibility for what’s unfolding. Etc.”
We haven’t hit peak awful yet.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said, “Important progress is already underway on data protection (GDPR) [General Data Protection Regulation in the European Union] and algorithmic accountability (OECD AI Principles). And as I write these words, there is news of a record-setting $5 billion fine against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission. But I am much less confident that there will be an effective political response to save journalism or labor. These institutions have been severely weakened and the absence of [collective] action is not encouraging. Journalism is already dependent on Google for its continued survival, which means that its prospects for solving its key challenge has been lost.”
Srinivasan Ramani, Internet Hall of Fame member and pioneer of the internet in India, commented, “We need to recognize that the basis of our economy is economic freedom, including one of exploiting technology for corporate ends. Since modern technology requires large teams to work together to innovate, most innovation is not necessarily committed to social good. Very often it is committed to the next quarter’s profit. So, progress towards society’s good is very often uncertain. It depends upon individuals’ commitments, academics using their resources and privileges (without enthusiastic endorsements from their authorities, and so on.”
Jonathan Morgan, senior design researcher, Wikimedia Foundation, rendered a nuanced verdict: “There’s reason to hope that the current ‘techlash’ is part of a broader concern about the harm caused by commercial technological platforms and the economy that has grown up around those platforms. We’re most likely to see regulation around data privacy, and perhaps some regulation around safety (in terms of increased obligations on the part of platforms to report on or intercede in incidents where people are likely to be harmed by others through the platform). I’m pretty pessimistic that we can actually change the economic model of our modern technology ecosystem. That model rests on collecting data about people, finding new ways to profit from that data, and in general manipulating them unconsciously to make them act in ways that economically benefit technology companies. Those companies lose power every time someone doesn’t use their services – whether because they are opting to use a different service, or because they are opting out of a whole platform sector (e.g., quitting social media). Those companies will do everything they can to avoid losing power. Innovation requires redistribution of power (in the form of opportunity and choice) to individual citizens, groups of citizens, governments and other/newer market actors.”
Anita Salem, a research associate at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School, said, “‘Put a fork’ in the dream of an open and democratic technocracy – it’s dead. The corporations are in control now and they will stymie any social and civic innovation that truly supports the average citizen. Profit rules all, and smaller companies that may begin to innovate in the social arena will be bought up and their products will either be buried or turned toward increasing corporate control. We’ll see human-machine hybrids; genetically engineered humans and animals; displacement of human workers because of increased automation; and greater class, educational and racial divisions. New tools will focus on distracting humans from their meaningless lives and increasing business productivity. Climate change and the younger generations may force a redirect, however. If we wake up to the reality of climate change, we may see a ‘moon shot’ approach to addressing the results of climate change, including innovations in reducing/removing plastics in our waste stream; renewable energy and storage innovations; materials low in environmental impact; regreening of our cities and forests; medicines for asthma, smoke inhalation and sun exposure; and water and waste recycling. We will also see new societal controls, for example immigration policies; travel restrictions; power and water rationing; building and community segregation; limits on free speech and other rights used by the disaffected.”
James S. O’Rourke IV, a University of Notre Dame professor whose research specialty is reputation management, said, “In thinking about whether social and civic innovation will successfully result in changes that improve people’s physical condition and mental well-being, or result in improved economic circumstances for a majority, we have to consider what we know about the diffusion of innovation. William Gibson, in the late 20th century, wrote: ‘The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed.’ The problem with innovation and its power to change society and the lives of most citizens is that the best of it diffuses slowly and in response to economic, not social, incentives. A further complication is that most people have been shown to react to fear far more quickly and completely than they will ever respond to their hopes and dreams. Benjamin Franklin famously said: ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ Those in control of the development and deployment of technology will see to it that mastery of its benefits will go to people who are much like themselves and who are in agreement with their own world view. True democracy allows people to exercise their free will through informed choice. At the moment, control of such choice is in the hands of a very few. The vast majority must simply wait to be told of their options, their future, their fate.”
Eduardo Villanueva-Mansilla, an ssociate professor of communications at Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Peru, and editor of the Journal of Community Informatics, said, “I don’t see how it may happen, mostly because of the combined pressures of a global economy pushing toward more integration between national and global economies and the threat of the climate emergency. However, there should be some room for optimism.”
Jaime McCauley, an associate professor of sociology at Coastal Carolina University and expert in social movements and social change, wrote, “I am most optimistic about innovation leading to improvement in physical health because we already invest so much time, energy, money and tech into health care. I am least optimistic about worker protections. We have been on a trajectory of weakening workers’ rights and protections for decades now. Most young people don’t remember a ‘social contract’ in place where companies provided stable wages and strong benefits for workers. We encourage individualistic and competitive thinking that inhibits largescale labor organizing that lead to positive social change in the past. At the end of the day, tech is used in a way that reflects cultural attitudes. Could workers use tech to innovate and organize for stronger workplace protections? Absolutely. But in an overall cultural climate that encourages ‘every man for himself’ thinking and belittles collective action, maybe not. Though, movements like Occupy Wall Street show this type of organizing is possible – and aided by tech – and may make a difference if sustained.”
Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers University, responded, “The relevant question to me is whether tech innovation will lead to progress in global warming, which is the biggest threat to societies and the planet. And I fear that battle has already been lost. The political system on a global scale did not develop quickly enough, and I fear we have more down than up ahead of us. The logic for the optimism/repairs advances isn’t clear to me. One thing that is clear to me is that money and the profit motive drive things. There is a reason that the rich have gotten richer and that the distribution of wealth has become more concentrated at the top in the U.S. and most other societies. I think one has to expect this will continue to be the case rather than ‘the public good’ somehow becoming a stronger value.”
Michael Muller, a researcher for a top global technology company focused on human aspects of data science and ethics and values in applications of artificial intelligence, said, “There are chances for substantial change. However, much of the positive social changes in the past century have come from social and civic organizations such as organized labor and civic organizations such as Charter 77. These types of organizations – i.e., this component of people power – are much weakened under current technology and political practices. I fear that this segment of civic society may not be strong enough to lead in the challenges that we are facing.”
Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles, founder of CornDancer.com, said, “We are snared in a cyber paradox: Yes, we shall create and innovate with code and device, write laws and algorithms intended to protect and defend, come together ‘online’ with enthusiasm and determination – or desperation – to form altruistic and civic-minded groups in pursuit of the common good. … But all to little or no avail. There is no good outcome for the smallholder in the coming Decade of Consolidation. The major players through corporate and legislative strangleholds and unbridled economic power shall counter every proactive, positive step forward into the light of a World Wide Web with an equal or stronger pushback into the dark places of subservience or mute indifference, where sly misinformation or outright oppression flow second-by-second o’er the wires of smart little devices to keep the masses in check.”
Rich Salz, senior architect at Akamai Technologies, responded, “It wasn’t until I nearly completed the questions that I realized how depressed this makes me. Capitalism in the U.S. rules. Little will be done, and what there is will be ineffectual and/or tied up in the courts. The alternative – China, or even the India model – is worse.”
When video can be manipulated and you can’t even believe what your own eyes show you to be true, what hope do you have that actual facts will support democratic decision-making?
Vince Carducci, researcher of new uses of communication to mobilize civil society and dean at the College of Creative Studies, commented, “The subsumption of individual identity under big data will likely continue as technology proliferates under so-called platform/surveillance capitalism. Guy Debord’s critique of spectacle society will expand in more granular form with technologies of self-monitoring and self-control within social media. A bleak outlook to be sure. But you asked.”
Torben Riise, CEO at ExecuTeam Inc., observed, “Technologies, including digital-based, represent potentials for change but are in and of themselves not agents of change – nor are they ethically charged as good or bad. To live up to the potential, society needs to be ready, willing and able, and in applying technology in any area, the good or bad is in the hand of the user. As such, technology may not reach their potential by 2030 (yet still contribute to important changes) because: 1) at any given time, society is not yet ready to accept what new technologies can deliver; a good example is self-driving cars; 2) the gap between those who can afford the technology output and those who cannot not will not close – certainly not at a global level; this will in particular be obvious in medical technology; 3) those who can use new technologies to the benefit of society – the ‘establishment’ – are less progressive than those who are not at a decision-making level (young people), despite their superior skill and preparedness. There are many reasons for these problems, but one most often overlooked ones is that the ‘establishment’ has over the past 25 years proven that it is not capable of solving the problems it has created because it does not involve all stakeholders in issues that affect them. One example is the absence of young people in the discussion about modernizing education.”
Laura Sallstrom, an international public policy analyst, wrote, “Democratic institutions and the mechanisms that support them are most at risk. I do not see a clear way out of the problem of disinformation and misinformation in technology platforms. When video can be manipulated and you can’t even believe what your own eyes show you to be true, what hope do you have that actual facts will support democratic decision-making? We cannot retool fast enough to lift up the lower-income portions of the labor force. Technology is moving too quickly, and too often we define progress as greater efficiency in labor or more technology. We need to redefine ‘progress’ to include employment. There are clearly technology solutions being developed to address individual user privacy, and the debate has been expanded to such an extent that there is a possibility to see a successful outcome here. It is impossible to eliminate bias altogether in algorithms or anything that originates with humans. The focus on ethics has however been very helpful and may shift the needle.”
David Bernstein, a retired market-research and new-product-development professional, said, “It seems unlikely that social and civic innovations are likely to resolve some issues that have plagued individuals for many decades. While work-life balance may improve, it seems unlikely that innovations will not continue to disrupt our lives. We don’t like change, and when our financial and environmental security is threatened our physical and emotional health suffers.”
Deb Socia, executive director of Next Century Cities, commented, “Though I am generally optimistic about the potential for successful social and civic innovation, I am worried that some issues will not be positively impacted. In particular, I do not trust that technology will improve the opportunity for people to discern truth from fiction in the news they consume. I do not believe that the changes will improve our ability to receive unbiased local news. I do think that we could mitigate these concerns if we had the will and fortitude to do so. However, I have not seen evidence that this will be addressed in a meaningful way.”
Ian Peter, a pioneering internet rights activist, responded, “There is no doubt at all that big data-gathering has the potential to allow significant improvements in areas such as medical research – so it’s not all bad! However, the unregulated surveillance economy regards personal data as a commodity to be shared for profit, and large industry players using a transboundary network cannot be easily regulated by over 190 nation states acting unilaterally. This dilemma allows for unregulated monopoly behaviour which may regard ethical behaviour as secondary to corporate profitability.”
Dan Gillmor, technology writer and director at the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Arizona State University, commented, “This will cut both ways, but it’s difficult at the moment to imagine how reformers can win against the overwhelming power of centralized control. As Zeynep Tufekci observed in her recent book, power learns.”
Andrew Nachison, chief marketing officer for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, observed, “I don’t see tech per se as ‘the answer’ to our woes. We need a new regime to pay for local journalism, and advocacy to popularize new visions will help us get there. But what we really need are more reporters on the ground, in the field, interviewing people face-to-face, and investigating corruption and human needs. Tech is incidental to presence. AI and advancing capabilities with data will enhance biotech and the search for genetic insights, new cures and treatments; and gradual improvements in medical records tech should empower individuals as well as medical professionals to make better decisions, coordinate care and improve outcomes. But will tech bring more fresh local produce to communities that lack it? Or pervasive mobile broadband to rural areas and towns so the people who live in them can access financial, medical and other services as well as people who live in San Francisco? Will tech repair and replace crumbling bridges, or revive underinvested communities that are fading as wealth and people accumulate in just a handful of booming metropolises? Will tech wipe out the discrimination in work, banking, housing and commerce that tech now enables with unprecedented efficiency? Markets and capitalism are failing. People and policymakers will have to force these things. Tech may help us rally, share knowledge and activate citizens and policymakers, but antigovernment zealots and people paid to preserve the status quo will also use tech to fight us every step of the way. The fundamental question we need to answer isn’t about tech, it’s about people. Who will lead us to a better world?”
Ian O’Byrne, an assistant professor of education at the College of Charleston, wrote, “I see this as a balancing act as well. I think net positives will occur, but these will be counteracted by bad actors in online, offline and unseen spaces. Ultimately, we are regularly naive when we consider the power and equality that may be wrought by technology, yet not conscientious enough to ensure this comes to fruition. Technological, social and civic innovation will be led by educators as they increasingly recognize and educate, advocate and empower youth as they engage in digital social spaces. Developers and entrepreneurs will create new platforms and tools to make this easier to utilize. Even with these gains, developers and corporations will seek to maintain market advantage, collect/sell data on users and obfuscate when exposed. Users will in turn continue to move to affinity spaces and siloed discussion spaces where they interact with individuals with similar beliefs. The same (and new, worse) dangers will continue to exist.”
Carol Chetkovich, a professor emeritus of public policy at Mills College, said, “I find it puzzling and somewhat disturbing that we seem to be looking so hard for technical changes that will somehow help us repair our condition, when it seems that we’re in pretty serious need of an intellectual + spiritual evolution. Technology is very important as a set of tools to get certain things done (e.g., hack-resistant but widely accessible voting processes) but the tool doesn’t drive the performance; it just facilitates it (or perhaps inhibits negative interference with the performance). There are areas in which technical fixes are very important (e.g., in doing less environmental damage), but it’s harder to see a technical fix for problems in the working of our democracy. Again, the idea of ‘innovation’ solving our problems seems incorrect to me. We desperately need a reorientation, in which we all become more invested in collective outcomes and collaborative processes, but it’s hard to see what kind of innovation would produce that (though the shift itself would be revolutionary). If I’m pressed to imagine a social or civic innovation, I might think of something like political problem-solving using the citizen jury model (and civic dialogue in general). The citizen jury model would be innovative in the sense of being outside our norm, but not innovative in the sense of being brand new.”
Richard Lachmann, a professor of political sociology at the State University of New York, Albany, said, “The institutions and social settings that make innovation likely – political parties, unions, churches, etc. – have weakened greatly in the last half century. That is why I think it is unlikely that social and civic innovation will occur in the next 10 years. The factors we can measure do not point to innovation. The only hope for innovation is that eruptions of powerful social movements are unpredictable. We need to place our hope in the possibility that humans can surprise by coming together to meet the environmental and other dangers we all face.”
Polina Kolozaridi, a sociologist based at the National Research University of Economics, Moscow, expert in the politics of Russia, wrote, “I am quite skeptical toward the term of ‘social and civic innovation.’ It supposes some linear development of something called world as well as technology. It is from my point of view rather like a bricolage or mixture of norms and practices. The word ‘success’ is also very uncertain here. I am sure that different social groups will be further and further from each other, losing any common ground. Of course, different technologies will help them to make boundaries. … When it comes to health and education, as inequality deepens, new technologies in both these spheres will also make the situation worse (less and less equal).”
A futurist based in North America observed, “The imperatives of capitalism have driven the tech industry toward increasingly addictive technologies that swallow vast amounts of people’s time and attention. Without regulation making such systems illegal or a robust alternative to capitalism which takes its place, this will not change.”
The quotes above hardly cover all the complexities society will face in the coming years. The coming chapters of this report explore more of them and outline how these experts expect innovations may unfold or be thwarted. The following sections share experts’ views about the power dynamics that affect the possibility of change, the ways in which pressing problems will interact with tech-specific issues, the historical trends that help explain current conditions and the inherent problems or cross-currents that would-be innovators face.