A significant number of these experts outlined their dreams about the kinds of internet-enabled communities that could emerge by 2035. Among the traits they seek in those online spaces: activities that diminish social inequalities; groups in which participants’ main focus is on collecting, organizing, publishing and archiving useful, reality-based knowledge; healthy debates that create trusted centers of knowledge; discourse in which evidence prevails over arguments that come from those with status and emotionally-compelling material; contributions from AI and machines complement and smarten up the contributions of humans; clampdowns on antisocial behavior that suppresses people’s interest in contributing; and a global culture of lifelong education built around people supporting each other’s growth.

Melissa Sassi, the Global Head of IBM Hyper Protect Accelerator, commented, “In 2035 I see a world where underserved and underrepresented communities have a greater role in creating, making and doing in both the tech entrepreneurship space and computer science in general. This will result in a more people-centered internet that is truly for the people, with the people, and by the people, implementing the true vision of Vint Cerf – the father of the Internet. I see tech playing a role in each and every industry and in all aspects of our lives. This will be a world in which people are trained, skilled and ready to make meaningful use of the internet to drive economic, educational, health care and agricultural outcomes. Many problems could be diminished, including alleviating the need for tactical, operational and repeatable tasks that could be handled by artificial intelligence. E-government services could replace time-consuming manual and repeatable tasks that lack accountability, transparency and ease. Blockchain and digital assets could alleviate challenges associated with inflation relating to faulty monetary policies and/or federal banking institutions. The world could be connected to the internet and have the access, skills and utilization of tech necessary to drive the aforementioned outcomes.

  • I see a world where there’s greater diversity and inclusion in tech, including the builders and the users.
  • I see a world where people transition from solely being users of technology into people who create, make and do, empowered by technology and the skills that go along with such empowerment.
  • I see an informed society when it comes to rights, civic duty, volunteerism, collaboration, communication and leveraging tech to inspire and empower others.
  • I see a world where people understand healthy online habits; this may include attention to emotional intelligence, screen time, addiction and elements that could be seen as unsavory.
  • I see a world where organizations at all levels, both public and private, put greater effort into data protection, privacy and security that eradicate ransomware and other information-security breaches from nefarious characters looking to exploit vulnerable people, systems, policies and technology.
  • This is a world in which companies begin to manage data-protection, privacy and security through technological solutions and rely less on training and policy writing alone.”

Stephen Downes, an expert with the Digital Technologies Research Centre of the National Research Council of Canada, wrote, “In a nutshell: I hope to see communities that are supportive and not toxic. To be clear: This is a really high bar, and a lot of things have to fall into place for this to happen. There has to be an increase in productivity through automation, there has to be some measure of a more equitable distribution of wealth and there has to be social resistance to the politics of fear and division. Let me be clear that I do not think this is achieved by the creation of community through segregation. That has never worked. If we simply separate people into distinct interest groups, whether they’re based on language, religion, culture, favourite TV show, etc., we do not eliminate toxicity, because, first, these groups clash with each other, and second, because factions inside the segregated groups begin to develop and clash with each other. So, I do not foresee a segregated digital environment in the future. If we go in that direction then we have failed utterly to create something that is ‘new and improved.’

By 2035 we can see how these [decentralized] systems could become the way we make decisions moving forward, not just on national platforms, but globally, and not just for finances but for laws and social policy generally.

Stephen Downes, an expert with the Digital Technologies Research Centre of the National Research Council of Canada

“What I would envision is a ‘community of communities’ model, where there is an easy and fluid transition from one community to another, where a person can maintain membership in multiple communities, where communities are dynamic, self-organizing and self-forming, and where these communities are characterized not by barriers between ‘inside and outside’ but rather by the active connections and interactions between members (thus it becomes impossible for an outsider to disrupt a community, because there isn’t a ‘space’ they can invade, but it becomes easy for members to come and go, because membership requires nothing more than interaction).

“Such a community is more like a circle of friends than it is a place, though the circle might habitually meet in a certain place. But what makes the circle work is that the members can build a community directly and select a new place if the old place isn’t working for them, or to arrange the timing of their gatherings so people can’t simply interrupt them, though the circle meets publicly enough, in an open place, so as to allow for serendipity and fluidity of interaction. This works only if there is more than one place they can meet, only if there’s a variety of different settings with different affordances, so they could meet at a cafe, a gym, a bar, a swap meet, a hockey game – whatever suits their interests and affinities.

“In this network of digital circles of friends, people are not limited to talking and physical activities; they can play games, co-author documents, make movies, whatever. One of the attractions of TikTok is the way it has made these sorts of interactions (through, for example, the ‘duet’) seamless and intuitive. And in the ‘new and improved’ digital realm of 2035, these interactions and their outcomes create genuine benefits and impact; communities cooperating together can generate flows of resources to create social infrastructure, and their deliberations feed into, and become a part of, community decision making.

“Many years ago, when I was first hired at my current employer, I used my inaugural lecture to pitch a concept of what I called a ‘budget simulator’ to capture this idea. To be sure, I was young and idealistic at the time, and thought it could really be implemented within my tenure. The idea was that people could join and each would get their own personal budget simulator where they could plan out the federal government budget: what would be taxed or collected, how much, where the money would be spent, and on what priorities. It’s the sort of thing that could start as a simple spreadsheet but become much more detailed as more people became interested and as people’s interests narrowed. The community part occurs where people contribute on given line items, given priorities, wherever. People can exchange ideas, argue with each other, negotiate, etc. They can draw on a sea of resources from economists, universities, Statistics Canada, and in these communities they can offer justifications or explanations for their particular decisions.

“There are no ‘set’ communities, but rather, a fluid mechanism to create a circle around a topic (not through some formal process, the way Google+ set it up, but by simply informally interacting with each other). Obviously, people could influence each other, but there would be no way to influence everybody. An idea, to be successful, would have to pass through from context to context on its own. And, ultimately, each person would manage their own budget simulation, to whatever degree of detail they felt comfortable with. It’s not a ‘vote’ – it’s just an expression of preferences. It wouldn’t be a vote because there’s no real way to vote on budgets when there are so many different versions of the same thing. Each factor has an impact on the other; what revenues are collected directly impact what is spent, and different methods of collecting and spending impact what can be collected and spent, and so on. That’s why federal budgets are hundreds, maybe thousands, of pages long. But somewhere in there, there is a consensus – a way of expressing what would make the most people the most happy (or maybe there are several ways of doing this) and these consensus can be better and better known, and over time – even without a formal process – it becomes difficult to justify actually managing the federal budget in a way that varies from the consensus, and thus the budget simulator effectively becomes the decision-making body for the budget.

“Now this is probably in the far future, but maybe by 2035 we have the framework of such a system; we have the self-organizing decentralized communities, and we have personal tools like a budget simulation engine, and we have moved away from centralized social networks.

“By 2035 we can see how these systems could become the way we make decisions moving forward, not just on national platforms, but globally, and not just for finances but for laws and social policy generally. And we are beginning to ask what it would take to make such a system work effectively to reach good decisions. And we’re talking about education and open access to learning resources plus the ability of each person to be able to envision and work toward social policy that not only helps them but also helps others – what has been called in the past ‘enlightened self-interest’.”

David J. Krieger, director of the Institute for Communication and Leadership, based in Lucerne, Switzerland, responded, “The fundamental norms and values of a data-driven global network society in which decisions on all levels and in all areas are based on evidence instead of position, intuition, bias and so on are: connectivity, the free flow of information, communication, participation, flexibility and transparency. These values are the norms guiding digital life and practice insofar as they underlie the construction of networks in business, education, health care, science and politics.

“These network norms require new forms of regulation and organization – no longer can there be top-down command and control communication; bottom-up, self-organizing governance frameworks are needed. Government must become governance. If we take the example of education, learning analytics will gather and evaluate with AI all data involving a student’s learning activities, which include social activities, sport, etc., and will derive the optimal course of studies for this particular student including not only content, but methods, learning path, etc. This personalized educational journey will begin in primary school and proceed throughout the individual’s lifetime, including on-the-job training, continuing education and all other learning activities regardless of institution or employer. The data will belong not to the educational institution alone but also to the student who has a say in how the data is used. Schools will be self-organizing networks including students as stakeholders. They will be regulated not by economic or political priorities but by the governance regime established by all the stakeholders following the norms of connectivity, the free flow of information, communication, participation, flexibility and transparency. The state plays only the role of auditor to ensure the governance regime is fair and effective.”

One of the most remarkable developments over the past 20 years or so has been the shift to thinking of learning as a public activity. … If you have a question, you might as well ask it in a public place so that others can find the answer. … I hope that we find ways to bind this knowledge together more formally and openly than accessing it via search engines.

David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society

David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, commented, “One of the most remarkable developments over the past 20 years or so has been the shift to thinking of learning as a public activity. Increasingly, keeping what you learn private looks like selfishness. If you have a question, you might as well ask it in a public place so that others can find the answer. If you know how to do something, you might as well write it up and post it. I hope that we find ways to bind this knowledge together more formally and openly than accessing it via search engines.

“Search engines are great, but – underneath at least – the Google search engine is their ‘knowledge graph,’ a web of knowledge in which each piece is ultimately connected to every other. It is loosely structured, unlike a database, so everything in it can have as many connections as it needs. Now imagine a knowledge graph that is not owned by any one entity that can easily connect to other centers of knowledge so that it’s constantly growing and becoming enriched with more connections. What a glorious resource it could be! It would have to be easy to filter so that groups that want a version free of what they consider to be prejudices could be accessible. And, of course, it would have to have an open license so it can be used as a source without having to request permission. There are bunches of efforts in this direction already. The Underlay project, the WikiData project affiliated with Wikipedia, the fledgling Open Global Mind come to mind. This would be a great project for the world’s libraries and librarians to oversee.”

Bruce Bimber, a professor of political science and founder of the Center for Information Technology and Society at the University of California-Santa Barbara, suggested, “I’d like to see legislatures and courts realize that ‘incitement’ works differently online than in physical spaces. It works faster, with global reach. We have to rethink the fact that we now tolerate societies tearing themselves apart online because we are stuck in a 1970s-era conception of speech and communication. I would like to imagine a world online where free speech is understood in a much more nuanced and relevant way. Shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater in the real world is understood to pose a threat and is not protected by free speech principles. The same is true for racial slurs, and ‘fighting words.’ At this point, shouting ‘fire’ in online theaters is tolerated and social media companies bear no responsibility for people issuing racial slurs and fighting words inside their business operations.”

Deirdre Williams, an independent internet governance consultant, said, “In 2035 my youngest grandchild will be turning 14 and I, if I am still around, will be 88. Because of the familiarity with diversity bred by ‘digital life,’ both of us will feel happy and relaxed in the world we live in. I will feel perfectly comfortable living inside a White skin in a majority Black-skinned country – in fact almost invariably that is how I feel currently – and she, in her brown skin, will feel at home in a country still predominantly White but where there is nothing unusual about ‘looking different’ because the difference is no longer marked as being of significance. Both of us are female, but this will be neither an asset nor a liability. There will no longer be a distinction between her ‘developed’ birth country and my ‘developing’ country of residence. The philosophy and the language will have changed. Variations on the term ‘developed’ will have become old-fashioned, will almost have been forgotten. The world will have learned to accept difference as normal.

“There will no longer be bullying attempts by some countries to force all countries to emulate them. The mindset will have changed toward tolerance, sharing, collaboration. There will continue to be disruptive (in the old-fashioned sense) elements, but these will be smothered by peaceful peer pressure. The global population will be settling into a phase of collaboration, facilitated by ‘digital life,’ while at the same time celebrating the specialties, the individual differences between people and people. This will all happen because of the propinquity enabled by ‘digital life.’”

Eugene H. Spafford, leading computer security expert and professor of computer science at Purdue University, responded, “I see the possibility for community service hubs. These would be digital points similar to the ways in which citizens can telephone the numbers 211 or 411 or 911 in the United States and get a seamless connection to community and government services. Hubs could allow anyone in need of health care, education, social services, child care, civil information or simply someone to chat with to connect to useful information. A combination of AI and in-person response would result in connection to an appropriate point of contact – or actual delivery – for the service. What we do now with web searches, back-and-forth email and phone calls would instead be an integrated service. People would only need to know one address to contact for services.”

I see the possibility for community service hubs. These would be digital points similar to the ways in which citizens can telephone the numbers 211 or 411 or 911 in the United States and get a seamless connection to community and government services.

Eugene H. Spafford, leading computer security expert and professor of computer science at Purdue University

Deana Rohlinger, professor of sociology at Florida State University focused on media, digital participation and politics, said, “If I throw out a lot of contemporary knowledge regarding political behavior online – not to mention digital inequity – and try to think about a shift that is possible (although it will probably not be widespread), my vignette would go something like this:

“It is a typical morning for Fatima. She took her morning run, showered and is ready for coffee and the news of the day. She instructs her smart home, Victor, to display the morning news and different groupings of topics appear on the screen. She asks for a closer look at the headlines related to local politics. She notices that county officials are talking about raising taxes again for local schools and she wants to know more. She asks Victor to give her a summary of the proposal and the superintendent of schools pops up on the screen and briefly outlines schools’ needs, the average cost of the tax hike per household and a timeline for spending. Fatima then asks Victor to open the link providing her an economic summary of current school spending in the county. A series of visuals with a voice-over gives her a picture of school spending in the county for the last 15 years, including a comparison to demographically and economically similar districts in the state. Finally, she instructs Victor to take her to the live community chat on this topic. She wants to hear what others are saying.

“A gallery pops up and she can see, among others, her friend Gina in her kitchen. Gina’s kids are getting their lunches ready for school as Gina tells listeners about her limited support for the tax increase. She says that her children’s school simply needs a tech upgrade. Another parent whose children go to the same school chimes in that the science labs could really use some new equipment. Fatima listens to the debate over school until the community discussion ends at its designated time. The automated moderator signals that a summary of the conversation will be sent to the district and schools mentioned. Fatima decides she will vote for the increase.”

Paul Jones, emeritus professor of information science at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, offered this scenario: “She is not as she appears to be, but then no one is these days. Everyone changes themselves in various ways almost daily. Yet – somewhere beyond the physical, visual and tactical modifications chosen – each of us keeps something of the original. What we see and hear and feel now is more than a projection. Something nearly solid carrying with it (her in this case) even the illusion of a subtle scent. The Presence Module is by now very sophisticated, making virtual and augmented realities of 15 years ago seem like 8-bit graphics must have looked to her parents. These were retro-amusements but not something that could compare to the way we do things now.

“We can’t be sure where she is in the world, in her other physical being, the one that requires various bio-up-keepings – things like sleep and food and the like. How she appears now may have even been recorded ahead of this meeting, not just for playback but for interactions, for a multitude of possibilities of actions and reactions. There are rules, of course, but who really follows those? They change from country to country in any case. But the norms are fairly simple and mostly followed. And each Apparition, as they are called, has to be linked to a fleshy mate, however tangential the resemblance. One-to-one. Or so say the laws. That everyone agrees upon, at least socially and legally. Yet like the legendary sailors and traveling salesmen, some perform several different lives at the same time or almost the same time, visiting virtual port after port to cavort and work out con games.

“She seems well-prepared, not just in having the facts – those are simple to come by – nor in arguments – those, too, come easily thanks to templates, but with the ease in which our meeting is conducted. She listens, or so it seems. Of course, she has access to our body states. She knows who is zoning out or alert. Or, so she thinks. So much of that can be handled by our own Apparitions who, while not completely autonomous, have a couple of tricks of our own unique to us.”

Perry Hewitt, chief marketing officer at data.org, a platform for partnerships to build the field of data science for social impact, commented, “If I could envision one area with a new and improved digital experience, I am hopeful for education. Ideally, U.S. universities will become less selective and more expansive in their missions, developing collaborations and technologies that can reach more students with core content and partner for in-person local delivery and engagement. At the same time, the definition of a ‘student’ in higher education must change from our mental model of 18- to 22-year-olds on a physical campus. Even today, that’s a minority of undergraduates. As jobs require more-sophisticated use of technology (and the critical thinking, humanist concerns needed for ethical deployment), by 2035 there should be an ingrained path for lifelong learning. Digital educational spaces must provide:

  • Effective content delivery;
  • Online/offline learning opportunities;
  • Peer community engagement in safe spaces;
  • Meaningful evaluation; and
  • A self-learning capability where learning gains and challenges improve the model.”

Calton Pu, professor of computer science, software chair and co-director of the Center for Experimental Research Systems at Georgia Tech, wrote, “A vision for a ‘new and improved’ digital realm of 2035 would be an information civilization where most people can easily see and understand factual information through improved digital spaces. The distinction of facts from opinions would help reduce the propagation of misinformation and disinformation. This fundamental change will improve our physical and mental health, as well as bring social, economic and political benefits.

“Of course, people will be entitled to their own opinions, but they should know when their opinions conflict with the facts (e.g., a flat world and vaccine hesitancy). One of the important reasons for the success of information civilization is the adoption of factual information as building blocks. Facts make good foundations on which to build; they do not crumble easily.

“We are at the dawn of information civilization. Although it seems impossible to imagine a life without digital spaces, the internet was created only about 50 years ago. The benefits of digital life have only begun, primarily on the physical dimensions, e.g., the same logistics infrastructure that helped us live through the pandemic. Deep inside, most humans remain unaware of the fundamental distinction between factual information and misinformation. They think everything is just a matter of opinion and each person is entitled to his/her/their own opinions.

“This ‘barbaric’ view that downgrades factual information to be deemed lesser than opinions is clearly visible in the difficulties of convincing a higher percentage of people to take COVID-19 vaccines. The facts are very clear: 1) The vaccines are very effective, including against the more infectious new variants; 2) Very rarely do they have serious side effects, if any; and 3) They are needed for achieving herd immunity and to stop the next generation of new variants from arising. Despite these well-known and well-publicized facts, there are more vaccines in the U.S. than people who want to take them, even as the pandemic rages and grows around the world. The vaccine hesitancy is a concrete instance of a question sometimes asked in the media: ‘How do we convince people to believe in science?’ That apparently innocuous question misses the whole point of science and the distinction of facts versus opinions. By definition, scientific skepticism would not ‘believe’ in science, which is built on facts. There are very few benefits to have people ‘believe in science,’ which would be an opinion easily changed.”

Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, wrote, “I expect education technology that delivers personalized learning experiences. Classrooms today are outdated, and Zoom has only helped parents firsthand see the challenges with synchronous learning models. A massive investment in ed tech could help transform the U.S. education system. By 2035, social media platforms will give users more choice. This will give people more control over their data, and also how they interact with others. For example, more choice over what is shown in their timelines or what appears in their recommendations. More choice over whether to see only vetted news sources or whether to see labels about the veracity of content. Better connectivity will also transform physical space, leading to more augmented and virtual reality. The same debates we have today about social media will map onto these virtual spaces. And email will be dead.”

Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at Rochester Institute of Technology, wrote, “By 2035, I’d like to see a new and improved way of approaching local social networking. I’d like to imagine that new techno-social arrangements will be created with better local governance mechanisms; perhaps they can bring about needed reform that’s harder to institute at scale. With local newspapers withering away and specialized groups on the leading social media platforms having the burden of depending on companies with checkered histories, services like the one Nextdoor provides initially seemed promising, on paper at least. But the reality, as critics contend, is that public interest communication on services like Nextdoor all too often is subverted through the amplification of racial and class prejudices, the spread of dangerous misinformation, a spirit of meanness and pettiness and other damning problems. In other words, the toxic features of large-scale social media appear to be replicated in the local varieties.”

Eileen Rudden, co-founder of LearnLaunch, responded, “By 2035, we will have a better perspective on the value of in-person and virtual experiences and interactions. The pandemic has accelerated this trend by forcing people to try more digital experiences than they might have in the past. Digital education will be much more prevalent and accepted in 2035, especially in college, graduate school and corporate training. This will result in more access to education for those who are working and with families. More universities will adopt the online student support innovations of South New Hampshire University, Western Governors University and Arizona State University. At the high school level, students will have broader access to courses not offered in person at their school, again leading to broader access. Relationships between teachers and students and among students themselves will continue to be of primary importance, and in-person education will be considered the gold standard for relationship building, even as relationships are supported online.”

Theresa Pardo, senior fellow at the Center for Technology in Government at University at Albany-SUNY, commented, “A new and improved digital realm would be one in which we are able to identify and eliminate the sources of structural racism, in particular those that result in minority health disparities. In this new and improved digital realm, data is collected, managed and used in ways that help ensure we have a full understanding of structural discrimination of all kinds and that we use that data, along with expert knowledge and community engagement, to create continuous processes of evaluation and refinement of relevant policies and programs to ensure that disparities of all kinds are identified, understood at their source and then eliminated so we can achieve health and social equity. Our research has shown that race and ethnicity data is often not collected by health care providers, in many cases, at all, and when collected, it is often not usable across county systems, throughout a state and at the national level.”

John L. King, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Information Science, observed, “The biggest change could come from giving those who have little or no ‘voice’ fuller access to the public square. These people have mental and/or physical reasons they can’t participate at present. By 2035 it will become more possible to dial-in the means to incorporate them without doing violence to them. The rest of us will confront a more pluralistic world than we’ve known, but this seems to go in the right direction. I’m specifically looking forward to the growth of assistive technologies that will help people avoid being shut out of liberating activities as readily as they have been in the present and past.”

Ray Schroeder, senior fellow at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, commented, “We are at the tipping point at which we can see a majority of learners engaging online. The flexibility and personification of learning online using AI technologies will change the way that we teach and learn. Already, we are seeing a growing community of adult learners who are seeking upskilling, reskilling and career-changing credentials in online programs. Already, Coursera and other massive online programs are thriving. They are turning real profits. As such, their field will grow and grow. Surveys of workers show that they seek professional development. As we move into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we will see expanded online learning and development. It will be increasingly self-paced and adaptive.”

Chris Labash, associate teaching professor of information systems management at Carnegie Mellon, said, “I would love to see a digital space devoted to intellectual exploration of considering the prevailing point(s) of view with alternative ones. Universal basic income is an example. The prevailing point of view here in the U.S. was (before COVID-19, at any rate) that it was not affordable and it was unattainable, unfair, unsustainable, rewarded laziness and violated our Puritan work ethic. Research (and now experience) shows that’s just not true. Perhaps by engaging in a wider consideration of all the facets of an idea, we can challenge our own biases and come to a more thoughtful and balanced understanding of ideas, and so engage in more intelligent dialog around them.”

A Chinese social media researcher wrote, “There could be some innovative technologies that help individuals to team up in peer-to-peer ways to generate a higher level of intelligence or social consciousness to help information getting into order in a way that will not torture or confuse the common public, especially the young generations.”

A North American research scientist commented, “We will be working in a virtual 3D space that will give people around the world access each other. This will broaden our understanding of our role in the world; we will become more understanding of different groups and races.”

Ian O’Byrne, an assistant professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston, said, “Our digital futures will be fluid, deictic, and ambiguous in nature. New as-yet undeveloped literacies, technologies, and practices will soon take root. This requires a continual re-examination of the knowledge, skills and dispositions utilized as we read and write the web. We need our schools to create cognitively flexible individuals that are nimble enough to handle any digital contexts while being empowered to create new possibilities.”

Karl M. van Meter, research sociologist and director of the Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, wrote, “Of course, better education and better information exchange for all people is necessary to improve global well-being, and by 2035 the two together will greatly improve the contribution of the internet to society in general and, at the same time, damper the deleterious aspects of the internet.”

Stephen Abram, principal at Lighthouse Consulting, predicted, “Once the issue of systemic bias in ‘big data’ is addressed we will see some massive improvements in discovery of ‘new’ ways of viewing things. For example, moving beyond the Western and White bias in genomic data, we have opportunities to understand disease and consumer health at a plateau heretofore never really mined. On the political front, it might be beyond 2035 that we can hope for diverse points of view to be able to be seen in social data – rather than the U.S.-centric bipolarization in thought to one informed by many communities’ experiences.”

In 2035, access to knowledge will be free or negative cost (i.e., philanthropic institutions will pay people to remove ignorance in critical areas).

Thornton May, futurist and co-founder of the Digital Value Institute

Thornton May, futurist and co-founder of the Digital Value Institute, noted, “With everyone and just about everything online, the ‘cost of knowledge’ has never been lower. Thomas Jefferson almost bankrupted himself buying books. In 2035, access to knowledge will be free or negative cost (i.e., philanthropic institutions will pay people to remove ignorance in critical areas). With so many folks on the ‘past middle age’ stage of the demographic curve, there is a huge body of knowledge that can be tapped. I envision significant improvements in the digital ability of someone to raise their hand and ask for help. Think a knowledge version of Go Fund Me pages. The dark side of digital is misinformation and the ability of personal-agenda-obsessed ‘fringers’ to slow legitimate knowledge accumulation.

“Many individuals currently ages 18 to 34 have never really experienced great leadership and benefited from the tutelage of exceptional teachers/professors. Think of transitioning the nation’s ‘nursing homes’ into skill accelerators/mentoring spots for younger people (instead of the ‘places people go to die’). Could we tap the collective genius of the just-now-retiring extraordinary leaders/teachers and use it to assist the next generation?”

Scott G.K. MacLeod, an associate professor of educational leadership at the University of Colorado-Denver, said, “There are many ways to imagine a better world online, many of which are already in the process of development, including a free, universal education offered by organizations like the World University and School (WUaS), which envisions free universal education through people-to-people wiki teaching, and MIT’s well-known OpenCourseWare. In addition, universal basic income (UBI) programs and experiments are emerging globally in a quest to help end poverty. Health promotion is also becoming more widespread, as more programs than ever are now connecting professional medical and mental health services to those with no such resources in their communities or no ability to attain such services in person.

“The following initiatives may have a big impact as they develop further: 1) A realistic virtual Earth, a mirror world for everything – and especially actual-virtual, physical-digital developments and conversation. 2) A single, open cryptocurrency backed by most of 200 countries’ central banks, such the Pi public-access digital currency network, could help end poverty in concert with other positive economic developments such as universal basic income experiments with each person receiving a Wikidata PIN number for distribution questions as well as a device for accessing this. 3) The World University and School – like MIT’s advanced Open Courseware in its four languages and Wikipedia in its 300 languages – but in each of 200 countries and in the 7,139 known living languages; a free online university offering high school, college-level and graduate school degrees.”

Rajnesh Singh, chair at Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum, commented, “A ‘new and improved digital realm’ will only come into being when ‘the last girl in the last village’ is connected online and she is able to participate in the digital realm in a safe, secure and empowering manner. Reflecting on where things are at right now, it should be obvious that we have a very long way to go.”

A professor based in Australia responded, “The internet is thoroughly owned by and operated out of the first world. The first world has a standard of living that has been obtained through the relentless exploitation of underdeveloped nations. Now is the time for things to change. It would be amazing to use a peak product of the developed world to redress the disadvantages suffered in developing nations. There are one-to-many tutoring systems like Khan Academy, but many forms of technical knowledge and skilling can only really be successful if enacted through more personalized and direct one-to-one training that may emerge through advances in VR and AR by 2035. Mixing this with an Uber model would be very interesting. I would love to be able to mentor/tutor individuals in the third world, but since I know my health would be challenged greatly by living conditions there, I would have to do so via the internet. It would be a true marvel.”