This report covers results from the 16th “Future of the Internet” canvassing by Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.
Advances in the digital tools and systems have allowed humans to benefit greatly. “Being digital” has significantly expanded the ability to connect, to cope and to take on and solve complex problems. It has amplified their personal and collective power to understand, shape and bring great enhancements to their lives and the world. Yet the best and most beneficial features of becoming “humanity-plus” – becoming humans augmented by digital tools and systems – have also amplified and spread the most harmful and menacing aspects of human nature. This canvassing of experts gathered opinions on the trending positives and negatives of this evolution and sought to find where they believe it is taking humanity between now and 2035, over the next 12 years.
Participants were asked to respond to several questions. Invitations to participate were emailed to more than 10,000 experts and members of the interested public. They were invited to weigh in via a web-based instrument that was open to them between Dec. 27, 2022, and Feb. 21, 2023. In all, 305 technology innovators and developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists responded in some way to at least one question asked in the canvassing. Results reflect comments fielded from a nonscientific, nonrandom, opt-in sample and are not projectable to any population other than the individuals expressing their points of view in this sample.
Respondent answers were solicited though the following prompts:
The best and worst of digital life in 2035: We seek your insights about the future impact of digital change. This survey contains three substantive questions about that. The first two are open-ended questions. The third asks how you feel about the future you see.
First open-ended question: As you look ahead to 2035, what are the BEST AND MOST BENEFICIAL changes that are likely to occur by then in digital technology and humans’ use of digital systems? We are particularly interested in your thoughts about how developments in digital technology and humans’ uses of it might improve human-centered development of digital tools and systems; human connections, governance and institutions; human rights; human knowledge; and human health and well-being.
Second open-ended question: As you look ahead to the year 2035, what are the MOST HARMFUL OR MENACING changes that are likely to occur by then in digital technology and humans’ use of digital systems? We are particularly interested in your thoughts about how developments in digital technology and humans’ uses of it are likely to be detrimental to human-centered development of digital tools and systems; human connections, governance and institutions; human rights; human knowledge; and human health and well-being.
The third and final substantive question: On balance, how would you say that the developments you foresee in digital technology and uses of it by 2035 make you feel? (Choose one option.)
- More excited than concerned
- More concerned than excited
- Equally excited and concerned
- Neither excited nor concerned
- I don’t think there will be much real change
Here are results for the third question, regarding the respondents’ general mood in regard to the changes they foresee by 2035:
- 42% of these experts said they are equally excited and concerned about the changes in the “humans-plus-tech” evolution they expect to see by 2035.
- 37% said they are more concerned than excited about the changes they expect.
- 18% said they are more excited than concerned about expected change by 2035.
- 2% said they are neither excited nor concerned.
- 2% said they don’t think there will be much real change by 2035.
The web-based instrument was first sent directly to an international set of experts (primarily U.S.-based) identified and accumulated by Pew Research Center and Elon University during previous studies, as well as those identified in a 2003 study of people who made predictions about the likely future of the internet between 1990 and 1995. We invited professionals and policy people from government bodies and technology businesses, think tanks and interest networks (for instance, those that include professionals and academics in law, ethics, philosophy, political science, economics, social and civic innovation, sociology, psychology, education and communications); globally located people working with communications technologies in government positions; technologists and innovators; top universities’ engineering/computer science, political science, sociology/anthropology and business/entrepreneurship faculty, graduate students and postgraduate researchers; and some who are active in civil society organizations that focus on digital life and those affiliated with newly emerging nonprofits and other research units examining the impacts of digital life.
Among those invited to participate were researchers, developers and business leaders from leading global organizations, technology companies and research labs, and leaders active in the advancement of and innovation in global communications networks and technology policy, such as the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society (ISOC) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). A list of representative organizations and workplaces is included below. Invitees were encouraged to share the survey link with others they believed would have an interest in participating, thus there may have been a small “snowball” effect as some invitees welcomed others to weigh in.
The respondents’ remarks reflect their personal positions and are not the positions of their employers; the descriptions of their leadership roles help identify their background and the locus of their expertise. Some responses are lightly edited for style and readability.
A large number of the expert respondents elected to remain anonymous. Because people’s level of expertise is an important element of their participation in the conversation, anonymous respondents were given the opportunity to share a description of their internet expertise or background, and this was noted, when available, in this report.
In the demographics section of this canvassing, 284 of the 305 respondents answered at least one question. Of the experts who chose to answer one or more demographic questions, 72% reported being located in North America and 28% said they are located in other parts of the world. Of the respondents who indicated their “primary area of interest,” 37% identified themselves as professors/teachers; 18% as futurists or consultants; 15.5% as research scientists; 6.5% as technology developers or administrators; 7% as advocates or activist users; 5% as entrepreneurs or business leaders; 4% as pioneers or originators of the internet or online tools; and 7% specified their primary area of interest as “other.”
Following is a brief list noting a small selection of key respondents who took credit for their responses on at least one of the overall topics in this canvassing. Workplaces are included to show expertise; they reflect the respondents’ job titles and locations at the time of this canvassing.
Susan Ariel Aaronson, director, Digital Trade and Data Governance Hub, George Washington University; Avi Bar-Zeev, president, XR Guild and XR pioneer who has developed the tech at Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google; Satish Babu, pioneering internet activist based in India and longtime participant in ICANN and IEEE; Yoshua Bengio, scientific director, Mila Quebec AI Institute and co-winner of the 2018 Alan Turing Award; Matthew James Bailey, president, AIEthics.World; Kelly Bates, president, Interaction Institute for Social Change; Marjory S. Blumenthal, senior adjunct policy researcher, RAND Corporation; Christine Boese, vice president and lead user-experience designer and researcher at JPMorgan Chase financial services; Jamais Cascio, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future; Daniel Castro, vice president and director, Center for Data Innovation; Cathy Cavanaugh, chief experience officer, University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning; Soraya Chemaly, writer and co-founder, Women’s Media Center; Barry K. Chudakov, founder and principal at Sertain Research; Aymar Jean Christian, associate professor and director, Media and Data Equity Lab, Northwestern University; Eileen Donahoe, executive director, Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator; Judith Donath, fellow, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, and founder, Sociable Media Group, MIT Media Lab; Amali De Silva-Mitchell, founding coordinator, IGF Dynamic Coalition on Data-Driven Health Technologies; Stephen Downes, Digital Technologies Research Centre of the National Research Council of Canada; Michael G. Dyer, professor emeritus of computer science, UCLA; Leiska Evanson, Caribbean-based futurist and consultant; Charles Fadel, co-author of “Artificial Intelligence in Education”; Marcel Fafchamps, professor of economics and senior fellow, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University; Harold Feld, senior vice president, Public Knowledge; Ayden Férdeline, public-interest technologist based in Berlin, Germany; Seth Finkelstein, principal at Finkelstein Consulting and Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award winner; Marcus Foth, professor of informatics, Queensland University of Technology, Australia; Bob Frankston, internet pioneer and software innovator; Raquel Gatto, general consul and head of legal, NIC.br, network information center of Brazil; Gary Grossman, senior vice president and global lead, Edelman AI Center for Excellence; Wendy M. Grossman, a UK-based science writer, author of “net.wars” and founder, The Skeptic magazine; Jonathan Grudin, affiliate professor, University of Washington, recently principal researcher in the Adaptive Systems and Interaction Group at Microsoft; Rosanna Guadagno, associate professor of persuasive information systems, University of Oulu, Finland; Alon Halevy, director with Meta’s Reality Labs; James Hendler, director, Future of Computing Institute at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Gus Hosein, executive director, Privacy International; Alan S. Inouye, director for information technology policy, American Library Association; Maggie Jackson, award-winning journalist, social critic and author; Jeff Jarvis, director, Tow-Knight Center, City University of New York; Paul Jones, emeritus professor of information science, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Charlie Kaufman, system security architect, Dell Technologies; Frank Kaufmann, president, Twelve Gates Foundation; Jim Kennedy, senior vice president for strategy, The Associated Press; Douwe Kiela, adjunct professor at Stanford University, previously head of research at Hugging Face and scientist at Facebook Research; Michael Kleeman, senior fellow, University of California-San Diego (previously with Boston Consulting and Sprint); Lawrence Lannom, vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives; Liza Loop, educational technology pioneer, futurist, technical author and consultant; Sam Lehman-Wilzig, professor at Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and author of “Virtuality and Humanity”; Clifford Lynch, director, Coalition for Networked Information; Dan Lynch, internet pioneer and inventor of CyberCash; Isaac Mao, Chinese technologist, data scientist and entrepreneur; Giacomo Mazzone, global project director, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction; Sean McGregor, co-founder, Responsible AI Collaborative; Lee Warren McKnight, professor of entrepreneurship and innovation, Syracuse University; Gina Neff, University of Cambridge, Minderoo Centre for Technology & Democracy; Nandi Nobell, futurist designer and senior associate, CallisonRTKL; Beth Simone Noveck, director, Burnes Center for Social Change and GovLab; Mojirayo Ogunlana, principal counsel, M.O.N. Legal; Kunle Olorundare, vice president, Internet Society, Nigeria; Davi Ottenheimer, vice president for trust and digital ethics at Inrupt; Zizi Papacharissi, professor of communications and political science, University of Illinois-Chicago; Isabel Pedersen, director, Digital Life Institute, Ontario Tech University, Finland; Raymond Perrault, distinguished computer scientist, SRI International, and director of the AI Center there 1988-2017; Jeremy Pesner, senior policy analyst, Bipartisan Policy Center; Alejandro Pisanty, Internet Hall of Fame member and longtime leader in the Internet Society; David Porush, writer and longtime professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Calton Pu, co-director, Center for Experimental Research in Computer Systems, Georgia Institute of Technology; Laurie Putnam, educator and communications consultant; Robin Raskin, founder, Virtual Events Group, author, publisher and conference creator; Howard Rheingold, pioneering internet sociologist and author of “The Virtual Community”; Mauro D. Rios, adviser to the eGovernment Agency of Uruguay and director of the Uruguayan Internet Society chapter; Kyle Rose, principal architect, Akamai Technologies; Louis Rosenberg, CEO and chief scientist, Unanimous AI; Marc Rotenberg, founder and president of the Center for AI and Digital Policy; Christopher W. Savage, a leading expert in legal and regulatory issues based in Washington, D.C.; Daniel S. Schiff, assistant professor and co-director of the Governance and Responsible AI Lab at Purdue University; Sarita Schoenebeck, director of the Living Online Lab at the University of Michigan; Kat Schrier, founding director of the Games & Emerging Media program, Marist College; Henning Schulzrinne, Internet Hall of Fame member and co-chair of the Internet Technical Committee of the IEEE; Doc Searls, internet pioneer and co-founder and board member at Customer Commons; Ben Shneiderman, human-computer interaction pioneer and author of “Human-Centered AI”; Jim Spohrer, retired executive who led major projects at IBM and Apple; Mark Surman, president, Mozilla Foundation; Charalambos Tsekeris, vice president, Hellenic National Commission for Bioethics and Technoethics; Jeffrey D. Ullman, professor emeritus of computer science, Stanford University; Maja Vujovic, owner and director of Compass Communications in Belgrade, Serbia; Catriona Wallace, founder, Responsible Metaverse Alliance, chair at Boab AI and founder of Flamingo AI, based in Australia; R “Ray” Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research; David Weinberger, senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society; Lauren Wilcox, senior scientist investigating AI and society at Google Research; Christopher Wilkinson, honorary director of the European Commission; Allison Wylde, senior lecturer, Glasgow Caledonian University, and a group leader on the UN Global Digital Compact Team; Reza Zadeh, founder and CEO, Matroid computer vision company.
A selection of institutions at which some of the respondents work or have affiliations:
Adelphi University; AIEthics.World; Akamai Technologies; Amazon; American Enterprise Institute; American Library Association; Arizona State University; Association Internationale de Méthodologie Sociologique; Atlantic Council Strategy Initiative; Australian National University; Bar-Ilan University, Israel; BBN Technologies; Benton Institute for Broadband and Society; Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society; Brookings Institution; Brown University, Bruegel (European think tank); Carnegie Mellon University; Center for AI and Digital Policy; Center for Data Innovation; Centre for Interdisciplinary Research; Clemson University; Coalition for Networked Information, Columbia University; Compass Communications; Constellation Research; Cornell University; Council of Europe; Cracow University of Economics, Kraków, Poland; Critical Futures Lab; Davis Wright Tremaine LLP; Dell Technologies; Edelman IA Center for Excellence; Electronic Frontier Foundation; European Commission; Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul; FuturePath; Georgia Institute of Technology; Global AI Ethics Institute; Google Research; Harvard University; Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences; Humanity in Action; i2Cat Foundation; IBM; IKF Institute for Communication & Leadership; Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; iNGO European Media Platform; Inrupt; Institute for the Future; Institute of Advanced Studies (Austria); Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; Interlisp.org; International Telecommunication Union; Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers; Internet Engineering Task Force; Internet Society; London Internet Exchange; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Matroid; Maverick Trailblazers; Menlo College; Meta Reality Labs; Metacognitive Technology; Microsoft Research; Mighty Voices; Mila Quebec AI Institute; Millennium Project; Mozilla; New York University; National Centre for Social Research, Greece; National Research Council of Canada; Neighborhoodeconomics.org; NetChoice; Nonprofit Technology Network; Northeastern University; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); Olin College of Engineering; Ontario Tech University; Patchwise Labs; Princeton University; Privacy International; Psychology of Technology Institute; Public Knowledge; Queen Mary University of London; Queensland University of Technology; Raxios & Co.; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Responsible AI Collaborative; Responsible Metaverse Alliance; Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology; Singularity University; Sister Nivedita University; Smartsettle; Softarmor Systems; SRI International; Stanford University; Stimson Center; Syniverse; Syracuse University; T-Mobile; Tallinn University of Technology; Telecommunities Canada; The Associated Press; Tufts University; Twelve Gates Foundation; United Nations; Tow-Knight Center for Journalism; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Santa Barbara; University of California, San Diego; University College London; University of Hawaii, Manoa; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Texas, Austin; Universities of Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Melbourne, Michigan, North Carolina, Rochester and Southern California; Universities of Amsterdam, Bergen, British Columbia, Cambridge, Cyprus, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Oslo, Otago, Oulu, Queensland, Southern Denmark, Sydney, Toledo, Toronto, Waterloo, West Indies; U.S. National Science Foundation; Vanderbilt University; Virginia Tech; VCB Consulting; Vision2Lead; Vision & Logic; Wikimedia Foundation; World Economic Forum; World Wide Web Foundation; XR Guild; Zengar Institute.
Complete sets of credited and anonymous responses can be found here: