The Pew Report “The Future of the Internet IV”

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A new Pew report “The Future of the Internet IV” written by Janna Anderson and Lee Raine is available online this morning.  Pew Internet and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center asked 900 internet experts and stakeholders to react to two opposing statements about the direction and impact of the internet 10 years from now – that is, the year 2020.  The survey explored the impact of the Internet on families, communities, work and home, daily life, education, health care, civic and political life.  The report covers experts’ thoughts on the following issues:

  • Google won’t make us stupid.76% of these experts agreed with the statement, “By 2020, people’s use of the Internet has enhanced human intelligence; as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information they become smarter and make better choices. Nicholas Carr was wrong: Google does not make us stupid.”
    • Reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge will be improved.65% agreed with the statement “by 2020 it will be clear that the Internet has enhanced and improved reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge.” Still, 32% of the respondents expressed concerns that by 2020 “it will be clear that the Internet has diminished and endangered reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge.”
    • Innovation will continue to catch us by surprise.80% of the experts agreed that the “hot gadgets and applications that will capture the imaginations of users in 2020 will often come ‘out of the blue.’”
    • Respondents hope information will flow relatively freely online, though there will be flashpoints over control of the internet.Concerns over control of the Internet were expressed in answers to a question about the end-to-end principle. 61% responded that the Internet will remain as its founders envisioned, however many who agreed with the statement that “most disagreements over the way information flows online will be resolved in favor of a minimum number of restrictions” also noted that their response was a “hope” and not necessarily their true expectation. 33% chose to agree with the statement that “the Internet will mostly become a technology where intermediary institutions that control the architecture and …content will be successful in gaining the right to manage information and the method by which people access it.”
    • Anonymous online activity will be challenged, though a modest majority still think it will possible in 2020.There more of a split verdict among the expert respondents about the fate on online anonymity. Some 55% agreed that Internet users will still be able to communicate anonymously, while 41% agreed that by 2020 “anonymous online activity is sharply curtailed.”


I agree with most comments discussed by the experts.  Google won’t make us stupid.  Instead, the new Web technology tool like Google allows us to locate the information and answers we want more intelligently and efficiently.  We will be better informed and educated.  I am optimistic about the future role the internet will play in all our lives. It is not surprising to learn that 80% of those who commented believe that new innovative technology will come out of the blue.  I doubt many experts in 2000 thought Google Earth, 3D virtual world like Second Life, iPods, iPhones, voice IP phones, smartphones, multi-touch technology, Google Liquid Galaxy, and etc were available and popular today.  I am interested to see the new innovative technologies that we will be using in 2015.

For viewing the complete report, you can access the Full Text in HTML and PDF on the PEW site.  Also, links to previously released reports on “The Future of the Internet” is also available on the PEW site.

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About Steve Yuen

I am a Professor Emeritus of Instructional Technology and Design at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, United States.
This entry was posted in Internet, research, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The Pew Report “The Future of the Internet IV”

  1. tdedeaux says:

    I think that the “Google is making us stupid” movement, though misguided, does raise some interesting and important questions.

    For example, there is no question that the use of formal English, especially on the Internet, has declined.

    And it seems that more and more people know a great deal about relatively trivial matters (discussions about popular movies, games, and television, or worse, the private lives of individual celebrities). While it is difficult to even come to a consensus as to what a work of cultural significance even is, discussions about whether Taylor Swift is too old to date Taylor Laughton surely don’t qualify.

    Granted, this has less to do with Google and more to do with blogs and discussion forums. But I think it’s important that this conversation takes place.

  2. Rongfei says:

    What makes people think that “Google makes us stupid” is probably because it is providing us with increasing convenience on searching and accessing the information we want, and the development of convenience is, to some extent, due to our laziness (such as we invented car just simply because we do not want to walk). But convenience itself does not cast any negative influence on our life but on the contrary, it increases our life efficiency and produce more values.
    The searching and retrieving information more easily is an effective factor to influence people’s intelligence because as the convention of scholarship goes, we became more informed as we get information from the world, and think and ponder more as we have more information, and we apply what we have learned after we thought about the information we received.
    However, in my observation, it is very hard to tell how would the development of the web will influence our reading, writing and rendering knowledge. There are obviously both negative and positive influences. People are becoming less and less patient because the huge and ever-increasing amount of information – they will always want to see more. So typing and reading could be very brief and the appropriate use of language to be paid less attention.
    The internet is definitely changing the world constantly and dramatically. However, the progress of such technology being popularized is different as in different countries. In China, only a small portion of people above the age of 45 knows how to deal with the computer and the internet.
    We will wait and see who it change the whole world by the end of next decade.

  3. Christine Mark says:

    This is an interesting article concerning how 900 Internet experts think the Internet will look in 10 years as well as the impact of the Internet on intelligence, reading and writing. The article also highlights the continuing stream of innovation attributed to the Internet.

    A survey was conducted by asking 900 Internet experts, the majority of whom responded that using Google does not make us stupid. The majority of experts also responded that the Internet has improved, enhanced, and facilitated reading, writing and the rendering of knowledge. I found a few issues with the survey. First, I believe that the researchers may have gotten much different results if they had surveyed a group of teachers rather than Internet experts. Teachers are in a much better position to judge the reading and writing skills of the Internet generation. I teach at the college level and have seen first-hand how texting and other casual writing carry over into formal writing.

    I agree that simply using Google does not make us stupid; it is the opposite. Google has developed many innovative ways for us to discover and manage information. Google inventions allow us to access information and share with other users around the world.

    I also agree that innovative ideas, processes and inventions will continue to come out via the Internet. Who knew just a few years ago how prevalent social network sites like Twitter and Facebook would become and that they would be such an integral part of our everyday lives.

  4. Pingback: Web 2.0 no meu Diigo (weekly) « Web 2.0 PT

  5. jwoodwards says:

    The findings of the Pew report described in this blog, “The Future of the Internet IV”, described several revealing perceptions of internet experts concerning the future of the Internet.
    However, I believe that the Pew report phrased the “Will Google make us stupid” question in an ambiguous manner. In my opinion, this question should have been broken into several parts. As it is, the question spans from the accessibility of knowledge to cognitive ability. Because the question is so vague, the results of the survey are hindered by the subjective interpretation of this question, for both respondents and researchers.
    A better question is this: “Will the Internet diminish the problem solving abilities of the populace?” My initial reaction to this question is to resoundingly shout, “Yes!” I would argue that because the computer automatically completes basic problem solving functions, the general populace is likely to become less proficient in general problem solving skills. For example, research has shown that math is an excellent teacher of problem solving skills, but if students are allowed to use the computer to “solve” the problems, then this skill is not taught. Can the computer “solve” the problem? Yes. Should we force students to think through these skills (and similar scientific method skills) without the aid of the computer? Yes. However, there is one caveat. In the sense that more and more activities and tasks are based on technical knowledge, I would argue that problem solving within the boundaries of applications, software and computers will increase.
    When I talk to local industries about the deficiencies of their workers, their comments rarely revolve around a lack of skill or technical knowledge. Employers most often complain that employees can’t “think” or problem solve on their own. When encountered with a new or different situation, employees have a great deal of trouble finding the answer.
    How does this relate to education? I believe that the focus of educators over the next decade should keep in mind a different question. Although a computer can complete an operation, what operations should we ensure that our students are forced to use without the aid of the computer? As we wrestle with this question, we will move beyond using the computer/internet as crutch and begin using it as the ultimate tool.

  6. Kemp says:

    To the contrary, I believe Google is making us smarter. At last there is an easy way to obtain reliable information, weigh that information and make informed decisions. Google also allows one to conduct research, learn more about a topic, and, yes see who is dating whom in Hollywood. (Can’t be serious all the time).

    Somewhere I read a post in which the writer protested that his son refused to look up a telephone number in the phone book, choosing instead to use the internet. To me this is simply using a tool that is comfortable for him. Isn’t the end result–finding the information–the part that is truly important.

    I believe we will continue to be a better informed society as a result of Google and the Internet. The caveat I see is that formal writing skills and syntax have suffered and present a challenge for those who attempt to teach good writing skills.

  7. Madelon Gruich says:

    Thinking about the future of the Internet is certainly interesting. I do not think Google is making us “less intelligent.” Granted, there is much more information available, but intelligent people use it intelligently, and “stupid” people use it stupidly. As far as language and written communication are concerned, there should be an advantage to having the world at our fingertips. Any topic of interest can be explored without leaving the comfort of home. When researching the use of social networks in education for a recent paper, I read an article that addressed the obvious openness of the users and how many of today’s generation do not hesitate to post personal information on the social network sites. This information is available to anyone searching for facts about Internet users. Generational differences vary greatly.

    The unbelievable advances of the last ten years will no doubt pale in comparison to the potential technology of tomorrow. I have little doubt that new technology will continue to emerge and change the way we live. It is difficult to imagine that technology currently exists for cars to drive themselves. The article is interesting: http://www.drivers.com/article/1127/ I realize that there are hurdles which must be cleared before this concept is fully diffused into society, but nevertheless, the technology is there. Whether this is perfected in my lifetime remains to be seen, but I have no doubt that there will be innovations which defy our imaginations. I am reminded of the story of our nation’s space race. President Kennedy challenged the scientists to put man on the moon. The technology did not exist to accomplish this feat at that time, but it was not long before the mission was accomplished. Tomorrow, if there is a need for some new technology, it will be developed.

  8. Jil Wright says:

    I found this article and presentation very interesting for a couple of reasons, the first reason being the “Will Google Make Us Stupid” question. I do not believe that Google is making us dumber, but I agree that basic problem solving skills need to be something that people are still cognitively capable of doing without technology. Google, and the internet in general, opens the door to the world at the click of a mouse button. Access to so much information 24/7/365 has to increase knowledge, not only of trivial things, but also knowledge of other cultures that leads to a greater understanding and acceptance of the diversity of humanity if used for good purposes.

    I recently read a book entitled “When Technology Fails” which I believe was written to basically scare the living daylights out of people, but we do always need to keep in mind that our survival should not depend on technology. There are also a million times throughout the day that people have to make decisions without a computer. Geeky as I am, I value the education I received before things were so readily available because who knows what tomorrow may bring. That being said, I would have been in the No, Google will not make us stupid category.

    I don’t know that reading and writing will improve or deteriorate depending on technology. I can say that there are a large amount of people on the web that cannot write a sentence that actually contains words spelled correctly with even a small remnant of decent grammar. I hope that the reason I see this is that things are lackadaisical on social networking sites. I certainly hope that kids are being taught, with or without technology, how to communicate in a professional way. I do not know how I would vote on this one because sometimes I think people on facebook are speaking another language that I have never been introduced to! Facebookian talk?

    I hope information continues to flow freely and I hope that this eventually becomes possible for everyone no matter what country they are living in. I do value free speech as one of the most fundamental rights of an individual. Governments and corporations (especially when acting together) can ruin things. I expect that information will keep spreading unless something crazy happens.

    I agree that cool gadgets will continue to fall out of the sky unexpectedly and will be more advanced and be available at an even faster rate than they are currently. This is something I am excited about.

    The most interesting thing to me about this report was the nearly 50-50 split on online anonymity. Its most interesting to me mainly because I have no idea which side I would be on if asked that question. I hope we can retain our personal lives, but more and more information about who we are is broadcasted digitally all the time. I already believe that controlling your online presence is important if you want to get and keep a job.

    Thank you for the information, it was very interesting to see what experts think we will see in the next 10 years.

  9. Kaylene says:

    Others have all commented on the “Will Google make us stupid?” comment, so I’ll bypass that and move on to some of the other points. I am not surprised that 81 percent of the experts said they plan to be totally surprised in 10 years about the gadgets that catch on. I think most of us are amazed every day about the latest hit. I remember when everybody was talking about beta tape players (die-hards insist beta STILL offers the best quality), but people weren’t buying them in droves back then and eventually they disappeared as VHS sales soared. I think most of us took the wait-and-see attitude then and continue to do so today with all kinds of technology. (I’m taking that stance with Bluray and the iPad).

    As an educator whose principal area of interest is a writing field, I am intrigued with the idea of writing becoming better or worse on the Internet. Certainly, as mentioned already, just getting people to write more has its benefits. You don’t get better at anything unless you work at it more. I see people like my 83-year-old father writing on the Internet when whole years used to go by and he never wrote a word to anyone! (Of course, his writing still needs a lot of help — and someone who can translate because of the typos, misused words and left out words.) As my grandchildren grow, I expect some of them to be more interested in writing and reading than they would have been had they been born before the days of the Internet. That will be a blessing the Internet will bring.

    Still, I worry about what I see among writers on such sites as Facebook and blogs. I occasionally tease my former students when I see a posting from them that has terrible grammar, spelling and punctuation. “Didn’t I learn you better than that?” I’ll write. It really is all in fun though a part of me cringes. I try really hard to make sure I don’t let myself get sloppy with such things in postings I make. I have already let calculators take over my math abilities, so I certainly don’t want to lose any more skills. But is the same happening to people who text, blog and post in abbreviations and slang? It makes me shiver.

  10. Jacquelyn Johnston says:

    Emerging technologies are shaping our lifestyles and thinking. For instance, who would have thought a few years ago, that every corner that you turn people would be using mobile phones for communication and knowledge gaining. Yet, it seems as if people of all ages and backgrounds have accommodated to our new wireless interactions as if this method of interacting has been around for decades. In most respects, mobile phones have improved our lives. In the same way, this is how I think that our lives will adjust to the rapid emerging of new technologies, which for the most part are designed to improve our quality of life. I like to think positive about the impact of the Internet on our lives in the future. As with many things, there is often a dark side, but I believe the good aspects of the future Internet will out weigh the bad, just as it has in the past. In addition, it is my opinion that Google is a great tool. There is so much informations at your fingertips to aid in learning. With Google people have greater access to information therefore, allowing them to make use of this information for evaluation and decision making. I do not think that Google will make us stupid. Indeed, our habits of using the Internet are changing. The fact that the Internet has evolved from a read only tool to one that engages learners in a multitude of beneficial interactive activities, suggests its teaching and learning promises for the future. I am confident that reading and writing can be improved with the appropriate instructional use of the Internet. Obviously, no one knows the answers to the future and how technology will impact our lives, but a look at the past gives hope for the promise of tomorrow.

  11. Ahu says:

    Of course, as educators, we remember that one’s amount of information does not equal their intelligence. As a corollary, the ability of a technology to provide us with more information more efficiently does much to improve our knowledge base, but very little to effect our intelligence. Questioning the essence of intelligence, it is impractical to assume that as educators we are able to make children more or less “smart”, but the responsibility is certainly upon schools to provide learners with skills and tools for evaluating alternative sources of information and making good decisions. This is an issue that is not caused, per se, by Google, but which is certainly confounded by the sheer number of information sources from diverse perspectives that Google and other search engines provide.

    Thus, the point becomes, how can we train “information literacy” skills which will allow our learners to take advantage of the ballooning amount of information which is available (i.e. rather than clicking on the first link provided by a search), compare sources and evidence for different viewpoints, evaluate potential biases, and make a decision more “intelligently”. This responsibility should and ultimately will fall on educators. In the absence of a perfectly tuned semantic search engine, information seekers will always need to make decisions. In my early education in may have been the choice between one of two sets of encyclopedias, while contemporary information seekers must sift through far greater numbers and diversity of sources.

    Ultimately, the point is that Google and other search engines and information providers are neither the source or solution for information literacy, but merely tools, the appropriate use of which must be taught, just like any other tool.

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