Monday, July 7, 2014

They Have Seen the Future of the Internet, and It Is Dark


Forecasting is tough. The future comes at us fast today, with too many variables to say much with certainty. 

Predictions are still useful, though: They are an excellent way to examine the passions of the moment.

The Pew Research Center, one of the better-known think tanks, on Thursday published the third in a series called “Digital Life in 2025.” Even taken as a snapshot of today and not the world to come, the report, titled “Net Threats,” is pretty dark reading.

Pew’s Internet Project, in collaboration with Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center, surveyed 1,400 high-profile technology thinkers. Collectively, the experts posited new government crackdowns on online freedoms, greater surveillance and less trust online, and the squelching of individual creativity through control by big companies. 

There are even dangers from the personalization of content: That customization, a way of limiting information overload, was also seen as a threat to healthy serendipity in what we read, watch and think about.

“We asked about the threats and opportunities to free content on the Internet, and we got all these elaborate answers,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project and a co-author of the report. Compared with the past, he said, “there is a more palpable sense of dread” about what may happen to life online.

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