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9/25/2006
03:11 PM
Alice LaPlante
Alice LaPlante
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The Good, The Bad, And The Implausible: More Predictions About The Impact Of Technology On The Future Of Society

A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reflects strong disagreement over whether technology is good for humankind. Interestingly, the 742 handpicked "technology thinkers and stakeholders" who responded to the survey were largely in agreement about the ways that technology will evolve. But they contradicted each other about how this evolution will impact society in 2020.

A new survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reflects strong disagreement over whether technology is good for humankind.

Interestingly, the 742 handpicked "technology thinkers and stakeholders" who responded to the survey were largely in agreement about the ways that technology will evolve. But they contradicted each other about how this evolution will impact society in 2020.Cases where there was significant disagreement:

  • Whether the Internet will "flatten" the world enough to eliminate social and economic inequities around the globe, or whether governments and businesses will inflict self-interested policies on the infrastructure that prevents equalization.
  • If humans will be capable of staying in charge of technology, or if technology will eventually gain control over its current masters.
  • Whether the benefits of increased use of technology in our lives will balance out the extreme loss of privacy.
  • If technological "luddites and refuseniks" will increasingly resort to violence in protest to the spread of technology.
  • Whether the increasing popularity of virtual worlds will lead to alienation from the "real" world and addiction to technology-fueled fantasies.
  • This report builds on a fascinating predictive research initiative started in 2003 at Elon University. Based on a seminal 1983 book, Forecasting the Telephone: A Retrospective Technology Assessment, which went back in time and documented the ways people predicted the potential impact of the telephone in the early part of the century, the Elon project collected predictions about the Internet from the early 1990s and stored them in a searchable online database.

    Today that historical perspective has been amended by data from prediction surveys conducted in 2004 and 2006, as well as audio and video interviews from experts and a "Voices of the People" forum where anyone can post his or her predictions for posterity.

    Check it out for yourself and submit your own forecast. Or respond by posting your thoughts here.

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