The Internet Society launched a project to take stock of the key forces of change that could impact the future of the Internet. We engaged with a broad community of Members, Chapters, experts and partners. We conducted two global surveys that generated more than 1,500 responses from 156 countries and economies. In addition, we interviewed more than 120 Internet experts and hosted 10 virtual roundtables.
To help shape the final phase of our work, we would like your views on the forces of change and the impact they will have on the Internet in the future.
Throughout the project, our community has reaffirmed the importance of three issue areas that will likely be significantly impacted in the future: Digital Divides; Personal Freedoms and Rights; and Media, Culture and Society. These areas are core to the Internet Society’s focus on putting the user at the forefront when considering the future of the Internet.
The increasing connectedness between the Internet and our physical environment is inevitable. It is becoming economically and technically feasible to connect almost anything to the Internet.
From self-driving cars, to automated homes, and even bio-connected humans, many that provided input believe the Internet and world around it is set to fundamentally change through the Internet of Things and the growing convergence between the Internet and physical world.
Some speculate that the Internet will become so pervasive it will simply “fade into the background.” Others believe we will need to fundamentally re-think what it means to be “on the Internet,” as the dominant means of Internet use transforms from one of active engagement with content to a passive interaction with Internet-connected objects.
Many participants believe new technical innovations will bring a wealth of opportunity, innovation and potential for human advancement. However, many also see this paradigm shift to a “hyperconnected world” as raising key questions and uncertainties for the future.
In a world where the Internet controls physical objects and infrastructure, cyberattacks and malfunctioning devices could put at risk the loss of real assets and human life. The potential for new forms of surveillance, erosion of privacy, and the potential for new forms of cyber-threat, were commonly raised as future concerns.
In addition to a possible social backlash against an “always on” world, some indicated that this new paradigm will raises the stakes for government Internet involvement in the future. “There will be more pressure for governments act when the Internet interfaces with the real world,” indicated one respondent.
Overall, the convergence of the Internet and physical world and Internet of Things were highly sited as a key force of change that will drive the future of the Internet. And a one that promises to bring game changing shifts to the Internet, how the Internet is used, and the world around it at large. Similarly, however, respondents were highly uncertain as to how the benefits and risks of a hyperconnected world will be managed into the future.
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