NPR logo Your Internets In 2020: Future Shock!

Probing Issues

Your Internets In 2020: Future Shock!

Yesterday I was searching for forecasted figures on Internet connectivity in the US, which naturally got me thinking about the past. Do you remember how impressed you were in the '90s when you logged in, waited 20 minutes for a site's graphics to download, and then first viewed the wonders of the Internet? Was it apparent to you back then how much would change — how information would be more useful affixed to a map (or, I'm sorry, "mashed up" on), how international phone calls would become cheap and easy with VoIP, or how you'd stop writing checks because you can just pay everything online? If you said yes, then you're a FUTURIST. Way to go.

The folks at the Pew Internet & American Life Project are futurists, too, and they have made some very interesting observations about how things will have evolved by 2020. Key findings of the 2008 report The Future of the Internet III include these predictions:

-The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.
-Voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the Internet will be more prevalent and accepted by 2020.
-The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who's connected, and the results will be mixed in terms of social relations.

What does it all mean!? When I think of how different the web is now from when it started, it's not hard to imagine the URL bar melting away entirely as virtual and real meld together. I mean, it could be a lot like this, right?: