The Internet is indeed an important invention, and the effect it has had on our lives since it first saw daylight has been immense. Because it has become really important to users it is also reasonable to assume that it will face many challenges in the years ahead. What can we reasonably expect to happen to the Internet and are there some consensus out there as to the direction it will take? Well, no actually, there are as many opinions as there are disagreements so here is what I thought of both good and bad in the next decade.
Starting with the bad, the growth of attacks by less well-meaning persons on the infrastructure of the net – simply because it is vulnerable – is a certainty. Disruption seems to be the motivation of the low life, even if it does not exactly equate toloss of life or serious physical harm, it is not unreasonable to expect some really serious attack attempt on the whole setup or on some other kind of infrastructure, like the power grid, in the foreseeable future.
On the other hand no one would seriously challenge the expectation that we shall see the adoption of high speed broadband everywhere, or that most of us are likely to be linked on-line over the coming years, something that will aid government snooping and businesses getting even more information on our habits and preferences. This is a simple result of how the various computing devices proliferate and become part of daily living when embedded in appliances, homes, phones, cars and even in our clothes. I am unsure as to whether you would rate this in bad or the good column.
I was looking at how easy it really is to gain the kind of information we might have regarded as personal, and realized that as I was listening to favourite music on sites like Spotify they already have some idea of my taste in music, and if you extend that to all the various websites you may be visiting for news information, entertainment, knowledge on various subjects, blogs you read, subjects you Google, and all without even considering Facebook, Twitter etc. that you may belong to, then privacy as we knew it in ‘the good old days’ simply does not exist anymore.
Thinking about education for a moment, that too has undergone dramatic changes, and in my age group may well be considered sadly lacking in substance, but that is most likely also unfair, so whilst the young ones of today may not have the broader grounding across the subjects available they are a new breed in terms of how they prepare for life in the internet age with boundaries between work and leisure diminishing, and family dynamics changing, as they look at telecommuting and expanding file sharing, not least of free entertainment. That may be shortchanging the young generation for I am happy to say that the young people in my circle are well adjusted to deal with life in the modern age and represent a level of thinking of surprisingly mature and well adjusted quality that I wish I had at their age.
Both entertainment channels and internet, and you could argue print media too, will continue to express their political and religious biases, and arguably voting by the internet will enter our lives but not be any more secure than present systems, so little change to expect from those sources.
As I am writing this blog post it is easy to see how this era of blogging can bring about dramatic changes to how news and thoughts are published and how that impacts also on education, and on health care institutions with much more to come in this area, but probably not on religious institutions, whilst families and social organization will feel the change.
Having said that, I am also aware of the growing amount of trivia posing as ‘information’ being posted on the internet and it is fair to expect an increase in the drivel appearing. This piece may well be part of that depending on your outlook.
One of the most significant changes I suspect is in the ‘always-on’ internet combined with us talking to the computer, the computer talking to us and to other computers, and may lead to a profound transformation of society of the future. There are gaps in internet access, particularly for those on low income, but as previously referred to in the ‘Google‘ article this may be a solvable problem. On the upside there is the amazing access to information sources through search technology [and not forgetting the blogs].
Ultimately then what is the most likely scenario one may see ahead, well, 10 years from now there will be regulations promoting openness, and innovation will continue and overcome the current moves toward stricter control, but not without a fight. People like Snowden will pop up now and again to reveal the true state of affairs and we will develop systems harder for the GCSB or NSA to penetrate. But remember this: You are the one who in the end has the power over the internet. In may be that someone owns the code, some other directs your data through networks owned again by others and yet some others the data you generate as a user, but from a technical invention to a conclusive global social community resource it has changed our society through you and will continue to do so.
Meanwhile, enjoy the benefits.