With the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything just around the corner our digital lives are about to transform. Connectivity will soon be all around us all of the time. This led to the Pew Research Institute looking into how our lives are about to change. The research was performed by surveying 2,558 experts and technology builders. The results were interesting and some remarkable similarities were found in the predictions made.
Perhaps one of the most interesting findings was that: “Accessing the Internet will be effortless and most people will tap into it so easily it will flow through their lives ‘like electricity’”. In particular mobile, wearable and embedded computing were given a high level of likely importance in the future. This will allow people to be able to access cloud based information very easily and people will be able to connect much more easily in the future. Other commonalities in likely happenings include the probability of a proliferation of smart sensors, cameras, software, databases and enormous data centers.
There is also expected to be a greater degree of “augmented reality” as people will perceive what they experience through portable, wearable and implantable devices. There is also likely to be considerable change to business models that emerged in the 20th century, and specifically to the areas of finance, entertainment, publishing and education. Additionally there will be more tagging, databasing and intelligent analytical mapping to both physical and social realms.
“While the television allowed us the opportunity to see the global village, the internet actually provides us the opportunity to be a part of it.”
Another encouraging finding is that the spread of the internet is expected to increase global connectivity that leads to better relationships between people and which cuts back on ignorance. This is expected to lead to increased “friendships, rivalries, romances, work teams, study groups and collaborations”. There is a sense in the predictions that we will be global villagers, and while television allowed us to see the global village, the internet actually provides us the opportunity to be a part of it. This leads to geography becoming less of an issue.
The rise of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and big data is likely to mean that individuals will gain greater awareness of their world and their behaviour. This prediction leads to the idea that people will be better able to change our behaviour to be more appropriate and we will do this in a more intelligent manner. This is predicted by some to be likely to have an influence on how we develop trust with others, how we handle and deal with change and how we negotiate successes and failures.
Augmented Reality and Wearables
One very interesting area that is explored by the Pew Research is the fact that augmented reality and wearable devices will be able to give us good quality information about our daily lives and in particular about our health. These sorts of devices will be able to monitor us and it can provide information on disease risk, which can lead to early detection and the ability to monitor and adjust medication levels accordingly. This will provide some relief to overworked and overstressed health systems worldwide. Such systems are also predicted to bring benefits for dating, job interviewing, networking, gaming, policing and espionage.
The following video illustrates one of these possibilities for the future: In it, interactive glass surfaces, provide immersive experiences and the delivery of real-time information:
One prediction is that political action and awareness and peaceful change and public uprisings similar to the Arab Spring will be likely. It is believed that this will lead to greater possibilities for people in rural populations to be better informed of opportunities open to them, and people will be able to organise themselves to protest in order to communicate their concerns. Some predict that this will even be beneficial for addressing disparities in clean water provision, health care, education and food in addition to being able to highlight inequities in human rights.
The Dark Side Of An Immersive Digital World
Unfortunately not all of the findings were positive. Some believe that there will be a dangerous division between those that have and do not have which could lead to resentment and violence. There are concerns also that abuses will evolve and scale and that governments will assert pressure to protect security. In particular this could manifest itself in the form of social and political control. In addition people may have to make trade-offs between convenience and privacy and it is possible that only some people, the privileged may benefit from privacy. Let us hope that the more positive findings of the study will dominate in the future.