Fear of technology evident in new Pew study

The people at Pew asked 742 “internet leaders, activists, and analysts” to gaze into their crystal balls and predict the future. Fun stuff. According to these prognosticators, by the year 2020…

  • A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
  • Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
  • Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
  • Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
  • People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.
  • English will be a universal language of global communications, but other languages will not be displaced. Indeed, many felt other languages such as Mandarin, would grow in prominence.
As a futurist, I always find these kinds of things fascinating, but you have to take them with a certain grain of salt. These are all important things to think about, especially the fears of technology, addiction and the widening digital divide. I view the future with a little more optimism, perhaps, but Pew didn’t ask me to participate. Hmm. Maybe I really do just have an audience of one.

Here’s the PDF


  1. At lot more than one, my dear friend! Shows you how little Pew understands about the Interweb when they don’t talk to people like you.

  2. fascinating stuff…thanks for the link Terry.

  3. Shorter Pew report on the future of the Internet: kind of like today, only more so.

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