The future of the Internet, according to Pew

While I can’t wholeheartedly endorse all of the predictions in the latest from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, I can say the whole report is provocative and insightful. Pew surveyed “experts” (technology experts and social analysts) to form a rich view of the future of the Internet (.pdf file). It’s worthwhile reading, but here’s the best stuff:

  • Connections across media, entertainment, advertising, and commerce will become stronger with future margins going to a new breed of ‘digital media titans.’
  • Well-branded innovators such as Google and Starbucks have a chance to build all-new new distribution models tied to ad revenue and retail sales.
  • Health care is approximately 10 years behind other endeavors in being transformed, and will experience its boom in the next 10 years.
  • Government will be forced to become increasingly transparent, accessible over the Net, and almost impenetrable if you’re not on the Net.
  • Digitization and the Internet make for a potent brew … TiVo kills the commercial television format. Napster, Kazaa, and iPod kill the ‘album’ format. In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes in their own reality show.
  • Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. The Net will wear away institutions that have forgotten how to sound human and how to engage in conversation.
  • The ‘always-on’ internet, combined with computers talking to computers, will be a more profound transformation of society than what we’ve seen so far.
  • The next decade should see the development of a more thoughtful internet. We’ve had the blood rush to the head, we’ve had the hangover from that blood rush; this next decade is the rethink.
  • The dissemination of information will increasingly become the dissemination of drivel. As more and more ‘data’ is posted on the internet, there will be increasingly less ‘information.’
The folks at Pew are very smart and have a lot of knowledge about the Internet, and they’re providing a great service to those of us who are smack dab in the middle of it.

Two of the above predictions resonate profoundly with me. One, the institutions of America — especially those who derive power and position from protected or licensed knowledge — will undergo an inevitable shaking simply because there’s no way to adequately protect knowledge anymore. In fact, we’re at the beginning of an age that DEMANDS knowledge, and the wellspring for that demand knows no limits.

Secondly, I agree that this will be a decade of healthcare boom online, and it will transform the industry in a way that government and business have heretofore been unable to accomplish. People are vastly more capable of taking care of themselves — given a little information — than the medical community would ever have us believe.

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