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The future of the Internet will be bleak, with governments further restricting access, surveillance breaking down trust, and failing algorithms ruining the web. That's according to "," a new report conducted by the Pew Research Center as part of that think tank's "Future of the Internet" project.
In collaboration with Elon University, Pew canvassed 1,400 "high-profile technology thinkers," posing one primary question: "By 2025 will there be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online compared with the way globally networked people can operate online today?"
Thirty-five percent of the people surveyed said yes, 65 percent said no. The pessimists feared four specific things: "balkanization of the internet" as governments restrict access and the Internet is further politicized, government and corporate surveillance that will further erode trust, the commercialization of the internet, and over-compensation for oversharing ("the TMI problem").
Here, some of the more noteworthy responses:
Danah Boyd, Microsoft research scientist: "Because of governance issues (and international implications of the NSA reveals), data sharing will get geographically fragmented in challenging ways. The next few years are going to be about control."
David Clark, senior research scientist at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory: "Commercialization of the experience may come to bound or limit the expectation that many people have of what the Internet is for."
Hal Varian, Google chief economist: "The biggest problem will be education. People will need to acquire various cognitive skills to use the Internet to its fullest potential."
Susan Etlinger, Altimeter Group technology-industry analyst: "With regard to content, the biggest technical challenge will continue to be filter failure; algorithms today just cannot keep up with the number and type of signals that provisionally predict what a person will want at a certain point in time… What will help us realize the fullest potential of the Internet? Becoming better students of human emotion, desire, and behavior."
Joel Halpern, Ericsson engineer: "The biggest challenge is likely to be the problem of finding interesting and meaningful content when you want it."