Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet – Part I

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2 lee_rainieLee Rainie, Pew Internet & American Life Project:

When Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, was invited to be a keynote speaker to set the tone for the first-ever Internet Governance Forum-USA, he was asked to talk about “emerging issues” online.

He wisely chose the title “What We Don’t Know About the Future of the Internet.” His leadership in studying the impact of the Internet for the Pew Research Center for the past decade or so has put him in perfect position to address the topic.

Rainie described four areas of “critical uncertainty whose resolution will shape the future of the Internet” in ways we cannot yet fully foresee:

1) The unknowns tied to the future structure of the Internet’s architecture and how it is shaped by its adoption.

2) The unknowns presented by complexities in the future of information policy (he singled out “the kind of rules we develop about information property such as copyright, patents and trademarks” and other property issues).

3) The unknowns tied to the policies and norms we might develop to deal with our online identities – how we deal tackle issues like online privacy, anonymity and surveillance.

4) The unknown social, political and economic impact of the Internet. “The social science community is just beginning to tackle issues related to the value of the Internet – both good and bad – in empirical terms,” he said.

Rainie said some aspects of the future of the Internet are fairly predictable. “In the next decade the computing power at our disposal will be more than 20 times greater than it is now and considerably cheaper if Moore’s law continues to hold,” he explained.

He noted data storage capabilities will be improved. He talked about ubiquitous wireless communications involving smart devices built into our environment – including our clothes, our architecture, our vehicles and our homes.

Chips embedded in our cars, our household furnishing, even the soil, will feed data to each other and help us figure out how to skirt traffic jams, when to water our flower beds and even when the pizza delivery van has pulled up to our house.  – Lee Rainie

-Janna Anderson,


Written by andersj

October 2, 2009 at 1:21 pm

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