Pew study predicts brave new world of 2020

Report from the IT great and good predicts global networks and no privacy being "obsolete"

A report by the Pew Institute in the United States has predicted the rise of a global, inexpensive communications network and a resulting loss of privacy for those using it.

The survey, which talked to over 700 internet pioneers and developers as well as noted futurologists, found the overwhelming majority of respondents thought the priority goal for 2020 was the construction of a global network to link all parts of the world and using it to spread knowledge around nations.

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Internet sociologist Howard Rheingold expressed the consensus of the respondents reflecting on the setting of priorities: "Without affordable access, knowledge of how to use the technology, and the legal and operating environment that permits innovation, we won't see the creative explosion we saw with personal computers and the internet."

In order to facilitate the global network however the respondents thought that protocols to allow anyone to join must be developed, although they were far more sceptical of plans to develop a global currency or making English a global language.

But these plans could well be held back by businesses eager to make money.

"Profit motives will impede data flow ... Networks will conform to the public utility model, with stakeholders in generation, transmission, and distribution. Companies playing in each piece of the game will enact roadblocks to collect what they see as their fair share of tariff revenue," said Peter Kim, senior analyst at Forrester Research

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The report also highlighted the lack of privacy in this brave new world. A slim majority of respondents felt that the loss of privacy would outweigh the benefits of the new world order.

"Privacy is a thing of the past," said Hal Varian, Google consultant and Professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

"Technologically it is obsolete. However, there will be social norms and legal barriers that will dampen out the worst excesses."

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