Concerns about the future of digital life?
The comments in the following section are a sharp contrast to the utopian visions of equity and advancement described above. Whereas some see the future of the internet as a great equalizer, others warn that technology can just as quickly be used for control and exploitation.
Inequality on the rise: The growing divide between haves and have-nots
The majority of respondents to this study agree that digital life is likely to improve people’s lives at the top of the socioeconomic ladder over the next few decades.
A large share of those who predicted that internet use would produce a change for the worse for most individuals over the next 50 years expressed concerns that an extension of current trends will lead to a widening economic divide that leaves the majority in the dust of the privileged class.
Life will not be better for most individuals if current trends expand, extend
We expressed concerns over the power of large technology companies, the rise of platforms that offer services in exchange for data and marketing dollars, the potential for growing lack of human agency in the algorithm age, the potential loss of jobs as humans are replaced in workplaces, and other worries over emerging potential negatives of digital life.
What’s going to happen if humans become cyborgs or AI gets smarter than us?
A reflected on the potential dark side of recent innovations – a world in which neural implants help connect people’s brains to the internet – and shared concerns about the prospects of technology moving toward and beyond human-level artificial intelligence.
Life will not be better for most individuals if current trends expand, extend.
We’ll trade convenience for choice and find that we have far fewer options for everything, from how fast to drive in our cars to which restaurants we’ll choose for dinner.
Our professional and personal lives will be tethered to a provider – likely Amazon or Google – which will maintain and run our smart homes, hospitals, schools, city infrastructure, and offices. We will probably see a vast new digital divide:
The wealthiest among us will have the privilege to remain anonymous if they choose. At the same time, everyone else will submit to continual surveillance for marketing and business intelligence.
Significantly, America will have fallen far behind China during the next five decades, primarily because of China’s long-term, comprehensive AI strategy and its integration into other state-level initiatives. In the U.S., commercial interests propel AI, platforms, and digital media.
The interests of for-profit companies don’t necessarily align with the best interests of democracy, our country, or humanity. With significant investment in these fields, there is tremendous pressure to generate commercial products and services.
The speed required doesn’t leave room to ask critical questions about a technology’s impact on individuals, communities, or society. If we do not change the developmental track of AI in the present, the probability of negative scenarios will increase during the next 50 years. Collectively, we fetishize the future.
Few are actively mapping longer-term outcomes, and that is a big mistake.”