In a recent Trend article, Pew Research Center’s Director of Internet and Technology Lee Rainie analyzes the infusion of digital technology into everyday life, and raises questions about quality and fairness that accompany behavioral alterations. Tomorrow’s disruptions - caused by the rise of the Internet of Things - will spark the next digital evolution. The Internet is already becoming more invisible and intangible, while also becoming more deeply embedded in people’s everyday lives. For example, nearly all adult Americans use the internet; 81% have smartphones and two-thirds of adults are on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms. With this exponential growth of Internet usage and accessibility, Rainie lists four major developments to anticipate:
- “The Emergence of the ‘Datacosm’ - Data and connectivity will be ubiquitous in an environment called the datacosm: a term used to describe the importance of data, analytics, and algorithms in technology’s evolution.
- Growing Reliance on Algorithms - The explosion of data has been given prominence to algorithms as tools for finding meaning in data and using it to shape decisions, predict humans’ behavior, and anticipate their needs.
- A New Relationship with Machines and Complementary Intelligence - a new equilibrium is emerging as people take advantage of AI that can be consulted in instant, context-aware gadgets; these “smart assistants” will help people navigate the world, help represent them to others, and add enhancements to their bodies and brains.
- Greater Innovation in Social Norms, Collective Action, Credentials, and Laws - at the level of social norms, there are constant negotiations about what information can be shared what kinds of interruptions are tolerable, and what balance of fact-checking and gossip is acceptable; at a more formal level, collective action and power are already altered as social networks become a societal force.”
Considering the increase in digital technology - and the fact that a majority of the American population has access to the Internet in some form - this information revolution has become an indicator of modernization. However, technological innovation is exceeding social innovation and can lead to dangerous expansion gaps if left unchecked. Rainie ends his report with a Thomas Jefferson quote for readers to ponder: “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind; as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.”