Future of the Internet: Liberty + Privacy

Among the more interesting studies released Sunday in the second installment of the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s Future of the Internet (PDF) survey, are respondents reactions to the following hypothetical:

Prediction: As sensing, storage and communication technologies get cheaper and better, individuals’ public and private lives will become increasingly ‘transparent’ globally. Everything will be more visible to everyone, with good and bad results. Looking at the big picture – at all of the lives affected on the planet in every way possible – this will make the world a better place by the year 2020. The benefits will outweigh the costs.

The mean response of 742 individuals is of uncertainty (46% agreed vs. 49% disagree). But it’s the substance of the varied & impassioned responses that set the course for what many believe is one of the most important issues of modern time and the near future.

Here is a link to credited answers. And here’s a collection of anonymous one-liners.

The answers range from amusing to asinine, but overall the essence is that transparency — while essential to and inevitable in an open society — is a double-edged sword.

In a rather oddly phrased question, a majority of respondents agree (to my dismay) with Thomas Friedman’s mostly-BS “The World is Flat” argument, aggreeing with utopian naivete, that, by 2020, “the free flow of information will completely blur current national boundaries as they are replaced by city-states, corporation-based cultural groupings, and/or other organizations tied together by global networks.”

Perhaps it’s only appropriate — in a very Sci-Fi-esque study, that there would be no more New York and China and Japan.

Other notable conclusions from the abstract:

* A low-cost global network will be thriving and creating new opportunities in a “flattening” world.
* Humans will remain in charge of technology, even as more activity is automated and “smart agents” proliferate. However, a significant 42% of survey respondents were pessimistic about humans’ ability to control the technology in the future. This significant majority agreed that dangers and dependencies will grow beyond our ability to stay in charge of technology. This was one of the major surprises in the survey.
* Virtual reality will be compelling enough to enhance worker productivity and also spawn new addiction problems.
* Tech “refuseniks” will emerge as a cultural group characterized by their choice to live off the network. Some will do this as a benign way to limit information overload, while others will commit acts of violence and terror against technology-inspired change.
* People will wittingly and unwittingly disclose more about themselves, gaining some benefits in the process even as they lose some privacy.

As Bruce Schneier said at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy tonight, “freedom equals liberty plus privacy.” Digest that…

The IEEE prefers their recently released “Bursting Tech Bubbles Before They Balloon” survey, authored by Marina Gorbis and the Institute for the Future’s David Pescovitz.

For historical reference, see PBS’ 1998 survey: Nerds 2.0.1 — a who’s-who of nerdtrepreneurs and their late 20th century musings on the future of the Internet.

CNN Poll: How Do You Like Your Congress?

cnn vote hate your congress

For international netZoo readers, yes, the United States is still a democracy in which the people elect their Congressional representatives. But, who really wants a job where they can only satisfy 5 percent? The incumbency conundrum is not as unrelenting as, say the neverending reign of a Castro or Idi Amin. Another year of nothing but procrastination, pandering to the Bush Administration, and shrugging away plans and objectives just as quickly as they’re put on the table combined with the ineptitude of the 435 two-year House terms (in other words, one year of doing nothing, and a second year of campaigning for reelection) has left us with an ineffective, corrupt, and disgraceful Legislature.

So, now it inevitably “see ya later, Joe” in Connecticut. But no matter the situation in Iraq, whose gonna speak up for our soldiersleft blind without a plan and several billion dollars short?

In the fallout of the weekend’s intel report clarifying yet again that the Iraq War has made the world less safe, President Bush’s own church, the United Methodist Church, has launched “a week of protest and civil disobedience against the war in Iraq by signing a declaration of peace urging President Bush to pull U.S. troops out of the country.”

On the optimistic side of things — Pew Internet has released Part II of their “Future of the Internet” study and according to NYT, the future is bright and green.

Can a Trademark a Day Make Apple’s Competition Go Away?

Russell Shaw takes his obsession with Apple’s “iPod” trademark addiction to ZDNet in this expose of Apple’s latest USPTO encounters and recent C&D letters to the likes of Podcast Ready for daring to use the “P” word in his article: “EXCLUSIVE: Apple Trademark Office docs point to REAL reasons for” Podcast” controversy

we have Apple, maker of the iPod, trying to get right with the Trademark office about achieving formal Trademark and related mark protections for iPod AND its sought-after IPODCAST applications.

Not only would this restrict ANY individual or company from using the term “podcast” or “podcasting,” it would also put a lock on, for example “iPod socks,” not to mention T-shirts declaring “iPods suck.”

Dave Winer proposes a start-up idea for a “real podcast player” that would put Apple’s DRM to shame.

AOL/Netscape’s Jason Calcanis is rightfully dismayed: “Anyway, Apple didn’t come up with the concept of Podcasting but they have benefited from it immensely.”

Former MSFT evangelizer Robert Scoble wonders if team Apfel will up and sue his new employer, Podtech.net

Todd Baur at the Apple Blog asks if Apple is going to sue the framers of the Constitution for proposing the First Amendment: “When the iPod was introduced, no one would have associated pod with an MP3 player. Now that the little guy has become the king, there is no argument that the term is almost synonymous with music players.”