Research firm Pew surveyed more than 1,200 technology experts, with questions focusing on how human connectivity to the internet and other machines will continue to evolve over the next decade. The overwhelming consensus, said Pew, is that while ransomware disruptions and cyberattacks will continue with devastating consequences for individuals and nations, humans will become increasingly connected to the web-enabled things.
“Participants in this canvassing said a variety of forces will propel more connectivity over the next decade that manifests in things like cars, medical devices, public infrastructure and home ‘smart’ systems,” said Lee Rainie, co-author and director of Pew Research Center’s internet, technology and science research. “They argue that humans crave connection; that the Internet of Things will bring advantages that are useful; that people’s desire for convenience will usually prevail over their concerns about risk and these factors will make it difficult – if not impossible – for people to opt out of a highly connected life.”
In 1996, only 4 percent of the world was on the internet, Pew said. Today, about half of the global population is connected, along with approximately 8.4 billion machines – including sensors, security systems, voice-activated assistances, home appliances, health-monitoring devices, smart meters, fitness trackers and traffic lights.
Of the survey respondents, 85 percent believe the trend of greater connection will continue heading toward 2026. However, a smaller percentage believes threats like identity theft, loss of privacy and a tendency of corporations to exploit the connectedness will cause many people to drop out of and shun the Internet of Things.
Pew predicted seven major themes on the future of IoT and connected life:
Theme 1: People crave connection and convenience, and a tech-linked world serves both goals well.
The vast majority of expert respondents to this research study, as well as to a previous study on attitudes about the future of the IoT by Pew Research Center and Imagining the Internet, agree that the IoT will continue apace, expanding vastly in size and influence over the next decade. They said businesses expect to reap large dividends from the advancement of the IoT and that people are naturally driven to connect to other people, information and services. Further, they argue that society reaps benefits from connected infrastructure and objects – from transportation, communications and business and industrial systems to individual products and services. Additionally, as modern life becomes more complicated, these respondents argue that people count on convenience to conquer chaos and they enjoy experimenting with magical new tools. Their desire for new gadgetry often outweighs any perceived risks.
Theme 2: Unplugging isn’t easy now, and by 2026 it will be even tougher
Many respondents made the argument that disconnecting resigns people to relative isolation and some level of deprivation. They said it is not a realistic option for most people to live this life. An anonymous respondent replied, “It is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect, even in the midst of threats and distrust. To be an active, engaged member of society, it is now virtually impossible to be completely unplugged.”
Theme 3: Risk is part of life. The Internet of Things will be accepted, despite dangers, because most people believe the worst-case scenario could never happen to them
Many of the respondents point out that optimism bias generally moves people to perceive a potential risk as highly unlikely to harm them. When people ask themselves, often subconsciously, “Do the benefits outweigh the risks?” the answer is generally, “Yes – go for it!” – especially when connection and convenience are the result.
Theme 4: More people will be connected and more will withdraw or refuse to participate
A share of the experts in the study said the future will bring far greater connectivity for most users and at the same time – a notable number of people will cut back their ties to connected things or withdraw from that world. They also imagine scenarios where people try to modulate their level of connectivity, being embedded to some degree in the connected world and, to some degree, also withdrawing from it.
Theme 5: Human ingenuity and risk-mitigation strategies will make the Internet of Things safer
Many respondents expressed confidence in the evolution of methods by which outside regulators, as well as developers of the software, hardware and networks undergirding the IoT, will build in some method of dealing with constantly emerging security, safety and civil liberties issues.
Theme 6: Notable numbers will disconnect
Some 15% of the respondents expect that perceived and real vulnerabilities of the IoT will move people to disconnect. They noted the escalating security and privacy risks posed by connected devices and the complications that occur when fast-changing, fast-growing complex systems are built and networked. Many among this share of respondents seem to have little to no confidence that the builders of the IoT will make security, safety and individuals’ civil liberties their first priority because profit, power and efficiencies always come first, leaving far less investment in the crucial, difficult, expensive and perpetual work of minimizing threats.
Theme 7: Whether or not people disconnect, the dangers are real. Security and civil liberties issues will be magnified by the rapid rise of the Internet of Things
Many respondents said the dangers of the IoT are real and present a daunting challenge. They are certain that in the future there will be more attacks with more devastating results as billions more things and people become interconnected online and systems become more complex and difficult to manage. Many have deep concerns about the protection of civil liberties in a world in which so much granular data is continuously collected and databased, especially considering the fact that the “threat environment” created by the complex networking is high.
To read the Pew report, CLICK HERE.