A decade from now, the Internet will have redefined the way we read, write, and gather knowledge to skills largely built around gadgetry and applications, according to a new study from Pew Internet.
Below, other findings from The Future of the Internet in 2020, which surveyed technology stakeholders' and critics' expectations of social, political, and economic change by 2020.
Google won't make us stupid: 76% of the surveyed experts say human intelligence will be enhanced by the Internet in 2020—i.e., as people are allowed unprecedented access to more information they will become smarter and make better choices.
However, 21% of experts disagree—and say Google will make us stupid (as Nicholas Carr wrote in 2009).*
Reading, writing, and knowledge will be improved: 65% of experts say the Internet will enhance reading, writing, and the rendering of knowledge.
Meanwhile, 32% say the Internet detracts from the basic human skills of reading and writing, some citing the disintegration of thoughtful and lasting communications as a result of the Internet.
Innovation will catch us by surprise: 80% of experts say the newest gadgets and applications that will capture the imaginations of users in 2020 will often come "out of the blue" and will not have been anticipated by many of today's savviest innovators.
Information will flow relatively freely online: 61% of experts say the Internet will remain as its founders envisioned. However, many who agreed with the statement that "most disagreements over the way information flows online will be resolved in favor of a minimum number of restrictions" also noted that their response was a "hope" and not necessarily their true expectation.
Meanwhile, 33% say the Internet will mostly become a technology whereby intermediary institutions that control the architecture and content will be successful in gaining the right to manage information and the method by which people access it.
Anonymous online activity will be challenged: 55% say Internet users will still be able to communicate anonymously in 2020, while 41% say anonymous online activity will be sharply curtailed.
* Tech scholar and analyst Nicholas Carr wrote a cover story for the Atlantic Monthly magazine in the summer of 2009 with the cover line, "Is Google Making us Stupid?"; in it, he argued that the ease of online searching and distractions of Web browsing were possibly limiting his capacity to concentrate.
About the data: The survey results are based on a non-random online sample of 895 internet experts and other internet users, recruited via email invitation, Twitter, and Facebook from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Elon University, fielded Dec. 2, 2009 to Jan. 11, 2010.