The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology


The Internet in 2020

systematicHR Avatar

The Pew Internet and American Life Project’s survey of technology professionals to evaluate what the internet might look like in the year 2020 yielded some interesting (selected) results with my commentary:

The deployment of a global network: A majority of respondents agreed with a scenario which posited that a global, low-cost network will be thriving in 2020 and will be available to most people around the world at low cost. And they agreed that a tech-abetted “flattening” of the world will open up opportunities for success for many people who will compete globally. Still, a vocal and sizeable minority of respondents say they are unsure that the policy climate will be favorable for such internet expansion. The center of the resistance, they say, will be in the businesses anxious to preserve their current advantages and in policy circles where control over information and communication is a central value. In addition, a significant number of these dissenters argued that the world will not flatten enough to wipe away persistent social inequities.

Human control over technology: Most respondents said they think humans will remain in charge of technology between now and 2020. However some fear that technological progress will eventually create machines and processes that move beyond human control. Others said they fear that the leaders who exercise control of the technology might use this power inappropriately.  ((Pew Internet & American Life Project.  September 24, 2006.  “The Future of the Internet II.”))

I’m not entirely sure what human control over technology means.  We have airplanes that fly themselves after all, and many data centers contain all the necessary tools to self diagnose issues and even resolve them.  Heck, our own HR systems are getting more intelligent by the day, although it’s a stretch to say that workflowed systems run themselves.  I for one don’t know that a lower level of human control is a bad thing.  Media like “Terminator” where machines take over the world and kill all the humans must feed a bit of the fear, but I’m not sure that fear is rational.

Compelling or “addictive” virtual worlds: Many respondents agreed with the notion that those who are connected online will devote more time to sophisticated, compelling, networked, synthetic worlds by 2020. While this will foster productivity and connectedness and be an advantage to many, it will lead to addiction problems for some. The word “addiction” struck some respondents as an inappropriate term for the problems they foresaw, while others thought it appropriate.  ((Ibid))

What is Web 2.0?  Well, it’s not what the above bullet describes, but Web 2.0 is probably the start of it.  On-line communities, collaboration opportunities, easier integration, and better user experiences will prevail.  Web 2.0 is not just another buzz word.  It’s actually the internets first step to the future state.

The fate of language online: Many respondents said they accept the idea that English will be the world’s lingua franca for cross-cultural communications in the next few decades. But notable numbers maintained English will not overwhelm other languages and, indeed, Mandarin and other languages will expand their influence online. Most respondents stressed that linguistic diversity is good and that the internet will allow the preservation of languages and associated cultures. Others noted that all languages evolve over time and argued that the internet will abet that evolution.  ((Ibid))

I have long argued that India has a distinct advantage over China due to their English language capabilities.  I simply can’t believe that Chinese will begin to have greater language adoption on the internet outside of already Chinese speacking countries.  Even phonetic based Chinese writing is inaccessible, let alone the 3000+ character set  they normally use.  No, English will dominate in the future.

Investment priorities: Asked what their priority would be for future investments of time and money in networking, 78% of the respondents identified two goals for the world’s policy makers and the technology industry to pursue: building network capacity and spreading knowledge about technology to help people of all nations.  ((Ibid))

I think this one goes hand in hand with globalizing the internet and making it affordable to the masses.  While this doesn’t solve infrastructure issues in many poorer countries, perhaps it is a small step that helps level the overall playing field.

I’d encourage you to take a glance at the overall survey results.  Certainly they are interesting enough for anyone interested in where the internet is headed.

Tagged in :

systematicHR Avatar

One response to “The Internet in 2020”

  1. Colin Kingsbury Avatar

    But will it run in 640K of memory?

    I think this notion of flattening is insufficiently developed, because while nearly all market participants get flattened, a few gain a far higher level of power, c.f. eBay and Google. In that sense I’m not sure that the market dynamic is more socially beneficial, though it is perhaps more productive.

    Also, as a white guy who spent four years studying Mandarin, I strongly agree. The language is utterly impenetrable to non-native speakers, and the culture is even worse. The interesting thing though is just as the US is big enough to be a world unto itself, so is China. Five years ago, if you were an internet user in Beijing, you almost had to branch out to the international web to see interesting things. But as the number of Chinese users explodes, that’s changing. China traditionally stoo apart from the world culturally and I suspect this will continue to a significant degree. The real losers are going to be the mid-market languages like German, or, quel horreur, French, which are not large enough to create a competitive diversity of native-language resources. So long as kids learn these languages in the womb they won’t just disappear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if our grandchildren consider the EU to be an English-speaking country.