15 December 2008

The 168-hour work week

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A Pew/Internet survey of internet leaders, activists and analysts shows they expect major tech advances as the phone becomes a primary device for online access, voice-recognition improves, artificial and virtual reality become more embedded in everyday life, and the architecture of the internet itself improves.

They disagree about whether this will lead to more social tolerance, more forgiving human relations, or better home lives.

Here are the key findings on the survey of experts by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that asked respondents to assess predictions about technology and its roles in the year 2020:

  • The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020.
  • The transparency of people and organizations will increase, but that will not necessarily yield more personal integrity, social tolerance, or forgiveness.
  • Voice recognition and touch user-interfaces with the internet will be more prevalent and accepted by 2020.
  • Those working to enforce intellectual property law and copyright protection will remain in a continuing arms race, with the crackers who will find ways to copy and share content without payment.
  • The divisions between personal time and work time and between physical and virtual reality will be further erased for everyone who is connected, and the results will be mixed in their impact on basic social relations.
  • Next-generation engineering of the network to improve the current internet architecture is more likely than an effort to rebuild the architecture from scratch.

The publicly accessible research contains a range of predictions, but readers of Putting People First might be most interested in the future of mobile internet communications, the evolution of privacy, transparency, integrity and forgiveness, the evolution of the internet user interface, and the evolution of the internet’s impact on work and leisure.

Picking up on this last theme, John Paczkowski of Digital Daily comments:

If the line between your work and home life hasn’t yet been blurred by near-ubiquitious Internet connectivity, just you wait. Because by 2020 it’s likely to have been erased entirely. That’s the word from the Pew Internet & American Life Project whose recent “Future of the Internet III” study suggests that the dawn of the mobile phone as a “primary” Internet connection will essentially obliterate the boundaries between work and home. 56 percent of the Pew survey’s respondents agreed that by 2020 the formalized delineation of social, personal, and work time have disappeared. “The 9-to-5 approach will disappear completely, with few exceptions,” ICANN Board member Roberto Gaetano told Pew. “The current separation between ‘work time’ and ‘free time’ is a byproduct of the industrial revolution, and is bound to disappear with it.”

John sees nothing but Big Brother coming towards us.

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