In 5 years… Society


After a little break, it’s time for another look into the not-too-far future. Keep in mind:

This isn’t about looking into the future, either, really. Instead it’s more to look back in five or so years to get an idea about our perception at the time, and either say “Hah! Told you so!” or “Ewww, this really turned out different, eh?”.

That said, here my guesses about some trends, gathered in this spot around the very vague label “society”. (Which, to be honest, is just a cheap substitute for the category miscellaneous). These are not the smartest ideas ever (not even my own to a large degree), but just some observations. Enjoy. Society

  1. Information Warfare will become more important than regular forces. As a country can’t be run without communication, and neither can an army, a break-down of communication will be the worst-case scenario. This includes exporting backdoored software to other countries, military and paramilitary hackers and the physical shutting-off of IT infrastructure among other things.
  2. Universities will focus more on certifying knowledge than teaching it. With more knowledge accessible at cheaper rates, we will be responsible for our education ourselves. Teaching ourselves will become increasingly important. Consequently, instead of attending expensive classes, we’ll be able to learn by ourselves and have our knowledge and skills certified at trusted centers. Thus, we can make our masters degree in many different ways: Online; In more reputable or less reputable test and training centers; Or just the traditional way, in a classroom. (With this idea I was first confronted by Max Senges. Thanks, Max.)
  3. The borders between online and offline disputes will blur, requiring new mechanisms of conflict resolution, mediation and law. As online goods grow more valuable and conflicts can more easily swap from online and in-game to offline, laws and other mechanisms have to evolve to cope with the resulting conflicts and to counter fraud. What’s the punishment for robbing you in-game of items you purchased for real money and re-selling them on ebay? (Again, Cory Doctorow has developed some of these ideas in his short-story Anda’s Game. )
  4. Collaboration will span all areas of the economy. Collaborative, bottom-up production will go way beyond cultural production. It will span all aspects of society, including scientific research – the latter one both in terms of creative input and processing power, both of which are shared online. (Not the only one, but one of the best readings: Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.)
  5. SPAM will be a thing of the past. Just kidding. A man can dream, though, a man can dream.
  6. Outside authoritarian states, censorship won’t occur. Netizens will be able to choose the kind of content they want to be exposed to based on client-based filters which analyze the metadata of contents, as tagged collaboratively. Top-down censorship will be a scary thing of the past.
  7. A huge new sector of cheap unskilled labor will pop up substituting bots. Bots suck at certain tasks. These formerly automated tasks will instead be done more effectively by humans because we’re better at pattern recognition. However, this will be the most mind-numbing unskilled work: Circumventing anti-spam bot barriers, evaluation and judging visual information and similar bot-like tasks like playing noob-ingame characters to a certain level. (Again, see Cory Doctorow’s Anda’s Game and Amazon‘s Mechanical Turk.)

About the author

Peter Bihr
By Peter Bihr