Experts: Tech Will Greatly Transform, Complicate Life by 2025

The Pew Research Center asked 915 experts to share their views on how life will be in 2025. The overwhelming majority said tech will drive many changes, some of which will pose significant problems for humankind.

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The crises of 2020, including the global COVID-19 outbreak, will give birth to a drastically different world by 2025 via technological transformation, according to numerous expert opinions gathered by the Pew Research Center.

Yesterday, Pew released the major findings from a thought experiment involving 915 experts, which included "innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists." Of the individuals surveyed, a sizeable majority, 86 percent, said the pandemic will lead to various tech-driven changes that will "feature both positives and negatives." A higher percentage of these experts believe life will be worse for the average person by 2025. 

"Some 47 percent of these respondents said life will be mostly worse for most people in 2025 than it was before the pandemic, while 39 percent said life will be mostly better for most people in 2025 than it was pre-pandemic," the Pew article said. 

Pew reported "[n]otable shares of respondents" think the gap between the rich and the poor will widen due to unequal distribution of digital tools and skills; that tech companies will grow more powerful and employ solutions "in ways that seem likely to further erode the privacy and autonomy of their users"; and that misinformation, especially via digital media, will substantially manipulate "public perception, emotion and action."

On the other hand, many experts see good things happening by 2025, including an increased emphasis on social equity and a better overall quality of life for families and workers through the rise of "tele-everything," the proliferation of smart systems and advances in virtual and augmented reality.

Based on Pew's highlighted themes and expert quotations, government wasn't mentioned as much as one might expert, but there were several notable government-related observations. Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, predicted that regulation will be a trickier field in the coming years.  

"The fate of regulation, as national governments try to reconcile the desire for public safety with a reality in which algorithms are encoded with bias, could take many years to sort out, and the result is likely a patchwork of different protocols and permissions around the world," Webb said. "In the Bioinformation Age, transparency, accountability and data governance are paramount, but few organizations are ready."

However, Jim Spohrer, a director at IBM, believes governments will be far better prepared and equipped to serve citizens by 2025. 

"The new normal by 2025 will likely be better ... Online education, health and government services will be improved, and more people will have experience with them," Spohrer remarked. 

Christina J. Colclough, who closely watches "the politics of technology and ethics in AI," said that workers, and thus innovation, will suffer unless "government steps into another gear" and begins regulating how data is used and takes power away from big tech. 

"I am tech optimist under the condition that it is regulated and governed," Colclough summarized. 

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.