most Internet users had some connection to cloud computing, and the Internet environment itself became a video, as well as a text-based, experience. Just 2 years before this survey was administered, iPhones were still being designed at Apple, iPods did not store and display videos, the iTunes service was just getting off of the ground as a music service, and netbooks (mini-laptops) were not yet conceived as market makers. None of these things figured much in the imagination of respondents to our second survey. In this current effort, those “far-out” technologies of 2006 became touchstones.
It also was surprising to me to see how some of the things we had probed in our first survey in 2004 had already become realities by 2008. The 2004 survey was meant to explore the world in 2014 and beyond, not the world 4 years hence. As I look back at some of the questions we asked in 2004, I see that the initial survey was overtaken by events a lot sooner than I imagined. I write these words now with an inescapable sense that the future is speeding up.
Yet even as change occurs, it is striking how certain metathemes recur in experts' responses to our questions no matter how we frame the queries and what topics we ask the experts to address. These metathemes include the following:
• Improvements in technology will continue unabated: There is no sense among our expert respondents that upgrades in computing capacity, digital-storage capacity, and communications speeds (bandwidth capacity) have hit any kind of natural limit. There is a powerful view that devices will get smaller, cheaper, and more powerful. As über blogger and digital strategist Jeff Jarvis sees it, the majority of people in the most developed areas of the world in coming years will avail themselves to many connected devices that plug into the communications grid: “This will lead to a world that is not only connected but also live and immediate. Witnesses will share news as they witness it. We can get answers to any question, anytime. We can stay in constant touch with the people we know, following their lives as we [now] follow RSS and Twitter feeds.”