The Internet of Things–a world of increasingly interconnected objects and devices–could make our lives very, very interesting.

Pew Research has been trying to understand what impact an increasingly wired world will have on both our personal and professional lives. As part of its Digital Life in 2025 series, Pew Research asked 1,606 experts:

The evolution of embedded devices and the Internet/Cloud of Things—as billions of devices, artifacts, and accessories are networked, will the Internet of Things have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025?

 

Eighty-three percent said yes–although I’m not sure the issues they identified can all be classified as “beneficial” (at least in the short term). But they are fascinating.

The Internet of Things Will Thrive By 2025 identifies six themes that characterize the trend toward increased connectivity in the next decade.

1. Connectivity will have profound consequences. Salesforce’s Chief Scientist, JP Rangaswami, said that “the proliferation of sensors and actuators will continue. ‘Everything’ will become nodes on a network. The quality of real-time information that becomes available will take the guesswork out of much of capacity planning and decision-making.”

2. There will be less privacy, and more targeting and profiling.

3. Voice and touch commands will improve (a better Siri?), but brain-to-network connectivity still won’t be widespread. Adrian Schofield of the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering said that “convenience is the name of the game. Connected ‘Things’ will be monitored, will initiate repair or replenishment, and will balance loads. People will ‘wear’ devices that enable access to information, capturing and transmitting data, and executing transactions.”

4. There will be complicated, unintended consequences (i.e., “we will live in a world where many things won’t work and nobody will know how to fix them”).

5. Those left behind will be disenfranchised. One respondent said that “people without the Internet will be kind of like the people who live outside The Matrix or below the streets in Demolition Man.” Most believed, however, that fewer people will be unconnected. Ben Fuller of the International University of Management in Windhoek said that “The impact of the Internet of Things is major in a country like Namibia, where the population is small and widespread. Information about health, education, finances, and family now flows with an immediacy that was unthinkable 10 years ago. The impacts will only increase.”

6. The Internet of Things will recast our relationships with each other and with groups. The experts talked about everything from increasingly personalized content to people being both “the watcher and the watched.”

The Internet of Things Will Thrive contains 65 pages of opinions, predictions, and educated guesses. It’s easy to read, but very hard to wrap your brain around what to do next.

Year 2025 is only 10 years away. 

This isn’t science fiction.

Jeff Jarvis said that “we are just beginning to imagine the possibilities of ubiquitous, inexpensive connectivity and the proliferation of sensors in the physical environment.” Altimeter Group’s Susan Etlinger said that “collecting and automating communication is a far cry from understanding human behavior. It’s time for technologists to collaborate with neuroscientists, social scientists, bioethicists, and others, to promote understanding—to the extent we can ever crack that code.”

Are you paying attention?

Photo by Jurvetson (Flickr).