15 theses about the future of the Internet and how we can shape it positively


PewResearch Internet Project has just released a report on Digital Life in 2025 based on expert interviews.

One of the interesting aspects of the report is the ‘theses‘ that they have distilled from the interviews, which they have divided into ‘more-hopeful and ‘less-hopeful’, concluding with one very important piece advice. These are:
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Demographics will shape Asia’s future


Last week I gave the keynote at the Board Strategy Planning offsite of a major Philippino bank at a beautiful location a few hours outside Manila.

The bank’s board and executive team recognize the need to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the future, so themed their strategy offsite around the future, inviting me to presenting on Creating the Future of Business to kick off the session.

My presentation delved into the essence of technological, societal, and economic structural change today, and the leadership required to succeed in the emerging world.

One of the topics I touched on was demographic change. Demographics in the Philippines is a very different issue than it is in most developed countries, where rapidly ageing populations are at the forefront.

The following chart shows the anticipated demographic profiles of Philippines and Japan in 2050.

Source: Nationmaster
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The World in 2030: Four scenarios for long-term planning and strategy


Recently I did the opening keynote to the top executive team of a major organization at their strategy offsite. It’s not appropriate to share the full presentation, however I can share the rough scenarios I presented for the world to 2030. The scenarios were presented after having examined the driving forces and critical uncertainties for the company.

As always, a strong disclaimer comes with any generic set of scenarios like these – scenarios really must be created by the users themselves for specific decisions and in context (for the full disclaimer see my scenarios for the future of financial services).


A traditional scenario process identifies two dimensions to uncertainty, that when combined produce a matrix of four scenarios. Once the framework is created, the full richness of trends and uncertainties uncovered in the research process are integrated into the scenarios. Here the two dimensions selected are:

RESOURCES AVAILABILITY: Resource Poverty TO Resource Affluence

Availability and real cost of key resources including energy, food, water, and environmental stability.

COHESION: Cohesion TO Fragmentation

Cohesion of society, government, nations, and institutions.

Together these dimensions yield:



• Economic divergence: developed world stagnation
• Protectionism rises and markets localise
• Little global action on climate amid massive impact of global warming
• China and India fragment
• High-impact terrorism: bio, nuclear, radiation
• Infrastructure becomes primarily private
• Inexpensive and highly mobile labour
• Immigration tensions and rioting
• Urbanization accelerates, often in squalor


• Economic shift to East
• Billions become middle class
• New energy sources/ planetary engineering
• Innovation yields food and health to the poorest
• Artificial intelligence applied to real-world issues
• Robotics attenuates impact of aging workforce
• Life extension for the wealthy, retirement age rises
• Remote work leads to more distributed living
• Affluence drives tourism and travel


• Climate becomes extreme and volatile
• Food and water shortages, famine and pandemics
• Global coordinated action on climate
• Trade liberalisation accelerates, EU extends
• Corporate activity driven by triple bottom line
• Social entrepreneurs invest $100 billion and seed a billion enterprises
• Cities become compact and resource efficient
• Rise of public/ shared transport


• Fluid global economy
• International outsourcing of most functions
• Mega-corporations become lean and micro-business rises
• Market solutions for environment
• Governments lose control and ability to tax
• Agents seek best price for everything/ customer loyalty is zero/ commoditisation of everything
• Distributed energy and manufacturing
• New capital markets, volatile financial markets

Could online lobbying be the future of government?


Recently I spoke on the potential of crowdsourcing at the EngageTech conference, an event focusing on how government can best use technology to engage with community and citizens. One of the very interesting conversations that emerged at the event was on how interested and informed citizens are on government decisions.

It’s a truism that representative democracy is not very democratic.

One of the primary reasons that we elect representatives is that the vast majority of people do not have the interest or time to have informed opinions on the many things on which government must decide and act. However the rise of a hyper-connected world has fundamentally changed the relationship between citizens and government.

People have the opportunity as never before to be well-informed on the issues that interest them. The newspapers and TV stations that supposedly informed us pre-Internet were never better than adequate, and very rarely even that. We are better informed than ever before (and happy to debate it with anyone who disagrees).

Moreover, we now can have our opinions or input heard in a way that was never possible before. Switzerland, which has more referenda than any other country, is in the vanguard in e-voting, allowing easy remote participation in government decision-making. Of course the challenge is that citizens’ input to any particular decision will be swayed by the degree of participation of advocates of different approaches.

But this is certainly not sufficient reason to discard this kind of participation. Arguably all elections are subject to the same issues: degrees of participation in voting, extent of knowledge about the issues at hand, and influence by partisans. Is the fact that the proponents of a particular view can muster widespread online – or offline – engagement sufficient reason for their stance to become policy?

As a straw man, I suggest that it is entirely viable for public policy to be shaped – issue by issue – by online lobbying and engagement with voters and citizens. Yes there would be potential problems in this system, but these would not necessarily be worse than the current very broken system we have in most “democracies” around the world.

Let us imagine a world in which all major issues are open to debate, discussion, and lobbying in the public sphere, leading to participatory decision-making. For all the potential flaws of this system, it could well be better than what we have today.

Keynote at Critical Horizons conference: The potential of a connected world


Recently I spoke at the Critical Horizons Regional Futures conference held in Bunbury, Western Australia, which “examines emerging global trends and how they might affect regional communities in the South West Region of Western Australia”. It is fantastic that a non-urban region runs a regular event to examine its future. It is clear that the attendees from across business and government had a keen appetite to explore the future and what they need to do to create a prosperous region in years to come.

The regional economy is still largely driven by mining and to a lesser extent agriculture (including the delightful Margaret River wines). It is experiencing many issues common to regional areas, including the loss of younger people to cities. However it has a particular context in its location. Australia is one of the most urbanized countries in the world, and Perth is the most isolated city in the world. Bunbury is over 2 hours drive away from Perth. It took me 10 hours door-to-door to get here from Sydney – by far the longest it has taken me to get to a speaking gig in Australia.

The region’s geographic isolation means the topic of my keynote here, Power to the People: Thriving in a Hyperconnected Society, is immensely relevant. I discussed the overwhelming trend of how a connected world is shifting power from institutions to individuals. However, I also covered the implications for regions of the emerging global talent economy. Crowdsourcing tools on one level provide access to extraordinary talent that can be harnessed in ways limited only by imagination. Yet a connected world also provides opportunities to provide services, both in existing domains, and especially in managing projects.

To the extent that they are useful (usual disclaimer: my slides are created to accompany my speeches, not to be viewed on their own) here are the slides for my keynote (minus the Flash animations).