47% of researchers and business and policy leaders think life will be mostly worse for most people in 2025 than it was before the pandemic.
39% said life will be mostly better and 14% said most people’s lives will not be much different from the way things would have turned out if there had been no pandemic. The Pew Research Centre and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center received answers to a survey from 915 innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists.
Among the 86% who said the pandemic will bring about some kind of change, most said they expect that the evolution of digital life will continue to feature both positives and negatives.
The Pew says notable shares of these respondents foresee significant change that will:
- worsen economic inequality as those who are highly connected and the tech-savvy pull further ahead of those who have less access to digital tools and less training or aptitude for exploiting them and as technological change eliminates some jobs;
- enhance the power of big technology firms as they exploit their market advantages and mechanisms such as artificial intelligence (AI) in ways that seem likely to further erode the privacy and autonomy of their users;
- multiply the spread of misinformation as authoritarians and polarized populations wage warring information campaigns with their foes. Many respondents said their deepest worry is over the seemingly unstoppable manipulation of public perception, emotion and action via online disinformation – lies and hate speech deliberately weaponized in order to propagate destructive biases and fears. They worry about significant damage to social stability and cohesion and the reduced likelihood of rational deliberation and evidence-based policy making.
At the same time, a portion of these experts express hope that changes spawned by the pandemic will make things better for significant portions of the population because of changes that:
- inaugurate new reforms aimed at racial justice and social equity as critiques of current economic arrangements – and capitalism itself – gain support and policymaker attention;
- enhance the quality of life for many families and workers as more flexible-workplace arrangements become permanent and communities adjust to them;
- produce technology enhancements in virtual and augmented reality and AI that allow people to live smarter, safer and more productive lives, enabled in many cases by “smart systems” in such key areas as health care, education and community living.