August 10, 2017

The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade

Theme 3: Trust will not grow, but technology usage will continue to rise as a ‘new normal’ sets in

Many participants pointed out that a person’s use of a technology does not necessarily equate to any level of trust in that technology. They said while some users may gain some level of trust in online interaction for various reasons in the next decade, many will be interacting in online spaces because it is convenient, because they are ignorant of or choose to ignore any potential negative consequences, or because they have no alternate options. A higher percentage of online participation certainly does not indicate a higher level of trust.

Trust will be irrelevant. Hacking, identity theft, trolling, doxxing will become increasingly commonplace and a daily cost of doing business on the internet.Anonymous respondent

Vance S. Martin, instructional designer at Parkland College, commented, “I am not sure that ‘trust’ will actually be strengthened, but use will increase. In order for there to be trust, people would have to actively think about the security of their digital information, and I don’t think most people do. My S7 came preloaded with Amazon, Facebook and my carrier’s account software. So there is presumed ‘safety’ in accessing these on my phone. My wife installs banking software and investment software on her phone as well. We mostly trust the safety of our information, but are also diligent about access and location of our phones. However, I work at a college where I see countless times how students lose their phones which are unlocked; they log in to various sites and never log out; and they get hacked (many times due to the first two points). Perhaps it is blind trust, perhaps it is ignorance of potential threats, but the use of mobile devices for all of young people’s interactions is increasing. Could blockchain systems like bitcoin increase the safety? Sure. Could the successful mass use of quantum computing decrease the safety? Sure. From surveys on our campus we know that 91% of our students have smartphones, 100% have cellphones of some sort. My guess is that very few of them have thought about security or whether they should actually trust their information’s safety.”

An anonymous respondent replied, “It is becoming clear that the norms that governed social interactions do not scale to the technologically mediated social networking we use today. One cannot, for instance, have any faith in secrecy of digital correspondence, even in a trusted human partner, because so many of us use technologies that necessitate a third party to have access to metadata, and often content, as a product of that transaction. Apps that upload address books to servers and email providers that read email have become the norm. Third parties inserting themselves into our social interactions, and our readily accepting that as normal, is a telling thing for trends to come.”

Subtheme: ‘The trust train has left the station’; sacrifices tied to trust a ‘side effect of progress’

A share of these respondents expect people’s trust in online transactions to be no different from their trust in institutions, which is to say that there is very little of it if any at all. Others observe that people will continue to expand their uses of digital technologies but trust is generally not a factor in their decisions to do so or – if it is – it is misplaced or undeserved trust or “trust by default.”

Miles Fidelman, a systems architect and policy analyst at the Protocol Technologies Group and president of the Center for Civic Networking, wrote, “People seem to have … a willingness to defer to authority and the human tendency to turn a blind eye to issues in favor of convenience. At the same time, experience generally breeds a level of cynicism. The result seems to be that people ‘don’t trust anyone, but do it anyway.’ And then lurch from crisis to crisis. (Example, credit cards and passwords get leaked daily – we still use them with impunity.)”

An anonymous principal security consultant predicted that security will improve but attacks will continue to rise and systems are unlikely to gain more trust, writing, “People … will not have any other realistic choice. The use of these systems will likely be expected in many interactions in the future. However, in the next decade, it seems unlikely that the systems will be significantly more secure than they are currently without a major push from all involved parties. A number of new technologies are being rolled out to improve a number of areas of security, but they frequently fall victim to the same flaws that have been in software for decades already. Security will improve, but attacks will improve. It seems likely that systems will be engineered to more gracefully handle such issues: for example, making it easy to change your credit card number. This will improve ease of use when systems fail, but won’t necessarily engender more trust.”

A number of respondents argued that many of those online now and in future are relying on personal cost-to-benefit calculations estimating that the worst will not happen to them. An anonymous respondent wrote, “Trust is irrelevant. We know that people are wildly uncomfortable with the amount of information that, e.g., Google, has about them, but it does not stop them from using Google. People need to live their lives and they will use the services they find necessary.”

An anonymous respondent said, “Trust will be irrelevant. Hacking, identity theft, trolling, doxxing will become increasingly commonplace and a daily cost of doing business on the internet. Convenience and convention will keep us transacting; but our expectations will shift to accommodate those problems which are currently framed as trust issues.”

An anonymous respondent at the U.S. Department of Defense observed, “I work for a Navy cyber organization, so I’m aware of the concerns today. And, as a classic Gen X person, I am naturally aloof and untrusting. That said, people sold their personally identifiable information a long time ago with Google, Netflix, Twitter, etc. The genie is out of the bottle for most with regard to the interest of ‘privacy.’ ”

Luis Lach, president of the Sociedad Mexicana de Computación en la Educación, said, “We are suspicious of frauds, cyberattacks of our sensitive personal and financial information, but we are starting to accept that it is safe most of the time. The big challenge is to really have safe procedures over our financial records and personal information. The same principle applies over other areas: health care, education, etc.”

An anonymous deputy CEO warned that “misplaced trust will be widespread,” writing, “People will become more and more used to the digital platforms in their lives. This doesn’t mean trust will be strengthened, rather that misplaced trust will be widespread. The increase in the use of mobile apps – low-functionality programs that run on small-screen devices [and] frequently do not implement sufficient security in their operation – does not help matters. As more economic activity takes place on mobile apps, the cost will go up, as the levels of fraud will only increase. I hope this will change.”

An anonymous researcher at a state university said, “As security technology increases and as people become more normalized to online transactions, sales of goods and services online will increase and likely increase sales across borders and even-greater globalization of the service industry.”

An anonymous senior research scholar at a major university’s digital civil society lab replied, “The business of commerce depends on ‘just enough trust’ – the incentives are aligned to keep just enough trust in place.”

Theo Armour, a coder, said, “I trust a candle and a match more than I trust a light bulb and a power company. But I can do a lot more with the latter. And my trust becomes more informed and increasingly nuanced the more I use the transformed, transported power.”

Some experts who study trust and systems say they don’t expect a lot of improvement will emerge in the next decade.

Mary Griffiths, associate professor in media at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, commented, “The mobile users I surveyed recently in two Australian cities noted security of information and lack of privacy as major concerns which affected decisions on the use of apps. Others noted the smartphone’s locative functionality as something they did not particularly like. This suggests that increased surveillance of the individual by parties unknown is a continuing concern. Some respondents spoke about their trust that if something ‘went wrong,’ it would be fixed by responsible agencies. My view is that while a significant number will opt out in future, many will accept change and expect problems to be worked out by regulatory bodies as development occurs. They will create the pressure for accountable systems.”

Some respondents complained about surveillance, the lack of disclosures of attacks and data thefts, the push by governments to include back doors by which they evade or overcome encryption and other security measures and called for the public to have more access to the data that companies like Facebook have collected about them and information about how it is used.

An anonymous respondent said security will rise and privacy will fall by the wayside, predicting, “Confidence in the ability of companies to secure information will increase, while there will be a decrease in the confidence that companies can be trusted to not use the information at the user’s expense.”

Another anonymous respondent observed, “People’s ‘trust’ is going to depend upon how sophisticated they are. There doesn’t seem to be a huge push to make them more sophisticated, although right now the internet is more open and so people have an opportunity to learn if they so choose. I think disclosures in PLAIN LANGUAGE should be right at the top. We are learning almost daily about the abysmal security practiced by companies large and small – even security companies. So will this knowledge diminish trust? For me, yes. For others, no, unless they become personally liable.”

An anonymous state employee replied, “This will depend heavily on the rate at which people are victimized, online versus brick-and-mortar retailers. If credit cards and personal information are stolen at both institutions at the same rate it will remain the same. If these are stolen less at one or the other then the perception will be swayed in that direction. Media coverage will also play heavily into the perception of safety.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “The biggest challenge will come from ensuring that the processes used by the trusted systems are fully reviewed and do not contain back doors required by governments. We need open processes and communication. Secrecy is for the data inside the messages, not for the process that is supposed to keep our secrets.”

An anonymous community advocate said, “Widespread trust will be harder to earn, and there is certainly a distrust of centralized resources (e.g., Facebook). In the future we should have more access to data to base our decisions on, socially and otherwise.”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “I remember the pulse-pounding fear I felt the first time I entered credit card information into a website to order something, which probably would have been in the mid-2000s. My trepidation would be laughable to a person of my socioeconomic status growing up today. In my lifetime I’ve seen a clear trend toward more spheres of one’s life being opened up to the internet rather than fewer, and I don’t see how that genie goes back in the bottle barring some unforeseen crisis. Within my lifetime, I predict that many things I would never do online will become the norm for people younger than me. I’ll be able to put a drop of blood in my computer and upload data to a web service that will tell me if I have high cholesterol or diabetes or HIV. At some point this database will be hacked and a lot of people’s private information will be made public, as has happened in many other areas of the internet. People will freak out, but continue using the service because it’s convenient and has many benefits, and eventually private medical information will just enter the domain of things people know about one another. There are legitimate concerns to be addressed around government and law enforcement surveillance.”

Subtheme: People often become attached to convenience and inured to risk

Many participants in this survey argued that immediate rewards outweigh perceived risks, thus reliance on digital tools for interactions requiring trust will spread even more widely as the infusion of technology into people’s lives and their environment expands and they become increasingly familiar with and dependent upon it.

Trust takes a back seat to convenience for most.Richard J. Perry

The convenience of digital devices is regularly cited as a primary reason people are willing to interact and execute important transactions online despite any doubts they may have in regard to security and privacy issues. An anonymous web and mobile developer commented, “Being able to buy groceries when you’re commuting, talking with colleagues when doing a transatlantic flight, or simply ordering food for your goldfish right before skydiving will allow people to take more advantage of the scarcest good of our modern times: time itself. Although, to be honest, I fear people will not be able to reclaim that time as theirs and, instead, spend it on more work.”

Kevin Novak, CEO of 2040 Digital, replied, “We are all changing our thoughts and concepts around the definition of ‘place’ and ‘physical,’ and we will be more willing, open and trusting to receive services that help us solve our problems or needs in the most efficient and effective way.”

Richard J. Perry, a respondent who did not share other identifying background, said, “Trust takes a back seat to convenience for most.”

Julie Gomoll, CEO at Julie Gomoll Inc., commented, “We’ll keep trusting, and trusting more, even if we shouldn’t, because we can’t bear the idea of giving up our digital transactions. We’re stubborn that way.”

An anonymous chief problem solver observed, “People are fundamentally lazy. Our best and brightest typically make systems and products so the rest can get more benefit from less work. Desensitization happens soooooo much faster on the internet because you’re having thousands of stimulae hurtled at you every minute instead of a few stimulae per minute doing just about any other activity in the known world. The combo of a desensitized user base and consumer-protection activities is quite likely to increase everyone’s concept of ‘the internet is safe’ because so many stakeholders care so much about actually making that happen (more or less). I doubt we’ll be ‘safer’ in any objective way in 10 years than we are now, but I think the average person will spend a lot less time worrying about it.”

An anonymous professor said, “People will expect data breaches, but will use online services anyway because of their convenience. It’s like when people accepted being mugged as the price of living in New York.”

An anonymous consultant observed, “Let’s assume the cybercrime arms race between bad actors and our defenders will continue without either a mass migration to some new, locked-down web or the triumph of evil. As more people spend more time performing more tasks online, their comfort should increase simply by becoming accustomed to the digital world. Abusive behavior will continue, but I don’t see that driving down trust overall. Some people are unaffected by this, for various reasons. Instead, rising awareness of abuse and sympathy and support for those affected by it should help increase [trust in the internet].”

An anonymous assistant professor of data ethics, law and policy observed, “People will receive less information about how their data are being used, and in the absence of massive public disaster, they will trust more and question less.”

An anonymous faculty member at a large university commented, “People are very poor at risk assessment and are desperate to communicate with one another. In general, short product lifetimes (‘fads’) will allow connection-addicted users to stay ahead of the massive hacks that destroy each system in turn. This applies to brand apps as much as it does social media. As for shopping, convenience will always trump security, and short-attention-span consumers now have brand loyalties driven solely by the associated perceived social status. Quality and value are irrelevant; why would security matter?”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “At this point one can just assume your private information has been stolen; and nearly everyone is now aware of phishing scams and other threats, yet humanity is just as happy to accept those risks in favor of free shipping. Institutions are pushing more services online-only (to save money), forcing people online despite risks. People continue to shrug and carry on.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “I ticked the box that says [trust will be] ‘strengthened’ because the majority of people do not care (or don’t understand) that the governments of the world (and certain tech corporations) are attempting to harvest our personal data for nefarious purposes. So for most people, they will only see the benefits of internet-connected smartphones, and they will grow to trust the machine.”

Another anonymous respondent commented, “Best-in-class, encrypted applications will suffer episodic attacks, but the convenience of using them in an increasingly centralized corporate economy run amok will make people trust them without much fuss or critique.”

Nathaniel Borenstein, chief scientist at Mimecast, commented, “Because most people are completely unqualified to judge the underlying technical issues, their trust in various online activities will be shaped by what they’re told, i.e., whoever commands the biggest ad budget. That would seem to be good news for the purveyors of online services.”

Bernardo A. Huberman, senior fellow and director of the Mechanisms and Design Lab at HPE Labs, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, replied, “Unless people learn of a big breach in security at a level that affects them, they will continue to trust blindly the new technology, mostly because of their ignorance of how intrusive it is.”

Many said that ubiquitous connectivity and its affordances will cause trust to be “baked into the system” becoming accepted, remaining invisible or at least being transformed to a mostly forgotten factor.

Daniel Berleant, author of “The Human Race to the Future,” said, “Digital devices are becoming more pervasive all the time. Questions of trust and privacy will always be there but there is no reason to expect their impact to be greater than has been the case so far.”

Luis Miron, a distinguished professor at Loyola University New Orleans, said, “The issue is not complicated in my mind. I believe – though I lack empirical evidence other than general market trends – that prices will continue to fall for smartphones and other digital platforms. This will increase online consumer participation. With increased usage, consumer expertise and access will expand, and so on.”

An anonymous Ph.D. candidate commented, “People will continue to be comfortable. It is very difficult to remain vigilant.”

Alexander Halavais, director of the social technologies master’s program at Arizona State University, wrote, “The process of globalization has often been seen as one related largely to politics and technologies of transportation. In practice, we have already moved beyond this. Distance is almost certainly not dead, particularly when it comes to traditional cultural exchanges. However, especially in spaces of economic and commercial exchanges, as well as in some cultural institutions (those that throughout history have been tied to cosmopolitanism), distance will quickly become less important to interactions. Especially in places where mobile devices have provided an opportunity to ‘leapfrog’ into the information age, we will see the effects of distributed services make interactions across languages and cultures far more common. Trust will be baked into the system.”

An anonymous computing sciences professor at a major technology institute said, “The connectivity among people, and between people and institutions (e.g., banks, retailers, governments) is going to help both the urban population (e.g., bypassing traffic and other physical obstacles) and the rural population (e.g., shrinking the physical distance).”

Some said cultural acceptance will play the largest role in relieving trust concerns.

The more we have a fully digital culture, the better it will be for trust, for privacy, and for society in general. Trust cannot be built through technology. Trust is a social issue.Stephan G. Humer

Garland McCoy, president of the Technology Education Institute, said, “We have reached critical mass of social acceptance of the internet as a platform for commerce, education and social engagement. Peer-to-peer familiarity will help ensure robust adaption and utilization. The internet is like sex education; you get it through your friends.”

Stephan G. Humer, head of the internet sociology department at Hochschule Fresenius in Berlin, wrote, “People’s trust will be strengthened because we see an ongoing spread of digitization throughout the world and a growing knowledge regarding the importance of dealing with digitization. New players will arise, new forms of digitization will be shaped, but there is one area of life that truly makes a difference: culture. The more we have a fully digital culture, the better it will be for trust, for privacy, and for society in general. Trust cannot be built through technology. Trust is a social issue.”

Many participants in this canvassing took note of the public’s previous transitions to mostly trusting technology despite proven risks – for instance, pointing out that people die in car crashes but that does not stop them from using cars.

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Any new technology is not trusted at first: the car, the aircraft and so on. We are still at the infant stages of the internet. By the end of this century the internet and related technologies shall be ‘embedded’ in most items that we own and will work with little or no user input.”

An anonymous participant wrote, “We will trust technology with our private information. We love the ease of it too much not to. An example: My boyfriend doesn’t carry cash – ever. Cards, phone apps – people prefer comfort over trust. It’s too easy to say ‘it won’t happen to me’ when it comes to identity theft or other issues. People will take precautions, like wearing a seat belt in a car, and there might even be government regulation, just like seat belts; but even with thousands of deaths on the road, we still drive cars.”

An anonymous professor of media production and theory said, “This is very complex. I, like many people, engage in vast numbers of transactions globally. We will see more of that on every level. I have done a lot of work/research in Africa, where the phone starts to take on the task of many institutions, from hospitals to banks. I am particularly excited to see increased transparency in government in online contexts. The big problem is that on all fronts, our increased trust is easily taken advantage of by those who provide platforms, pay for information about our activity, etc. Until there is some kind of real ‘online bill of rights’ I see this increased action as perilous, as potentially devastating as the advent of industrial society was to working people in the 19th century. On the other hand, in my own work, ‘the pursuit of knowledge,’ the effect of using the internet has increased my ability to research and theorize, as well as to share with colleagues by something over an order of magnitude.”

An anonymous professor at a public university observed, “We are just at the dawn of developing digital commercial and social applications and there are a number of implementation innovations that need to be developed to improve the experience and increase security. However, the commercial viability of these applications will drive improvements to increase consumer use of these systems. The applications will be too convenient for most consumers to miss out on and they will become the primary way we do business, shop and engage in social organization.”

Subtheme: There will be no choice for users but to comply and hope for the best

A number of respondents went another step in describing how the inexorable march toward mass adoption of online interactions will proceed, arguing that the public will not have the energy, interest or capacity to resist because most aspects of daily life will require compliance. These experts say tech usage and acceptance will simply become normalized – often adding that this acceptance does not imply trust. An anonymous respondent said, “Users will be coerced into using online technology more as alternatives are phased out.”

Marc Brenman, managing partner at IDARE LLC, commented, “It will be use the systems or nothing. There will be great impacts on national security (negatively), on personal finance, on privacy (negatively), on politics (coarsening).”

An anonymous respondent wrote, “Trust will be strengthened only in that relying on online interactions, with risks, will so be normalized that a considerable number of people may not know better, and may not question the architectures of online interaction.”

Yar Quasar, a businessman, observed, “Trust will decrease as knowledge of the risks grows and as people’s lives get ruined by trust. However, this will not slow adoption since it will become untenable to live outside the new system.”

Peter Morville, president of Semantic Studios, said, “Trust exists in a state of persistent disequilibrium. We need it to function as a society, but the threats and breaches will continue.”

An anonymous technology writer said, “The late adopters will find that yesterday’s analog services are no longer offered. They’ll be forced to trust in other methods since there’s no alternative. I expect the cellphone as a device to be obsolesced by some other media innovation, but it’s hard to understand what that might be. It might be a chance to start over with a new and purpose-built structure of online interaction that’s less frail and corrupt than the ones we have now.”

Bart Knijnenburg, assistant professor in human-centered computing at Clemson University, responded, “I don’t think online threats will diminish – in fact, they will likely increase – but users will be increasingly required to interact online. As they become more familiar with this, their trust will increase.”

Polina Kolozaridi, a researcher at the Higher School of Economics, Moscow, noted, “I answered ‘Trust will be strengthened,’ but it is more complicated. There are as of yet no other mediums to trust. But I am sure that trust in online interactions will not be anything different from the offline.”

An anonymous professor said, “People’s trust is built exclusively on perception. Increased experience with a thing gives them greater trust, even when it is not deserved. So long as internet retailers and other sites improve their capacity to avoid hackers, there will be greater trust simply by the fact that more people will have to participate in the online economy.”

An anonymous futurist wrote, “Trust in mobile communications will be strengthened because it must. People will not have a choice. Every area you mention will change. I do not know how, but I know they will be different. Also, you did not mention family life, which is already changing in families that have phones. The phones are designed to mediate communications between people. That is the purpose. All of our social institutions are built upon communications between people. Now, take a device that is designed to change the relationship between people and the institutions must change. The people born into the mobile communications age are just reaching adulthood. I expect a social change more difficult than the 1960s is coming in the next five to ten years. The digital natives will have a very different ethic of behavior than the ‘older’ generations.”

Vin Crosbie, a professor at Syracuse University, wrote, “Although alarming incidents of massive breaches of online security will probably occur during the next 10 years – probably extending upon the public’s largely false sense of worry or distrust now about online security – people will nonetheless use utilize online interactions much more during the next 10 years than now.”

People’s trust will have zero correlation with reality. It is not appropriate to expect their feelings of trust to correlate with actual technological details.Anonymous software engineer

An anonymous program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation commented, “It is already part of the background fabric of our lives, and so will go on unquestioned except when things break. Some of the security must improve, both through technology and education.”

An anonymous software engineer wrote, “People’s trust will have zero correlation with reality. It is not appropriate to expect their feelings of trust to correlate with actual technological details.”

A share of respondents argued that the builders and purveyors of these technologies are not illuminating privacy violations and security threats to the public clearly enough, and some note that the public itself will continue to adopt shiny new tools without question, whether out of necessity or just because they want them, of course failing to read any lengthy, dense and undecipherable terms of service and end-user agreements.

Laurent Schüpbach, a neuropsychologist at the University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, said, “Most new technologies and devices are marketed as more practical (easy to use) and rarely as more secure (more complicated). I’ve already seen so many scandals – from Edward Snowden to password leaks to privacy negligence on Facebook – that I can’t imagine what more is needed so that people start to realise that security and privacy online is a big deal. Trust is given as far as everyone is using [these technologies]. But, as most companies and governments profit from the overall ignorance on these matters, nothing will improve.”

John Anderson, director of journalism and media studies at Brooklyn College, said, “Trust is something that can only be developed by an informed populace. Most people have not been adequately informed about how internet technologies work to properly assess their risks and rewards. When is the last time you fully read a terms-of-service document? That said, there are also many unknowns over the next 10 years that could greatly enhance or diminish trust. On the positive side, new security technologies may harden networks, pushing online transactions to near-ubiquity. On the negative side, cyberwarfare/cybercrime or even terrorism utilizing electromagnetic pulse devices may shake our network infrastructures to their cores or even destroy them, waking people up to the real fragility of the digital world.”

Sam Punnett, research officer at TableRock Media, replied, “These activities have become integral to people’s lives. They are destined to become even more so as institutions incorporate them for a variety of motives. There will be an increasing awareness that systems show their shortcomings periodically, but people will likely keep believing that compromise of these systems is what happens to other people. Institutions will continue to move to automated interactions/transactions, assessing benefits to themselves versus risk analysis of encountering catastrophe. Of course it often takes a catastrophe to reveal errors in the risk analysis.”

An anonymous IT architect noted, “Trust will be strengthened, but that doesn’t correlate security or privacy. I’ve been asked to demo health care apps, and I can’t think of anything I’d more rapidly avoid than sharing that sort of data with insurance companies, who already make healthy profits over denying coverage for even the simplest of procedures yet have a government mandate to exist and charge ridiculous premiums for this shabby coverage. Education over a phone is ridiculous. They’re far too tiny. Over a regular computer, sure, it works to a degree, but the death of the PC receives frequent press.”

An anonymous research and evaluation director at a major university wrote, “People are going to have fewer and fewer choices for non-online transactions and will have to come into the cybermarket fold. The security providers will have to stay one step ahead of the thieves.”

An anonymous respondent said, “People will eventually come to accept that they will be excluded from mainstream economic life and from good health care and education if they are outside the online world. And one hopes that security to protect privacy will also improve such that people will come to trust the systems more. However, it is likely that a growing group will live off the grid, never trusting that they will be protected in this environment.”

An anonymous information security manager replied, “Unfortunately, it will be strengthened since the majority of users are not IT-savvy on issues of privacy and surveillance. This is why all elected officials should be taking a more responsible approach as the advocates for their citizens rather than simply parroting the greatness of high technology in fighting terrorism.”

An anonymous respondent commented, “I ticked the box that says ‘strengthened’ because the majority of people do not care (or don’t understand) that the governments of the world (and certain tech corporations) are attempting to harvest our personal data for nefarious purposes. So for most people, they will only see the benefits of internet-connected smartphones, and they will grow to trust the machine.”

A number of respondents agreed that the inexorable march to full, fuller, fullest connectivity will overwhelm trust issues, but some also pointed out that connectivity becoming the new normal has beaucoup benefits beyond simple convenience.

Isto Huvila, professor at Uppsala University, wrote, “More and more interactions will take place online. People will have no alternative but to trust in things that make their everyday life work for them. But, on a larger scale, trustworthy and traceable technologies will have an impact and could play a major role in increasing the trust between those actors who operate online, and between the society and the actors who provide online services. If we can trust in a systemic and systematic sense in online technologies and services, they can really replace others not only in technical sense but also as a basis of how people interact with each other and remember things, and as a baseline of how things are supposed to work. This is unlikely to happen during the next 10 years, but trust in the digital is slowly becoming the new default unless something very dramatic happens that would essentially make online interactions impossible for a time.”

M.E. Kabay, professor of computer information systems at Norwich University, replied, “Trust will increase simply because familiarity consistently increases even irrational trust. Risk analysis is not a strong point among human beings. A simple illustration is that many people fear death and injury from terrorist attacks far more than from domestic nutcases armed with automatic weapons, from drunk drivers, and even from ordinary car accidents. Reality has little influence over emotion. Impact is likely to be affected by the growing population of smartphone-equipped users, especially in developing countries. In East Africa, for example, we have already seen major effects on economic justice simply because inland farmers have been able to find out how much their crops are being sold for in coastal cities. The tool for this information exchange? Mobile phones – not even smartphones. In East Africa and elsewhere, impoverished, cash-deprived rural family members have finally been able to benefit from the income of their diaspora simply through text messages facilitating money transfers, quite separately from the official banking systems. This kind of disintermediation can be highly positive. Disintermediation (removing absolute control of centralized power centers) over information flows threatens established dictatorships; they will retaliate to suppress independent information flows. We have already seen several examples in which such governments have interrupted internet access for their own citizens in what they perceive as emergencies. The People’s Republic of China routinely does so using the so-called Great Firewall of China for controlling external information inputs. On the positive side, remote interactions for creative work have resulted in brilliant innovations such as virtual choirs (look up the work of Eric Whitacre for stunning examples). Augmented reality can include artistic efforts in addition to chasing imaginary pets as in ‘Pokemon Go.’ See the materials for my course Politics of Cyberspace for more material on these questions. As for blockchain systems, these cryptographic signatures may help decrease anonymity, but they won’t stop pseudonymity.”

Frank Elavsky, data and policy analyst at Acumen, commented, “Unfortunately [there will be] less suspicion where suspicion should be due. But, aside from that, I believe the quality of life will significantly improve in the global context (so long as access to the internet is not restricted at the national level). Reading levels, political views and standards of living will grow as access to the internet increases. I do believe that cultural life will begin to suffer, however, because many exclusive cultural ideologies may lose traditions or practices as access to the internet grows. The impact will be globally more positive, but trust-strengthening could result in vulnerable populations being taken advantage of.”