Is the Internet Changing Us by Stealth?

The internet is changing our behaviour and lives in ways that we do not yet fully recognise, according to respondents of a global survey by the Pew Research Center.

The survey, which was published in a report entitled “Digital Life in 2025” to commemorate 25 years of the internet, collated views about how we will be interacting with the internet in 11 years time.

Although there were many positive views about the impact of the internet, largely based around educational access, health awareness and political engagement, concerns were raised about the technology slowly dehumanising us.

“Our lives will be lived in a combination of virtual and physical spaces, and it will feel completely normal for most of us… The Internet is us and we are it,” said Paris School of Business senior lecturer in marketing and communications Elizabeth Albrycht in her survey response.

“There will not be any big ‘event’ of adoption — we’ll just naturally move there. Many of us are already close,” she added. “The benefits are too big, too obvious to think otherwise. These include the ability to stay alive longer as healthy people. Who would say no to that?”

“Our lives will be lived in a combination of virtual and physical spaces, and it will feel completely normal for most of us.”

One of the most universal opinions from respondents, both from those with positive and negative viewpoints, was how normal and enmeshed in everyday life the internet would become.

A database configuration specialist and risk assessment analyst who chose to remain anonymous summarised the mood: “By 2025 use of the Internet will be as routine as breathing. It will change from something you decide to use to something you simply use.”

This leads to concerns about the nature of privacy in a world where the internet dominates. As one scholar of online communications put it: ““We will be always connected, no matter where we are or what we’re doing: always reachable, never unavailable. What will happen to alone time? Solitude? Thought?”


In particular there were many fears about a loss of skills as a direct result of increased humanity. One anonymous professor from Grand Valley State University said: “The internet is turning people into machines.”

A futurist and consultant who chose to remain nameless questioned the impact on people’s ability to think critically: “My fear is that people will become so reliant on the data on the Internet that they will be unable to judge the difference between good data or false, limited, possibly-slanted information. People may be surrendering their ability to think and judge.”

One Universidade Estadual Paulista doctoral student in information science took this further: “With everyone looking for the next gadget to consume, humanity will be in a state of global dumbness.”

“The internet is turning people into machines.”

It is possible that such fears are not without basis – humanity has experienced significant changes since the advent of the internet 25 years ago, and many of the biggest social effects, such as how we communicate with one another, have occurred without us considering their impact.

However, it is not entirely fair to say that we do not realise we are being changed – you only have to think back to your life before you got the internet to appreciate the impact it has had.

Solar energy use in US sees mammoth growth over a year

The world’s largest solar thermal facility,  futuristic new buildings and phone charging points all led to a massive increase in the US’ solar industry last year. 

In total the usage of solar panels, when compared to the year before, increased 41% in the country during 2013. This accounts for the largest growth the industry has ever seen in the country, new findings by GTM Research show. 

Unsurprisingly, California is still leading the way in terms of areas that have the most solar power. More than half of the new solar set-up in the country during 2013 was installed in the Golden State.

Major projects across the state include Apple’s ‘spaceship HQ’, which will involve solar panels to help power the building and maintain its green status.


Solar was so big that it was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the US, and was only exceeded by natural gas.

Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO, said: “Today, solar is the fastest-growing source of renewable energy in America, generating enough clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power more than 2.2 million homes – and we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

“Last year alone, solar created tens of thousands of new American jobs and pumped tens of billions of dollars into the US economy. In fact, more solar has been installed in the US in the last 18 months than in the 30 years prior. That’s a remarkable record of achievement.”

The US installed 4,751 MW of solar PV in 2013, which is nearly 15 times the amount installed just five years ago. This was helped by the falling cost of installation, which is now 15% lower than it was at the end of 2012.

flickr-mountain--ash- creativecommons

This year could also see a huge increase in the amount of solar energy being used in the US as California’s project BrightSource, which is believed to be the world’s largest solar thermal facility in the world, may become operational after tests last year confirmed it worked.

The solar park, located in the middle of Death Valley, will be able to power 140,000 homes and cost $2.2bn to create.

The solar uptake has not only been for major projects, as smaller initiatives have also been on the rise. Street Charge, which allows people to recharge their phones on the street, launched in New York last summer and is spreading further afield.

Shayle Kann, senior vice president at GTM research said the increase in solar panel usage showed the acceptance to use solar panels in the wider community.

“Perhaps more important than the numbers. 2013 offered the US solar market the first real glimpse of its path toward mainstream status.

“The combination of rapid customer adoption, grassroots support for solar, improved financing terms and public market successes displayed clear gains for solar in the eyes of both the general population and the investment community.”

Image 3 courtesy of Mountain/Ash under creative commons licence, via Flickr.