Some even think that revolution would utterly destroy and remake the old ways of doing business and governing, quite literally in some cases.
Pew surveyed 895 "technology stakeholders and critics" about the effect the Internet would have on the world's most powerful organizations by 2020. The results appear in the Pew "Impact of the Internet on the Institutions in the Future" report, released on Wednesday.
The respondents from many different government agencies, universities and tech companies by-and-large thought that the information superhighway would radically transform public and private institutions over the next decade. An overwhelming 72 percent agreed that "innovative forms of online cooperation" would result in more efficient and responsive institutions, Pew reports.
But that rosy finding belies a feeling that the gain won't come without pain.
"By 2010 we are seeing many of these institutions and industries crumble and rise again from the ashes in new forms," journalist Jeff Jarvis said. "What is happening to newspapers will happen to retail, advertising, many sectors of manufacturing, education and government."
Or take the example of Glenn Edens, former senior vice president of Sun Microsystems and the founder of Grid Systems, which developed the first laptop, who told Pew he believed the structure of a large corporation as understood in its 20th-century iteration was "ultimately doomed."
"An entity that lasts forever and grows forever is just not possible and is silly anyway," Edens wrote, "It is a waste of resources. Society deserves a better model for the organization and deployment of resources to provide products and services."
Furthermore, some respondents said that the Internet's erosion of longstanding boundaries between public and private spheres was not necessarily a good thing in-and-of itself.
"I have a very unhappy feeling about the future of governance," wrote Karl Auerbach, chief technology officer of InterWorking Labs. He continued:
However, many argued that the most drastic changes to institutions would be substantially more delayed than the 2020 deadline, especially seeing as many governments presently restrict the growth and freedom of the Internet.The powers are not disappearing but are, instead, flowing into bodies, often corporate but also often quasi-nongovernmental, such as ICANN, that are not constructed on the lessons that were so hard-learned during the 18th and 19th centuries regarding the allocation and control of authority. The Internet needs to re-learn Madison and Jefferson, Voltaire and all the rest of the people who wrestled with these questions back then.
"Right now, there is a remarkably mixed picture," Queensland University technology professor Axel Bruns noted in his response to Pew. "Even governments which take some very promising steps towards citizen engagement and participation on the one hand are at the very same time pursuing legislation which will have a chilling effect on online participation and innovation on the other, for example. "
According to PC Magazine, the latest Pew results are just the second part of an ongoing series of reports from the Washington, D.C., based think tank. As PC Magazine notes, "The first report asked people about their expectations of social, political and economic change by 2020. It concluded, among other things, that Google is probably not making us stupid."
The Pew Research Center was founded in 2004 as a nonpartisan "fact tank" offshoot of the Pew Charitable Trusts -- an independent nonprofit established back in 1948 by heirs of Sunoco (Sun Oil Company) to "promote public health and welfare to strengthen communities," Answers.com explains.
The trusts "have traditionally supported politically conservative and evangelistic projects," according to Encyclopedia.com, but have more recently expanded their purview to encompass more progressive platforms, such as environmental and education projects. They reportedly have $5.9 billion in assets at present.