Earlier this year we published a blog post summarising the visions of 2025 shared by experts in our Delphi interviews. The post invited readers to respond signalling their level of agreement with these ideas about the future of identity management, and was emailed to all of those interviewed, as well as going out on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
The response was limited, and perhaps the poverty of the response (relative to the scale of the interviewing process) suggests that imagining the realities of 2025 is not a priority for experts in the field of identity management, or perhaps that they did not feel a need for further revisions of the summary set out in the post. This idea might be supported by the fact that the one expert who did respond at this stage wanted to register disagreement. His argument was that a global economic and environmental collapse was coming that would disrupt the business of predictions to the point of futility.
Half of the respondents “agreed somewhat” with the experts’ vision of the future, highlighting especially the idea that technology would be the driver of innovation, and that privacy will not be preserved without a fight. One respondent set out a vision of the future world in which passive biometric technology-enabled real-time recognition was prevalent, particularly in its commercial applications; wearable technologies will enable real-world connections to flourish.
One response quibbled with the consumerist vision of the future presented by our experts, suggesting that the things they describe are not so much about identity management, but behaviour management. It is interesting, though perhaps not entirely surprising, to consider that the image of the future produced by talking to experts not from one but from various fields is largely premised on consumption and behaviour.
Another respondent took issue with a vision of the future predicated on the ubiquity of the smartphone and in which (the loss of) privacy would be a global issue. The problem being that “economically inactive” groups (the unemployed, the retired) did not share these concerns about pervasive surveillance (being dependent on state systems that required them to share their data) and did not own or use smartphones.
As a point of interest, the project’s focus groups with ‘vulnerable’ groups (including older people) found that surveillance was an issue, with participants discussing their fears that the future would resemble Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. They did discuss, though, the exclusiveness and even undesirability of new technologies. Does the experts’ version of the future fail to capture these nuances, or is it that they foresee a technological (r)evolution that itself ignores such variation? The experts’ accounts show a sensitivity to difference according to location (i.e. connectivity), yet several insist that technology, and not social or personal circumstances, will be the driver of change.