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Nobel laureates predict future role of Internet

21st Nov 2001
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Where will the Internet take us over the next 20 years? In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Nobel prizes, laureates were asked to make their predictions.

"Cisco believes that the Internet has the power to break traditional barriers," said Keith Fox, corporate marketing VP for Cisco Systems, which commissioned the survey*. "Nobel laureates themselves have broken barriers in scientific, social and political domains. That's why we asked them to share their insights about the transformational power and possibilities of the Internet."

Education was one of the top concerns. Laureates see inadequate educational opportunities and illiteracy as major problems facing mankind (92%).
In the future, laureates believe the Internet will have a positive effect on improving education (87%); provide greater access to libraries, information and teachers worldwide (93%); and give more students greater learning opportunities through virtual classrooms by year 2020 (74%).

Laureates also believe that the Internet will accelerate innovation (82%) and advance scientific knowledge. What's more, 69% think the Internet could have accelerated completion of their own work. Eighty-three percent say the Internet will play a large role in increasing productivity.
These findings indicate a firm belief that the Internet will greatly impact innovation, scientific advancement, and the pace of change in the world-possibly resulting in scientific and medical breakthroughs.

"Today's on-line access to scientific data, such as the entire human genome, will be dwarfed by tomorrow's on-line access to the bulk of the world's libraries, with not yet imaginable impacts on human understanding of the natural, biological, and human cultural universes," said 1982 Physics laureate Kenneth Wilson, PhD.

Beyond education and innovation, the majority of laureates believe that the Internet will play a sizeable role in improving quality of life (72%) by providing more economic opportunities to people in less developed countries (72%); improving communications with people in other countries (93%); and breaking down borders between people in different countries and cultures (76%).

For example, Amnesty International, the 1977 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is using its website in the worldwide campaign to stop torture. As a result, many people who were at risk of being tortured have been released from detention and others have been spared from further ill-treatment.
The site enables supporters from every region of the world to send appeals and protests on behalf of those who are in danger, directly to the authorities responsible.
According to Mark Neuman, coordinator of the Amnesty International Campaign Against Torture, "Amnesty International believes that the Internet provides a means to extend its campaigning to a much larger and more diverse range of potential activists for human rights."

While laureates believe the Internet holds great potential, they expressed some apprehension. Concerns include increased privacy violations (65%), increased alienation (51%) and greater political or economic inequity (44%).

Overall, almost all of the laureates surveyed say the Internet has had a positive impact on their work and lives (85%). Most laureates use a computer (88%), as well as the Internet and e-mail (89%).

"The results of this survey are particularly interesting because most of the laureates surveyed did not grow up using computers or the Internet," said Mary McIntosh, vice president of Princeton Survey Research Associates, which conducted the research for Cisco Systems. "In fact, the median age of laureates surveyed is 72."

The Nobel-Cisco Internet Initiative:
In anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prizes in December 2001, the Nobel Foundation selected Cisco Systems as its exclusive Internet technology partner. As part of this long-term agreement (formally known as the Nobel-Cisco Internet Initiative), Cisco is providing the Nobel Foundation with the network technology and expertise to support its ongoing efforts to inspire excellence and promote greater public awareness of the many achievements in science, literature and peace that benefit mankind. Specifically, Cisco is helping Nobel with build-out and expansion of Nobel's e-Museum web site, providing network technology, equipment and services to enhance the Foundation's back-office operations, and sponsoring the Nobel Peace concert and panel discussions.

* Education, Innovation & The Internet: Nobel Laureates Look to the Future. Seventy-one laureates - nearly one-third of all laureates - participated in the survey via the telephone, online or mail. All Nobel prize categories were represented, with laureates from the fields of medicine, physics and chemistry comprising more than half of the survey responses. The survey was conducted independently of the Nobel-Cisco Internet Initiative.

Survey Results


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