Ready for the Future

We love to celebrate milestones. Last year The Pew Charitable Trusts turned 65. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

And in October, Pew honored the first American woman to walk in space; Dr. Kathryn Sullivan took that remarkable journey 30 years ago. But my colleagues and I also agree with President John F. Kennedy, who said, “Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” That’s why Pew is committed to assessing and preparing for the days—and decades—ahead.

The World Wide Web, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, is now essential to the way we live and work, and to the global economy. 

Back in 1992, I attended a conference on how information technology would change society. Among the speakers’ predictions: We would be using personal computers to buy airline tickets, worship, go to school, and find dates and marriage partners. What was a startling forecast two decades ago is commonplace today. The World Wide Web, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary, is now essential to the way we live and work, and to the global economy.

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Pew began studying the impact of the Internet when online technology was in its infancy. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the Web, recently commented on that work, “When the deep Pew Research Center analysis in the U.S. and data from global studies…are considered together, they can inform decisions that will shape the world.”

Today, Pew’s Internet project is continuing its data-driven analysis of where the digital revolution is heading. It canvassed technology and social science experts, asking them to look 10 years ahead and predict how the Internet will change. Most respondents agreed that the Internet will become more adaptable, scannable, wearable, and embeddable. Details of their answers are discussed in this issue of Trust in the article “Our Lives Online.”

Another long-time commitment is our work on ocean policy. If you walk into the Massachusetts State House in Boston you’ll see a woodcarving, 4 feet 11 inches long, of an Atlantic cod. Known as the “sacred cod,” this memorial first graced the State House in1784 and honors the two-century tradition of fishing for cod in the north Atlantic. This long legacy is a story of fishing rooted in family, community, culture, and the impact of fishing on the history of our country. 

But there is another fishing story that isn’t about the past; it is about a worrisome present and future. Cod—once thought to be an inexhaustible resource in the Gulf of Maine—are rapidly reaching numbers that are so low they will no longer support commercial fishing. And in places like the coast of Africa, fishing is often illegal, unreported, and unregulated. The vast scope of this kind of industrial fishing threatens the world’s fisheries, the oceans’ ecology, and the principal food source for tens of millions of people. You will learn more about illegal fishing, which accounts for 20 percent of the world’s annual catch, in this issue’s cover story. The article focuses on a fishing village in Ghana but calls attention to the global effort—led by Interpol, governments and regulatory agencies, NGOs, and Pew—to end illegal fishing and rebuild fish stocks to ensure sustainable fishing for future generations around the world.

Pew also has a long tradition of working to preserve the iconic symbols of America’s art, history, and culture, especially in Philadelphia. These projects include renovating the Benjamin Franklin Museum and Independence Mall, home to the Liberty Bell, as well as joining with others to assure that the 19thcentury artistic masterpiece “The Gross Clinic” remains in Philadelphia. But as cultural tastes and styles evolve, Pew is ready for the future. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage continues to seek out new works, help art organizations expand their audiences, and increase appreciation for the importance of Philadelphia’s cultural life to the economy and human spirit. You can read more about our arts and heritage work in the article “Art for All.”

Another sign of Pew getting ready for the future is this digital edition of Trust which is easily available on your smartphone or tablet. The print edition also has been re-designed with a new layout and typography which are bolder, more accessible, and easier to read. But even as Pew moves forward in how we communicate about our work, the values of stewardship, nonpartisanship, and rigor that began with our founders continues to guide our present and future efforts to inform the public, improve public policy, and invigorate civic life.