Next Generation Internet: The Emerging Research Challenges

The NGI GUIDE WP has synthesised nine recent consultations (2016-2017) covering a mix of experts and the general public, to determine consensus amongst the subject areas that the respondents to these consultations believe need addressing in upcoming research. A concise report of the results of this synthesis is provided in the white paper Next Generation Internet: The Emerging Research Challenges – Key Issues Arising from Multiple Consultations Concerning the Next Generation of the Internet. The full results of the synthesis are included in the public HUB4NGI deliverable D2.1, and major theme clusters are shown in the figure below.

Following this work, a gap analysis was performed to determine the theme clusters that needed further investigation to determine the key research and innovation topics. Two clusters stood out as being seen as important by the respondents to the original consultations, with significant R&D&I potential, and are therefore potential new topics in the future Work Programme. These are “Responsible Autonomous Machines” and “Echo Chambers”, and these have been selected for more detailed consultations within Hub4NGI.

Responsible Autonomous Machines (RAM) concern investigation into responsibility aspects, societal impacts and risks of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous machines. There is clearly a need for multidisciplinary collaborative research into the ethical, legal, and societal impact of AI and autonomous machines, how they can be regulated and certified for compliance to safety and ethical standards.

Echo Chambers are situations where citizens may not be receiving full, accurate or unbiased information from their interactions with the Internet. Especially important is content verification (e.g. combatting fake news) and alternative strategies to the current one where content providers profile Internet users and deliver customised and filtered news, content feeds or search results to users that may present a biased perspective.

The chosen methodology for the consultation is the Delphi Method, a well-established pattern that aims to determine consensus or highlight differences from a panel of selected consultees. These properties make the Delphi Method ideally suited for the purposes of targeted consultations with experts, with the intention of identifying consensuses for recommendations.

The current status of the consultations at the time of writing (December 2017) is that expert participants have been identified and recruited for the Responsible Autonomous Machines consultation. The consultation has been launched, initial responses received, analysed, and presented back to the participants for comment. The consultation is due to finish in Q1 2018, and results will be made available (as most likely a white paper) as soon as they are ready.

The Echo Chambers consultation is in the process of identification of experts. It is likely that the Echo Chambers consultation will begin in January 2018. The expected timescale for this consultation is in the order of three months, so results can be expected in Q2 2018.