Excitement, curiosity and/or a state of concern are the typical responses I receive when talking to people about the future. It can be a source of anxiety for some, opportunity for others, while eliciting several conflicting feelings for many people depending on the day or their own personal situation.
So who really knows exactly what is to come? Nobody. And many futurists will tell you the same thing. Michael Rogers wrote an article back in 2006 "What do Futurists Really Know?" where he ends with a great quote from Kenneth Boulding, a 20th century futurist who said,
"The future will always surprise us, but we must not let it dumbfound us."
Rogers closes by saying, "If the futurists achieve only that, it will likely make for brighter tomorrows all around." Well said.
This particular reading and content journey was more of an an exploratory into the future to stimulate thought and conversation and perhaps encourage some change in our organizational models and learning environments. Where I ended up was a bit further than I originally intended - becoming completely swept up in Richard Watson, Ray Kurzweil, Gerd Leonhard and Neal Bascomb (and yes, Sir Ken Robinson, Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown...again).
It is always interesting to listen to what people think will happen in the next 5 to 10 to even 50 years, regardless of whether we agree with all of it or not.
To kick this off, let’s start with Richard Watson.
Future Files: A Brief History of the Next 50 Years
In his book, Future Files: A Brief History of the Next 50 Years, Richard Watson takes us through several growth industries with five of what he considers the most important trends for the next fifty years. They are,
- Power Shift Eastwards
- Global Connectivity
- GRIN Technology
- The Environment
In addition to multiple industries, he speaks to the potential impact of our “nostalgic pursuits,” data, personalization, customization, micro segmentation, artificial intelligence, single person households, a declining birthrate, time constraints, anxiety, water supply, food, etc. And that's just scratching the surface.
In a more recent blog post, Five Factoids for the Future, he points out that while the trends are pretty well known, it is the implications of these major drivers of change that are so important and should not be missed.
Watson ends his book with an overview of what he predicts will not change, stating, "Change itself has changed." It most certainly has.
This is an absolutely intriguing book and I am a big fan of Richard Watson. Here is a video where he shares his views on futurists, trends, innovation, scenario planning and more.
Last year he updated one of the maps featured in the book. Take a look and download Trends and Technology Timeline 2010 (PDF ), which is described as “A roadmap for the exploration of current & future trends + some predictions to stir things up.”
The Transcendent Man - A Documentary About Ray Kurzweil
In Future Files, Watson references Ray Kurzweil who is someone I have been fascinated by due to what he has already accomplished in his lifetime. And now, even more so after watching “The Transcendent Man” a couple of months ago. To some, this documentary may seem a bit far-fetched, but I found it somewhat mind-blowing to play the “what if” game.
Whether you believe in what he says or not, this movie will really make you think about our society and what we would do ourselves if living forever became a reality. In my discussions with other people, some of the topics mentioned about artificial intelligence brought about some strange looks, passionate discussions and a few chuckles. I know, some of it may sound funny. But when you look at current events and the actual changes taking place, progress is being made. I found myself asking, "is it really that far-fetched?"
If some of this does become a reality, even as fast as we are moving, none of this will happen overnight of course, this all takes time. Tim Kastelle wrote a great article on this titled, Innovation Myth – Ideas Spread Quickly. Check it out, it's really good and goes through the S-curve of innovation and even features another article called Why Trends are for Suckers which explains the process in detail and speaks about creating real value and solving problems.
Another futuristic thinker that you might really enjoy reading and listening to is Gerd Leonhard.
Telemedia Futures by Gerd Leonhard
Gerd Leonhard is a media futurist who connects trends to business opportunities and speaks to our changing behavior specifically as it relates to media, content and technology.To learn more, you can listen to his podcasts , watch videos or download an app from his site.
Here is a video on Telemedia Futures where he talks about global connectivity, control, open platforms, streaming content, the “interface (r) evolution” advertising, google, growth areas, faster connectivity and “total convergence.” He speaks to traffic volume and load challenges and asks the question, “Who gets the value?”
Leaders of Today and Tomorrow
I couldn't finish this post about the future without talking about our current day and leaders of tomorrow along with the shifts taking place in our learning environments.
Developing ourselves and future leaders will definitely require a keen focus on a new level of collaboration, creativity and innovation. Here are three amazing books written by or about individuals making an impact on education and organizational change,
- The New Cool: A Visionary Teacher, His FIRST Robotics Team and the Ultimate Battle of Smartsby Neal Bascomb - An inspirational current day account of a diverse group of students who were transformed into a powerful TEAM competing in the FIRST robotics competition and visionary teacher who helped to bring it all together.
- Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative by Sir Ken Robinson - About the need for change in education and talent development in our new world of accelerating technological advancements and labor markets of the of the 21st century. He discusses the future and expresses the immediate need for making a shift in how we evaluate intelligence, while unlocking and harnessing the power of our creative capacities. Another recommended book from the same author that I wrote about last year is The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.
- A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Changeby Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown - Another great title that speaks for itself and featured in a past post. Here is a quote that really resonated with me as I soaked in its pages, “…We find that the very things that are speeding up the rate of change in the world are also giving us those new tools. The trick is to figure out how to harness these new resources, which make play, questioning and imagination the bedrocks of our new culture of learning”
These are all extremely smart and inspiring books. I recommend them to anyone interested in developing themselves or for those who have the opportunity to influence our current and future leaders.
Although we cannot predict exactly what will happen tomorrow or 50 years from now, we do have a sense of the direction we are headed. As as we continue on this journey, we will need to continue to open ourselves up to the possibilities and look for ways to develop our skill sets and organizational structures in order to respond to the changes taking place, move forward and thrive. Preparing for our future(s) - There is no time like the present. Embrace it.
In closing, I would like to leave you with this bit of inspiration and book trailer for The New Cool mentioned above (where the script was leveraged from the "Think Different" apple commercial),
Please feel free to add your comments or additional reads in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.
Have a wonderful day :)