Ten Reasons to be Optimistic about the Future

Joshua Kim reviews Johan Norberg’s book, Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. 

 
 
 
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Paleofuturism: The History of the Future from the Past

This long and brilliantly illustrated article was written by John O’Brien for Educause Review. I could not do justice to it if I tried to summarize it in a couple of sentences, so I’ll just mention a couple of things that piqued my interest. O’Brien says that it is important to understand the past, and thinking about the future is fundamentally human, but it is still more fascinating to think about “the road pointing back to where you were, the road pointing ahead to where you’re going, and the moment at the crossroads contemplating both.” I learned a new term from this article: “paleofuture.” It refers to concentrating on representations of the future in the past. He doesn’t mention the novels of Jules Verne, but this is a good place to look. One of the many illustrations in the article shows a house maid using a mechanical floor scrubbing device that has a broom and a sponge attache to it. Someone made this illustrated card in 1899, about one hundred years before the Roomba was developed. Please read and enjoy this interesting article for yourself.

2017 NMC Horizon Report

The NMC (New Media Consortium) has just released its Horizon Report for 2017. The key long-term (Five years out or more)are:

1. Advancing cultures of innovation
2. Deeper learning approaches
The mid-term (3-5 years out) trends are:
1. Growing focus on measuring learning
2. Redesigning learning spaces
The short-term (next 1 to 2 years) are:
1. Blended learning designs
2. Collaborative learning
You may download the report at:

Steven Poole’s New Book – “Rethink”

In his latest post Joshua Kim reviews Steven Poole’s new book, Rethink: The Surprising History of New Ideas. Poole’s thesis is that many of the ideas we think are “new” have been around for decades. One example is the electric car. In 1900 there were more than 30,000 electric cars registered in the US. Another example is MOOCS. Kim says that educators should have placed MOOCS within the long tradition of distance education instead of claiming they were a new paradigm that would disrupt and revolutionize education. I have put Poole’s book on my to-read list.

Virtual Reality and Education – 2025-Style

In his latest post Joshua Kim reviews Robert Scoble’s  and Shel Israel’s new book The Fourth Transformation. The first transformation was from mainframe computers and typewriters to personal computing. The second was from typing to clicking. The third transformation, the one we are in now, was the shift to mobile phones and tablet computers. The authors say the fourth transformation will be to virtual and augmented reality glasses. They say that by 2025 these glasses will be as small and light in weight as a pair of eyeglasses like the ones we wear today. I hope these glasses will not make their wearers dizzy and disoriented by then. I agree with Joshua Kim: I don’t see virtual and augmented reality glasses ever replacing the keyboard for typing.

The Rise and Fall of American Growth

In this post Joshua Kim reviews Robert J. Gordon’s new book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth. In the book Gordon questions the idea of a bright future based on technological progress. He compares the rise of American living standards between 1870 and 1970 with what has happened to them since 1970. He concludes that our economic growth going forward will pale compared to the earlier period. For one thing, living standards and the used of various technologies were very low in 1870. He says that developments such as the decline in infant mortality, the prevention of infectious diseases, and the rise of mass schooling are developments that can happen only once. Gordon discusses several factors that have slowed economic growth since 1970, such as rising inequality and crumbling infrastructure, poor schools, rising student debt, the decline of unionization, the erosion of marriage and children being brought up by both parents.

He points out that the incredible advances in digital technology since 1970, have a small footprint compared to earlier economic developments have a comparatively small footprint and have not resulted in huge increases in employment and that digital technologies do not do much to increase economic productivity (many would question this). He says that most of the people who benefit from technological advances are a fairly small group of highly educated and creative professionals.Gordon does not think that a lot of jobs will disappear in the future, but rather, many more low-paying jobs and a few high-paying jobs will be created. Joshua Kim feels that the advances in educational technology in the future will mainly benefit those who are already members of the privileged classes.
Personal Note: About 40% of Americans have a college degree. There are plenty of good jobs that don’t require a degree, but they all require specialized training. Our challenge in America is to make it possible for all Americans to get the education, and or training needed to staff all these jobs. We don’t want 30% of our citizens to have to work at fast food restaurants and convenience stores.