For those of us using the Gregorian calendar, a new year is about to begin. It is a good time to think about the past, present, and future. I do this type of thinking for my personal life, my professional life, and the future of humankind. In my professional life, my focus is on helping to improve education at all levels and throughout the world.
At this time of year, many futurists present their insights of what the future will bring us. I have long been interested in forecasts about computer-related technology. I like to read these forecasts and think about possible educational implications. I accumulate brief summaries of the articles I find particularly interesting on my Web page http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.
For major Information and Communication Technology developments, it typically takes five to ten years or more to move from initial research successes to wide-scale use. This means that for those who are quite tech savvy and are tied in with the tech research community, it is possible for them to make relatively good long-range forecasts (Moursund, 2012).
Here are four recent articles that I found quite interesting. They are predictions from those tech savvy forecasters mentioned above.
Intel Tech Chief Peers Into the Future
Dou, Eva (12/4/2012). Intel Tech Chief Rattner Peers Into the Future. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12/7/2012 from http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/12/04/qa-intel-tech-chief-rattner-peers-into-the-future/.
Justin Rattner is director of research at Intel. Intel is the world's largest chip manufacturer and has a very large research budget. Quoting from the article:
Interviewer: What is the future of computing?
Mr. Rattner: One thing we think is going to be very important in the future is this notion of having information devices that are contextually aware. These devices will have the ability to know you as an individual and then anticipate your needs. One day, you’ll get in your car and your car will know your calendar, it will know whether you’re going shopping, or to work, or to a sporting event, or a music event, and it will have chosen the best route. And it will know because it will use its hard sensors — geopositioning, time, temperature, compass, elevation — as well as soft sensors — your calendar, your social network, your favorites, and your likes and your dislikes — and when you fuse the soft sensing with the hard sensing, that’s where the magic happens.
I believe fundamentally that when we make this transition to these contextually aware devices, we will have taken a quantum step in human interface technology. And fundamentally we will change how people think about humans and machines. That line will begin to blur. If you think you’re fond of your smartphone today, then imagine when it’s your best friend, your personal assistant, your guide through life.
Sandia Lab News Release (12/20/2012). Supercomputing on the XPRESS track. Sandia National Laboratory. Retrieved 12/22/2012 from https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/supercomputing_xpress/. Quoting from the article:
In the stratosphere of high-performance supercomputing, a team led by Sandia National Laboratories is designing an operating system that can handle the million trillion mathematical operations per second of future exascale computers, and then create prototypes of several programming components.
“The project’s goal is to devise an innovative operating system and associated components that will enable exascale computing by 2020, making contributions along the way to improve current petaflop (a million billion operations a second) systems,” said Sandia program lead Ron Brightwell.
Scientists in industry and in research institutions believe that exascale computing speeds will more accurately simulate the most complex reactions in such fields as nuclear weapons, atmospheric science and chemistry and biology, but enormous preparation is necessary before the next generation of supercomputers can achieve such speeds.
The Future of Knowledge Work
Hansen, Tim (October 2012). The future of knowledge work. Intel Corporation.Retrieved 12/26/2012 from http://download.intel.com/newsroom/kits/research/2012/pdfs/The_Future_of_Knowledge_Work-Intel_WhitePaper.pdf. Quoting from the paper:
By 2025 the explosion in world population, automobile ownership, and urbanization trends will make physical travel more complex and time consuming. In contrast, technology will continue to shrink, disappearing into the fabric of our life, eventually becoming so small that it will be embedded in our clothes and environment… The intent of this paper is to identify trends likely to shape the Future of Work, and seed the reader with information and ideas to imagine the future that is rushing towards us.
The shift in workforce demographics will also be influenced by a larger issue: the changing skill and knowledge levels needed to find and keep a job in an increasingly competitive global economy. Though there is still debate on the specific definition, knowledge work is generally seen as work that most leverages human intellect, creativity, and analytic skills. Trends are already indicating that a growing number of jobs will require a significantly more complex set of interdisciplinary skills such as problem solving, judgment, listening, data analysis, relationship building, collaborating and communicating with multinational co-workers.
Forecasts from IBM
Cooney, Michael (12/17/2012). IBM: In the next 5 years computers will learn, mimic the human senses. Network World. Retrieved 12/26/2012 from http://www.networkworld.com/news/2012/121712-ibm-5in5-265171.html. Quoting from the article:
IBM today issued its seventh annual look at what Big Blue researchers think will be the five biggest technologies for the next five years. In past prediction packages known as "IBM 5 in 5" the company has had some success in predicting the future of password protection, telemedicine, and nanotechnology.
"Just as the human brain relies on interacting with the world using multiple senses, by bringing combinations of these breakthroughs together, cognitive systems will bring even greater value and insights, helping us solve some of the most complicated challenges," writes Bernie Meyerson, IBM fellow and VP of innovation.
As these brief excerpts indicate, it is expected that the rapid pace of technology-based change will continue. Computers and robots are getting smarter and more capable. In a number of areas, computers and robots are already more capable than humans, and the number of such areas continues to increase. See Is the Singularity near? at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/is-the-technological-singularity-near.html and Robots are a threat to employment at http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/robots-are-a-threat-to-employment.html.
The nature of employment also continues its rapid change. There will continue to be an increasing worldwide competition for jobs. The job market future for responsible, hard working, educated, creative, problem-solvers is very good. Increasingly, these people and computers will work together, each doing what it can do better than the other. See Two brains are better than one at http://iae-pedia.org/Two_Brains_Are_Better_Than_One.
Knowledge jobs are growing two and a half times faster than transactional jobs which involve fewer conceptual duties, and knowledge workers represent the fastest growing talent pool in most organizations. Approximately 48 million of the 137+ million U.S. workers are knowledge workers. As a result of the expected impact of technological innovation, knowledge workers will have an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future and influence societal change (Hansen, October 2012).
Unfortunately, the pace of technological change is likely to continue to far outpace the use of Information and Communication Technology in our schools. For the most part, our precollege educational system has not yet accepted that knowledge workers will routinely work with computers to deal with complex problem-solving and decision-making situations that neither can handle alone.
What You Can Do
One of the major goals of education is to help prepare students for responsible and productive adulthood in a rapidly changing and challenging world. The pace of technological change is far outpacing the ability of our precollege educational system to make effective use of these changes.
Think about the technological changes you have seen since you finished high school. Looking back, what might have been done in your precollege education that would have better prepared you to cope with the technological and world changes you have encountered in more recent years?
Now think of specific things you can do to help prepare yourself, the students you work with, your own children, your colleagues, and others in your personal world to become better prepared to cope with the future. Then pick one thing to begin with and do it!
Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications
You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.
Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.
Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.
Computers that learn. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/computers-that-learn-machine-learning.html.
Continuing innovation in Information Technology. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/continuing-innovation-in-information-technology.html.
Important ideas about 21st century education. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/important-ideas-about-21st-century-education.html.
Personal professional development for educators. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/personal-professional-development-for-educators.html.
Supersized online courses. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/supersized-online-courses.html.
The future of IBM’s Watson computer system. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/the-future-of-ibms-watson-computer-system.html.
World problems identified by B.F. Skinner in 1971. See http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/world-problems-identified-by-bf-skinner-in-1971.html.
Hansen, T. (October 2012). The future of knowledge work. Intel Corporation. Retrieved 12/26/2012 from http://download.intel.com/newsroom/kits/research/2012/pdfs/The_Future_of_Knowledge_Work-Intel_WhitePaper.pdf.
Lohr, Steve (9/8/2012). Tech’s new wave, driven by data. The New York Times. Retrieved 9/14/2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/09/technology/data-driven-discovery-is-techs-new-wave-unboxed.html?_r=1.
Moursund, D. (2012). The pace of technological change. IAE Blog. Retrieved 12/26/2012 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/the-pace-of-technological-change.html.