Information Age Education Blog

The goal of IAE is to help improve education at all levels throughout the world. This work is done through the publication of the IAE Blog, the IAE-pedia, the IAE Newsletter, books, and other materials all available free on the Web. For more information, go to http://iae-pedia.org/.

What the Future Is Bringing Us: 2007 to 2018

The first IAE-pedia entry in the What the Future Is Bringing Us series was published on December 1, 2008. It included some articles that were published on the Web in 2007. My goal was to look at forecasts for likely changes in technology that were “coming down the pike” and consider some of their possible educational implications.

Less than three weeks ago, I began writing What the Future is Bringing Us: 2018. Access the current 2018 entries and those from the past 10 years in References and Resources at Moursund (January, 2018). This means that current readers can look back over the past ten years, and think about some of these old forecasts. What follows are three of the entries from What the Future Is Bringing Us: 2007. That IAE-pedia page contains information about some forecasts made in 2007 and some made in early 2008.

Better Batteries

Researchers: Nanowires Could Boost Battery Life 10X. Computerworld (12/20/07). Retrieved 1/12/08 from http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=mobile_and_wireless&articleId=9053820&taxonomyId=15&intsrc=kc_top. Quoting from the article:

Researchers at Stanford University are using silicon nanowires that allow lithium-ion batteries to hold 10 times the charge they could before.

That means a laptop that now holds a four-hour charge could last for 40 hours using the new battery, according to Yi Cui, assistant professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford. "This is really a revolutionary result," said Cui, who has worked on the nanotech project for more than a year. "We're talking about a 10-times improvement. It's a big jump."

Moursund’s 2018 Comment: While battery technology has made progress, it has substantially missed this forecast. Moreover, efforts to push the envelope have produced lithium batteries that have some propensity to catch on fire (Helmenstine, 3/6/2017). At the current time, a number of companies are engaged in research to produce substantially better batteries. Sufficient progress has occurred to make it economically feasible (but still relatively expensive) to use rechargeable batteries to store solar power generated electricity during daylight hours and use it after the sun goes down.

Wall Street Journal Predictions

Thinking About Tomorrow. The Wall Street Journal (1/28/08). Retrieved 1/29/08 from http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120119369144313747-YIywHFZmhYwbeCw_KU_tuFAkbQQ_20080227.html?mod=tff_main_tff_top.

The site includes a short video based on interviews of "ordinary" people. Not one directly mentioned the word education. Quoting from the article:

Most of these changes will spring from a couple of rapidly improving technologies. Mobile devices will get smaller and more powerful, and will connect to the Internet through high-speed links. The result: People will be able to do anything on a hand-held that they can now do on a desktop computer.

In fact, they'll be able to do even more, as mobile gadgets increasingly come equipped with global-positioning-system gear that can track your every move. As you drive around, for instance, you might get reviews of nearby restaurants automatically delivered to a screen in your car – maybe even projected onto the windshield.

Moursund’s 2018 Comment: The first paragraph has proved remarkably accurate. The second paragraph is also quite accurate expect for projecting information onto a car driver’s windshield. Such technology (called a head-up display) is used in many military and commercial aircraft. It is not obvious to me that this would be a good idea to implement in cars being driven by ordinary people.

3-D Printers

Guth, Robert A. (12/12/07). How 3-D Printing Figures to Turn Web Worlds Real. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 12/18/07 from http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB119742129566522283-JN3ovlHqlrKtudZWU8ol62lpBDw_20081211.html?mod=rss_free. Quoting from the article:

The 3-D technology combines computer software and specialized "printers," which are copier-size machines that sculpt objects using a tool akin to a set of high-tech glue guns. Following a 3-D design on a computer, the gun nozzles squirt layers of material that harden into a porcelain-like object.

For 20 years, 3-D printers have primarily been used in labs and research groups at auto makers, aerospace companies and other design-intensive businesses. But during the next 12 months, 3-D printing will move closer to the mainstream, thanks to some entrepreneurs and consumer-focused companies like FigurePrints that are building businesses around the machines.

Moursund’s 2018 Comment: During the past ten years, 3-D printing has made huge progress. Imagine, for example, printing a commercial airliner wing (Ludacer & Orwig, 2/16/2017). The reference is to a 51-second video of the 30-hour printing of an airplane wing. Desktop 3-D printers are now so inexpensive that many are installed in precollege schools and in homes for use by students and hobbyists.

Final Remarks

Futurists have a mixed record in terms of predicting the commercial success of new technology. A successful forecaster must not only forecast the technological progress needed to produce the forecasted product, but also the likelihood of commercial success of such a product. There are a huge number of patents that never led to a commercially successful product (United States Patent Office, 2016).

What You Can Do

Pay attention to technical “progress.” Keep an open mind and help prepare yourself and our children for continued rapid technological change.  

Who would have thought that, in a mere ten years, Smartphone technology and production would move to the point that more than a billion such devices are now sold annually, and that there would be many articles about the age at which young children should first receive their own Smartphone? Who would have thought that we would be curing some diseases through genetic engineering and openly discussing so-called designer babies?

Or, go back further. Thirty years ago, online searching of the literature was in its infancy. Who would have thought that eventually grade school students would routinely make use of the Web, the world’s largest library?

References and Resources

Helmenstine, A.M. (3/6/2017). Why lithium batteries catch fire. Thoughtco. Retrieved 1/18/2018 from https://www.thoughtco.com/why-lithium-batteries-catch-fire-606814.

Ludacer, R., & Orwig, J. (2/16/2017). Watch the government create the world's largest 3D-printed object. (Video, 0:51.) Business Insider. Retrieved 1/18/2018 from http://www.businessinsider.com/oak-ridge-national-lab-created-biggest-3d-print-airplane-wings-boeing-2017-2.

Moursund, D. (January, 2018). What the future is bringing us. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 1/18/2018 from http://iae-pedia.org/What_the_Future_is_Bringing_Us.

United States Patent Office (2016). Table of annual U.S. patent activity since 1790. Retrieved 1/18/2018 from https://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ido/oeip/taf/h_counts.htm.

Wikipedia (2018). Head-up display. Retrieved 1/18/2018 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head-up_display.

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