Posted by: crudbasher | January 25, 2013

The Next 20 Years

“The energy necessary to propel a ship would be many times greater than that required to drive a train of cars at the same speed; hence as a means of rapid transit, flying could not begin to compete with the railroad.”

— ‘Popular Science’ magazine, 1897.

My wife and I are expecting the birth of a bouncing baby boy in the next 3 weeks! Part of what keeps me going on this blog is I want a record of the amazing changes I am seeing in society and to gain some perspective on where we might be going. As I gaze into a misty future I see possibilities, both good and bad which will transform the world. The kind of world that exists when my son is 20 will be radically different from the one we see around us today and I don’t think most people realize it.

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

— Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1895.

(cc) Wikimedia Commons

(cc) Wikimedia Commons

Consider the world of 1895 that Lord Kelvin lived in. Things appeared to change slowly in society. For example, Radio was invented in 1897 and yet it took 31 years before it was in 1/4 of US homes (source).  While 31 years sounds like a long time it was actually faster than previous innovations. Electricity took 45 years to get into 1/4 of US homes and it took a full 325 years between the invention of the printing press and the Industrial Revolution (source).

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”

- Albert Einstein

Our perception of the flow of time is relative. When we are in a car accident, time tends to slow down. When we are doing something exciting, it can seem to fly by. Humans tend to have difficulty perceiving large changes over many years. A great example is our kids. People have been telling me to enjoy my time with our child because he will be 16 before I know it. I believe them and I will enjoy every moment. :)

“The key idea underlying the impending Singularity is that the pace of change of our human-created technology is accelerating and its powers are expanding at exponential pace.

- Ray Kurzweil

Each innovation in technology builds on the ones that came before it, therefore they happen faster. It is an exponential curve of accelerated returns as Ray Kurzweil would say. We don’t truly understand this though. Let’s say that computers double in speed every year (which is actually true). Next year my computer will be twice as powerful right? Yes. In 7 years it will be 7 times as powerful right? Wrong. It will be 128 times more powerful. The year after that it will be 256 times faster. On my son’s 10th birthday I will be able to give him a computer that is 1024 times faster than the ones I am using today. The kind of things he will be able to do then will seem like magic today and yet they will be here soon. Augmented Reality, truly realistic 3d graphics, massive simulations of almost any event, instant communications with anyone in the world, telepresence and virtual assistants that will know our lives and extend our capabilities significantly will all be real. That’s just 10 years (or less) away. It is the essence of the Stormfront of change I see coming to education.

Where it gets really crazy is to imagine the next generation of technology this new technology will then enable. Computer mind linking? Artificial Intelligence? Replacement of any body part with better synthetic parts? Cheap fusion power the world over? What will the world of 2033 look like? It’s impossible to predict really, only it won’t look anything like our world today.

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.”

- Sir Ken Robinson

tidal_wave_800x480And finally we turn to education. Did you realize that a person with a smart phone has more information about the world available to him than the President of the United States did 30 years ago. My son is being born at a time where information is ridiculously abundant.  Can anyone make an argument that the best way to educate him will be to put him in a classroom with 30 other kids and listen to a teacher talk about a subject he’s not interested in for 50 minutes? No, I’m going to keep him home, listen to him, find out what interests him and help him learn as much as he wants about those subjects. Along the way I pretty sure we will get into Math and English and such but if there is no passion there, I’m not interested. Above all else, I will make sure he will be the sort of person who can walk into any situation and add value to what he finds. In this way I will give my son the ability to adapt to an ever changing world and thrive. If a tidal wave is coming, you better learn how to swim.

“The past is but the beginning of a beginning, and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.”

— H. G. Wells, ‘The Discovery of the Future,’ 1901

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