Today is part 2 of a 3 part post on a really big question. I’ve had some new thinking on this recently so I wanted to spell it all out here. If you haven’t read part 1, you can here.
There are many different trends affecting the future but I wanted to focus on these 6. Yesterday I wrote about 1-3, today I will write about 4-6 and tomorrow I’ll wrap it up.
- Population – It’s been going up but the curve is starting to flatten out. I’ve read that it will peak when we reach about 10 billion people.
- Resources – I am in no way a green head but I do realize that many resources are finite on the Earth.
- Standard of Living – The standard of living has been increasing rapidly in the past 150 years. Increases in productivity allow people to work less and get more for it constrained by resources of course.
- Productivity – The productivity of workers is skyrocketing with the new technologies. This leads to increased leisure time.
- Creativity – Humans have always been creative beings but technology now will put that capacity into overdrive.
- Education – this is the key to maximizing human potential, but thus far is falling far short of that.
Here’s a graph of productivity of workers in the past 60 years in the US.
I’m sure the rest of the Western world is similar. What is happening is technology is enabling workers to do more per unit of time. How far can this go? Here’s a scenario.
A farmer gets up in the morning and gets some coffee. He then checks his computer to find out the farm status. His robots have milked the cows, fed the chickens and are loading huge automated planter robots to plant the fields. In another field, smaller robots are scurrying over strawberry plants, harvesting the fruit at the peak of ripeness. When they are all picked, they get loaded into a self driving truck which takes it to a distributor. The farmer schedules a reminder to check on that process later. All of this is being done without him lifting a finger. All he does it make the decisions of what to plant and where and when. If he wants to, he can post a question to a network of expert people and computers to get advice. The robots then become an extension of him and do the hard work. They don’t complain, they don’t tire and they are cheap to operate. After a few hours of supervision, the farmer goes fishing (there’s no robot for that!).
What you have there is a one person farm. That is where we are heading folks. In fact, that one person could probably manage more than one farm and they can do it from anywhere on the Earth. While it sounds like science fiction we are only a few years away from some of this happening. In 10 years I bet we see the whole thing happen. This massive increase in productivity will lead to several possible scenarios. In a previous post I wrote about the changes this will bring but it’s the biggest upheaval in society since the Industrial Revolution.
In an ever changing world, you had better be able to adapt. This will require creativity. I wrote about a lot of this last year (see SpaceX and Whom The Internet Empowers). There have always been two kinds of people in the world, the leaders and the followers. The leaders are going to be empowered with technology that will seem like magic. So far the creative ones have profited by the knowledge economy in the purely virtual space but that is about to change. People like Mark Zuckerberg (founded Facebook) will be joined by a new generation of entrepreneurs in 3d printing. I didn’t see 3d printing as being massively disruptive until recently but the technology is improving rapidly. You can now print body parts, electronics, metal blends, plastics and all sorts of other materials. The price is rapidly falling too. Right now while a single person can create an app for a phone and sell 100 million copies over night, it still takes a company like Apple to make and distribute iPhones. That takes 1000s of people involved. Imagine when everyone has a 3d printer. A person on the Internet can come up with a new phone design and overnight 100 million people can print out their own copy. That’s the total disaggregation of manufacturing and it blows my mind. Take the power of the Internet, add a bit of creativity and then move it into the physical space. That changes the world.
I won’t write as much about this because I write about it all the time. Basically education is going to be life long, individualized, and driven by the individual.
I wrote about this a few years ago and here are my characteristics of education in the future.
- Everyone can choose what they want to learn, and when they want to learn it.
- Learning materials can range from quick 5 minute how-to videos, to full degree programs.
- People will share their own lessons with each other.
- While you will be able to adopt full learning plans (formerly called degree tracks) many people will construct their own tracks to match their skills and interests.
- This learning will happen over your entire life.
Technology is going to permit the matching of student to teacher on a global scale and on a quite granular level. Oh and computers are going to do a lot of the teaching. Just like the farmer, technology will enable one teacher to manage classes of students from around the globe.
Tomorrow I will wrap it up and propose where I think humanity is going to go. This is fun!
Update: Here’s part 3.