Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thomas Frey- Futurist

At the Alberta Congress Board conference this past weekend, one of the keynote speakers was Thomas Frey from the DaVinci Institute. (He writes two blogs, by the way: The Impact Lab and Futurist Speaker).

He is a "senior futurist" and very much in demand. He held two talks and I attended both. Mr. Frey suggests that the future is created through the vision of leaders and images of the future determine actions of today. That is, he asserts: "The future creates the present."

Mr. Frey identified 8 trends:
1- Hyper-individualization.
More and more things will be custom-fit to the individual, and broad categories will be seen as too imprecise. He predicts personal health interface which will tell you what minerals, vitamins, etc. you are lacking and tell you what to eat to fix that. Products will be predictive and personal and they will come to you.

2- Battle between the atoms and the electrons.
Atoms (physical world) are losing ground to electrons (digital world) because the latter is quicker and more responsive.

3-Search Technology will expand-
Search technology now is largely linked to text, with some limited searches of images. It will grow to include many more values- taste, reflectivity, texture, smell, etc. There already exists technology (smart goggles) which can record everything the wearer sees and with search technology, it can create a searchable world.

4-Diminishing value of Proximity-
Telepresence (more than teleconferencing, the people appear three dimensional) and creating communities by design. Soon, living "near" something will relative.

5- Empire of One-
More and more businesses are a business of one person. Everything is outsourced, often all around the world, through on-line networking. People have the freedom to work from wherever they wish, as long as the internet connection is good.

6- Social Reform-
For the first time, 50% of people are living alone. More parents are living with their adult children. Life expectancy is rising and there has been a 1000% increase in blended families over the past 30 years.

7-Moving from product based to Experience-based economy-
Extreme ironing? Combo of hang-gliding and snowboarding? People are searching for the Ultimate Experience.

8-Prize Competitions-
They have been used in the past to develop an alternative to ivory billiard balls, and to motivate Lindbergh to fly across the Atlantic. Now, it is one the big drivers to innovation. (See: youtube videos on DARPA- vehicles that operate without human presence.) Prize competitions will be used more and more to circumvent a lack of political will and go directly to the entrepreneur to create the next break-throughs.

On Education
(note: he did not differentiate between post-secondary and K-12 in his comments):

-Education will need to change to keep in step with all these trends. In particular, Mr. Frey feels education will need to focus more on developing student's 3D thinking, as we are stuck in a two dimensional thinking right now. (Paper, flat screens, smart boards, etc.)
- We need to examine our structures and ask if they are preventing our kids from thinking in the way they need to be able to think to solve the problems of the world. He cited the fact that there were no Roman mathematicians of note, because of the Roman numeral system. It was not conducive to complicated mathematical problems. What systems are our equivalent of Roman Numerals?
- Teaching will become syndicated. Courses will be offered by master and/or famous teachers and their lessons will be syndicated throughout the world. Teachers in classrooms will be guides, coaches or facilitators for the on-line lesson.
- Courses will be a la carte and people will get education similar to how people now buy music through iTunes- by selecting their own personal "hits" and creating their own library or degree. (already is happening with "itunesU" and in Alberta with eCampus).
-Personal coaching will be more popular. The coach would literally be in your ear and able to see what you are doing (through special goggles which the student wears.)
-Increasing importance of oral skills versus written skills.
- Bookless libraries.
- Life long learning and going beyond PhDs. (PhD and Masters will be seen as the beginning.)
-Educational institutions will hook up with businesses to solve problems. Students will work on 'real-time' problems and research will expand.

In summary: Mr. Frey says we are "preparing humanity for worlds unknown, preparing minds for thinking thoughts unthinkable, and preparing hearts for struggles unimaginable."

Having this content come so quick on the heels of the Inspiring Education forum is fortuitous. My brain hurts a bit, but it's a good thing!

1 comment:

Walter Schwabe (@fusedlogic) said...

Sue, I'd like to suggest the use of http://www.futureedmonton.ca as a place for the public to offer specific ideas. If you like we can add a "Public Schools" section, it's a simple and focused collection point that's easy to use. What do you think?