Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Predictions for the digital future

A contact of mine on Linked-In posted a link to a blog article by Tyler Falk (on the website Smartplanet) titled, "15 Predictions for the Digital Future." It reports predictions made by hundreds of experts in the technology sector that were then consolidated by the Pew Research Center's Internet Project into this list of 15 predicitons, which cover both positive and negative aspects.


Since it is the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web and the curriculum for my engineering students covers the impact of technology, I thought this would be a good article to share with my students - particularly those studying information technology.

I first asked them what their predictions were. They brainstormed ideas first alone and then in pairs. Their ideas ranged from the obvious (we will use a greater range of technology) to science fiction (robots will take over the planet). But during the class discussion, the students thought more seriously about the kind of developments that are conceivable in their lifetimes.

Then I assigned the article to be read for homework so that the following lesson we could compare their ideas with those of the experts. It was interesting that not only did they engage in a lively discussion about which predictions they agreed with, but they also disagreed about which predictions were positive and which were negative.

Among the predictions that aroused the most disagreement were numbers 5 and 6:

5. "Political awareness and action will be facilitated and more peaceful change and public uprisings like the Arab Spring will emerge."

6. "The spread of the 'Ubernet' will diminish the meaning of borders, and new 'nations' of those with shared interests may emerge and exist beyond the capacity of current nation-states to control."

I think that this would be an interesting discussion with any group of engineering students, and gives them food for thought about what impact their area of technology could have on the future.

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