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Category Archives: Futurism
With its promise of lifting people out of poverty and ending the need for food banks, the Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI) sounds radical, and even subversive, an invitation to create a shiftless, dependent population—but it may be an idea whose time has come.
This is not a new thought—Thomas Moore wrote about it in Utopia, (published in 1516), in which he explored some of the problems of society. Observing the stern measures that were being taken against thieves, and recalling a conversation with John Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, he wrote:
If you’ve been out lately kicking tires, thinking of owning a shiny new car, chock full of the latest innovations like rear cameras, and voice activated commands—think again.
Buying a new car now, some say, would be worse than buying a new horse just as the first Fords drove off the assembly line, and worse by far than buying a three year old iphone.
There is a huge cultural shift in all areas of the technological world, and it is led by the car. We know it is happening by the quickening of news and predictions about it, but we don’t know how fast, or in what form, the changes will come.
I’m putting aside my novel writing for the summer. I’ve decided to concentrate on other blog themes, and catch up on things like gardening, home decorating, and of course, reading, an enduring summer pleasure.
With the new TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale in the news, I headed down the stacks in the local library to pick it up, but instead found myself reaching for her newest book, The Heart Goes Last.
“Why not?” I say, and add it to my take out pile. The truth is, I don’t have what it takes to read The Handmaid’s Tale again. I remember it as profoundly disturbing—a chillingly futuristic novel about Gilead, and how its female inhabitants are forced to have sex with powerful men and bear their children.
Is reading in danger? Are print books doomed? As a reader all of my life, I would be devastated if that was so.
I remember the exact moment I learned to make sense of the printed word, and I remember witnessing that moment in my students, but I could never put it better than Alberto Manguel:
“At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book—that string of confused, alien ciphers—shivered into meaning, and at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.”
It would be easy for me, a grandmother with over 7 decades of living to my credit, to ignore 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT), thinking I may be long gone by the time these revolutionary ideas really take hold.
But I’m not about to disregard one of the most compelling ideas to emerge in this era of change, considered by leading scientists to be the “Third Industrial Revolution”. After all, just by virtue of having access to the internet, and being able to type a few keywords into my browser, I can have a front row seat to what promises to be a thrilling journey.
The impact of automation on employment is finally making it into the news. It’s not a trending topic yet, but at least it’s no longer the “elephant in the room”. Although books like The End of Work (Rifkin) appeared as early as 2002, and online blogs have been warning about advanced technology for at least 5 years, automation and it’s effect on work has so far avoided the limelight.
In 2013, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, wrote about the rapid advances in computer technology—blaming recent sluggish employment growth on improved industrial automation, from the use of robotics on the factory floor to automated translation services.
“Even more ominous for workers,” he said, “the MIT academics foresee dismal prospects for many types of jobs as these powerful new technologies are increasingly adopted not only in manufacturing, clerical, and retail work but in professions such as law, financial services, education, and medicine.”
While the public swoons over the arrival of the latest smart watch and FitBit, and the newest smart phone is your grandchild’s constant obsession, another quieter, more lasting revolution is unfolding in the technological world. It comes in the form of MOOC, which stands for Massive Open Online Courses, and promises a sea change in the most basic of our public needs.
Accessible education for all, the stuff that academics and students dream about, has arrived without fanfare or the benefit of a trade show. We shouldn’t be surprised—just as the Internet has invaded corporate and government domination over the communication and music industries, it has now set its sights on one of the most change-resistant public services ever, college education, threatening to make it virtually free, and to end that monopoly for all time.
If I was a guest at the CES trade show in Las Vegas last week, I know I’d be wandering the aisles and hallways, boggle eyed, like a deer in the headlights.
Unlike fellow blogger, Lois Whitman, who has attended every one of the CES conferences through its 50 years of existence, and has the presence of mind to blog about it brilliantly (DigiDame), I would be overwhelmed. Maybe I’d even skip the whole thing and go to the beach (kidding—it’s a 5 hour drive!).
CES, is an international electronics show, which showcases what’s new, what is coming up, and what some of the world’s noteworthy scientists are thinking. Here is a description from its website:
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about driverless cars (guided by artificial intelligence), and how they would impact employment, a burning issue during the recent US presidential campaign. Until then, I had never given much thought to artificial intelligence (AI). Of course I’d heard of it, but shrugged it off as movie mania that I had to endure in science fiction previews at the movies. But driverless cars took me to other aspects of the AI world, and I found myself drawn to the hundreds of articles and books on the subject. Now I’m hooked, and it’s a bit late to go back.