Richard Worzel (Toronto Futurist) The Next 100 years in Education
The next 100 years in education
Sometimes the best way to assess where we are going is to look far
down the track and use the broad outlines in the distance as landmarks to
navigate in the short-run. Accordingly, I'm going to make some broad guesses
about how education is going to change over the next 100 years.
The easiest guess is that technology will continue to get cheaper and
more powerful. Moore's Law, coined by one of the founders of Intel, says,
in effect, that computers will double in speed and halve in price every
18 months. A doubling of computing power every 18 months implies an
increase in power of 1 x 1020 within the next century, or more than a
trillion times as much as we have today, a number so large as to be
meaningless. The implication of this is that any problem that can be solved
computing power will be solved. In addition, computation will become
cheap as well.
As a result, computers will become our constant companions. While a
student is studying, her computer will observe her eye movements, small
about her body language, her galvanic skin response, body temperature, and
other clues as to her state of mind. Actually, I believe all of that will be
secondary. I believe her computer will read her brain waves directly,
and impute from them whether she's understanding what's being presented or
Moreover, she will learn what she needs, when she needs it in a form
of "just in time" learning that we can now only fantasize about, and which
corporate world is now experimenting with.
Possessing so much information about the student, each student's
computer will be able to guide her, find those things that interest her
find the best ways of presenting them to her. From this experience, her
computer tutor will gradually discern those subjects that are of greatest
her, and begin to guide her towards her best career by integrating her
interests with what the marketplace needs.
Next, distance education will become so obvious an extension of
education, so easily fulfilled that it will be foolish not to use it. We
grew up in
a world where communications was expensive ("Get in here quick! Gramma's on
long-distance!"), but we will live in a world where it will be
incredibly cheap. By 2100, we will have virtual meeting places, where people
project images that allow them to gather in cyberspace, with much of the
effect of meeting in person. Moreover, everyone's talents and abilities will
known, so it will be a simple task for a child's computer to link her with
just the right teacher or tutor for anything she wishes to study.
The educational gap between have and have-not, which will widen during
the early years of the 21st Century, will eventually vanish as the
technological resources crucial to education become so cheap that everyone
access to them. Getting there will be a major problem, though, as we are
entering an era of rapidly widening inequities.
Careers and the workplace will be dramatically different from today.
There will be no grunt work, no menial labour. There will be routine work,
but only because that is what the individual wants, and because it will be
makes that individual happiest. Indeed, the concept of work will become
defined as "that activity that makes the individual most fulfilled." Our
servants /guardians will do all the truly necessary work that humans
don't want to do. We will finally reach a stage of thought, creativity, and
work for pleasure of work that Socrates could only have dreamed of.
How will society respond? This is harder. I feel quite comfortable
about what I've said about technology, but people are complicated! We will
heavy risk of degenerating. There's a Jewish aphorism: "The two greatest
threats to the Jewish people are persecution and prosperity." The same is
all people, and too much affluence will test us in ways we have never
A lot will depend on whether humanity can decide on a purpose in life.
If humans have purpose, we will use our opportunities and resources for
good and to accomplish constructive ends. If we degenerate into meaningless
whimsy, we will become self-destructive.
Much of this will be aided by the opening of "the final frontier,"
outer space. Within the next century, the exploitation of space will occur,
from mining the asteroids, to colonizing the Moon and the Lagrange points
of the Earth's orbit, to commencing the terraforming of Mars. This will
provide a relief valve for those looking for adventure, opportunity, or just
escape from over-civilized society. It will have an important - and
salutary - effect on society, knowing that there's somewhere else to go if
dissatisfied get tired of here.
If this all sounds like mere science fiction, then put yourself to the
test: What do you think education will be like 100 years from now? Whatever
you decide, I'd be willing to bet you won't project "more of the same."
The changes of the next 100 years will make the changes of the last 100
look tame in comparison.
So what can we conclude from this? What should we be aiming for in
education today? I draw seven primary conclusions:
1) The days of teachers lecturing rooms full of students as the
primary means of education are drawing to a close.
2) Technology is going to play an ever-more important role in the
classroom (even though there are major potholes in the road from here to
3) Distance education will become a commonplace tool for education,
matching the right teacher for each subject with each student.
4) Careers will grow organically from the talents, abilities, and
passions of the individual.
5) Education will, therefore, be customized to each student, not
force-fed to all students in the mass production process we have today.
6) The physical classroom will gradually give way to a virtual
7) Education will be crucial to give people both a sense of purpose,
and to equip them with the mental furniture they need to enjoy a world where
working for a living may not be important.
FAQ's About Futurists
"What's a futurist?"
Let's start by saying what a futurist is not. A futurist is not
someone who "tells the future." We don't read tea leaves, tarot cards,
balls, or tell fortunes. Those who confuse us with soothsayers have never
any dealings with a futurist.
Instead, a futurist is someone who spends time thinking about what
might happen in the future, and especially what are the forces at work that
will shape and affect our futures. This is not magic, it merely takes time
and effort. A professional futurist is someone who takes time to research,
study, and think about the future, just as a biologist is someone who takes
time to research, study, and think about biology. The end result of a
futurist's efforts is, or should be, a better understanding of the future so
it is easier to make intelligent plans about the future.
In short, then, a futurist is a planner, not a prophet.
Richard Worzel www.futuresearch.com
(From an interview on Newsworld)
Contact F. David Peat