Back from the Future!

Follow up to a reader

Thanks to Roy Baron, MD, MPH, who worked formerly at CDC (I’ve written about his son, David Baron, a student at UNC), for sharing an article his great uncle Marty Greenberger wrote in Atlantic Monthly about the future of computers. Roy sent the article after reading my last blog post (Zen of Technology). It is almost uncanny how prescient Greenberger was. How in 1964 could he imagine the power of computers to create sufficient demand for information that there would be an information utility? Greenberger imagined in 1964…

“The range of application of the information utility extends well beyond the few possibilities that have been sketched. It includes medical-information systems for hospitals and clinics, centralized traffic control for cities and highways, catalogue shopping from a convenience terminal at home, automatic libraries linked to home and office, integrated management-control systems for companies and factories, teaching consoles in the classroom, research consoles in the laboratory, design consoles in the engineering firm, editing consoles in the publishing office, computerized communities. Different subscribers to the same information utility will be able to use one another’s programs and facilities through inter-subscriber arrangements worked out with the utility on a fee basis.”

“Barring unforeseen obstacles, an on-line interactive computer service, provided commercially by an information utility, may be as commonplace by 2000 A.D. as telephone service is today. By 2000 A.D. man should have a much better comprehension of himself and his system, not because he will be innately’ any smarter than he is today, but because he will have learned to use imaginatively the most powerful amplifier of intelligence yet devised.”

This isn’t exactly the way the internet and cloud computing have worked, but it is pretty close. I admire people who can imagine the future the way Greenberger did. That’s important for our SPH2020 effort in which we are trying to imagine how the world will be in 2020. Education and research are being transformed dramatically and at rapid speeds. If we are to be ready for 2020 students and faculty, we must imagine them today. The Horizon Report describes trends on the education horizon in the near, e.g.  mobile computing, and open content, short-term, e.g. electronic books and augmented reality, and far-term horizon, e.g. gesture based computing and visual data analysis.

If you’re interested in personal learning environments and interesting innovations in education, check out Educause Blog.

PLENK 2010

I’m really excited that RWJF has invited me and a number of other people to be their guests at TEDMED in San Diego later this month. There should be fascinating presentations and discussions about the future. It couldn’t come at a better time in terms of our work here. You can bet I will blog from there and share what I learn.

Happy Monday. It’s a gorgeous day in Chapel Hill. Fall finally has arrived.


Tagged  2020, CDC, future

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