Designing the Future

Curated Content for Technology Thought Leaders

With this blog post, Ethan Delavan, Director of Technology at the Bush School in Seattle, launches our new series focusing on curated content from our community of thought leaders. Here Ethan unpacks "Designing the Future," the theme for the ATLIS annual conference in Chicago, April 5-8. He provides a rolicking overview of the “need to know” reads for education technologists to truly reckon with the future that is staring us in the face… or may be sneaking up on us. -- SD

[10-minute read]

Guest Blogger: Ethan Delavan, Director of Technology, The Bush School, WA

What does the future hold? And what should we do about it? I’m not talking Wi-Fi 6 and MacOS Catalina here. I mean really: The Future. What are the prevailing systemic trends in society? From where does their momentum arise? What is a technology educator’s place in their ebb and flow?

The World Economic Forum has a wealth of perspectives backed up by data in their series on the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including this densely packed article about revolutionizing learning, sure to whet an educator’s palate.

Robot-Proof Book CoverJoseph E. Aoun knows a thing or two about higher education, and it’s good to see his take on where it ought to place its focus moving forward (and why). For the first half of his book Robot-Proof, I honestly thought it was about robots.

Robots (and how to deal with them) not heady enough for you? Try Yuval Noah Harari’s unassumingly titled book Homo Deus. HeHomo Deus Book Cover makes the eerily convincing case that we may, in fact, become them. Robots, that is. Or at least he offers a well-reasoned perspective on why we can’t stop building them.

How might we navigate all this complexity and still remain human? Rebecca Costa posits a strong hypothesis in her book The Watchman’s Rattle. Part doomsday scenario, part vision for how to adapt human cognition, Costa's thesis has far-reaching implications for educators.

Watchman's Rattle Book Cover

After this wheeling philosophical romp through history and beyond, two down-to-earth research articles from McKinsey & Company might be just the antidote. The Future of Work in America attempts to bring clarity to precisely which jobs and regions are likely to thrive or become obsolete. And Tech for Good identifies areas of human wellbeing where technology might have a real impact. 

The good in humans may seem far-fetched to folks who’ve been tasked with preventing malware attacks and integrating data systems. But remember, we are the organizational assets who understand these big ideas at a nuts-and-bolts level. We’re the ones who can see the holes and the red flags in an author’s reasoning about technology and translate that into strategy for our coworkers.

Perhaps this video from Daniel Susskind can help us make sense of what all this rumination about the future means for the average person on the street. What were we getting from our trust relationships of the information worker age? How does the internet age and a new wave of AI challenge the relevance of those old relationships?


For Further Exploration

Joseph E. Aoun. Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. Cambridge Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2017.

Rebecca Costa. The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction. New York: Vanguard Press, Reprint edition. 2012.

Yuval Noah Harari. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. New York: HarperCollins, 2017.

McKinsey Global Institute. The Future of Work in America: People and Places, Today and Tomorrow. Report. July 2019.

McKinsey Global Institute. "Tech for Good”: Using Technology to Smooth Disruption and Improve Well-Being. Discussion Paper. May 2019. 

Daniel Susskind, Trust and the Future of the Professions, Huxley Summit, 7 April 2017. 

Rob Walker. “There Is No Tech Backlash.” New York Times, The Privacy Project. Opinion.19 Sept. 2019.   

World Economic Forum. Fourth Industrial Revolution. 2019.  

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