The Future, Today

27 April 2007 · 7 comments

Here’s an eye-opening presentation that Dave forwarded to me the other day. I considered posting this at Get Rich Slowly, but couldn’t figure out a way to really make it “stick”. Still, it’s excellent stuff, and I want somebody to see it:

This presentation was originally developed by Karl Fisch, a grade school teacher. Here’s what he writes at his blog:

My administration asked me if I wanted to speak at one of our beginning of the year faculty meetings. I often provide updates on what’s new and different with technology in our building and what teachers need to know to get the year started. But this year I’m really focused on staff development and the “vision” of where we should be headed, so I wanted to do something different.


I put together a PowerPoint presentation with some (hopefully) thought-provoking ideas. I was hoping by telling some of these “stories” to our faculty, I could get them thinking about — and discussing with each other — the world our students are entering. To get them to really think about what our students are going to need to be successful in the 21st century, and then how that might impact what they do in their classrooms.

Mind-blowing stuff, this. It makes you think about where we’ll be in a hundred years. Speaking of which, over in the Get Rich Slowly forums, kgazeette posted a fun article from 1900 predicting what the world of 2000 would be like. The author actually did a fairly good job (except that he completely missed the advent of airplanes — but then how could he know?).

Here’s a sample:

Automobiles will be cheaper than horses are today. Farmers will own automobile hay-wagons, automobile truck-wagons, plows, harrows and hay-rakes. A one-pound motor in one of these vehicles will do the work of a pair of horses or more. Children will ride in automobile sleighs in winter. Automobiles will have been substituted for every horse vehicle now known. There will be, as already exist today, automobile hearses, automobile police patrols, automobile ambulances, automobile street sweepers. The horse in harness will be as scarce, if, indeed, not even scarcer, then as the yoked ox is today.

In the forum thread, I made my own predictions for one hundred years from now:

A lot of science fiction arbitrarily constructs technology without any regard as to its plausibility. However, I’m a fan of Kim Stanley Robinson’s series about colonizing Mars: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. I think he does an excellent job of extrapolating current technological trends and looking at where things might head in the future.

Here’s one prediction I feel pretty comfortable with: In 2100, the internal combustion engine will be a thing of the past. Oil reserves will be essentially depleted, so that only certain uses will exist for modern vehicles as we know them. (I don’t know what those uses will be.) Depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, you might believe that we will have developed a replacement technology, or you may think we’ll revert to a more agrarian way-of-life.

I happen to be an optimist, so I think that some other form of fuel will be developed. I don’t know if it’ll be sufficient to power the sort of transportation system we have now, though. Maybe everything will be mass-transit. Maybe we’ll have some strange hybrid of atomic-powered trains moving thousands of people at a time, while individual transportation is horse-based once more.

I do believe humans will be living on Mars by the end of the century. I just don’t know which country will be the first to reach it and to set up a base.

I don’t think the U.S. will be the dominant world power.

What do you think life will be like one hundred years from now?

1 John April 27, 2007 at 09:30

“Mind-blowing” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Sleep won’t come easy tonight.

2 Amy Jo April 27, 2007 at 10:33

I wonder if there will increased use of antidepressants or other drugs, legal or otherwise, to help cope with this. I don’t know if the average human can cope with this much change this quickly. I’m not anti-technology or anti-change, but the scenarios presented in this video depress me. Also wondering what the “counterculture” will look in the future. Will be a counter-technology-culture?

3 Amanda April 27, 2007 at 12:38

Utterly fascinating.

4 Lynn April 27, 2007 at 14:57

I foresee shortened attention spans, add, and chronic headaches in our youths. (And our old people trying to keep up. heh.)

5 Karl Fisch April 28, 2007 at 14:52

Just to clarify, I’m a high school teacher – I don’t have enough energy to be a grade school teacher!

As far as how it might relate to “Get Rich Slowly” (which I’ll now have to look at more carefully, although I’ve given The Wealthy Barber as gifts several times to high school/college graduates), I think that someone smarter than me could figure out some investing choices that could be made based on some of the changes that technology will foster, as well as some of the global changes related to a “flatter” world. Also, the technology predictions come from The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil. He also makes some predictions about lifespan that are even more mind-blowing, and would certainly have economic – and personal finance – impact.

As far as Amy Jo’s comment about humans coping with this much change this quickly, I guess I’m taking a more optimistic view at this point. I think we can – and will – adapt and ultimately take advantage of all these changes to make a better world. But, then again, I’m a little bit naive . . .

6 jeff April 28, 2007 at 20:42

Coal burning steam engines will drive industry, sea level will be about a meter higher, New Orleans will be abandoned, and sex, alcohol, gambling, and violence will drive the entertainment industry.

7 Dave from Bend April 30, 2007 at 14:24

100 years from now? Well, I predict that the United States will not be the “hyperpower” that it is today. Our country will continue to be an influential player, but China will ultimately be the dominant force on the planet. I believe that paranoia and false-hysteria caused by our government and mass-media will sow the seeds for a society very much like George Orwell’s “1984”. We will be watched and we will be controlled, for our own good of course. Individual liberties will be severely curtailed. Corporations will wield more power than the government does (some feel this is already happening). I’m afraid that the pursuit of knowledge and curiosity for the unknown will vanish as our society takes a more Christian Fundamentalist bent. Within 200 years our country will effectively cut itself off from the rest of the world, perhaps even breakup into a region of smaller countries. I see that the biggest threat to the success of our country a 100 years from now is fear. Whether its national security fears or economic fears or environmental fears,its fear that will be the tool that those in power will use to control its populance. It will be fear that will allow the rise of Christian Fundamentalism, something that may some day endanger the world much more than Islamic Fundamentalism ever could. Is there anything more dangerous than a radical, nuclear armed, former world power? Lets hope we never find out.

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