Every now and then I like to stop and think about the future. Or maybe more accurately, the potential future.
No matter what the folks on the Psychic Friends Network want you to believe, no one can truly and completely predict the future. Certain tuned-in people might be able to make educated guesses based on available information, but no one has told me yet what I’ll eat for breakfast on June 11, 2013, or who I’m going to vote for in 2016. I also don’t really know what the next big innovation in learning technology will bring, and I most certainly don’t know what innovation that innovation will spawn (though I am sure that cascade of progress will happen).
This all reminds me of James Taylor. No, not that James Taylor … there’s a futurist working in this industry with the same name as the famed singer/songwriter, and I heard him keynote at a conference several years back. I still remember one great line: “A futurist is someone who makes predictions so far in the future he can’t possibly be held accountable for their accuracy.”
Funny stuff, no doubt in part because it’s so true. I could make all kinds of pronouncements right here and right now, but are you really going to remember in 20 years? If so, I can just cite unforeseen market conditions that impacted my predictions … give it another 20 years, I’ll say.
I started thinking about all this again after seeing a recent issue of USA Today, with a “Snapshots” feature showing failed futurist predictions. According to their research, here are the innovations a group of more than 1,000 people thought – as teenagers –they’d see in their adult years:
- 28% expected cars to fly by now
- 21% wanted human robots (let’s not ask why they wanted them)
- 18% thought Earthlings would be living on other planets
- 13% thought we’d have microchip implants by now to make us smarter
- 4% believed there would be no need for sleep (I think I used to work for that 4%)
- 17% were unsure (finally, someone was right!)
No, I’m certainly not criticizing any futurists or other forward thinkers here. There are indeed people out there with amazing outlooks and keen intuitions … we usually call them business leaders. These deep thinkers do have the abilities to look at least a little way into the future and make some educated guesses on where things are heading, but that’s really just a combination of business intelligence, a sense of history and general good luck. Even these people will tell you not to bet the farm on what you don’t completely know.
But, I hate to shy away from a challenge, so let me make a few safe predictions about what lies ahead:
- Learning’s importance to business will continue to grow. At an industry event once, a speaker stood up and bravely told a room of learning directors that no learning executive would ever become CEO. I’ll take the contrary stand on that, and predict it’ll happen. Learning is becoming more and more aligned with the business, especially in the face of new technologies and changing workforces, and I think some company someday will have a leader from learning at the top.
- Here’s a really safe one: The technology we know today will seem laughably arcane before you know it. That really cool learning management system might seem state-of-the-art now, but don’t put all your chips on that pile. Just about 30 years ago, I was thrilled with a “going to college” gift from my parents – a new portable electric typewriter, something no kid could get through school without. A few decades later and typewriters are no longer manufactured in the United States.
- One more, as long as I’m on this limb: This is actually a prediction I started in my last blog post, about the IBM “Watson” computer taking on two “Jeopardy!” champions. In case you didn’t watch that event in February, the computer soundly beat the humans in a competition that would have the paranoid Sarah Conner/Terminator types nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs. So the prediction? One day a company is going to have a computerized technology managing its learning function. That computer will be programmed with corporate objectives and will have access to all personnel records. It’ll be able to determine learning agendas, assign courses and move people about like knights on a chess board, aligning the resources in the most strategic way. But that said, don’t sell your house for investment capital just yet …. my GPS system still occasionally sends me left when it means right.
You know, there’s room for more on this ledge … join me! What do you think is coming down the pipe? Share a comment …