Posts filed under ‘Future trends’
For the next couple of weeks, I will be “on the road”. I’m off to Taiwan to participate in an Asia Pacific Knowledge Management study meeting. I’ll be speaking on Intellectual Capital – more when I come back. See – I actually still do stuff in KM :-)
This is good news for you dear reader as it means I won’t have any time for long, ranting posts.
But next week, I’ll be offering a lucky reader a 3 month free subscription to Choice magazine! Stay tuned for competition details.
Meanwhile, I have a backlog of interesting stuff to share with you. Look what I’ve found! I’m excited by this even if you’re not. I spend a fair bit of time teaching uni students. This semester, I’ve taken a break from face-to-face teaching but in 2010 I’ll be getting back into it. For over 6 years, I’ve been teaching in a virtual environment via an online facilitation system. This of course means that I spend a fair bit of thinking time on education – how to engage students; how to design interactive stuff; how to encourage students to engage in intellectual discourse and so on.
So I was doing some research about educational trends and I found this cool site on the future of learning. I often wonder if F2F teaching will become a quaint relic of the past and whether students and lecturers will be engaging in a virtual environment like Second Life. I wonder how gamers will influence learning; or how Gen Y will bring a whole new perspective to education.
The 2020 forecast has some great insights and examines the forces that will impact on education over the next few years. Here’s a quick summary:
- we are shifting towards a “culture of creation” and this means individuals can grasp the opportunity to create new selves, organisations, systems, societies, economies and knowledge;
- “educitizens” define their rights as learners. Participatory media will lead to a re-articulation of identity and community in a global society;
- resilience (which is a concept I spend a lot of time thinking about in relation to KM) – schools and educators will need to equip students with skills that facilitate resilience eg networking power; using social media to engage with the wider community; applying collective intelligence;
- new tools for visualising data will require new skills in discerning meaningful patterns – I actually think this will be a huge area for educators as software applications that help people to visually think and problem solve become smarter;
- local values will reawaken. Economies of group connectivity—combined with fears of globalism and concern over dominance of big business—will create a revival of localism. New civic processes will emerge and educators and learners will need to engage with this;
- youth media and Gen Y will dominate – smart networkers will push the organisational edge for employers and community leaders. Gen Y’s experience with interactive games and virtual worlds will result in community learning that stresses cooperative strategies, experimentation and parallel development.
There’s sooooooooo much on this site and explored in the trend map but I’m short on time as I have to prepare stuff on intellectual capital. So I’m going to leave it to you to check out the interactive map - pretty cool the way you can navigate the map and drill deeper. At the very least, it will trigger thoughts about the way educators and learners will need to change course over the next few years and how a “learning ecosystem” will be the future of learning.
I’ve said before that Governments asking us to spend, spend, spend is not what is needed. Because after the spending props up the ailing American-style Capitalist system – what then? Do we keep going with the bailout binges and rescuing financial giants or the auto industry? Did you read that porn boss, Larry Flynt, is asking for a $US 5 million hand out to save the sexual appetite of the United States?
Or do we start doing some really serious reflection and realise that change starts within? The second-half of the 20th Century was an era of extreme individualism fueled by free market policies. Community-minded values disappeared. The greed for individual wealth does not result in a healthy society. I often wonder if postmodernism is to blame for our current state – postmodernism resists definition but questions all narratives such as family, society, art, religion and morality. And so you live by your own rules, you don’t care what others think, your only focus is the self – in other words, extreme individualism. Shared rules or understandings no longer apply. I must think on this more and do a post.
But I think that this might be part of Obama’s appeal. As a community organiser, he was focusing on common problems, common values, common issues. His speeches have been about a common-based society that challenges the wealthy, capitalists and the entrenched corporate power that dominates our economic model. This is my hope: that Obama can successfully introduce a new discourse that speaks of a society of common values. He’s already talked of a Robin Hood-style plan to tax the rich and redistribute the wealth to the middle classes. Of course, accusations have been flung at Obama about socialism (the economic philosophy of which involves taking property from the rich and redistributing to the poor). You only have to read his father’s article, Problems Facing our Socialism, to work out what Prez Obama’s ideals are going to be.
Seems though that young Chinese might better Obama when it comes to organising people and restoring a quality of life at lower cost. China’s phenomenal growth has resulted in the rise of a consumerist society dominated by The Brands. But the global financial crisis has hit China – factories are closing; the manufacturing sector is taking a deep dive; China’s aviation industry is in need of a bailout; the country is bracing itself for social unrest in early 2009 because of rising unemployment; and export growth is shrinking.
So young Chinese office professionals are calling for frugality and a return to a simpler life. Wang Hao, a 24-year-old Beijing office worker, has so far organised 55,000 young Chinese in his campaign to curb living expenses. He has a blog, which offers advice on how to spend less on clothes, fast food, The Brands and various consumer goods. Wang Hao says that young people should try to prune their spending back to just 100 yuan per week (around US$ 14.62; AUD $20.00 ; Euro 10.89). There are other sites and blogs, some offering recipes for meals that cost under 10 yuan.
At the same time, the Chinese Government is urging consumers to spend to boost the economy and announced a US $586 billion economic stimulus package. Much like Australia and the US, the Chinese Government is hoping to create jobs by spending money on infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, housing and power plants. But whilst Chinese officials are determined to “protect eight” (meaning 8% growth in 2009), young Chinese are tightening their belts, which is much as I predicted in a recent post and shows a decline in consumer confidence.
Now, I would certainly be hard-pressed to live on AUD $20.00 a week (especially when my weekly train ticket has just taken a hike up from $63.00 to $66.00. Hello? CityRail how do you justify this cost when the trains continue to be reminiscent of the Third World?). So how far can a young Chinese go on 100 Yuan? Apparently, you could buy nine McDonald’s Big Mac burgers, half a tank of petrol or two movie tickets. Limiting oneself to 100 Yuan might be a bit extreme but young Chinese need to do something when you consider office workers spend an average of 2,500 yuan a month whilst their income is approximately 2,192 yuan a month (US$320; AU$454; Euro 238).
Wang Hao now cycles to work and eats steamed buns for lunch instead of scoffing down pizza. Another young Chinese, Lin Yufei also 24 years old, has launched a group called “Let’s have a 100-yuan week” on popular Chinese social networking website douban.com. Lin says: “The point is not only saving money, but to lead a quality life with lower cost”. The website shares ideas and experience amongst participants, which obviously could lead to a more communal approach to living in the post-global financial crisis world and the younger generation practicing thrift could educate society in general.
I think this is just one example of a conscious shift towards a better, lower cost, emotionally and physically healthier, more frugal lifestyle – the post-GFHF economy. I am considering starting a new blog that would do much the same – tips for leading a frugal life.
I told you recently that I was going to be self-publishing a book of my photos. Well, I have my head around the software but I’m still grappling with designs and themes, so I’m still a few weeks off publishing. But it got me thinking about the rise of the self-publishing industry and how this must be affecting mainstream book publishing and journalism. So I snooped around and discovered a few statistics, which led to a question about democracy.
Apparently, December 3 2008 is known as Black Wednesday in the book business. Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer books, folded five of its divisions into three and axed two top editors in the US. Simon and Schuster laid off 35 people; Thomas Nelson axed 10% of its staff; Houghton Mifflin laid off employees; and Penguin announced pay freezes. The Chairman of Barnes & Noble lamented in an internal memorandum that “never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in.”
The newspaper industry is also in serious trouble. The New York Times is mortgaging its own building to ease cash flow and raise $225m (£153m); whilst Tribune Co, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Advertising revenue has dried up; online ads have declined; newspaper readership has gone south; and the internet has spawned many online newspapers such as The Huffington Post (which ironically repackage news originating elsewhere).
Meanwhile, the personal publishing business is booming. The particular self-publishing site I’m using boasts over 750,000 books published in 2008 and $300,000 in profits paid out to people who elected to offer their books for sale on the site’s bookstore. Many of the books published on the site I’m using are personal books along the lines of wedding albums or mementos of personal travel but there are also a large number of books written by professional authors moving over from the mainstream publishing route (including a Time Life photographer). Obviously, you avoid the hassle of getting a literary agent or receiving your 200th gut-wrenching rejection letter when you self-publish.
But as newspapers and publishing houses trim staff and desperately try to ease cash flow, what effect will dwindling access to mainstream newspapers particularly have on democracy? Blogs and online newspapers of course are magic – they allow you and me to offer up our personal opinions. But few of us have the resources of a large newspaper or the investigative skills of a journalist. We can’t go trooping around the world to hot spots, reporting like international correspondents on torture or oppression. We don’t have the funding or resources to dig, analyse, vet sources and expose.
And as much as I rant and rave about politics or society, I don’t have a readership in the millions (alas!), so for me, newspapers played a role in keeping the bastards (Government) honest and educating the citizenry. Politicians don’t like being exposed in public. With mass circulation, the general public could be kept informed. With blogs and online newspapers, we filter. I read certain blogs and online newspapers; you may read others. We filter according to our interests and worldviews. And let’s face it, most blogs and online resources sit in the Long Tail, so don’t get maximum exposure or readership.
Of course, I could argue that the blogosphere and the internet has changed what constitutes “news”. That Joe Bloggs can participate by leaving a comment under an online newspaper item or blog post and trigger a conversation. It’s user-generated stuff that may in fact be genuine democratic discourse.
But I think the New Yorker says it well: “Just how an Internet-based news culture can spread the kind of “light” that is necessary to prevent terrible things, without the armies of reporters and photographers that newspapers have traditionally employed, is a question that even the most ardent democrat in John Dewey’s tradition may not wish to see answered. “
I admit I’m torn on this. Seems to me newspapers could shed light on the darkest parts of this world of ours and because of mass circulation, the public were kept out of the dark. With online resources and newspapers, some of us may still be in the dark because of our choice of what we read online. So the discourse is narrowed.
The New York Times, for example, could expose The Pentagon Papers and shed light on the full extent of JFK’s involvement in the Vietnam War and that Prez Lyndon B Johnson had ordered an expansion of the war at the same time he was telling the American public that there would be no expansion. The NY Times fought a tough legal battle defending the First Amendment right of the press to publish information significant to a citizenry’s understanding of their Government and its policies.
Could online newspapers do this? Would they have the investigative clout or funding? True, bloggers brought down Dan Rather and The Huffington Post went after the military and foreign-affairs reporting of the NY Times reporter, Judith Miller.
What do you think of the decline of mainstream journalism and publishing versus self-publishing and online newspapers? Is democracy threatened or emboldened by less print and more online media?
Are you worried about 2009? I’ve been chatting to friends and some work colleagues about Christmas – are they going to ignore the financial hissy fit and help spend our way out of a recession? Or will they be tightening the belts? It’s business as usual for me. I don’t celebrate Christmas anyway – no, I’m not part of some weird cult that doesn’t recognise the holiday period. I oppose it on commercial grounds. It’s just a huge excuse for shops and department stores to cash in, whilst we all go silly in the Silly Season and party away on credit cards. Then get a humungous headache in January when the credit card bill arrives. So I skip the Silly Season. Mostly everyone I’ve spoken to is using Christmas as a way to forget the 2008 meltdown (guess that means hangovers) and they are going to spend.
So I’ve been contemplating 2009. I hate years with odd numbers so already I don’t like the sound of the upcoming year! I’m no genius when it comes to economics so I’ve really been trying to educate myself on who/what/why – how the hell did we get to this point of the world teetering on the brink of a global depression, sorry recession? As part of my ferreting around, I came across a New Scientist article. Perhaps I shouldn’t have read it – pretty gloomy.
Apparently, more than 30 years ago, it was predicted that the wheels would come off the global financial system in the 21st Century. Way back in 1972, the Club of Rome published a book called Limits to Growth. I’ve always wondered if the Club of Rome dudes are some secret squirrels up to shadowy stuff. But they’re a global think tank : an NGO founded in 1968. And they meet in some villa in Rome or used to, not sure if they still do. I’ve often thought of setting up a secret squirrel club in Newcastle and starting the myth that we are privy to some secret about the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. But the Club of Newcastle just doesn’t have the same ring to it as the Club of Rome.
I digress! So they published this book in 1972, which rang the alarm bells by saying exponential economic growth could not be sustained and the financial system would meltdown and we’d also see environmental collapse. Actually, it was a report to the Club of Rome written by a Harvard biophysicist and her colleagues and apparently it caused worldwide outrage and condemnation at the time. I can’t recall a thing from 1972 (okay I was around then!). Actually, I don’t recall much from 2002 either!
I’ve managed to track down a used copy on Amazon and hope to get it before Xmas so I can subject myself to prophesies of doom and gloom. Computer models were used (hard for me to think of computer models way back in 1972) to investigate five major trends of global concern – accelerating industrialisation, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources and a deteriorating environment. And the news wasn’t good even then.
The report predicted:
- sometime in the next 100 years, the planet would reach the limit of growth it could tolerate
- the result would be a sudden and uncontrollable decline in population and industrial capacity
- when many different quantities are growing simultaneously in a system and when all the quantities are interrelated in a complicated way, analysis of the causes of growth and of the future behaviour of the system becomes very difficult. So it’s unlikely that future historians will pinpoint climate change say as the reason for collapse.
So the book was all about the shortages we would face in the 30 years following 1972 but the 1980s and 1990s didn’t really bring that – we all partied up. But recently, I’ve been noticing references to the Club of Rome and this 1972 book. Back in October, Margaret Atwood (a novelist I very much like) was pretty well ripped to shreds in an article in the Ottawa Citizen for mentioning Limits to Growth in a New York Times article she wrote about the credit crisis. Well, I can’t say I disagree with what Atwood said:
“If fair regulations are established and credibility is restored people will stop walking around in a daze, roll up their sleeves and start picking up the pieces. Things unconnected with money will be valued more — friends, family, a walk in the woods. ‘I’ will be spoken less, ‘we’ will return, as people recognize that there is such a thing as the common good….If fair regulations are not established and rebuilding seems impossible, we could have social unrest on a scale we haven’t seen for years.”
There was neo-con rebuff of the Limits of Growth in the 70s. Yale economist Henry C Wallich declared it “a piece of irresponsible nonsense” and the authors were accused of being “a group of scientists going by the pretentious name “The Club of Rome”. Check out the Wikipedia entry to read more about the book and its modelling.
But back to where I was heading. Now, a CSIRO scientist, Graham Turner, has compared the book’s predictions with data since 1972. And it still ‘aint looking too good. Turner reckons the five variables the modelling was based on are still on track for collapse some time after 2020. To avoid falling into the black hole of doom and gloom, Turner says we must pursue an alternative model: stopping population growth, resource depletion and pollution. A CSIRO press release says:
”The real-world data basically supports The Limits to Growth model. It shows that for the first 30 years of the model, the world has been tracking along the unsustainable trajectory of the book’s business-as-usual scenario. The original modelling predicts that if we continue down that track and do not substantially reduce our consumption and increase technological progress, the global economy will collapse by the middle of this century. We’ve had the rare opportunity to evaluate the output of a global model against observed and independent data. The contemporary issues of peak oil, climate change, and food and water security, resonate strongly with the overshoot and collapse displayed in the business-as-usual scenario of The Limits to Growth.”
Seems as though this Australian scientist is the first to actually test the predictions and the really dire bit that scared the bejesus out of me is that the recommendations offered up in 1972 were never seriously examined or implemented. So we’ll be toast by about 2020 if not before and the Club of Rome dudes got it right! Where’s an application form to join this Club?!
You can listen to a podcast by Turner here. Warning: you might need a Valium or vodka after listening to it. There’s also a 30-year update of the original 1972 book available. One of the authors, Donella H Meadows is dead – shame because I’d love to hear what she’d have to say right now. But one of the other authors, Professor Jorgen Randers, is still kicking around and speaking at conferences. You can listen to what he has to say in this podcast. The third author, Dennis L. Meadows, is also still around. Let’s hope their 1972 work is now taken seriously. Because if it’s not……
Well, I have to admit I’m in a bit of a dark, brooding mood right now. The ongoing financial hissy fit, emerging social problems and the horror of the terrorist attack in Mumbai have all converged to leave me a bit desperate about the future. Then along came a report I should have left alone!
I pity Prez-elect Obama. He will be inheriting, well…a mess. If he had taken office four years ago, the future might have looked rosier. Every four years, the National Intelligence Council releases a report called the Global Trends Review. The 2004 report confidently stated that the world would witness continued US dominance. But the latest report is full of doom and gloom and a less prominent US in world affairs.
I’m sure that Obama has been reading Global Trends 2025 with his head in his hands. The report is subtitled A Transformed World and herein lies the doom and gloom bit. What a dramatic and sobering shift in four short years. Here are some tidbits:
- new kids on the block – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are emerging economies that will grow at America’s expense. The traditional Western alliances will weaken and more countries may be attracted to China’s alternative development model.
- and here’s something we’re already seeing: “The State’s role in the economy may be gaining more appeal throughout the world”.
- the power of non-state actors like religious groups, criminal networks, tribes and businesses will increase.
- the unprecedented shift in relative wealth and economic power from West to East now under way will continue.
- the US will be less dominant.
- shortages of fuel, food and water will spark conflicts.
- growth of the Muslim population in Europe to 20-30 million with accompanying potential sources of conflict.
- potential emergence of a global pandemic – a virulent human respiratory illness – with tension and conflict as nations struggle to control the movement of populations across borders (I really think this is a very high probability).
- Warfare in 2025 will be characterised by several strategic trends – the increasing importance of information; the adoption of irregular warfare tactics; the rise of non-military tactics such as cyber, economic and information-based forms of conflict.
The report has a number of very interesting global fictionalised scenarios such as The World Without The West and BRIC’s bust up. I suggest you get a strong cup of coffee (or a bottle of vodka), curl up and read the report. I found it fascinating albeit it left me in a pretty dark mood!