Looking At The Future

I have always had mixed feelings about Clifford Stoll.

While he’s an entertaining writer and speaker, I disagree with much of what he had to say in his two books excoriating computers in society and especially in the classroom.

However, in a recently posted talk from the 2006 TED Conference, Stoll makes some great observations about knowing the future.

In fact, I think if you really want to know what the future’s going to be, if you really want to know about the future, don’t ask a technologist, a scientist, a physicist. No. Don’t ask someone who’s writing code.

No, if you want to know what society is going to be like in 20 years, ask a kindergarten teacher.

They know. In fact, don’t just ask any kindergarten teacher, ask an experienced one. They’re the ones who know what society is going to be like in another generation, I don’t. Nor I suspect do many other people who are talking about what the future will bring.

Certainly all of us can imagine these cool new things that are going to be there. But to me things aren’t the future. What I ask myself is “what is society going to be like when the kids today are phenomenally good at text messaging and spend a huge amount on screen time but have never gone bowling together?”.

I also love the fact that he outlined his talk five minutes before he was to present it. On his hand.