Academic journal article Generations

Creativity and Vision: Inventing Our Desired Future

Academic journal article Generations

Creativity and Vision: Inventing Our Desired Future

Article excerpt

'When his imagined future comes to pass, Richard Adler looks ahead yet again.'

Our guest editor's background poses an interesting question: what good does it do a person to get a liberal arts education (at Harvard and Berkeley) and then teach literature (at Oberlin), in modern American poetry, no less? As (originally) a medievalist myself, I've often wondered about the benefits of liberal arts. But Richard Adler's career is proof that broad vision is what counts in life.

Adler's career is "multimedia" in every sense of the word. Thirty years ago, he was appointed to a position at the newly founded Aspen Institute Program on Communications and Society, where he considered the potential of pay television to change the economics of TV programming-anticipating subscription networks like HBO that emerged a few years later. Critics at the time derided television as a "vast wasteland," but Adler began seriously exploring television as a social and cultural force. For example, he was supported by the National Science Foundation to assess the effects of advertising on children. He later wrote scripts for a PBS series on economics and ended up as the television critic for The Wall Street Journal.

In the early 1980s, when new digital media were emerging, Adler joined the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit think tank in Silicon Valley, where he focused on the emergence of online services. In the mid-1980s, at a time when these services were being used by fewer than 1 percent of Americans, he was asked to provide a vision for the state of technology in the year 2000. He predicted, correctly, that by 2000, half of all Americans would be online. …

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