Magazine article Technology & Learning

Living on the Future Edge

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Living on the Future Edge

Article excerpt

As we speed toward the new millennium, one thing is absolutely certain. The technology that students have access to within a few short years will be radically different and more powerful than anything we know today. And it will challenge us all to redo our mindset or be left behind.

It's fascinating (and anxiety-provoking) to try to imagine what the world of technology will be like in the year 2010, when many of today's elementary school students will be heading out into the work force. A look back at the past few decades makes it clear that not only is technology constantly changing and improving, it is doing so at an ever-accelerating rate. In fact, things are changing so quickly that it's almost impossible to keep up with all of the developments--and even harder to grasp their significance. The mind simply can't keep up.

This phenomenon is not new to the digital age.

What can be more palpably absurd than the prospect held out of locomotives traveling twice as fast as stagecoaches?

* The Quarterly Review, England (1825)

This `telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value.

* Western Union internal memo (1876)

The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad, a passing fancy.

* President of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford's lawyer (1903)

While television may be theoretically feasible, commercially and financially I consider it an impossibility, a development of which we need waste little time dreaming.

* American radio pioneer Lee DeForest (1926)

There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.

* Albert Einstein (1932)

These quotes show the degree to which, historically, mindset tends to lag behind technology. As you can see, even the brightest minds can have trouble grasping the significance of a new development when it first arrives on the scene. Clearly, the challenges involved in technology's evolution have more to do with headware than hardware.

If you don't believe us, take a look at the quotes below regarding computers--many of them from leaders who had much to gain from the success of these same electronic devices.

I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.

* Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM (1943)

Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh perhaps 1.5 tons.

* Popular Mechanics (1949)

There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.

* Ken Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (1977)

I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.

* The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall (late 1970s)

I see no advantage to the graphical user interface.

* Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft (1984)

Change is the law of life ... those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.

* John F. Kennedy

If I hadn't believed it ... I wouldn't have seen it.

* Buckminster Fuller

This epoch will pass--indeed, it is already passing. We are beginning to grasp that although power can be contained in a boiler, mastery exists only in the brain: in other words, that it is ideas, not locomotives, that move the world. To harness locomotives to the ideas is good; but do not let us mistake the horse for the rider.

* Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (1862)

As we consider the incredible development of technology and the challenges it places on our mind, let's consider three central trends.

Moore's Law

One of the most powerful trends is known as Moore's Law. …

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