Maggie: Sure’n I hope you’re considerin’ the future, Mr. Eastwood.
Marty McFly: [quietly] I think about it all the time.
I have just recently returned from a trip to a very interesting place – the future!
While thinking about the education outcomes we would like for Science Camps of America campers it became apparent that in order to help determine those outcomes, I would have to have an idea of what the world might be like in 15-20 years.
So, I took the next flight on ‘Google Air’ to the future, focusing on the years 2025-2030. Fascinating! There has been some serious study done by a number of very smart people. Most do not try to predict the future but rather describe various possible scenarios as a logical outcome of today’s trends. Interestingly, most studies of the future focus on narrow topics (e.g., ‘Drought conditions to prevail in southwestern US’, ‘The Workplace in 2025’). A few studies provided a big picture view, though, and some of those are outlined below.
Venturing beyond 2025, the gee-whiz factor of this adventure was awesome: holographic imaging, 3-D ‘replicators’, telescoping eye implants, colonizing Mars, yes, even (finally!) flying cars!
Getting back to 2025, most of the sites are in agreement as to the top challenges of the time:
Climate change and its impact
Technology and its impact, especially in the areas of health care and climate change mitigation
Population growth, especially in terms of food and water supply
One of the most compelling studies that I came across was from the National Intelligence Council (NIC), Global Trends 2025. The NIC is the US Intelligence community’s center for medium and long-range strategic thinking.
Another was a brilliantly put together web site, FutureTimeLine.net which presents a possible future decade by decade through the rest of this century and beyond. Every prediction is footnoted so you can look into the background behind each one. It is a really amazing look at the step by step progression of the consequences of today’s trends, research and discoveries.
There are many other interesting ‘future’ web sites. A quick Google search using ‘Future Predictions 2025’ can get you started. Another excellent website is Future Predictions. This site is similar to FutureTimeLine.Net but is organized by subject instead of time. Very interesting!
Of everything I read, one particular quote from the NIC Global Trends 2025 report was extremely thought-provoking (pg 81):
Most of the pressing transnational problems—including climate change, regulation of globalized financial markets, migration, failing states, crime networks, etc.—are unlikely to be effectively resolved by the actions of individual nation-states… Current trends suggest that global governance in 2025 will be a patchwork of overlapping, often ad hoc and fragmented efforts, with shifting coalitions of member nations, international organizations, social movements, NGOs, philanthropic foundations, and companies.
Think about it: this is the U.S. government reporting that governments won’t be able to solve these problems. Can we “crowd-source” the solutions to world problems?
What have I brought back from this trip to the future?
I am more convinced than ever of the value Science Camps of America can provide by helping to provide the next generation with a solid understanding of how our planet works.
In virtually all of the potential future worlds I explored, the effects of climate change are projected to be of paramount importance and it will not be pretty. On the other hand, our technology gives us the potential to solve (or at least mitigate) the problems caused by climate change (and most of our other challenges).
With our focus on the planetary sciences – geology, oceanography, astronomy and environment – Science Camps of America will help our campers understand the science behind what is happening, and hopefully provide them with the ability to use that knowledge in whatever role they find themselves when the future gets here.
What do YOU think of the future? Take this survey!
The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.
The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.
Plato (427 BC – 347 BC), The Republic
We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882 – 1945)
The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.
Arthur C. Clarke (1917 – ), Technology and the Future
The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.
Niels Bohr (1885 – 1962)
The future ain’t what it used to be.
Yogi Berra (1925 – )
The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), Speech at Harvard University, September 6, 1943
For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.
John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Speech at The American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963
The consequences of our actions are so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)
Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.
The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.
Malcolm X (1925 – 1965)
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962)
The future belongs to those who dare.