What the Future is Bringing Us (2017)

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(2004) Information and Communication Technology (ICT) planning document developed by David Moursund. The goal was to facilitate the development of a sequence of 1-credit (quarter hour system) graduate-level joint preservice and inservice courses to be taught at the University of Oregon.
(2000 to 2003) Golden Oldie News Oct-December 2000 up through Jan-March 2003. These materials were moved from an old Oregon Technology Education Council (OTEC) site developed by David Moursund. Most of the links in the referenced articles no longer work.
(1987 Futuristic Math Education Scenarios).
(1974 to 2001) All of David Moursund's editorials published in Learning and Leading with Technology from its inception in 1974 until he retired from ISTE in 2001.

Electronic Pack Horse.png

BigDog is a rough-terrain robot built by Boston Dynamics that walks, runs, climbs and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by an engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog has four legs that are articulated like an animal’s, with compliant elements to absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule; about 3 feet long, 2.5 feet tall and weighs 240 lbs.

Social Robot.png

See more pictures of social robots at http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=pictures+social+robots&qpvt=pictures+social+robots&qpvt=pictures+social+robots&FORM=IQFRML.

MIT Robot.png

See MIT's Electric Cheetah Robot video at http://www.engadget.com/2014/09/15/mit-darpa-cheetah-robot/.

Hand held supercomputer.jpeg

The Cray-2 supercomputer was the world's fastest supercomputer until 1990. But even with a performance of up to 1.9 GFLOPS, the liquid-cooled, 200-kilowatt machine ranks behind a number of "modern" portable, battery-powered Smart phones when it comes to GFLOPS ratings.

Year 2017 Table of Contents

"All education springs from some image of the future. If the image of the future held by a society is grossly inaccurate, its education system will betray its youth." (Alvin Toffler; American writer and futurist; 1928-2016.)
"Don't worry about what anybody else is going to do. The best way to predict the future is to invent it. Really smart people with reasonable funding can do just about anything that doesn't violate too many of Newton's Laws!" (Alan Kay; American computer scientist and educator; born May 17, 1940.)


All of education is future oriented. Through informal and formal education, students are being prepared for their futures. Of course, a major goal of education is to preserve and pass on the culture, values, history, and so on from the past. Ideally, this is done in a manner that helps prepare students for their futures as members of local, regional, national, and world societies.

Technology Forecasting

Quoting from Wikipedia:

Primarily, a technological forecast deals with the characteristics of technology, such as levels of technical performance, like speed of a military aircraft, the power in watts of a particular future engine, the accuracy or precision of a measuring instrument, the number of transistors in a chip in the year 2015, etc. The forecast does not have to state how these characteristics will be achieved.
If a decision maker has several alternatives open to him, he will choose among them on the basis of which provides him with the most desirable outcome. Thus his decision is inevitably based on a forecast. His only choice is whether the forecast is obtained by rational and explicit methods, or by intuitive means.

Forecasting is an important field of study and of human intellectual endeavor. Continuing to quote from the Wikipedia page cited above: "The virtue of the use of explicit methods is that they can be reviewed by others, and can be checked for consistency. Furthermore, the forecast can be reviewed at any subsequent time. Technology forecasting is not imagination."

It takes a great many years to bring a new technology to market and then to have it widely adopted. Consider the same two ideas of bringing to market and wide adoption for a change in education. There is a steady stream of ideas on how to improve education. Indeed, perhaps every person who is involved in or concerned about education has ideas on how to improve education. The pathway from an idea to widespread adoption and successful implementation of any one idea to improve education is very, very long.

Thus, forecasting improvements in education is fraught with difficulties quite different from forecasting improvements in technology.

Special Message for Teachers

Consider establishing a "futures" time period each week, in which you engage your students in an exploration of possible futures they will live in and how the subject(s) you are teaching are helping to prepare them for these possible futures. One way to do this is to select a topic from this year's list, or other annual lists published on this website. Engage students in a discussion of what they know about the topic. Perhaps point them to some material to read. Engage them in a discussion of how the content you are teaching fits in with preparing them for life in a world in which the forecasts on this website may well come true.

Another approach is to encourage your students to bring in hard copy materials and Web links that contain forecasts of the future. Each week a different small team of students could assume responsibility for leading the weekly "futures" session.

Still another approach is to raise the following question with your students near the beginning of any new unit of study: "What changes are going on around the world that are having a major impact on this unit of study?" The idea is to emphasize change and the understanding that you are helping your students to get an education that prepares them for a changing world.

Teachers working with students may also be interested in having the students research and report on one or more "futures predictions" from 5 to 10 years ago, or perhaps when they were in first grade, or the year they were born, and so on. They can find out which predictions have become part of our world today and which ones failed to materialize, and why or why not in each case.

Looking Forward

This section contains relatively recent forecasts of future technology that are important to our current and future educational systems.

Time Staff (12/1/2017). The Best Inventions of 2017. Time. Retrieved ½`/2018 from http://time.com/5023212/best-inventions-of-2017/.

See the Best Inventions of 2016 at http://time.com/4572079/best-inventions-2016/.

Here are a few examples from the 2017 list:

A Robot You Can Relate To
Glasses That Give Sight to the Blind
Guilt-Free Ice Cream (Low calorie ice cream)
Makeup Shades for Every Skin Tone
Mugs That Heat Your Coffee Just Right

The most high tech of the five items listed above is the glasses. Quoting from the article:

For the millions of people who are legally blind, navigation is a routine challenge. Though support canes and guide dogs can help, they cannot mimic actual vision. eSight 3 can. Think of it as the world's most powerful pair of glasses: once users put on eSight, it records high­ definition video and uses magnification, contrast and proprietary algorithms to enhance that imagery into something the legally blind can see-enabling them to partake in a variety of activities, including sports, that would otherwise be off-­limits.

Bach, D. (9/21/2017). Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius complete the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic. Retrieved October, 2017 from https://news.microsoft.com/features/microsoft-facebook-telxius-complete-highest-capacity-subsea-cable-cross-atlantic/. Quoting from the article:

Microsoft and Facebook agreed to partner on the development, design and implementation of a 4,000-mile-long subsea cable connecting Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Bilbao, Spain.
Marea is also the highest-capacity subsea cable to cross the Atlantic, providing up to 160 terabits of data per second. That’s more than 16 million times faster than the average home internet connection, with the capability to stream 71 million high-definition videos simultaneously.

MIT Technology Review (2017). 10 Breakthrough Technologies. Retrieved 6/2/2017 from https://www.technologyreview.com/lists/technologies/2017/. Here is the list:

  • Reversing paralysis.
  • Self-driving trucks.
  • Pay with your face.
  • Practical quantum computers.
  • The 360-degree selfie.
  • Hot solar cells.
  • Gene therapy 2.0.
  • The cell atlas.
  • Botnets of things.
  • Reinforcement of learning.

Approaching the End of the Automotive Era

Lutz, R. (11/7/2017). Bob Lutz: Kiss the good times goodbye. Peak Oil. Retrieved 11/27/2017 from http://peakoil.com/consumption/bob-lutz-kiss-the-good-times-goodbye.

Bob Lutz is a former vice chairman and head of product development at General Motors. He also held senior executive positions with Ford, Chrysler, BMW and Opel. Quoting from his article:

It saddens me to say it, but we are approaching the end of the automotive era. The auto industry is on an accelerating change curve. For hundreds of years, the horse was the prime mover of humans and for the past 120 years it has been the automobile.
Now we are approaching the end of the line for the automobile…
The end state will be the fully autonomous module with no capability for the driver to exercise command.

MIT Technology Review (Free Online Newsletter)

Quoting from the 5/2/20217 Newsletter:

Machines That Sniff Out Disease
The doctor will smell you now. Some diseases have a scent: many cancer tumors give off an odor that dogs can identify. Now, the New York Times suggests that the technology required to detect those scents in a medical setting has matured. British firm Owlstone is testing sensors to identify lung cancer, University of Pennsylvania researchers are seeking out ovarian cancer by sniffing blood, and an Israeli team claims to spot 17 diseases with 86 percent accuracy via breath analysis.

Subscribe at https://www.technologyreview.com/newsletters/?utm_source=MIT+Technology+Review&utm_campaign=209b795ada-The_Download&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_997ed6f472-209b795ada-154405105.

Oral Language to Oral Language Translation

Reynolds, M. (44/2017). Google Uses Neural Networks to Translate Without Transcribing. New Scientist. Retrieved 4/16/2017 from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2126738-google-uses-neural-networks-to-translate-without-transcribing/.

Voice input to a computer is now relatively accurate. Computer translations of oral input in a language is done by first converting the input to text, then translating text into text in the second language, and then translating the second language text into speech. This is not as good as a high-quality human language translator can do, but suffices for many purposes.

Now, Google is working on a translator that omits the middle step. It analyzes the sound waves coming in, and directly produces sound waves to go out. Quoting from the article:

The team trained its system on hundreds of hours of Spanish audio with corresponding English text. In each case, it used several layers of neural networks – computer systems loosely modelled on the human brain – to match sections of the spoken Spanish with the written translation. To do this, it analysed the waveform of the Spanish audio to learn which parts seemed to correspond with which chunks of written English. When it was then asked to translate, each neural layer used this knowledge to manipulate the audio waveform until it was turned into the corresponding section of written English.
After a learning period, Google’s system produced a better-quality English translation of Spanish speech than one that transcribed the speech into written Spanish first. It was evaluated using the BLEU score, which is designed to judge machine translations based on how close they are to that by a professional human.

Quoting from the Wikipedia:

BLEU (bilingual evaluation understudy) is an algorithm for evaluating the quality of text which has been machine-translated from one natural language to another. Quality is considered to be the correspondence between a machine's output and that of a human: "the closer a machine translation is to a professional human translation, the better it is" – this is the central idea behind BLEU. BLEU was one of the first metrics to achieve a high correlation with human judgements of quality,[3][4] and remains one of the most popular automated and inexpensive metrics.
Scores are calculated for individual translated segments—generally sentences—by comparing them with a set of good quality reference translations. Those scores are then averaged over the whole corpus to reach an estimate of the translation's overall quality. Intelligibility or grammatical correctness are not taken into account.
BLEU is designed to approximate human judgement at a corpus level, and performs badly if used to evaluate the quality of individual sentences.
BLEU’s output is always a number between 0 and 1. This value indicates how similar the candidate text is to the reference texts, with values closer to 1 representing more similar texts. Few human translations will attain a score of 1, since this would indicate that the candidate is identical to one of the reference translations. For this reason, it is not necessary to attain a score of 1. Because there are more opportunities to match, adding additional reference translations will increase the BLEU score.

If you are a Star Trek fan, you know that the tricorder accomplishes this task for any language that the star travelers encounter. Earth currently has about 6,000 oral languages that are still spoken. It seems feasible to eventually provide translation services that go between any two of these languages. Now, consider a high school student taking a required "foreign language" course. This student could be provided with text translation (already relatively good) and voice to voice translation. So, the student could immediately be able to effectively communicate with a native speaker of the second language. Our schools would then need to rethink the purposes of the course!

5G Connectivity for a Cell Phone

Woyke, E. (3/10/2017). These Toaster-Oven-Size Radios Will Help Bring 5G to Life. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved 3/10/2017from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603814/these-toaster-oven-size-radios-will-help-bring-5g-to-life/. Quoting from the article:

Live-streaming a virtual-reality broadcast. Downloading a 90-minute high-definition TV show to your smartphone in less than three seconds. Sending instant updates on road conditions to self-driving vehicles. These scenarios are impossible or prohibitively expensive on current cellular networks, but they should be feasible with the next generation of wireless connectivity, 5G. It promises to be 10 to 20 times faster than today’s cell-phone networks.

The article indicates that commercial implementation of this technology is about three years off.


Plagues have been a major health problem since people first began to domesticate farm animals and to live in towns and larger communities. Improvement in transportation and increases in population density have greatly exacerbated the spread of diseases. The following article provides an excellent overview of the problems, what has been done to address them, and what can be done to prepare for future plagues.

MacKenzie, D. O2/22/2017). Plague! How to Prepare for the Next Pandemic. New Scientist. Retrieved 2/23/2017 from https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23331140-400-plague-how-to-prepare-for-the-next-pandemic/?cmpid=NLC%7CNSNS%7C2017-2302-newGLOBAL&utm_medium=NLC&utm_source=NSNS.

This article begins with some history. Quoting from the article:

In 1347, an epidemic of unimaginable ferocity struck Europe. People first experienced flu-like symptoms, but within days painful swellings developed, which turned black, split open and oozed pus and blood. The Great Pestilence, later dubbed the Black Death, swept across the continent within four years, killing up to half the population. The disease persisted in Europe until the 1700s, always circulating somewhere, killing people off.

We speak of it nowadays as history. In fact, it is more like natural history: infectious disease is part of the ecology of our species. Until 1900, and despite considerable competition from violence and starvation, it was our biggest killer, causing half of all human deaths. Now, it accounts for fewer than a quarter of all deaths worldwide, most of them in poor, tropical regions. In rich countries it is only a few per cent. And the toll is falling.

One of the key points made in the article is the need for global planning, data gathering and sharing, and collaboration. In terms of plagues, "It's a small, small, world."

Ten Breakthrough Technologies of 2017

MIT Technology Review (2017). 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2017. Retrieved 2/22//2017 from https://www.technologyreview.com/lists/technologies/2017/. This article briefly discusses ten "breakthrough" technologies:

Reversing Paralysis. Self-driving Trucks. Paying with Your Face. Practical Quantum Computing. The 360-degree Selfie. Hot Solar Cells. Gene Theory 2.0. The Cell Atlas. Botnets of Things. Reinforcement of Learning.

Important progress is occurring. However, a number of these technologies still have many years to go before they make a significant difference in the lives of people on our planet.

For example, consider self-driving trucks. "Tractor-trailers without a human at the wheel will soon barrel onto highways near you. What will this mean for the nation’s 1.7 million truck drivers?"

Here is another example: "Advances at Google, Intel, and several research groups indicate that computers with previously unimaginable power are finally within reach." The discussion of this topic indicates a forecast of availability in 4 to 5 years.

New Drugs for Treatment of TB

The steady increase in local, regional, and world travel has greatly increased the threats of spread of infectious diseases. Mutations in the causal bacterial and viral agents are leading to diseases that are resistant to current drugs. TB provides a good example. The following article discusses two new TB drugs.

Cohen, J. (2/15/2017). Simpler, Safer Treatment Hailed as ‘Breakthrough’ Against Drug-resistant TB. Science (AAAS). Retrieved 2/18/2017 from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/simpler-safer-treatment-hailed-breakthrough-against-drug-resistant-tb. Quoting from the article:

In 2015, there were an estimated 10.4 million new (incident) TB cases worldwide, of which 5.9 million (56%) were among men, 3.5 million (34%) among women and 1.0 million (10%) among children.
In 2015, there were an estimated 480 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and an additional 100 000 people with rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB) who were also newly eligible for MDR-TB treatment.
There were an estimated 1.4 million TB deaths in 2015, and an additional 0.4 million deaths resulting from TB disease among people living with HIV. … TB remained one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015. [Bold added for emphasis.]

Eighteen Ed-tech Trends

Horizons Report (2016). The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12. Retrieved 2/4/2017 from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf.

The NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 edition is a collaboration between The NEW MEDIA CONSORTIUM and The CONSORTIUM for SCHOOL NETWORKING.

Quoting from the report:

This publication charts the five-year horizon for the impact of emerging technologies in school communities across the globe. With 15 years of research and publications, the NMC Horizon Project can be regarded as the world’s longest-running exploration of emerging technology trends and uptake in education. In partnership with CoSN this year, a companion toolkit known as the Horizon Report Digital Toolkit: 2016 K-12 Edition was created to encourage discussions around these findings in local communities and help practitioners implement the ideas in this report.
The experts agreed on two long-term trends: redesigning learning spaces to accommodate more immersive, hands-on activities, as well as rethinking how schools work in order to keep pace with the demands of the 21st century workforce and equip students with future-focused skills. In the short-term, the rise of coding as a literacy emerged as a new trend this year. As the number of computer science jobs are expected to proliferate in the next five years, there is a need for students to learn coding and programming skills, which have proven to bolster problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking skills. These are just three of the 18 topics analyzed in the NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2016 K-12 Edition, indicating the key trends, significant challenges, and important technological developments that are very likely to impact changes in K-12 education across the world over the next five years.

Three Education Trends for 2017

Cortez, M.B. (1/31/2017). The 3 Biggest K-12 Tech Trends for 2017. EdTech. Retrieved 2/1/2017 from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/01/3-biggest-k-12-tech-trends-2017.

Three trends are discussed in this article:

1. Increasing understanding of data and student privacy.

2. Increasing access to STEM through Makerspaces and Virtual Reality.

3. Making way for blended, personalized, and competency-based learning.

Quoting from the third of these forecasts:

Thanks to technology, teachers can now tailor education to each student. Educators Stephanie Shaw and Michael Meechin have told EdTech how certain apps have helped them reach out to students who need extra attention.
Tech will certainly continue to boost these opportunities to improve learning outcomes. Peter West, director of e-learning at St. Stephen’s College, told eSchool News that an increase in blended learning — a combination of traditional instruction and individualized digital programs — will likely soon create a tipping point where schools will be reorganizing their curriculum to support widespread use of such programs.

Delivering High-Speed Wireless Internet Over Existing Power Lines

Baig, E.C. (1/31/2017). AT&T Plans to Deliver Fast Internet Over Power Poles. USA Today. Retrieved 1/31/2017 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/baig/2017/01/31/t-plans-deliver-fast-internet-over-power-poles/97260568/?csp=tech.

Many different approaches are being used and/or experimented with for providing broadband connectivity to people throughout the world. This article discusses a type of technology that can deliver very high-speed connectivity over existing power lines. Quoting from the article:

AT&T says it is having “advanced discussions” with power companies to begin field trials of Project AirGig in at least two locations by the fall, and if all goes well, commercial deployment could occur within 9 to 12 months. One of the trials will be in the U.S.; a second could be outside the country.
Project AirGig technology involves placing small low-cost plastic antennas developed by AT&T Labs on top of existing power lines. These devices create a multi-gigabit signal that travels along or near the wire, but not actually through it.
Using so-called mmWave surface wave launchers and inductive power devices, the signal can be moved from one pole to the next, and powered without a direct electrical connection. AT&T says it has secured more than 200 patents and patent applications. It also just reached an agreement to acquire a San Francisco company, FiberTower Corp, which holds mmWave spectrum rights.

Learning Via Direct Electrical Stimulation of the Brain

Information from our senses is processed in our brains. Some of it is integrated with what we already "know" and some is absolutely new information that is added to our memories. We also process information that has been stored in our brains to produce "other ways of looking at it."

In recent years, progress has been made in electrical stimulation of the brain to help it learn and/or to actually have it learn. We are used to this idea in science fiction, where a person learns a new language via a few hours connected to a teaching machine.

We are a very long way from this level of brain knowledge and connectivity. However, useful progress is occurring, and this progress provides a possible window into the future. Here is a recent article on the topic.

NIH (September 29, 2016-September 30, 2016). Transcranial Electrical Stimulation (tES): Mechanisms, Technology and Therapeutic Applications. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved 1/25 20167 from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/research-priorities/scientific-meetings/2016/transcranial-electrical-stimulation-tes-mechanisms-technology-and-therapeutic-applications.shtml.

Quoting from this research article:

Increasingly, tDCS research involves augmentation of behavioral- or learning-based interventions. Such studies raise questions about when stimulation should be applied - before, during or following the behavioral or learning-based intervention - and when to measure learning/behavioral results. Pilot work with tACS is targeting cortical oscillations (i.e., neural rhythms reflected in EEG recordings) and shows potential for reducing auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia and boosting memory consolidation during sleep. Ideally, outcome measures would include a physiological measure that correlates highly with a behavioral measure which, in turn, would predict clinical/functioning effects. A professionally-supervised protocol for home-based, remotely-supervised tDCS, supported by specially designed equipment and a telemedicine platform, has shown feasibility in research settings. This approach shows promise for reducing patient burden and enabling longer duration of treatment.

Moving Toward Vaccines That Don't Require Refrigeration

Grens, K. (1/24/2017). Toward Breaking the Cold Chain. The Scientist. Retrieved 1/25/2017 from http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/48162/title/Toward-Breaking-the-Cold-Chain/&utm_campaign=NEWSLETTER_TS_The-Scientist-Daily_2016&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=41310936&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-858wi3wvcfnSN1ou8_GerSEqejEsLB1MfVQ3KMEicvVLAtdKPkiVXH16ESl9gIWabox1qoKbaiUiWovkSVpmq3HQu2ZOnQVKu5qyEZvi88u5X6NcM&_hsmi=41310936.

The development and widespread use of vaccines is certainly one of the most important developments in the history of medicine. This is important to education because illnesses prevent many children from attending school at all, or cause them to miss many days of school. Progress is occurring is developing vaccines that do not need to be stored in a very cold refrigerator. Quoting from the article:

Globally, the problem of improperly stored vaccines is extensive and persistent, especially in developing countries. Many vaccines have a narrow window of allowable storage temps—often 2° C to 8° C. And, according to Raja Rao, a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, limited storage space, poorly performing refrigerators, and a lack of technical support lead to tens of millions of immunizations wasted annually.
But what if the cold chain could be eliminated altogether? That’s where numerous researchers, including Chris Fox of the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) in Seattle, have set their sights. “Our goal is to really address those practical aspects to make sure that the vaccines are used to vaccinate people and not just to sit somewhere and expire because of temperature issues,” Fox told The Scientist.

Artificial Intelligence Will Help Make Technology Invisible

Handi, R. (7/20/2015). How Artificial Intelligence Will Make Technology Disappear.TEDx (video 14:55). Retrieved 1/24/2017 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U88Ya9krtBk&list=PL57quI9usf_sRcCf5ntfnstLvFSSoBcDL&index=25.

This presentation discusses the past of computer-assisted communication, brings us up to current times, and proposes a massive change that can be brought about by progress in artificial intelligence. The idea is that AI systems will become aware of you, what you are doing and intend to do, and how your communication systems can use this information to better serve you. Progress in this area is an important part of providing users with more and more devices they can interact with. It will reduce the current information overload from the computer devices you interface with.

A number of the ideas in this video are relevant to education. Many of us suffer from information overload. With smarter computers and better human-computer interfaces, the computer can directly help to reduce the burden.