Bryan Alexander Paints Four Futures for Education

Bryan Alexander, CogDogBlog, Mar 20, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It used to be that futurists predicted the future. That's no longer in vogue. Now what we see more typically are four (or so) 'scenarios', such as those described by Bryan Alexander in this video shared by Alan Levine. The four (and they always have catchy names): Phantom Learning, The Lost Decade, alt.residential, Renaissance. And they are based on trends, drivers, prediction market outcomes, and other superstitions. I think the use of scenarios tends to make it appear as though people have a choice in determining their own future. But for the most part, future social phenomena lie outside the realm of individual decisions (except as emergent phenomena or chaotic 'butterfly effect' outcomes). Personally, I think the range of possible futures is rather less wide than imagined. I think we can 'read' (rather than 'project') the future, and that a lot of it is pretty basic logic. Cause and effect, supply and demand, the will to power and human nature are much better guides than mathematics and statistics (one - just once - I'd like to see the economists predict the recession and prescribe a fix before it happens, rather than explain why their projections were wrong after). (Update: around the 1:28 mark there's an interesting short discussion of using historians' methods for predicting the future, which addresses some of my points - glad I stayed with it!).
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