Meet Victor—he’s the one waving. He’s in Montessori 3, first year in school. So he should be in the school graduating class of 2030. At the rate school curriculum is changing today, he will have more or less the same education I had in ’54, and his dad, the rower, in ’85. We were both lucky to graduate at a time of very accessible education and guaranteed jobs. Victor may not be so lucky.
How can Victor’s odds of success be best assured? What forces are growing that he and his sister, cousins, friends and parents should pay attention to? Quantum computing, cloud management, artificial intelligence (AI however we define it) and democratization of almost everything may be the base from which he launches out of school. Quantum computing will transform our present computing gadgets to unrecognizable devices. These will interconnect everything we do. No brainer.
Some may fight it, or doddle on the way, but the world will have moved on, with the exception, perhaps, of our schools and colleges. If they haven’t bothered to meet the needs of this latest wave of change, why do we suppose they will meet the next?
Cloud management will have an impact on cost – no more off the shelf discs, everything paid monthly – but also on universal accessibility until it rains. Then AI will have taken the next layer of old ‘middle class’ jobs of teaching, money managing, medical, legal matters and the host of other professional services.
Finally, democratization, customization and personalization will underpin how society works. That means that none will have a monopoly on anything. The obvious forerunners of this are AirB&B and Uber. That’s just the start. The choice and tailoring of service to individuals and compatible groups will be unrecognizable from today’s perch.
What we can predict is that there will be much more community collaboration about key services, especially education and learning. Then, the obvious question arises, ‘What jobs will there be?’ Possibly few as we know them now, but there will be huge opportunity in the fast-growing global market. The former middle class lived and worked in community clusters. Hamilton and Leaside would be obvious examples. Communication and transportation were both slow and clumsy. Today, midway to Victor’s graduation, things have both opened and sped up. His aunt lives in Toronto, goes to school in Madrid, Spain, and her classmates live around the world. Victor will see a similar, if not greater speedup when he graduates.
Middle classes grow wealth. We have lost the former industrial one. What is the next? A good guess is that the new middle class will depend on creating and managing this new, fast and ubiquitous technology, and doing something productive with it. We can’t know exactly, but we can prepare our students for that future reality. Parents must seek out opportunities for their children to move in that direction, and anticipate that the schools will not be much help. But there will be lots of alternatives for education. Services in both the public and private sectors will fragment into useful units—one here and the next there. Knowing what basics are needed and how learning communities are formed will be the key.
There are no definite answers right now, but there are lots of new and promising directions to explore: find a fab lab, an incubator, a swap centre (Science North is an example), a creative design space with some serious knowledge base, in IT or environment, or in the arts, for instance. Start one of these in your community. You will be way ahead of the crowd. Perhaps you will meet Victor. I hope so.