What Happens Next
Knowledge can no longer be confined to marble-clad institutions. Four experts from around the world weigh in on how to educate the next billion.
Where We Thought We’d Be
We can’t predict the future—but these experts thought they could. Here are some ideas they got right—or marvelously wrong.
- 1910 (for 2000)
The French company Villemard commissioned artists such as Jean-Marc Côté to produce a series of brightly colored prints depicting the year 2000. In one of them, titled “At School,” a crank-handled machine crunches textbooks up into knowledge and then transmits them into students’ minds via some steampunk-worthy brass headgear.
Science and Invention’s editors thought that headphones had the power to turn homework into “a great joy.” Radio lessons would soon be commonplace, and “little Mary Jane” would “enjoy her radio lessons as much as she now enjoys her bedtime stories. Everything will be an ‘open book’ to her.”
- 1965 (for 2000)
Self-described futurists Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Weiner (no, not that one) believed students could optimize their learning through “practical use of direct electronic communication with and stimulation of the brain”—in other words, electrode stimulation.
Education gets a lift in a classroom abroad an airship from The Kids' Whole Future Catalog. “Classes will never be boring on an airship traveling around the world!” the book says. “Imagine gliding over the Amazon River in South America or retracing Ulysses' journeys through the Greek Islands.”
The end of college?
Universities such as NYU are on their last legs, educator Herbert London told The Futurist, and it’s all because of liberals. Colleges had become such hotbeds of Marxism, feminism, and affirmative action from the 1960s onward, he wrote, that people would no longer want to go.
More from What Happens Next
Future of Aging
By 2020, people over age 65 will outnumber children under age 5. Humanity faces an urgent question on an unprecedented scale: How do we care for an aging population who can’t work, and harness the contributions of those who can?
Future of Water
The world’s supply of cheap and clean water will likely plummet as the climate warms and populations boom. Can we find ways to conserve, cut waste, and find new sources before it’s too late?
Future of Gaming
With revenues topping $100 billion a year, the video game industry is poised to be this century’s dominant form of entertainment. As games become more addictive and expensive to play, how will they transform our social relationships as well as our leisure time?
Future of Home
Technology is transforming homes all over the world. In some places, cheap devices are powering and connecting homes long left off the grid. In others, newly automated and networked machines are reinventing convenience—but at what cost to privacy and human connection?
Future of Work
If automation continues at its current pace, 400 million workers around the globe will be displaced by 2030. In spite of the vast economic effects these changes will bring, will we seize the opportunity to reconceive the very meaning of work?
Future of Food
As global climate change worsens and the population expands, humanity must produce more food in the next 50 years than it has in the past 10,000. Are lab-made meat and automation the key to farming in the future, or must we tend to the soil we already have?
Future of Cities
By 2050, nearly 10 billion people will share our planet. As mega-cities rise and technology reshapes the urban landscape, how will these changes affect the vast majority of the world’s poor?
Future of Money
Anarchy reigns supreme in the future of finance, decentralizing the power of banks and, in some cases, the state. But will cryptocurrencies and the blockchains that underlie them solve our financial woes, or only worsen existing inequalities?
Future of Fact
Online manipulation and immersive media have begun to eradicate our shared notion of authenticity and trust. How will society change when we can no longer believe what we see, hear, or think?