Every now and then I like to gather up an assortment of interesting items I see go by on Twitter for my social work friends who like me, are curious and passionate about learning about the future and the role that we may play in it. I did two in November (here and here) and will continue to post additional curated lists from time to time. Some of my other lists include more topic specific lists and/or new futures vocabulary. Explore the site and explore some of what is here. Enjoy!
Great piece that summarizes some key ideas to watch related to the future of artificial intelligence. I continue to assert that as social workers, we should dedicate ourselves as a matter of ethics to engaging in study and dialogue about how to increase the positive uses and interrupt the negative impacts of AI in the world ahead. (Note that I did a whole post dedicated to the exciting and concerning dimensions of this important area of science and work. )
Design justice, AI, and escape from the matrix domination is an essay from the Design Science Journal (from MIT) – brilliantly dissecting/critiquing the experience of “traveling while trans.” Highlights a variety of cutting edge social justice and tech issues that should be on the minds of social workers.
The future of war. This is just plain scary – words fail me. These are frightening possibilities.
Envisioning “the end” of a social problem
I love this piece imagining what the end of a social problem (in this case mass incarceration) looks like. I’m excited about the application of futures thinking (and speculative imagination skills) to push us into new spaces imagining beyond deep entrenchment of social problems. While our “solutions” may be far out – to imagine the end of our issue (addictions, poverty, etc.) we owe it to future generations to unlock more creative possibilities than merely the slow and gradual typical change cycle. What courageous, creative, BIG ideas might help us envision the better world we aspire to help build…and how can these kinds of thought experiments help us stretch our imaginations?
Government and the Future
What happens when U.S. Mayors learn to think like futurists
Higher Education and the Future
Six ways colleges can think differently to meet the workforce needs in America
Higher education innovation expert Dr. Cathy Davis speaking about the past, present and future of higher education. I learned a lot from reading this book – and was struck by the fact that higher education hasn’t inherently changed much since its inception a couple of hundred years ago. Some renovation and rethinking is probably due! She’s got some good ideas in this video. Special thanks to Dean Gautham Menon for sharing this item with me. Here’s another short set of slides she did in a recent presentation on her work. You can read more about Dr. Davis here.
This is a particularly challenging and creative article that challenges those in higher education – how do we prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet? Of course part of the answer is that college is not just about “getting a job” – but that is easy to say for people who don’t mortgage their lives to be there. For most people, a college degree is absolutely linked to a desire and intention to increase one’s economic mobility. Our challenge is to help them grow as people, as we ready them to participate the world that is to come. In social work education, I think we have not much wrestled with this issue widely – though it is a frequent discussion among colleagues. We put a lot of stock in “fundamental skills” as well as specialities that reflect real world social problems, and intend (with good faith) that these will “weather” the future well. Much of that may be true. But I believe it is imperative to challenge ourselves more centrally to prepare social workers for challenges we do not yet see…and to be more intentional in inviting both known and unknown dimensions of this question to our classrooms and curriculum development efforts, even if and when it might be disruptive.
While this piece isn’t explicitly about the future – it inherently reflects a vital aspect of ethical futures thinking – HUMILITY. No one can “know” the future and anyone who says they can is definitely selling something. That said, the goal of futures work is to use the information we have to combine with specific analytic tools and frameworks to help us anticipate possibilities and play for as many as we can – rendering us “more ready” as much as we can. In the end, humility matters – futures work must be guided by intense curiosity and hopefully, goodwill and hope for the future. Humility is an essential component in the future I want to see. This one is a good read and a new favorite.
Yes, you read that right. Futures work isn’t only about worrying! I also love this brief piece about cultivating optimism in the midst of all the challenges around us. This is an important read. Dive in.
Technology and Society
Great interview from Douglas Rushkoff and Dana Boyd who has written a new(ish) book called “It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens.” From the text: “How does technology amplify our biases? Where does human agency lie in complex, networked systems? What is the distinction between a “network” versus a “community?” These and many more questions explored in this deep-dive into social media and the relationship of digital technology to our everyday lives.” A great piece.
Nothing like a bunch of cool TED talks curated just for those of us that like to think abut the future. Here you go!
This is a fascinating and expansive piece about a game that engages players in solving long-standing global challenges with creativity and courage. Tacking geo-political and economic challenges of humans all across our planet…the game encourages some interesting possibilities. This is thought provoking.