New Words in Futuring – Emerging Vocabulary for Social Workers #4 (February 10, 2019)

This is a recurring series of posts to share round-ups of terms I hear that are directly from futures practice, or reflect new trends for those of interested in what is coming next. Here are previous posts (scroll down for all 3 previous posts) – #1, #2, and #3.

Ramp education – This refers to the need to reskill massive numbers of workers who are most likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence. Deep questions persist about the fate and well being of potentially 32 million workers (according to some estimates) in the near future. This article (with embedded report) provides a road map.

“Captology” – ‘computers as persuasive technologies’ (Fogg, 2003: 5). (captology.stanford.edu). Science of how technological products can be best designed to change users behavior.

Quantum Computing – what is the “next level” of computing and why does it matter? Folks at the deep end of the pool of technology are talking a lot about quantum computing and the almost beyond comprehensible things it can and might do. Get worried when the technology grows beyond our ability to understand it – and jump in with me and let’s try to learn more about it!! Here are a couple of pieces that attempt to make it accessible.

Time Banking – How do we make the most of the TIME we have (our most precious resource) and find ways to point it in the direction of social good? Here are a couple of articles that describe what time banking is, and some information about Andrew Yang, founder of a company called Seva. In addition to being a time-banking enthusiast, Mr. Yang is also interested in running for president of the U.S. on a high tech progressive platform that includes guaranteed income. This post is not an endorsement – but I do find his ideas fascinating and promising.


Social Work Futures: A Call to Action

I’ve been working on a brief statement about my work – and why I think it is so vital (and exciting) for social work to consider at least a review of, if not integration of, futures frameworks in our practice. This blog has been a place to gather the thinking and perspectives of a lot of folks who are doing work in this space. Gradually, I’m going to begin shifting to sharing some of my own original writing as I start to find and use my own “social work futures voice.”

I’m seeking out comments about what I’ve put together – check it out here. Please share your thoughts. Is a futures lens needed in social work? I think so…what about you?

Jobs of the Future

There is a huge literature and tremendous public discourse about the future of work. Here’s a few resources that can help you get a sense of what is out there. As social workers – we have two dual tracks of inquiry: 1) How will this future of work impact vulnerable communities, and 2) How will the future of work change the actual practice of social work? Here’s a bunch of interesting “jobs of the future” that I’ve collected – several might directly, and a few others, indirectly – be places where social workers might find themselves. Collecting these stretches my thinking about how much has changed and how quickly. Just to get your brain warmed up…here’s a few jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago…

Popular jobs today that didn’t exist 10 years ago:

  • App developer
  • Social media director
  • Uber driver
  • Drone operator
  • User experience designers
  • Airbnb host
  • Cryptocurrency manager
  • Influencers/evangelist
  • Genetic counselors
  • Big data scientist
  • Cloud services specialist
  • Chief listening officer
  • Digital marketing specialist
  • Podcast producer
  • Search engine optimization analysts
  • Content moderator
  • Virtual assistant
  • Telemedicine health specialist
  • Sustainability director

Public Interest Technologist

Jobs of the Future…!

Nuclear Fusion Energy Sales

Robot Paramedic

Quantum Computer Programmer

Virtual Reality Spotter

Ultra-Exotic Destination Travel Agent

Professional Luddite/Digital Detox Services

Here’s where these came from!

Chief Productivity Officer

Excess Capacity Broker

Drone Manager

Private Industry Air Traffic Control

Medical Mentor

Self-Driving Car Mechanic

Autonomous Transportation Specialist

Personal Medical Interpreter

Human-Technology Integration Specialist

Wholeness Mentor (think life coach but more so)

End of Life Coach

Here’s where these came from.

Commercial Space Pilot

AI Lawyer

3-D Food Printer Engineer

Augmented Reality Architect

Dismantlers (talent that relates to ending industries at the end of their life cycle/or in profound disruption) – mentioned in this list:  prison system, hospital and healthcare, income tax system, government agency, education system, college and university, airport security, airport customs

Atmospheric Water Harvesters (and other technological approaches to weather management)

Global Data Integration Specialist

Sharing Economists

Future Sports Specialists

Sensor Anthropologists

3-D Printing Specialists (body parts, houses, and much more)

Personal and Global Internet of Things Integration Specialists

Energy Transition Specialists (as the national electric grid breaks down)

Bio-factory Doctors, Strategists and Developers

Micro-College Specialists

Bio-meat Factory Engineers

Extinction Revivalists (people who revive extinct animals)

Robotic Earthworm Drivers

Avatar Designers

Updated! Annotated Futures Bibliography – A Never Ending Project!

Added a number of new items! Learn, learn, learn!!! Lots of amazing things to consider as you explore the literature about the future.

I’ve gathered many of the resources I’ve been learning with together – but this annotated bibliography will never been done and always in a state of revision! Have fun!!

Neoliberalism and Higher Education – an Annotated Bibliography

In order for me to participate in futures work within higher education in a way that fits with my values – I needed to sharpen my tools and refresh my own thinking about the forces shaping the contemporary landscape of colleges and universities. As I aim for a better understanding, tools and strategies to be part of the preservation of our sector as it goes through (some needed) significant reforms and changes, as well as truly monumental challenges in the coming years, it is essential to understand neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism is widely discussed as a huge factor in the evolution of higher education – and in largely destructive ways. In a VERY simplified definition, neoliberalism reflects a pervasive “marketization” of formerly non-market resources within community life.

Anyone who works in higher education (particularly public higher ed) understands this phenomenon at the “gut” level…we’ve all been dealing with a perpetual cycle of decreasing funding, increasing expectations regarding complex accountability and accreditation systems, increasing pressures to expand among other elements.

It is worth noting that I’m not at all against accountability – I’m an advocate for continuous quality improvement, revising and updating outmoded methods (where they might be appropriate) and finally, widening our relevance and success with all members of our communities. Most academics I know are very committed to the best quality, at the most reasonable cost possible for their students – and most are dismayed at the increasingly market-driven reality that higher education has become.

But many suggest that we’ve long since left the land of “earnest and quality public administration” and entered spaces of higher education that are increasingly (and some would say dangerously) neoliberal spaces. This reality is beyond the scope of any one institution – this is structural, it is deep, and it is happening in many if not most institutions of higher learning here in the U.S. and beyond.

What is neoliberalism in a fuller sense? This 2017 article from the Guardian provides a strong overview and provides a helpful historical context.

This is an excellent brief video – must watching for an accessible orientation to the concept of neoliberalism.

For a deeper academic analysis of neoliberalism in general and globally, there is a brand new edition of the journal Globalizations dedicated to the topic – the introductory essay is open access. Here’s one more general overview piece about the history, definition and current trajectory of neoliberalism.

I completed a literature review to do a deeper dive as it relates to neoliberalism and higher education to simply extend my own literacy on this topic – and this link will lead you to the work that I completed.

Can and should a neo-liberal lens, language and movement be stopped or interrupted? Can a lens of higher education (and all that both promises and delivered) be restored and reinforced for the future? I sincerely believe we can only get there if we continue to learn what we are up against, and join together (rather than compete) to make progress. The future I want to help create and protect has done exactly this.

Note: Neoliberalism has had a huge impact on social work practice throughout the U.S. (and beyond) as well, and that topic is worthy of its own discussion. This particular blog entry focuses on our “home” as social work educators.