Today’s disruption, the near future and the far future

My son starts at secondary school in September 2018, so visiting now feels keen to say the least, however I'm feeling somewhat reassured that my taxes are being well spent and we'll take him for next year's visit knowing that he will be very excited by the digital music studio, the IT equipment, the robotics etc. He shares my geek genes for better or for worse.

As a self-confessed geek, IT professional, ex-consultant, sociologist and all manner of other things, it's not the presence of technology that interested me on this visit. Quite the opposite.

What got my attention was the Head Teacher's strict policy of not allowing phones in school - or to be more precise, if you're seen with one, then it will be confiscated. I had flashbacks to detentions, school dinners and copious amounts of homework at this stage. Then the Head said, proudly: ‘Call me old fashioned... but children should be interacting when they're not in class.’ She wasn't justifying her action, but she did feel the need to explain her stance.

So the killer question for me here is, how have we got into a situation when we need to even explain such actions as being 'old fashioned'? I would say that she's simply being human, and values what being a human is. 

These are exactly the topics I'm going to be writing about in this blog. As a lifelong human, I am assuming I'm well qualified to talk about being a human when the future is happening now. This is a world where the future is no longer decades away, but a world where the future seems very close. This is a world where we're coming to terms with a technological pace which is, in many ways, moving faster than our ability to manage it. I want to explore this tectonic plate like effect on society, where forces are being created which are changing our current world and positioned as shaping our future in a way that we have barely begun to imagine. 

I'm going to be looking at how we're coping or not coping with today's world and what we can do about it. I'm going to be finding lessons from history and whether they can be of any use. If you've got the stomach, I hope you'll also join me for discussions on what I call the near future - the future which William Gibson describes as being here, but not yet evenly distributed.

This is full of science-fiction, but the impacts are already here. If we can't cope with today's technological disruptions, how, I will explore, can we ever expect to manage this near future? Then, if you've got a really strong constitution, how can we begin to understand the far-future - that is a world where we can only begin to imagine what it will mean. Is it the stuff of our dreams, or our nightmares? 

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About the author

Given a Sinclair ZX81 computer when he was 8 years old, Tom has grown up with IT, but went on to become a brand manager for a snack company and then complete a PhD in sociology. As a consultant at Deloitte he worked with over 40 different IT organisations on how they can provide more business value and is now using this diverse range of experiences to help create Modern Waitrose as Head Engagement & IT Planning. The views in this blog are entirely his own.

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