Friday, January 18, 2008


Futurist Ed Barlow spoke at the AUCD conference in November. He is a person with a background in management and experience in healthcare, business, higher education and consulting who monitors information about the things that are happening in business, the economy, technology, etc and tries to predict future trends.

This was the first time I had heard a ‘futurist’ speak at a disability conference and it was both fascinating and disconcerting. In a rapid-fire delivery style we heard his predictions for a world that will be changing drastically and becoming very different from today.

He spoke of a world where successful people speak Mandarin Chinese and maintain what he calls a mental desktop where they track changes and trends in a number of areas—global areas—daily.

He believes that people will need the ability to assess the global environment, predict needs, learn the information that will help them meet the needs they recognized, plan and respond accordingly while being aware of all the things that are continuing to advance while they work, in order to be successful. The image I have of this is a person sitting at a console watching at least 3 screens each with different stock information flashing at the top, a running line of information going across the bottoms and a another story being presented in the middle—and watching and retaining all of this at once.

He said that by the early 1970s human knowledge was doubling every 6 years, by the year 2012 it is expected to be doubling every year.

He predicted that the workplace of tomorrow would value skills more than degrees, that far more workers will work on a contract basis and that employers will no longer offer health insurance as a benefit (he made no mention of who would.)

He feels that most people will not get a university education and that most will attend community colleges for skill-based educations. (Did I just say that people will need more abstract and sophisticated learning abilities and that their education will be shorter and more technical? Yup, that’s what the man said.)

He spoke about population trends, the aging of America, the ethnic demographics of tomorrow, the style differences between generations and different business accountability tools that he believes will be helpful. He also touched on advances in technology and learning that he expects to have a great impact on the world of tomorrow.

Listening to the presentation all I could envision was an ever widening gap between the haves and have-nots in our society. I could envision the upper echelon of society moving into the future at breakneck speed, and everyone else struggling to keep up while folks with disabilities grow further and further and further away from the benefits of participation.

Seriously, is anyone teaching our kids Mandarin Chinese? Is anyone even teaching their caregivers Mandarin Chinese? How about their caregivers’ employers?

In my opinion it will take a feat of engineering to bridge this widening gap (think Millau Viaduct!) If he is correct we have a lot of work to do to establish a role for people with disabilities to circumvent economic segregation and keep people with disabilities connected within the society of tomorrow.

I think Universal Design (applied to all areas of life), the leveling of playing fields by extensive application of technology, purposeful, planned relationship-building in our communities and strengthened connections between people who have disabilities and people in leadership are some of the building blocks we will need to succeed.

What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear your ideas! Post your ideas in a comment below.

1 comment:

Lilly said...

What do you think is the "kis"s
stratgy that makes it easy for others outside of the field of disability to feel they can succesfully engage in problem solving and or trouble shooting.

Everyone has something to offer!

I will watch for your reply!

Keep on writing!