Your Child’s City Will Be Circular

That’s right. Circular. Not the actual city of course. But how it works. It’s called a circular economy, and it’s so much smarter than anything our generation came up with. Plus it’s jam-packed with opportunities for your child to contribute and develop areas of relevant interest and expertise.

I can’t do a better job of explaining it than the folks at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation who are backing the movement. Here’s a great introductory video that you can even watch with your kids:

There are two bits in there to pay attention to.

The end of owning stuff.  My idol Kevin Kelly explains this beautifully in his book The Inevitable.  Here are a few articles that explain the future of “sharing”: one, two, three.

The other piece that I think is important for parents of digital natives is sustainability innovation. Creative solutions for building new things out of old things or, better yet….more sustainable materials.

There are literally thousands of examples of such ideas already on the market today, but here are a few I particularly like:

Furniture made from fungus.

Straw that turns dirty water into drinkable water.

Toilets that make mulch.

A drone that pollinates.

Biodegradable plastic.

In the case of moving away from owning things, this is a grand opportunity for you to begin coaching your child in this way of thinking.  They will wind up thinking that way anyway, as that is very much where their generation’s culture is going with the sharing economy.   But you can claim the credit if you start modeling it now. 🙂

And in the case of sustainable innovations, just marvel at the creativity behind the few examples I provided above, and the others I’m sure you can add to my list.  Yes, our children are inheriting one serious load of work to reverse global warming, but wow the opportunities they also have to apply creative solution-building.  It is such an exciting time to be young, to care about the world, and to have crazy inventive ideas.

So I encourage you to watch this circular economy movement carefully, as it will become the model for our children’s world, and it is abundant with avenues for development of their interests and applications of their learning.

Will College Exist for Your Children?

Yes and no.  Mostly no.

“College” will become something completely different than you and I experienced.  It is already headed in that direction.

First, the whole idea of going to a campus and taking a package of courses from just one university will not exist when your children are 18+.  Why?  Because your children will be able to “take courses” from multiple institutions at one time and essentially build their own “degrees” or certification programs.  In fact, this is being done worldwide as I write.

You’ll notice I use quotation marks for things that are dead, dying, or undergoing complete transformation, such as “courses” and “degrees”.  “Lectures” will be dead because our children will learn in a highly interactive way, where peers contribute as much as any one “teacher.”  Virtual and augmented reality will have advanced so much by then that a majority of their learning experiences will be driven by these technologies, and it’s likely that much of that will take the form of gaming.

But wait. It gets even freakier.  They will probably be able to upload knowledge into their brains. Yes. Kind of like in The Matrix.  You can thank the military for advancing this technology.

And don’t forget that all of the other existing AI tools will be significantly more advanced and will provide extensive support for knowledge all along the way.

Most of these trends are already in motion, so none of this is a guessing game.  This is where it’s going.  Yet, most of us still parent and project scenarios for our children based on the model of college we experienced.  Despite the fact that the entire world of work and learning is changing daily, we continue to believe that college will somehow remain the same.

You may have already given thought to where your child will attend college.  Perhaps you have made preschool or elementary school choices thinking those would improve his or her chances of getting into “the best college”.

It just won’t work like that for our children.  If there is any “admissions” process at all, it will be based on a very different system than you and I had to learn.  So all of your decisions about school now are unlikely to impact your child’s chances of “getting in” because the idea of attending one place and being accepted there will be completely obsolete.

Just because the private and public schools you are shopping now refuse to acknowledge how college is changing doesn’t mean it isn’t.  Right now, most K-12 schools are mindlessly headed into a future they are not actually prepping students for.  I’ll tackle the misalignment between K-12 and college in later posts.

Meanwhile, if you need more evidence of the changes in postsecondary ed, you can read this article published two years ago by FastCompany.  There are numerous articles like it everywhere (a few at the bottom of this post), but this one sums it up nicely.

To bring the point home, let’s look at an example of a change that has already played out in post-secondary ed: the MOOC (massive open online course).   MOOCs are a case of The Future That is Already Here (#FUTAH). For a deep dive on MOOCs, check out my YouTube Library.

As of today, according to Class Central, there are over 700 universities worldwide offering MOOCs — free or fee-based interactive courses that anyone can take — and as of the date of this post, over 58 million students worldwide have taken at least one course. This is not a “University of Phoenix” thing.  This is something completely different.

And currently, all of the world’s most prestigious universities offer MOOCs.  In fact, three of them (Stanford, Harvard and MIT) launched the MOOC movement.  Most major countries have set up MOOCs.  And of course leading tech firms like Google, AT&T, Apple, Amazon and many others offer MOOCs.

Plus, as I will cover in a later post about the future of work, it’s very likely our children will freelance all or most of their careers. So “knowledge on demand” will be appealing to them and MOOC will give them just that.

MOOCs are very much here, now.  And they are growing in popularity, as they should. Here’s why MOOCs are a huge improvement over the college experience you and I had:

You can choose courses from over 700 highly respected universities worldwide.

You can take courses from anywhere (eg, your sofa) at anytime of day.

You can see which courses are most popular and which courses have highest reviews.

Some courses are FREE.  Yes, free.  Most courses with fees cost a fraction of what they would on campus.

You can choose courses based on your specific interests and build a “degree” (no longer a thing) that is custom designed to suit your needs.  Or you can just handpick courses that satisfy knowledge areas you need or want for very specific purposes or interests.  

You can interact with your peers in the course in a way that is dynamic and social.

Your contribution to the course BECOMES part of the course content.

Now, take all of those perks, assume that there will be about 100 disruptive technologies we can’t even imagine between now and then, apply the rapidly increasing use of augmented and virtual reality + gaming in learning, highly sophisticated AI and brain knowledge implants.

See what I mean? There is no reason college will look anything like it does today.  It’s illogical to assume that it will.

And we can’t know what it will look like, but we can see trends pretty clearly.  And that is why I launched this blog.  I want to encourage us as parents to notice and understand the trends that will shape our children’s lives.  Understanding the trends will make us more savvy and will guide the choices we make for them and the choices we support them in making.

If you read my post about Blockchain, you see what I mean. As with the currency system our children will use, their learning system will also be decentralized (or as MOOC’s call it “distributed”).  The patterns of learning will follow, echo, mirror, align with the patterns of their social behaviors and the capabilities that technology will support.

Of course learning will no longer be linear or isolated. It will be a network of experiences. Credentialing will come in many forms, some with broad acceptance, some with niche recognition. All of your child’s credentials will be accessible to anyone who wants to see what they know and how well they know it.  Credentials will be dynamic and ever-changing, with our children upgrading their skills regularly just like we now have to upgrade our software and apps regularly.

There will still be “brands” of learning. I’m sure Harvard and MIT have clear plans to protect their brands of education. In the future as today, places like Harvard and MIT will have to be responsive to the demands of companies.  But rather than sticking with a linear “feeder” model (Harvard/MIT grads get hired by XYZ firm)….Harvard/MIT will partner with select companies that represent the elite in their industries, like Google, in creation of the MOOC content.  Oh wait, they already did.

I’ll come back to the future of learning in later posts, tackling some of the issues related to the misalignment between how our children are learning now relative to what they need when they become adults in their world.  Stay tuned.

Articles you may find interesting:

This is the Future of College

The Rise of MOOCs

Robot Doctors, Online Lawyers and Automated Architects: the Future of the Professions?

Demystifying the MOOC

An Online Education Breakthrough? A Master’s Degree for a Mere $7,000

The Future of College?

DARPA is Planning to Hack the Human Brain to Let Us “Upload” Skills