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MADISON Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. University of Wisconsin-Madison Director of Executive Education Linda Gorchels
used this statement Wednesday night as a catalyst to discuss probable tomorrows and future predictions. By drawing upon major points made by the past eight speakers for the Madison chapter
of the World Future Society, Gorchels wrapped the societys year by re-emphasized major trends in technology, demography, education and culture.
There are a lot of unknown unknowns. When talking about probable tomorrows, are you really thinking about things that you dont concentrate on on an ongoing basis, Gorchels said.
According to Don Nichols
, director of the UW-Madison La Follette School of Public Affairs, who spoke in September, employment will shift from large manufacturing centers to clusters or hubs because the cost of technology and research now exceeds the cost of manufacturing. Large manufacturers, Gorchels summarized, will increasingly outsource services such as research and marketing due to those costs.
We will have changes in manufacturing
changes as far as technology, changes in terms of outsourcing of typical white-collar jobs.
Maybe we should be thinking of Milwaukee as a machinery hub and Madison as a biotechnology hub, Gorchels said.
Another prediction, discussed by UW-Madison School of Business Information Technology Director Scott Converse
in January, was that disruptive technologies will continue to develop at an accelerated pace. Disruptive technologies, as defined by Converse, do not perform as well as existing products initially but eventually reach a critical mass of users and change the status quo. Examples include digital photography and iTunes.
A lot of experts predict
it wont be too long before the music business is a pure service industry. What Scott predicted was that in the next five years, the big five music companies will drop to two. And one of those two will be non-current player Apple computers with iTunes, Gorchels said.
She also touched upon digital education and technological trends in schooling. In March, Sun Prairie Area School District technology coordinator Louis Loeffler
talked about ways in which technology could contribute to adaptive teaching. He explained technology could help tailor education to students learning styles but cautioned that placing hardware in schools without adequate staff development is a fruitless venture.
Audience member and retired physics professor C.H. Blanchard feels technology-aided adaptive teaching is not always right for the classroom.
I go to elementary schools a lot and I see a lot of new technology sitting in a corner while the teacher struggles to teach and keep discipline.
Is the right way to [adaptive teach] with some machinery? Not at all, Blanchard said.
Madison resident Bob Bean believes education could benefit from technology, but only if staff members know how to properly utilize it.
Theres no question that a lot of older teachers are saying they are not ready for the technology thats been dumped on them and they dont have the budget to teach teachers to use it adequately. And some of the technology and software is just totally inadequate but that doesnt mean there isnt good stuff out there if they had the time to learn it, Bean commented.
Gorchels closed the meeting by acknowledged the ever-increasing and inescapable role of technology in peoples everyday lives.
There is no place that technology doesnt exist. We have so much capability, as far as technology, that we dont even know what we dont know. We also have technology available every time you turn around. People cant escape the noise. You cant escape technology, Gorchels said.
The Madison chapter of the World Future Society will reconvene September 2004.
Kristin V. Johnson is the Associate Editor of WTN. She can be reached at email@example.com