World Futures: INFORMATION – What And How Do We Teach People?

World Futures: What Do We Need?

Los Alamos World Futures Institute

It was not that long ago that we went to school to learn the three R’s – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. These skills served the student well as the foundation for learning other skills, communicating, and doing basic mathematical calculations of everyday life.  Today reading is often supplanted by video, writing has given way to keyboarding, and mathematics has become a smart phone application.

Video increases the speed of information transmission, keyboarding increases speed of composition, and the smart phone apps provide rapid answers while eliminating the need for scratch pads.  But does the increased speed enhance learning of and beyond the basics?

In 1987, a study was published called Workforce 2000.  While the study is well worth reading, the pertinent point here is that the average individual will change work (job, content, and skill set) several times during his or her lifetime. The term “work” is used because the content and knowledge domain of the new job will also be new.  What skills will be needed and how are they acquired? Will they be obsolescent, embryonic, or adaptable?  

And how will they be acquired?

What level of mathematics is really necessary? Not for the mathematics professor teaching partial differential equations, but for the “average” human being charged with operating devices and systems? Do they have to know and be able to use decimal, binary, octal, and hexadecimal numbering systems used by machines? Or are they simply automatons charged with watching warning signals?

In communication, reading, watching, and listening provides us input to our human coding systems – primarily based on human code – language.  

Output involves writing (traditional and keyboarding), speaking (audio signals), physical signally (visual cues like shrugging of the shoulders or a smile) and talking to machines (coding).  

One can argue that selecting the “enter” button is not coding, but the human clicking the button is sending a coded signal to the machine. The human/machine interface acts as a translator much like a translator in the poly-lingual United Nations. And every time human users learn a new interface, they are learning a new language.

In the future, people will need physical, intellectual and perceptual skills as well as interpersonal, decision making and human skills. And there will be a continuing role for history, the arts, pride and survival. Survival of the individual, humanity, or all of the above?

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