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Blog: Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
2016 Had Promise, Too
Amidst the many ‘year in review’ shows aired in December, you may have heard that 2016 will go in the annals as a year to forget. The loss of figures like Mohammed Ali, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Prince, George Michael, Arnold Palmer and Fidel Castro is of some note. When combined with Brexit, the Zika outbreak, and the US presidential election, I can understand that assessment.
Notwithstanding these events, however, there were several positive developments in 2016 which stand to have wide ranging impact on our lives. I highlight just a few of them below, and invite you to think about how they might impact our society: knowledge creation, education and our next generation of students.
- The (Tesla) Self-driving Car: If you have not seen it by now just have a look to see the driverless cars that are now on our streets. Once you get over the trepidation of the idea, just extend it 10 years from now to see how this could dramatically impact all our lives. You may not know it, but in 2016 Budweiser successfully delivered a truck full of its beer 150 km…without a driver.
- Are We Alone? In 2016, astronomers announced they found an Earth-like planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our sun. The planet, called Proxima b, appears to be warm enough to host liquid water, and thus may be habitable. Let the debate begin anew!
- Parents Watch Out: In the year when Samsung Galaxy phones were exploding, Google launched their own smartphone. The price will drop, and kids (and adults) all around us will want them. I can hear the pitch now: Why can’t I have a Google phone, mom? All my friends have one!
- Cher Wrote a Song About this One: While the idea of ‘turning back time’ through breakthroughs in cellular reprogramming seems quite appealing (Who would not want a do over?), it begs many other ethical questions that we will grapple with in the years ahead. The fact is that our children will be the ones making decisions about this on our behalf, so it might make some sense to engage them in the discourse from now.
- It’s All in Your Mind: In 2016, a team of researchers created a robotic arm that users could control with their minds alone. This research could potentially help millions of people who are paralyzed or suffering neurodegenerative diseases regain a sense of autonomy. How cool is that?
These discoveries and innovations are quite disparate, but I present them here only to dispel the idea that 2016 was marked only by doom and gloom. The work we do in education will never really make any futurist’s Top 10 list, but it is that very same work that will inspire the brilliance to advance humankind in the years ahead.
Happy New Year!