Friday, January 01, 2010

Ponder With Kathleen--What's the Next Big Thing?

Well, here we are, dear friends. A new decade. "Another year over/ And a new one just begun," said boomer bard John Lennon.

Recently I watched "Paris 1919: Six Month That Changed the World" based on Margaret MacMillan's book, made by the NFB but I saw it on the History Channel (or was it PBS?). Anyway, well done, I thought, great reminder of how events shape the future for generations, and they way the allies carved up the world in those six months, hammering out the Treaty of Versailles, well, it gets you thinking.

So New Year's Eve, icy roads, brrrr outside, and I'm watching some of the ubiquitous "Best and Worst" bits on cable, thinking about the changes over the course of the last decade--the big picture (kinda predictable, really) and the narrow view (little me, less predictable, but that's because I've never planned on getting older)--and I'm thinking (maybe for the first time) O-kay, what's the next big thing?

I'm not much of a futurist. I have an ongoing romance with history, which probably explains a lot. (I tend to drag my feet from one innovation to the next. ) But I am the eternal optimist. Learn from the past, let come what comes, people are really good at heart, we'll do better next time, and like that. So I'm looking at the Best and the Worst of the first decade of the 21st century, taking in a couple of movies, watching a couple of History Channel documentaries, and I'm ready to play the Sesame Street game: What Comes Next? Come on, Riders play along. What's the next Big Thing?

Technology How much more stuff can they cram into a cell phone? Can you think of something else you want your cell phone to do? Your computer? What's the next gadget?
For my part, I continue to hang back until everyone else has the Kindle or the Blackberry or the Bly-Ray. I do love the GPS thingie. It was a gift from someone who knows me and my sense of direction well. I haven't made a Facebook page yet, don't text much, and I don't see myself Twittering. I'm basically pretty shy, and I don't see that changing at this point.

Transportation When you think about it, we're due for some changes in that area--in this country, particularly. Some of our planes are almost as old as I am. Cars haven't changed that much, and our trains are pathetic compared to what they have in Europe. What do you see changing in the next 10 years?

Entertainment Rock and Roll was the last big innovation in music. "A flash in the pan," said Daddy. Is it time for something dramatically, spectacularly new to come along? How about movies? The money's all going into special effects. The quality of sound and picture has certainly improved, but I don't think there's big anything really really new since sound and color came along. What's next? Some sort of interactive thing? And what about TV? The stuff that's really well written is getting drowned out by the flood of cheap reality stuff. I'm going out on a limb here, predicting the demise of reality TV by 2020. Betcha five bucks. Any takers?

Books Okay, e-readers are here to stay, but paper books aren't going to disappear in my lifetime. What say you? I just read about "Vooks," and I can't see that working for a novel any better than footnotes do. Apparently you get to click on a visual or a little video, a link to more info, something like that. Readers don't want to be pulled out of the story for a side show, and they want to create their own mental pictures. Otherwise, they'll go see the movie. As far as the next big thing in genre fiction, you tell me. Historicals are coming back. What else?

Education What changes can we hope for in the next decade? Attention must be paid in this department, folks. We have to do better. What do you foresee?

Economy Invest in retirement home stock, kids. The Boomers are coming.

So let's have some fun. What's coming down the pike in the next decade? What's the Next Big Thing?

Or, we could make resolutions. But for me that would pretty much be: Ditto last year.


Paula R said...

Happy New Year Kathleen and the other lovely ladies riding in the convertible with us.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Terry Odell said...

I'm waiting for the one-format-fits-all e-reader, but that's more a personal wish than a prediction.

Happy New Year All.

Kathleen Eagle said...

So I go out in the cold and bring in the first Minneapolis Star Trib of the decade, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Front Page: "What Are the Next Big Things?" I haven't read it yet. Must have coffee with it. Back in a jif. (Translation: Back in a few.)

Virginia said...

Happy New Year Everyone! Have a wonderful 2010

Debra Dixon said...

Happy New Year, folks!

I definitely see the transportation changes coming. They have to.

One change I want to see in the economy is an adjustment in executive compensation. It has just gotten so out of hand. And not just in the big companies. There are many small companies in which the owner pays him/herself an exorbitant salary and complains when his employees rumble about making less than $30k a year with no benefits. By exorbitant I mean mid-six figure. I've seen in in my consulting work too many times.

Debra Dixon said...

Oh, and I'm all about exorbitant salaries.

My point was that when you're sucking so much out of your company, you have an ethical/moral obligation to toss an extra 5K at your 10 employees or give them medical insurance. Even if it comes out of your pocket.

Or if the economy turns nasty, you don't keep your exec salary and fire people or cut their wages.

And before you ask, yes, I pay my assistant well. Really. I promise.

GunDiva said...

I'd love to see education get away from graduating high school seniors who can't read at or above a fourth grade level. I'm pretty sure the "No Child Left Behind" thing wasn't a free pass to just move students through, it was meant to improve help for those struggling students. This is a near and dear issue, as I'm Academic Dean at a Career College. These students who are just passed through the system can't function in a traditional university setting and know they need some sort of degree, so they end up at a Career College. I firmly believe in the Career College system, but my job would be a whole lot easier if I didn't have functionally illiterate high school graduates that we then have to go back to teaching the basics of reading and writing. Those basics, thirty years ago, would have been a given. Not everyone graduated high school in the not-so-distant past. Now everyone graduates and it's not a given that they can read or write.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Deb, Mpls is working on the transportation changes in spite of the power heels that are dug in on budget cutting. We'll soon have more light rail, more "sane lanes," and maybe even see the return of a little street car action downtown. People are getting into those mini Coopers (Right, Michele? She's probably out driving around.) If it can happen in the Midwest, where there will always be distance--Ever driven to North Dakota?--it can happen.

That budget cutting is right on point with regard to exorbitant money flowing into the wrong pockets. Yep, I said wrong. Greed is not good. It's wrong. Cutting budgets that serve the public good just to put more money where it does no good--our local paper has been full of busted pyramid scheme "entrepreneurs" and multi-dealership car kings--is wrong. Trickle down economics is a myth. Those deep pockets are rubberized.

So far as the economy goes, I hope the opportunity to regulate financial institutions wasn't lost in the rush to keep the economy from plunging out skyscraper windows.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Diva, I share your concerns about public education. It's necessary. Without good public education, our democracy is sunk. "No Child Left Behind" is a joke. It is (was?) all about testing. Between the budget cuts and the tests, teachers are hamstrung.

Is a Career College the same as what we used to call vocational school (post-secondary)?

I'm worried about high schools. I think they've gone way off track, and I know we're behind other "industrialized" countries. By and large, foreign students are better prepared for American colleges than American students are. And, no, that wasn't always the case. Our high schools seem to be offering about 3 years' worth of preparation followed by the option to "get the Freshman requirements out of the way" at a nearby community college. It's a good way to save money--Lord knows the cost of tuition is obscene these days--but not the best way to educate.

I don't know how many credits were required to graduate from the public high school I attended back in the day. I was working to meet the requirements for college acceptance, which were way beyond good grades and a number of credits. We need to get back to that, but we have to do it in a way that includes people. Solid preparation from age 3 or 4 on. That doesn't mean everyone attains the same goals, but it means everyone can be fully engaged and fully challenged. For starters this will take better teacher preparation, better student-teacher ratio, better curriculum, and, yes, better discipline up and down the line.

Uh-oh. Is that a soap box under my feet?

Debra Dixon said...


You asked about changes and that is almost always going to produce the soapbox. (g)

GunDiva said...

Kathleen, thanks for sharing my soapbox! A Career College is similar to a Vocational College in that it streamlines the educational process to prepare the student for a career in their field. The difference is that a lot of vocational colleges only offered certification programs, while a career college offers degree programs, so our students graduate (and not all do!) with a "real" degree (Associates, Bachelors or Masters), usually in addition to a certificate of some kind.

Regis University (not the college I work for)is one of the best known career colleges, specializing in on-line graduate degrees, and they have an excellent reputation as an educational institute. There are a lot of career colleges out there who are touted as diploma mills, but I can say that if the college is accredited by a good, nationally recognized accreditation agency, they are NOT diploma mills. You would not believe the hoops we have to jump through to maintain our accreditation.

*Jumping off soapbox*

Candace said...

I think one of the next big things will be in transportation and renewable fuels. I wrote an article in November on an ethanol manufacturer here in Indiana. Fascinating -- and encouraging.

Right now, most ethanol is made from corn but it's actually possible to make viable (affordable) auto fuels from garbage. Literally. Most gasoline today is mixed about 10% ethanol; fuel for race cars (Indy) is 100% ethanol because it burns hotter and cleaner; and most cars on the road could actually burn up to 30% ethanol (mixed with gas) without any alteration of the engines but legislation allowing that level of mixture is lagging behind.

In addition to enthanol are a whole host of other renewable fuel sources, mostly notably electricity and hydrogen. I predict that by 2020, most cars will NOT be gasoline powered.

GunDiva said...

Can I order my flux capacitor now?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Candace, I just saw something about fuel made from garbage. I didn't see the beginning, but it was a group driving across the U.S. on garbage fuel. I came in when they were talking about how much fuel was going to waste in the New York City landfill.

If they can make ethanol from garbage, I'm all for it. The corn thing is a waste of farmland, seems to me.

Betina said...

Kathy, I'm so glad you brought this up. . . and Happy New Year, by the way, to everybody!

I do believe a transportation revolution is due. . . high speed trains anyone? the legislature here in FLA-Land has just approved building a high-speed light rail from Tampa to Orlando and from Orlando to the east coast, near Fl Lauderdale. will be interesting to see how that works. If it goes well, it might be a prototype for other lines. Still, we need better personal vehicles. Hey, Michele, we just traded with the pool boy's son for a MINI! A cute little blue and white number with great gas mileage! Have you see the cute MINI web stuff. What a hoot! Any car company with that much of a sense of humor deserves some patronage!

I agree with the phone stuff. Now if only we could get an income tax app. . . cough, cough. I just broke down and got an iphone for Christmas/birthday. I thought I'd be lost amonog all of those apps. Surprise! It's all so intuitive that I became a pro in two days! I LOVE this phone! And e-mail and internet whereever I am? Also, Kathy, GPS and maps wherever I am and a great app for directions! Also a very good phone camera and IM capability and tunes-- some of my itunes stuff now on my phone! I LOVE this. And did you see the new "projector" add on? LIterally, it turns your iphone into a movie projector so you can not only viewa movie on your iphone, you can project it on a wall to share it!! I was blown away when I realized the commercial was in fact truthful!

But my vote (you still reading?)for the future is some home-tech stuff for producing/conserving energy. Remember back in the Carter administration how we were headed for solar and wind energy? Then Regan came in an innovation died? Well, it's time we started inovating again and I think there's a whole generation of tech sleeping out there and just waiting for a "stimulus." Just recently Obama came to our neck of the woods to dedicate a new solar power array 30 miles east of us that produces enough power to satisfy the needs of 4000 homes every day. And they're already expanding the array to 4X what is there.

All I want is a solar panel array for my roof that will transform some of this heavy-duty sunshine into electricity and hot water so that my house is energy self-sufficient. Is that too much to ask?

Kathleen Eagle said...

Happy 2010, Betina!

I keep telling Clyde he needs to get the Tribe (when we say Tribe, we mean the tribal gov't at Standing Rock--that's THE Tribe) to get into wind and solar. Those are the two resources nobody could take away from them. The only holdup on the technology, as I understand it, is transmission. Apparently they still lose the energy in transit, and Standing Rock is still the middle of the middle of nowhere.