Scenario D: Drowning in Riches

Open sources of learning & managed or slow change

Automation and analytics have failed - and people have arrived to replace them.

Open sources of learning with managed or slow changeThere was a time when people trusted computers for everything, and they started to automate all manner of human endeavor from creating shopping lists to driving cars. The Great Attack stopped all of that. Over just a period of a just few weeks hackers raided many major financial institutions. Billions of dollars simply disappeared. Inter-banking balance sheets wouldn’t reconcile, and that took down those not directly attacked. That wasn’t all. Hackers also stole credit cards, shut-down cloud services, sometimes for weeks. Eventually “the cloud” found a way to fight off the vandals but not before its reputation was ruined and the content it retained was corrupted or incomplete. People still blog and post but they don’t quite trust that what they want will be there when they want it. All “automation” is suspect, because it may turn off at anytime. People are reluctant to become dependent on technology again.

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Amid all this turmoil the on-line universities and those with hybrid models also took a hit. Remote students couldn’t connect. Even in the most traditional schools grades and records went missing. Only the most archaic of systems avoided attack.

Many of the big services, from Apple to Google also lost in the Great Attack as music, movies and search weren’t there when people wanted them. Consumers quickly realized that what they owned digitally really wasn’t theirs without a working infrastructure. Sharing of non-digital-rights-management music soars and bootleg copies of movies and television shows move from “personal backup” to peer-to-peer networking services once touted as business services.

Social networking has deteriorated with the removal of proactive suggestions, facial recognition and advertising. Most of the small services are gone with everything entrenched with what is left of Google and Facebook.


Martha Kanter

Information, however, remains free, thanks to an explosion in open source research and the dizzying array of websites, tutoring programs, videos, and tools touting the ability to teach everything from theoretical physics to flax spinning. Many of these services authenticate humans and then allow them to browse freely, but they turn off access to bots. Search is restricted to local information silos. The use of gatekeepers to restrict automated access frustrates the accumulation and consolidation of information into mega-libraries.

Legislation about backups and redundancy is seen as “too little too late.” In Congressional hearings testimony after testimony all amounts to: “we can’t really guarantee anything.”

The economic dip from the Great Attack pushed anti-regulation legislators from their seats and replaced them with regulatory activists. There is also a marked shift toward social and economic engineering to help drive economic recovery.

Public funding for education is on the wane, along with tax dollars being taken in by the federal, state and local governments. The generally stagnant economy makes obtaining funds from other sources difficult. Some companies, however, are sitting on piles of pre-Great Attack cash hordes and offer funding to institutions that can offer specific research assistance or a particular hedge.


Belle Wheelan

Now students can’t turn to any single source to complete their education. Institutions remain stuck in a model that no longer meets the needs of their students or the workplace. They turn inward, reflecting on their lost stature, which further deteriorates their motivation for change. This situation has frustrated innovation and experimentation in business as well.


Christine Ziegler

People cobble together information mostly from online sources, some of it is proprietary, some open source in order to build models of the world for themselves and their organizations. Data and information often can’t be verified for its authenticity or its accuracy.

Educators attempt to keep up with the world by constantly tweaking their courses to attract students and maintain interest. As portfolios and practical skills take hold over traditional learning, educators must constantly find ways to ensure that learners know why what they are learning will immediately benefit them.


Belle Wheelan

People make decisions based on what they know with heavy biases toward what they want the answer to be. Like the information environment, ideologies are rich and varied and it is often left to the consumer of information to decide what the truth is, at least for them, and what bias or ideology drove the creation and distribution of the information.

This is a boom time for librarians and other information analysts, as the traditional idea on a “knowledge worker” re-kindles in a 1950s definition. The big difference, however, is that the sources of information are much more vast. Specialties arise by domain and information type in this renaissance of the human intellect.

There is also an underground of ill-qualified analysts with forged credentials (which are hard to verify) and a growing movement to provide biased information in order to influence the direction of those seeking information transformation and interpretation services.


Susan Albertine

But in this environment, learning institutions have lost control of the marketplace. They are but once source of information. Where quality and validity is a major challenge, learning institutions are more trusted than most sources, but they can’t keep up with the amount of information. To the information consumer, not having an answer to something creates trust issues almost as much as providing a bad answer.

Businesses too suffer from information overload. Investments in human-based knowledge interpretation and transformation differentiate many companies from one another. Only those organizations that invest in these specialized skills can compete operationally, let alone drive new innovations. The pace of change has slowed significantly as the feedback loop of technology driving technology has come to a screeching halt.


Belle Wheelan

As government seeks to rebuild, there is renewed interest in centralized education policy and many legislators tout proposals to kick start the economy through education, recognizing that it may be a long while before trust in technology reforms. Not only is there is there a need for more knowledge translation, synthesis and interpretation and transformation, but other, more practical and physical skills are also required. Large public works projects attach to aging infrastructure, for instance. Basic skills can be acquired at the job site, but learning how to teach those skills, and the supervisory and management knowledge required to effectively manage large projects is often lacking. Consultants move into specific education niches, often creating lucrative businesses.


Kevin Carey

Those who curate, manage, sort and repackage information find economic security. Unfortunately, the role of cicerone for this galaxy of diffuse knowledge is filled by a multitude of groups, and organizations, institutions—businesses and governments pay premiums to capture and collect the information that they need just to remain functional. Learners, left largely on their own to navigate the sea of information resources, cast wide nets. The most successful present themselves to employers as astute consumers of the vast wealth of information that is available—and prove their assertions by delivering on the job.


Martha Kanter