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Letters from the future

Some of the trends that ran through our letters from the future are

  • social stratification
  • global warming
  • technological proliferation.

We all imagine devices in the future to become smaller, more powerful, and ultimately, serve human convenience. Some of our visions were darker, others more hopeful. However, interestingly enough, none of us really explored the idea of full integration of technology into the human body. We seemed to go straight to brain implants and bioenhancement, skipping the older stereotypical visions of cyborgs – human minds in mechanical bodies.

There are multiple reasons why a letter from the future can yield more interesting ideas than a research paper on the same subject.

A letter requires personal involvement, whereas a report is expected to be detached and perhaps more careful in its predictions.

A report may be more realistic, but a letter allows for some exaggeration, which can be useful as well. In a letter we can carry concepts and predictions much further out in order to have a sharper, more striking image of the trend’s development.



It was striking for me to see the dramatic change in the ISTE standards. Although this reassessment may have been caused by a change in the leadership of that organization, the new standards definitely seem more pertinent to life and work in today’s world.

The older set of standards treats technology as a tool we use to achieve goals. Our technical skill with that tool is what really matters.

The new set of standards embraces technology as an integral part of being a human in the 21st century, and stresses technology and media fluency, creativity, and innovation.

It is no longer a tool that we can choose to use when needed – it is as all-pervasive as the air we breathe. The high-speed globalized world absolutely requires technology to be utilized in a creative, flexible, responsible, and to an extent, playful manner.

Students are encouraged to freely use technology to learn, create, communicate, and even to aid them in their search for identity. Digital citizenship is considered an important part of global citizenship. Practical knowledge is somewhat looked down upon because of its high rate of becoming outdated in today’s world.

I agree in general, but let’s not forget one very important thought. Creativity, critical thinking, and innovation are all skills needed to survive and function within society. A change in emphasis here reflects social dynamics.

But what about the “timeless” skills, the ones related to survival and function outside of society? If you are alone in the wilderness, creativity is certainly a benefit, but one also needs some basic physical survival skills. As we get more and more surrounded by and dependent on technology, let’s not let those practical skills atrophy. Many people may not realize how brittle the technological framework really is – a cataclysm, an armed conflict, an epidemy, or a shortage of resources may ruin it in a matter of days and leave human civilization in pieces. We can always use the knowledge of how to cook from scratch, how to start a fire, or how to build a log cabin.

Does the younger generation that uses internet in most creative of ways know those skills?


Technology Metaphor

Technology should function like a prop the child uses when he learns to walk for the first time. It's a great help then, but hopefully he won't need it after he learns to use his own legs to their full potential.

Technology Mantra

Here's how my technology mantra developed over the course of a few minutes. I feel like it arrived at the most refined and concise statement (it's really not as aggressive as it sounds at first).

Use external technology only to the extent that it enriches my internal technology

External machines are only an aid in enriching your nature-given machinery

Do not use a machine for what a human brain can do


Growth, growth, growth - heard that one before

The major trends of technology development that we have learned about during our last class are a part of today's world - they are available around you for empirical examination. Concepts like exponential growth, Moore's Law, Gilder's Law, Technological Convergence, are almost certain to have a presence in the future, near and distant.

One trend that fascinates me is the tendency towards integration of all senses into the digital experiece. In Internet it takes the shape of getting beyond the focus on text based environments - ex. the move from email to voice email. Perhaps we will be able to gain back that ear that we have traded for an eye 500 years ago with Gutenberg's invention.

I am also fascinated by Ian Jukes's discussion of the new way of thinking and learning, required by the digital age. He argues that to succeed in the fast-paced, constantly-shifting information age, the fast, adaptable mindset is key. I was very impressed by these lines:

"The new workplace requires lifelong learning"

"Today a 4-year degree is just a beginning of a lifelong learning"

"Today people can't just earn a living, they must learn a living"



Television advertisements frequently use the model of storytelling refined by tradition over centuries to increase their impact, direct our attention, and firmly install their corresponding brand in our memory.

The basic story core of problem-transformation-solution is overtly or more subtly present in the majority of ads. Commercials also use fast movement, expressive high-contrast imagery, and appeal to all senses.

Traditional stories normally carry an ethical message. Similarly, armed with powerful storytelling tools, advertisements can transmit subconscious ideological messages along with the main brand they are trying to push.

Advertisers see people as target minds. Their main goal is to affect, influence, and impact them – although most advertisers would argue that they are simply trying to give people what they want. This is, of course, not mentioning the fact that the creation of wants is an intrinsic part of modern marketing. The specific techniques of manipulating people into wanting, following, or believing include:

  • Playing upon inner emotional desires (envy, stability, curiosity, pride)
  • Taking advantage of subconscious insecurities (fear, xenophobia, oedipal complex)
  • Exploiting basic biological drives (lust, hunger)
  • Manipulating language (estate tax => death tax)

And of the more sophisticated techniques:

  • Triggering cultural archetypes that reside in the collective unconscious


Cool Hunting

Cool hunting is the frantic and efficient process of chasing the "hot", respected trends in the teenage culture. It involves surveys, observation, and sociological research.

An effective way to find a cool trend is to pay close attention to the trend-setters, the "head of the pack". They represent only 20% of the whole teenage target group and therefore are hard to find. But what they wear and do is desired and being strived for by the remaining 80% - your huge target group, a real gold vein of 30 million customers.

Once you nail down the cool trend, especially if it's still underground, you can market it, get all the profit you can out of it, mercilessly exploit it, and as a consequence, make it so widespread that it is no longer considered "cool". Thus, you find the trend, market it, and kill it. This is the basic of cool hunting.


Storytelling - the essentials

Brett’s lecture gave me a clear idea of the basic elements of storytelling. Any details that he didn’t put on the board, I could still catch by analyzing his communication style.

Things that are absolutely central to a well-told, captivating story are:




These tools aim at appealing to all senses, triggering the listeners’ imaginations, and immersing the audience into the world of the story.

In Brett's story, like in so many traditional stories, there also was a central hero, a problem, a solution, and a transformation that let to the solution. Not surprisingly, all three of us in class got different impressions of what those were!

I have also noticed that many stories have a certain rhythm to them. In our case there was several episodes of repetitive upward-and-downward movement. The fisherman threw his hook down and pulled it up, down again and up again.

Finally, an important element of a story is the ethical message, or moral. The story Brett told us in class had prominent demonstrations of what kind of behavior is simply “right”.

These elements and tools of storytelling have been used since times immemorial precisely because they are effective at moving and influencing the audience. For this reason they will continue to be used in the future.

In the context of our class, the application of storytelling tools in advertisement is important. We can expect to see use of movement, expression, and impacting of all the senses in commercials. Ethical messages – probably not so much.


The Printing Press

The printing press completely altered the Western Civilization at such a deep and basic level that we never even ponder it. It has been one of the inventions that signaled the end of the Middle Ages and ushered in a new era.

Among many other things, the printing press:

  • Created the first mass media, and consequently, a broader public sphere for discussion and debate
  • Played a major role in the advancement of science
  • Reduced the need for most humans to rely on memory – therefore weakening it.