The future of higher education and climate change: part 4

Here I’d like to continue this week’s series of posts on higher ed, the future, and climate change.  (Previous posts concern campus populations, campus facilities, and the academic mission.)

4. Campus and the off campus world   

Colleges and universities are not alone in climate change mitigation and adaptation, of course. As noted earlier, many other entities are likely to be involved, stakeholders and academically-adjacent sectors: businesses (publishers, ed tech companies, consultant), associations, nonprofits, governments, and local communities.  Public climate change efforts can be available to, or collaborate with, academic institutions, like this Maryland educational project.  Connections to local religious organizations can work in certain situations, like this Vermont instance.

Campuses can act as local anchors for discussion and action.  As a Second Nature report put it,

Can serve as ‘hubs’ in their local communities for creating, testing, and disseminating knowledge about regional climate projections and adaptation strategies, and should work directly with their local communities to explain the science and implement solutions.

Schools can also contribute to local area mitigation projects, such as building, expanding, or simply maintaining solar, wind, and hydro power generation.   Depending on the area, academics might contribute to larger projects: sea barrier walls, offshore wind or solar platforms, geothermal plants, the redesign or creation of new housing.

Academia-community relations in the age of climate emergency can take many other forms.  We could consider campuses as refuges during extreme weather, or campus community members seeking shelter in the community. Local politics might turn against a school perceived as doing too much for climate mitigation, or too little.  Town and gown can each offer economic support for the other’s work in addressing climate mitigation or adaptation.  Which will support climate refugees who seek to enter the area, and which will ward them off?

Campus activism should continue to have a mixed connection to the rest of society.  Student mobilizations can bridge to the community and also elicit its opposition.  Faculty and staff movements present similar possibilities, which suggests further pressure on academic freedom.  Conflict will occur between groups both on and off campus.  For a small example, consider this response to the September 23rd climate action in Washington, DC:

 

At a larger, geopolitical level, it’s possible that a transnational effort to resist or mitigate climate change could arise.  It could take the form of previous global mobilizations, like the 20th century’s grand alliances in the Cold War and two World Wars, or a more active United Nations, or shape into something new.  If this occurs, what role could academia play?  Will researchers commit to assisting UN 2.0 (or whatever it is called) as a WWII-style case of patriotic duty, or will the new authority contract with individual scientists, along the lines of American universities in the Cold War?  What role might academics play in driving the creation and development of such a transnational organization?  Conversely, what impact will academics have who oppose large scale efforts?  The border between campus and world is, of course, porous.

Social changes can exert other pressures on academia.  For example, an intergenerational aspect is surfacing now in some political arguments around climate change, which could also roil higher education.  Some younger protestors are using this slogan:

sign: you'll die of old age; we'll die of climate change

Along similar lines Elizabeth Merritt charges our time with temporal colonialism, referring to our practice of dumping present-day bad energy policies onto future generations.  In other words, intergenerational conflict could escalate.  How can campuses respond?  Will traditional-age undergraduates become more active, even insurgent?  Should we reform our institutions to more seriously account for their downstream impacts?

Another form of social change could strike academia powerfully.  Climate change should drive population movements as people relocate away from regions afflicted by flooding, drought, desertification, food supply collapse, bad governmental responses, and so on.  Some academics will research and/or teach this topic, from history to sociology, ethnic studies to political science.  Campuses may confront the option of welcoming refugees academically: hiring exiled faculty and staff, teaching the climate-driven homeless (and should the former teach the latter online? if so, how?).  They will also face the humane option of hosting people without an academic framework.  Naturally, opposition to supporting climate migrants can take the form of hard-headed economic decision-making, practical politics, or bigotries by race, class, region, and religion, to various degrees of openness.  History teaches us that such struggles certainly occur within academia; again, recall that our boundaries are porous.

Another macro dimension could also loom very large.  One explanation for the climate crisis sees a certain economics as responsible, a capitalism that views environmental costs as externalities undemanding of serious treatment.  In response some on the resurgent left call for expanding state efforts into escalating forms of socialism.  Given the dependence of many universities on some form of governmental support, said support could change or come with additional strings.  Increased taxation might target the wealthiest institutions, or depress giving to colleges and universities from the wealthiest families.

Some arguments go still further in their desire to redesign the human economy.  There is a call for a circular economy, one focused on suspending GDP growth, extensive recycling, and diminishing consumerism.  More strongly, others call for a degrowth agenda, either as a powerful solution to excessive carbon generation or as a way to reduce the excessive wealth of certain nations or regions.  Such deep changes to the global economy would bring about a range of novel pressures on higher education, from its funding and sustainability models to its research and curricula.

Now, the economy could well change drastically without climate change.  In this timeframe – remember, out to around 2080 – we could see the various forces lumped under the Fourth Industrial Revolution complete their work.  AI, robotics, commodity genetic engineering could drive several different futures.  Peter Frase has offered some groundbreaking scenarios along these lines:

  • a post-scarcity world, possibly as far as “fully automated luxury communism”
  • ever-widening income and wealth inequality
  • a world with stalled growth, but less inequality (think the 20th century’s second world)
  • higher inequality and brutal hierarchy

We could add to this other possibilities:

  • a world where more of our goods and services are less materially based (cf Andrew McAfee’s new book)
  • the Singularity, but all bets are off there

Naturally, each of these can be unevenly present or coexist in different forms.  The point being that such deep macroeconomic changes intersect with the climate crisis.  Those intersections are beyond the scope of today’s post, but I can return to them.

We should also anticipate political and cultural reactions against climate change mitigation, beyond what we see now.  It’s hard to say how long today’s climate change deniers will continue to play a significant role in decision-making.  The belief may age out over time, if its adherents tend to be of retirement age, or persist via intergenerational transmission, aided by wealthy funders.  A very different problem occurs when we imagine the difficulty in maintaining such strategic effort over a generation or two.  Humanity has been able to conduct such operations only rarely.  We can lose interest or change our minds as multiple factors come into play over decades, including competing interests: wars, religious movements, economic crises, diseases, not to mention black swans.  We should also expect a “boy who cried wolf” effect to occur regularly in years without major disasters or dramatic milestones.  This could happen at all scales, from the small (a city, a community) to the largest (the globe).  In short, academia may find itself out of step with the times, and taking flack for persisting with that climate stuff when the world has moved decisively on.  (Perhaps some will turn to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation sequence for some solace.)

In short: many challenges of medium to enormous scale.  Campuses may navigate increasingly difficult social and political waters.

(thanks to John Kellden for a pointer; thanks to Tom Haymes for reading; many thanks to my Patreon supporters for thoughtful conversations)

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The future of higher education and climate change: part 3

In this post I continue my series on higher ed and climate change.  Here are the previous posts: 1, 2.

3. On campus: the academic mission

Academic research can play many roles in transforming higher ed in the age of climate crisis.  To begin with, university scholarship can contribute to the entire process of civilizational response, offering improved knowledge of the event, providing mitigation options, and helping us reflect on our experience.  Many fields are involved, starting with the Earth sciences, oceanography, meteorology, and agriculture, obviously.  Others can offer their particular benefits: the psychology of climate change; the sociology of how societies transform or maintain; the literature and other cultural artifacts of the process; the political and governmental dimensions of adaptation; the micro- and macroeconomics; computer science for handling simulations and sensor data; etc.

When it comes to academia’s teaching mission, at the top level we may see academia reconsidering the purpose of education.  To what extent is it to prepare people, including young people, for a world redone by climate change?  Will colleges and universities conceive of the goal of teaching to prepare students to mitigate carbon-fueled disasters?

In terms of academic programs, curricular changes seem likely.  Certain programs will draw greater numbers of students, resources, and attention, like climate and Earth science, computer science (simulation), oceanography, certain area studies.  New courses, minors, and majors seem likely to appear.  Imagine a climate change finance class or a climate mitigation macroeconomics sequence in business or econ, for example.  New programs and degrees seem likely to appear: a bachelor’s in climate change studies, a master’s in climate mitigation, etc.  Indeed, we should not be surprised to see climate-focused schools (graduate or under-) appear within universities, or to see something like Climate Change College appear, perhaps online.

There should be a drive from many faculty to revise their current courses to include climate change topics.   Literature classes may include more writing about climate change, historians include articles or books about climatological variation in their topics, and philosophers introduce mitigation and climate knowledge problems for students to explore.  This can take the form of new degrees, majors, minors, core classes, classes required for majors, and electives. And we should expect some of those to be mocked on-campus and nationally, both by traditional and new media.

Changing curriculum and research will not come easily.  Obviously there are questions of funding as well as politics, both national and local.  We should also expect political arguments within campuses, as different schools of thought clash.  For example, science studies and Earth science faculty might disagree about fundamental problems.  The generation of nuclear power is quite divisive in some nations.  What one group of faculty, staff, and students celebrate as necessary and innovative large-scale geoengineering can appear as a neocolonial recrudescence to others.

How will the method of teaching change? We could expect more distance learning and other forms of remote collaboration, as travel becomes more challenging through flightshaming, taxes, or infrastructure disruption.  The nature of climate change activism might also spur pedagogical experiments, like this use of gaming to teach the topic at the University of Chicago.  Interdisciplinary topics might elicit alterations to how we teach and support instruction.  Will cultural changes brought about by climate change responses drive new pedagogies?  Could we see, for example, a turn to heutagogy?

…and on to the next post, which concerns higher education and the rest of the world.

(thanks to John Kellden for a pointer; thanks to Tom Haymes for reading; many thanks to my Patreon supporters for thoughtful conversations)

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How will higher education respond to climate change? Part 2

This post continues my series on higher education and climate change.  Here’s the first post; more are coming over the course of this week.

On campus: the physical institution

One of the major areas these decision-makers will have to work through is how colleges and universities can make their facilities more sustainable.  We have already seen early examples of this, with new buildings constructed along less energy devouring lines (i.e., LEED certified and NetZero), some local production of solar and wind power, and growing local produce.  Some Nigerian universities now create their own power from solar and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) gasification plants.

Campuses could go further and discourage use of gas-burning cards through shrinking parking spaces, turning lots and garages to other purposes, like greenspaces, maker hubs, and offices. Schools can offer more charging stations for electric cars, and support more mass transit options.  Some will have to make walking easier and safer: more paths, pedestrian bridges, better lighting.  New buildings will look and function differently than the ones we are accustomed to as they use less carbon in their construction and operation.

The physical plant will change.  Campus appearances as a whole will change, as will our lived experience of those spaces.  Academic aesthetics will therefore change, as what we value shifts.  How much heat does a Georgian building waste?  Are numerous solar panels and tall wind turbines attractive for academic grounds?  Are vines the best plant to grow across a facade?  Is a Passivhaus appealing as a place for people to study and live?  Will we expect gentle streams along which students might wander to come equipped with low head hydropower turbines?  How many gardens, how many compost piles will we deem acceptable for university grounds?  How many lawns should we allow, and how many turn to other uses: vegetables, trees, solar collectors?

I can imagine campuses reducing their digital work in order to draw down their carbon footprint.  The most energy intensive services should be the first to be restricted.  That could include videoconferencing and immersive VR/AR/MR, in which case distance collaboration could shift to less carbon-intensive forms (think discussion board).  Or campuses could get seriously retro and ask people to connect primarily face-to-face, preferably after traveling in a low-carbon way: train, blimp, or slow boat to campus and stay there.

IT departments will be under enormous pressure as their institutions grapple with climate change.  They will have to support increasing amounts of remote interaction while not using too much carbon.  Cloud computing should come in handy, especially for disaster-prone areas.  Policies to discourage paper printing may succeed as academic populations become more concerned about the problem.  As 3d printing grows more attention will be aimed at making that more sustainable – i.e., reducing power drains, recycling feedstock, reducing the number of objects printed.

Further, some institutions may consider relocating inland and/or upwards and/or north as part of what some observers have dubbed The Great Climate Exodus.  As temperatures and sea levels rise, certain area may become untenable, in the eyes of campus leaders: coastlines, zone prone to aridification.  For example, one view of coastline changes in North America:

north-america-sea-level-rise-cities.jpg.860x0_q70_crop-scale

Think how many colleges and universities line those freshly indundated coasts.

Or consider the distribution of colleges and universities across these other, challenged areas:

So where will the Great Academic Migration take us? Inland is an obvious direction, away from threatened coasts.  This could drive schools to formerly less desirable lands, like Appalachia or the midwest.  Colleges and universities may also seek altitude, so look to mountains: the Cascades, the Rockies, or, once more, to Appalachia.  North may be a good direction, heading away from rising heat and growing deserts: the upper midwest, upper New England, the Dakotas.  Will United States institutions seek Canadian grounds?  Conversely, climate-threatened lands owned or occupied by institutions may drop in value.  This could be a boon for those who pay property taxes of various sorts, or gut a school’s ability to get financing.  Think of the impact on campuses seeking strategic partnerships, with climate crisis situation playing a key role in negotiations.

Consider these projections of changes to Europe, and recall the distribution of universities across those nations:

Consider southeast Asia:

What I called the Great Academic Migration looks like a planetary event.

The financial demands of climate change response can become complex as well as enormous.  Campuses confront significant new charges for operations and physical plant revamping.  Classic means for fundraising will be available, if perhaps stressed due to the general crisis: fundraising; bonding; tuition and fee increases; lobbying for increased public support.  What kind of new financial instruments will appear, aimed for just this kind of capital need?  Further, how will insurance companies react?  They will certainly provide policies against climate stresses.  They could also alter fees and payouts to incentivize campus behaviors.

That’s a kind of normative approach to financial needs, but not all times will be that stable.  Add to the mix chances of recessions or depressions, some driven or deepened by climate events.  We should also assume the other fluctuations afflicting higher ed economics: enrollment changes, reputational hits, etc.

Will campuses be able to make the necessary business and political cases to support this?  What kind of assistance can they expect from local governments and nonprofits?  How many businesses will spring up to assist campuses in climate change adaptation?  Which NGOs will work along these lines? At least one nonprofit is presently campaigning to get 30 colleges and universities receiving all of their energy from renewables. These organizations’ interactions with campus populations can become fractious or complex.

Other strategic dimensions appear, the further we look into the topic.  We could imagine campuses competing with each other on their climate change engagement.  There are already lists of “most sustainable colleges,” like this one.  Universities could showcase new buildings and academic programs aimed at various aspects of the climate crisis to attract students, faculty, staff, and funding.  Perhaps a climate change arms race will succeed the amenities competition.

Beyond competition is another driver for campus investment in the climate crisis: the possibility of getting caught unprepared.  Shawna Brandle reflected on the experience of one CUNY campus in the (literal) wake of Hurricane Sandy:

The specter of climate-change-driven  outages and damage can drive leadership to take strategic steps.

…and more blog posts to come, including connections between climate change and the academic mission, then intersections with the rest of the world.

PS: greetings to students in this class,

(thanks to John Kellden for a pointer; thanks to Tom Haymes for reading; many thanks to my Patreon supporters for thoughtful conversations)

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How will higher education respond to climate change? Part 1

How will higher education change in the age of climate crisis?

Earth Arctic view_NASA GoddardThis is a very large topic.  Academia is a large, sprawling, disorganized ecosystem. Climate change presents enormous complexity, as do the many ways humanity can respond.  Their intersection is multi-leveled, multi-sided, diverse, and likely unstable in many ways.

With this post I’d like to begin exploring the topic and open up a conversation.  I’m going to blog about different aspects of the issue this week, starting with the nature of the involved academic population.  (So if you find a point missing from one post, check the others to see if I touched on it there) Then I’ll move on to introduce the role of the physical campus; next, the academic mission; finally, intersections with the rest of the world.  Depending on how this goes, I hope to follow up with more posts, Future Trends Forum sessions, and possibly other projects.

This week’s post series has some strict scoping.  It covers global higher education, with some emphasis on American colleges and universities.*  Its timeline covers the next two generations, or roughly from now to 2080 or so.  It assumes a worldwide environmental change baseline of two degrees of global temperature increase, a significantly greater incidence of extreme weather, some stresses to food and water supplies, and economic fluctuations.

I would also like to bear in mind the potential scope and impact of human responses to climate change.  Their combined scale within this scope could reach as high as, for comparison’s sake: post-1949 Chinese leaderships’ successive drives to reform that nation; the developing world’s 20th century decolonization; 19th century European colonization of much of the world; the combined US and Soviet space races.  The American Marshall Plan seems medium-sized in this context.** These human movements may have as much impact on academia than changes in the nonhuman world.

For reasons of time, I’m not going to start with an introduction to climate change or an overview of its likely impacts over this period, although I will work elements of these in at different points as needed.  There are plenty of easily available resources that will address introductory purposes. I’m also not going to engage climate change deniers or critics.  These posts are about how higher education responds, rather than being about the science per se.

There are other big topics I have to exclude or minimize for reasons of time and focus.  The Fourth Industrial Revolution, black swans, demographic transition, some geopolitical currents – I’d like to return to those in other posts, tracing out their intersections with an academia transforming during climate crisis.

Let’s start.

1. Who is involved when academia confronts the climate crisis?

To begin with, there is the question of who will decide how academia responds to climate change and how it participates in mitigation.  This is a strategic question, and one which traditionally involves presidents and deans, along with trustees (for private institutions) or governments (for public ones).

Faculty can also contribute through their governance function, but that varies depending on a given school’s culture, faculty organization, and to what extent there exists a critical mass of professors with tenure protections.  Additionally, professors can also shape policy based on their research expertise (Earth science, sociology, finance, etc.).  This may take the form of campus study groups or formal institutes.  On the other hand, if the adjunctification of the professoriate continues, at least in the United States, the faculty role in campus climate change strategy will recede.

To what extent will students shape campus strategy?  If Generation Z’s current political profile bears out, we should expect some degree of student activism in colleges and universities that primarily serve traditional-age learners.

climate change protest_stanzim

Those teaching a larger adult population will experience a different politics, depending on how that population balances its priorities.  If today’s sociology of work (precarious positions, increasing part time labor) persists or deepens, then all students will have to juggle employment and activism.  Students may also use climate approaches to help them determine which schools to apply to.

All other campus populations  – i.e., staff – may be involved as well.  IT, for instance, works exceedingly closely with questions of electrical power, not to mention aspects of campus facilities.  Librarians maintain a significant physical presence on physical and digital grounds, and therefore are subject to risk and mitigation.  They also help render access to climate change information.  Development officers may face new directions for fund-raising.  Grants and compliance officers may face new governmental regulations.  Lobbyists and communications staff must work with a changing environment. Everyone working on a school’s physical plant confronts potential challenges.

Each of these populations have interests in common with the others, starting with the most political and basic: how to survive and grow.  More narrowly we might anticipate:

  • the rise of professional development around climate change;
  • grant funding for climate-themed work;
  • an addressing climate crisis section on one’s c.v.;
  • different forms of personnel management around climate issues (rewards for innovative mitigation work or punishments for excessive carbon consumption, say).

That’s for on-campus populations.  Many others are likely to be involved beyond an institution’s students and employees, once we consider stakeholders and academically-adjacent sectors: businesses (publishers, ed tech companies, consultants), professional associations, nonprofits, foundations, governments, and local communities.  For the latter, we should consider how climate change impacts town-gown relations.

Some of these populations are charged with long-term strategy.  This is precisely the mission of private institutions’ trustees, for example.  Some presidents view their mission in this light.  Governments both local and national accept this charge, even if they carry it out poorly in practice.  Foundations often see themselves in this light, along with some donors.  I suspect many of these groups currently seek to learn more about the unfolding crisis, either publicly or quietly, and are eager to start taking necessary strategic steps.  This is a terrific time for collaboration and education.

…and more posts are on the way.  I’m aiming for one per day this week.

*The US focus (as a measure of partial attention) is due to my having spent the past year+ working on Academia Next, which is about American higher ed.  Now that that’s in print, I can return to my prior level of global analysis.

**My selection of these examples is meant to illustrate scale, not to indicate political endorsement.

(thanks to John Kellden for a pointer; thanks to Tom Haymes for reading; many thanks to my Patreon supporters for thoughtful conversations; Earth photo by NASA Goddard; protest photo by Stanley Zimny)

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What is the Zeroth World, and how can we use it?

What is the Zeroth World?

I bumped up against this odd term for the first time in August and it just stuck in my mind.  The first encounter with a new word or phrase in a language one knows well triggers well-honed responses.  The thing must be jargon from some field, or a regional expression, or a neologism, or, more likely, something from imaginative fiction.

Typically I Google and check Wikipedia to get some context for new words.  But that didn’t help in this case.  Search engine results were few and contradictory, while Wikipedia sent me in a different direction (see below).  My interest perked up.  Maybe this was just random noise, a bit of short-lived slang.  Yet “zeroth” resonated with me, uncannily.  I trusted and admired the source where I found “zeroth” and wondered.  Perhaps it’s a signal of something to come; that’s where I’ll conclude this post, after teasing out the phrase.

To begin, then: I found “zeroth world” in Maciej Ceglowski’s account of the Hong Kong protests.  (If you don’t know Maciej, he’s a brilliant programmer, activist, and writerPinboard is one of his projects.) The author wrote clearly and movingly about the event.  Early on, though, was this passage:

…coming in to the Hong Kong protests from a less developed country like the United States is disorienting. If you have never visited one of the Zeroth World cities of Asia, like Taipei or Singapore, it can be hard to convey their mix of high density, mazelike design, utterly reliable public services, and high social cohesion, any more than it was possible for me or my parents to imagine a real American city, no matter how many movies we saw. And then to have to write about protests on top of it!

It’s hard to write articulately about the Five Demands when one keeps getting brought up short by basic things, like the existence of clean public bathrooms.

Zeroth World is a part of contemporary civilization, then.  It includes those three East Asian cities and is marked by those characteristics of design, services, and society.  That’s a start.

zero by Quinn DombrowskiBut why “zeroth”?  It’s an odd word, one rarely used in written English and probably less often spoken.  It means “preceding one in a series” in the way “first” means “before second, third, etc.”  The Wiktionary explains it as: “In the initial position in a sequence whose elements are numbered starting at zero; the ordinal number corresponding to zero.”   There’s a Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics with precedes the other Three and Isaac Asimov apparently added a Zeroth Law of Robotics.  Wikipedia offers several other senses as well as the delightfully obscure alternate spelling “0th“:

And so on.  All right, so we know what “zeroth” means.  What does “zeroth world” represent?

It plugs into the Cold War sense of three blocs or worlds: the First World (the US and its allies, most advanced), Second World (the USSR and its allies, not so advanced), and the Third (non-aligned and developing world).  After the Cold War’s end Second World fell out of use, but First and Third remained (think of “first world problems”).

Google Ngram: First Second Third worlds visualized

Google Ngram sees Third World as the most popular term of late.

So if we read those three as a sequence of development of quality of life – it was a First World model, after all – then the Zeroth World stands above the First.

Hacker News has one discussion thread about Maciej’s article that accepts and expands on this sense of the term, adding China and maybe Switzerland, plus a site-appropriate cheer for better mobile phone connections.  Sebastian Pokutta uses the term in this sense in his blog post about potential positive impacts of AI on the global economy: improving economic productivity, yielding a much better world.

However, there are other senses out there.  The Urban Dictionary thinks zeroth means the narrow world of high tech:

Problems caused by adopting bleeding edge technology for common, daily use before it’s reliable, such that the technology’s imperfections complicate your life. Loosely, problems that most people living in a wealthy, industrialized nation would probably roll their eyes at.

Along these lines one Fogus wrote about “0th world problems” back in 2012Here’s a similar post.

zero graffiti by duncan c

Google led me to a third sense of the term via a Wikipedia entry for “G-Zero”_world. It’s drawn from a 2012 book about an emerging international order without cohesion, without today’s big G-groups (G-7, G20, etc.). The authors even run a website called GZERO.

(Wikipedia also thinks someone once called the Church of Satan the Zeroth Satanic Church, but prefers the former for an article’s title.)

I found some evidence of a fourth sense of the phrase, to mean “very wealthy.”  This blog post describes “zeroth world problems” as the kind rich folks in the first world can endure:

“Poor me!  I just found a free flight to Europe with a lie-flat seat, in business class like I wanted, to the destination I wanted, on the date I wanted.  BUT it has a long layover at an airport where I don’t have free lounge access.” (This was actually a thought I had a few days ago.)

“I have 4 free nights expiring soon so I had to plan a free trip with my wife to Aruba.  What an inconvenience!!“  (I’ve actually heard this one too.)

One MetaFilter commentator thought this way as well.

And in a completely different vein someone has come up with a scary monster called “Shub Zeroth.”

Shub Zeroth

What can we do with the zeroth world meme in its first sense, besides track its origins and contours?  I think it might be a useful way of thinking about the future.

Science fiction has long proceeded by transforming language*.  Stories offer altered words that cause the attentive reader to imagine how the world changed.  The famous example is a character walking down a hallway to a door; the door dilates; he steps through.  We might catch the word “dilate” and start imagining how a door would do that.

Similarly “zeroth world” helps us imagine a world more developed than the first, as far along a developmental track as the first is from the second.  It’s a futures prompt that nudges us to imagine a world or time to come that’s significantly different from the past.  Language is a futuring tool.

On the other hand, the idea of a zeroth world is also a critique.  The first world idea is inherently self-congratulatory.  In response, zeroth sets the first in some shade, causing us to see its flaws and limitations.  Like postmodern to modern, or Internet2 to the rest of the internet, it’s a way of helping us move past the status quo.  In 2019 America there’s even a political charge to it.  “Make America Like Singapore” isn’t quite MAGA.  Moreover, since the tentative exemplars we’ve seen occupied the second or third world only recently, thinking of them as beyond the first world forces us to ponder how they ascended so far, so quickly – and how they passed us.

The definitional glimpses I shared above are starting points.  Gap analysis: how could the first world (or third) get to a position where it had excellent public services, wifi, productivity, and a combination of high population density with social cohesion?  Visualization: what would a first world location (say, Detroit or Rome) look like in a zeroth settlement?  Personal level: how does your life change in the zeroth?  Politics: what keeps the first world from becoming zeroth?

Singapore's night sky

Singapore’s night sky

Let me close where I began with the strangeness of the term.  Again, the very oddness of the thing might indicate it’s ephemeral and/or minor, but it seems indicative of broader ideas.  It opens up the imagination.  And it might be a tentative first signal from an emerging future, one which looks more like Hong Kong than Chicago.  Better yet, like something new and better still.

(zero images by Quinn Dombrowski and duncan c; Shub Zeroth by Nebulon5)

*I first heard the term “transformed language” from professor Eric Rabkin, then at the University of Michigan.

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Grad school enrollment: mostly good news, but some bad news

How are graduate programs changing?

The Council of Graduate Schools just released a new report based on enrollment data for American universities from 2008-2018.  The findings, while not shockingly surprising, are important for anyone looking at the future and present of academia.  They bear out many trends from last year’s report.

The report (Hironao Okahana and Enyu Zhou, “Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2008 to 2018”) offers some good news.  Applications to  American graduate programs increased 2.2% over 2017, with private universities enjoying a 7% boost.  Enrollment also rose, with first-time numbers up 2.1% and total enrollment growing 1.5%.

Master’s programs remain the most popular, by far: “the large majority (83.3%) of all first-time graduate students in Fall 2018 continue to enroll in programs leading to a master’s degree or a graduate certificate…”

Racial minority applications rose significantly:

grad enrollment by race 2018

Among first-time U.S. citizens and permanent resident graduate students in the Fall of 2018, about 24.1% were underrepresented minorities, including American Indian/Alaska Native (0.5%), Black/African American (11.8%), Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander (0.2%), and Latinx (11.6%)…

The positive trend for Latinx students has been consistent for the last three years.

Women continue to make progress in grad programs:

In Fall 2018, more than half of first-time graduate students both at the master’s degree and certificate level (59.7%) and at the doctoral level (54.4%) were women (Tables B.7). Women also earned the majority of graduate certificates (64.8%), master’s degrees (58.3%), and doctoral degrees (53.0%) awarded by U.S. institutions in 2017-18…

The report breaks out disciplinary differences.  The humanities remained flat, unsurprisingly.  “The fields of education (-1.6%) and arts and humanities (-1.7%) reported the largest declines in total enrollment over the ten-year period between 2008 and 2018…”

Math and computer science boomed.

the largest one-year gains in first-time enrollment by broad field of study were in mathematics and computer sciences (4.3%), health sciences (3.3%), and education (3.2%).

Engineering actually dropped, but the reason for that seems to be political (see below).  Engineering remains America’s most popular graduate field, and STEM as a whole continues to dominate:

Some of the news is not that good.

Public universities did not see an application increase. Applications actually dropped 0.7%.

While women’s number rose overall, “men still constituted majorities of first-time graduate enrollment in business, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences, and physical and earth sciences…”

And international numbers continued to go down: “First-time graduate enrollment of international students decreased (-1.3%) between Fall 2017 and Fall 2018.”  Hence one disciplinary surprise: “the decline in engineering enrollment is largely driven by a decrease in international students.”

It’s interesting to compare this report about graduate programs with undergrad enrollment.  Disciplinary patterns are fairly similar, with STEM booming and the humanities not doing well.  Women, now the majority of students, keep rising. There are more efforts to attract and support underrepresented minorities.

I do wonder about universities facing down undergrad enrollment declines.  How many are thinking about bulking up their master’s programs?  And how much further will international numbers fall?

Posted in enrollment | 1 Comment

Six years later: Bryan Alexander Consulting in 2019

Six years ago Ceredwyn and I launched Bryan Alexander Consulting.  From that day on we’ve shared our story, being open and transparent about the enterprise.*  An update is now overdue.

tl;dr version – we’re doing well, growing and developing, boosted by a big move.

BAC logoIf you’re new to the story, BAC is a consulting firm specializing in the future of higher education.  We’re a small shop, featuring two full-timers plus whomever else we can wrangle for individual functions and services.  Most of our infrastructure is digital and distributed.  We offer a range of services and also make a lot of stuff: books, articles, interviews, video conversations, and more.  We’ve served more than 100 clients, including universities, governments, companies, and nonprofits (here’s a partial list).

Over 2018-2019 BAC was hard at work.  Some operations carried over from previous years, such as consulting in various forms, giving keynote addresses, blogging, non-blog writing, and running the Future Trends Forum weekly videoconference.  My new book, Academia Next, went from outline to chapters to indexing, and is due out in a couple of months.

Other services started for the first time, or changed significantly.  I began teaching in Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program, partly online, partly in person. This delights me deeply.  I started offering more presentations wholly online – i.e., via video or telepresence robot.  The FTTE report transitioned from free to a subscription model.

Some of those changes are due to the biggest change by far.  We upped stakes and moved from Vermont to northern Virginia, near Washington, DC.  This was an epic struggle, including a 500-mile trip starting from a blizzard, but we made it (with some blogging).  I owe you all some reflections on the many differences; for now I’ll just say that there have been many improvements for BAC.  We’re within commuting distance of Georgetown, so I teach in person.  Digital infrastructure is far better than Vermont’s, so I can actually conduct video work from home, while uploading and downloading massive files.  Travel infrastructure is also much better, with two major airports within an hour’s drive and a train station five minutes away.  And so, so much is going on in DC, from many educational organizations being based there to national events and new technologies in play.  BAC-DC is certainly a big step forward for the firm.

How’s the business doing financially?  Overall, pretty well.  Demand has risen since the move, and we do speculate on the reasons.  (Do people see the DC area as a kind of promotion?  How much depends on the Georgetown affiliation? Is it just easier to connect with me?) The move was much more costly than we anticipated in terms of money and time, so we spend a good chunk of the past six months addressing that.

Let me offer a breakdown of BAC’s revenue streams:

BAC revenue 2018-2019

To explain:

Speaking: these are keynote addresses to large audiences, such as associations, governments, business meetings, or large university settings.

Consulting: this is actually a very diverse set of offerings.  It includes facilitating meetings, designing and leading workshops, conducting research on spec, teaching university classes, advising officials on technologies and education, and more.

Virtual events: video-based presentations or consultations.  Lower price tag.

FTTE: this represents subscription fees, either from institutions or individuals.

Patreon: support from 127 supporters.

Royalties: this includes sales of books (The New Digital Storytelling, 2nd edition; Gearing Up for Learning Beyond K-12), sponsorships, and clicks to the Amazon Affiliates bookstore.

Unsurprisingly consulting is the largest revenue stream, almost exactly 1/2 of BAC’s income.  Speaking gigs are a close second.

Bryan sharply addressing Nebraska with FTTE

The rest are much smaller, relatively, but will hopefully grow, especially as my new book comes out and people become more accustomed to virtual presentations.

This tells me that people value most highly my in-person work, which is, of course, enormously flattering, and objective confirmation that BAC provides a certain value.  However, it does pose questions of scale, since I’m just one person, with limits on my time – limits which will rise as I keep aging (turning 53 in February).  Accordingly BAC fees will rise a bit in 2020 (an overdue increase, in fact), and I will allocate more resources to more scaleable efforts – i.e., media.

Speaking of media, there are a bunch of items on our punch list for the next few months:

  • Refreshing the BAC website
  • ” ” FTTE “
  • Moving the Future Trends Forum page and setting up a more serious site
  • Finishing podcast planning and production, so the damn thing can actually launch

In non-media terms, I’d like to explore holding face-to-face meetings about the future of education.  I’ve done this before with the NERCOMP group, organizing workshops and groups on the future of multiple topics (2015, 2016), on 3d printing in academia (2015), on VR/AR/MR in education (2018), and more.  We could offer a program like this as a standalone event in an accessible location, or attach it to another one.

Stepping back, what are the values BAC embodies and tries to express?

  • The value of human connection. We believe in people learning together, be it through video conversation, in-person meeting, or via social media.  We think we can be smarter together, even in an age of trolls.  I bring information to clients, and they bring me a lot of their own.  It’s a virtuous cycle.
  • The value of openness.  Ever since the start we’ve shared BAC’s adventure in ways that very few others have done.  There are some things we can’t share for reasons of privacy (ours or clients’), non-disclosure agreements, and so on.  Otherwise we are quite transparent about what we do, what we learn, and where we’d like to go.  That’s a better way for us to learn and to contribute.  Hence this very post.
  • The value of giving back.  The supermajority of BAC work is paid, but we also try to participate in the world without remuneration as much as we can.  So I’ll go to one or two events each year, unpaid, because the cause is worthwhile.  I make a lot of digital content, nearly all for free, and the benefits are manifold.  This is part of our sense of human connection and openness.

I think these all intertwine.  By sharing my thoughts socially I get to learn from how other people respond, which improves my thinking.  Sharing what folks say in my workshops and presentations in my writing enriches the latter.  BAC is all about networks, in other words.

What else would you all like to know?  What do you think of our work?  Anything you would like us to do?

If you’d like to engage or support BAC, you can consider our services, subscribe yourself or your institution to FTTE, support us on Patreon, leave comments below, or contact us directly.

* Previous BAC reflections can be found here: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013.

Posted in Bryan Alexander Consulting, personal | 14 Comments

How likely are campus mergers?

Are campus mergers a sustainable strategy?

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article does a good job of explaining just how rarely academic institutions merge, at least so far.

Let me summarize the high points, then add some comments of my own.

Robert Witt (chancellor emeritus of the University of Alabama system, president emeritus of the University of Alabama) and Kevin P. Coyne (senior teaching professor in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University) start from evidence: “every college closure, merger, and acquisition from 2016 through the end of the most recent academic year — 163 of them across all types of institutions.”

Their analysis is that in two sectors – private and for-profit higher ed – campuses are much more likely to close than merge.  “Among private nonprofits, 55 institutions ceased to exist. Of these, 41 were closed, and 14 were consolidated through mergers.”  When mergers happened, they usually involved one partner with a very specific, very narrow focus:

fully eight of the 14 consist of small, highly specialized niche schools in such fields as music, the fine arts, and medicine being absorbed into larger nearby institutions.

These include such examples as the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies being absorbed into the Maine College of Art, the Bridgeport Hospital School of Nursing being absorbed into the University of Bridgeport, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, being absorbed into Tufts University. Similarly, another one, Union Graduate College’s merger with Clarkson University, involved an institution that granted only graduate-level degrees.

Michael Coghlan, photo of merging railroad lines

What about public universities? “Public colleges took over many nonprofit institutions during this period (33) —but only other public colleges.”  The rationale?

Presumably, they were ordered to do so by their governments, because as a matter of public policy, governments do not close failing institutions. (As evidence, not a single public institution was listed as “closed” during this period.)

Overall Witt and Coyne are very sanguine about mergers as a campus strategy. “For most struggling colleges, the only route to survival will be through making optimal academic and operating decisions and implementing them with an emphasis on productivity and cost management.”

Some thoughts of mine to add:

Yes on public universities.  Closing one has got to seem terribly embarrassing to a state governments, a sign of failure or impending shrinkage.  Recall that Massachusetts set up policies to help mitigate the impact of closures.

Yes on the difficulties facing private colleges trying to merge.  I’ve written about this recently concerning a failed one in New England.

Let me put it this way.  It takes the reality or prospect of imminent financial disaster to bring a campus leadership to consider a merger.  That doesn’t necessarily make for an attractive prospect to another institution, unless the ailing campus has some unrealized strengths that the partner can embrace.

And yet.  If the current tide of pressures on higher education doesn’t recede, will publics drive state universities to pick up stricken peers, public or private?  Will well resourced institutions decide to acquire weakened campuses in gestures of goodwill?  If not, we should expect continued queen sacrifices and closures.

(for Paige Francis)

Posted in strategies | 2 Comments

Some podcasts I’m listening to in 2019

Every year or so I recommend some podcasts that I’ve been listening to.  Since today is International Podcast Day, it seems a good time to issue a blog post update.  (previous posts: 2018, 2017, early 2016, mid-2016, 2015, and 2013)

And there are a bunch, nearly 50.  I’ll break these out by category.  Some programs really fit in two or more, so I made do.  I’ll also add episodes I’ve been on.  (And yes, planning continues for my own podcast series or two.)

What follows are either currently running programs or ones that concluded very recently.

podcast bunny(And can I saw how awesome it is to see this current, second wave of podcasting grow and develop?  What a splendid development in digital storytelling!)

Storytelling (nonfiction)

Risk! Personal stories about, well, risky stuff: sex, drugs, violence, madness, fun, and horror.  It’s as if the Moth showed up at your door at 3 am, drunk, half dressed, waving a stick of dynamite, and insisting that you have to listen.

The Story Collider: fine personal stories about science, performed Moth-style.

Storytelling (fiction)

Clarkesworld Magazine podcast: beautifully read fantasy and science fiction short stories, with many women and non-US writers represented.

The Magnus Archives: excellent British horror stories. Each episode is a single recording from the titular archives, a first-person relation of some creepy event.  All stories knit together into larger arcs involving the archives, their hapless staff, and their own mysteries.  Excellent audio performances.  Meanwhile, the same group is responsible for the very, very silly Stella Firma, an improv science fiction show.

NoSleep: scary short stories, initially told as campfire tales, and now as something like anthology horror.  Excellent MC-ing.  Very funny riffs on sponsors.

I meet another SFF Audio guest

I meet up with another SFF Audio guest, Paul Weimer.

SFF Audio: the indefatigable Jesse Willis hosts readings of and discussions about classic and little-known science fiction and fantasy stories.  I’ve been a guest a bunch of times.

Starship Sofa: science fiction stories short and long, plus poetry, science, discussion, and the awesome MC-ing of Tony C. Smith.  The first science fiction podcast to win a Hugo award, and the first denizen of the District of Wonders.

Tales to Terrify: horror stories long and short, plus some commentary and bouts of ghost hunting. Also in the District of Wonders.

Politics and current events

Arms Control Wonk: a group of experts probe current developments and recent history.

Behind the News with Doug Henwood: host and guests discuss current events (American and international) from a left perspective.

The Daily: each episode looks into a current story, then adds a summary of leading events.  New York Times.

The Dream: a deep dive into the grift-heavy world of multi-level marketing.  This is important stuff, alas.

Economic Update: a look into major economic issues from current affairs from a left perspective.  Richard Wolff is very engaging.

On the Media – analyses of contemporary journalism and related issues, from a progressive perspective.

podcast group

Radio Open Source : not about technology, but a wide range of current events and culture, with a strong Boston flavor.

Slate’s Political Gabfest: an elite, East coast, urban, liberal look at current politics.

Culture

Beyond the Book – a look into the book publishing industry.  It’s clearly biased in favor of strong copyright policies and practices, a bias I don’t share, but the program is also very informative.

In Our Time – superb, high-speed conversations about history, science, and culture.  One of my favorites.

Reading Envy – a librarian and her friends discuss what they’ve been reading.  I’ve been a guest several times (2014, 2014 again, 2015, 2016, and 2017) and still Jenny allows me back.

History

13 Minutes To The Moon: a detailed look at Apollo 11, with the nifty narrative device of focusing on the titular moments, which serve as a springboard to understand the US space effort as a whole.

BackStory: each episode explores a major theme across American history, often starting from current events.  There are now new and more diverse historians on board, and each program is more fluidly structured than it was at the start.

Behind the Bastards: stories of terrible people, mostly mass murderers and/or grifters.  Robert Evans hosts with a mix of historical curiosity, moral passion, and a cruel sense of humor; comedians guest.

HardCore History: excellent, thoughtful, detailed explorations of intense historical events, from ancient Persia to the Cold War. Host Dan Carlin is mesmerizing in a growling, thoughtful, passionate late night radio way.

History Extra podcast: interviews with writers covering a range of historical topics with something of a British perspective.

Revolutions: excellent, accessible, rich history of revolutions in Britain, America, France, Haiti, and south America, among others.  Mike Duncan is very good, offering well organized and compelling presentations laced with a mordant sense of humor.  Currently he’s on the Russian Revolution and doing a fine job.

podcast setup in black and whiteStuff You Missed in History Class: each episode covers a historical incident from a wide range of time, with an emphasis on relatively modern and western subjects.  Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson are splendid: deeply knowledgeable, humane, funny.

Futures

The Disruptors: a look into visions of the future, through interviews with a wide range of people .  Matt Ward’s a fine host. (my appearance)

Flash Forward: a nice mix, with each episode focusing a particular “what if,” offering a story taking place in that world, followed by a discussion from the present.

Spark: a CBC exploration of the future.  Norah Young is a great host. (thanks to Ken Bauer)

Seminars about Long-term Thinking: presentations to the Long Now Foundation on a variety of topics (history, science, culture) through the lens of very long-term thinking.

Education

EdSurge on Air: this education reporting and analysis team also has a podcast.  They cover K-12 and post-secondary education. (my appearance)

EduFuturists: a British team looks into ed tech.  I think the emphasis is on K-12.

FutureU: interviews with people researching and/or leading changes in higher education.  Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn are genial, thoughtful, and energetic hosts.

Higher Ed Social: conversations about different aspects of education.

Research in Action: Katie Lindner’s show is hosted by Oregon State University Ecampus, and does what it says.  Every week dives into cutting-edge research about higher ed. (my appearance)

Teaching in Higher Ed: Bonni Stachowiak interviews a wide range of guests involved in postsecondary instruction. (my first appearance)

Technology and science

99% Invisible: plunges into architecture, infrastructure, and the built environment, always finding good stories. (thanks to Chris Lott)

a16z: a look into emerging technology from the perspective of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz.

The Contrafabulists: Audrey Watters and Kin Lane critique technology with attention to education, APIs, and business.

Engines of our Ingenuity: short, well done monologues on technology, inventions, and people.  Every single episode has a transcript and references.  Did I mention they’ve done more than 3,200 shows so far?

Radiolab: fine storytelling about unusual ideas in science.

Reply All: looks into the digital world, pulling out cultural or whatever stories it finds interesting.  It’s energetic, friendly, trend-obsessed, and hard to stop listening to.

The Story Collider: fine personal stories about science, performed Moth-style.

Techdirt: conversations about various digital topics. This can include rich details about technologies and policy.

Economics

EconTalk: interviews with major economists conducted by a puckish, provocative MC.  Every single episode has an annotated, hyperlinked transcript completed with time markers, references, and suggested readings: bravo!

Slate Money Podcast: very useful, both informative and engaging, with a healthy amount of self-deprecation, although I miss Cathy O’Neill.  The only Slate podcast I genuinely like, on balance.

*******

Have you heard any of these?  What else are you listening to?

(images by Alan Levine, Montclair Film, David Shortle; one correction thanks to Warren Blyth)

Posted in digitalstorytelling, podcasts | 4 Comments

What Americans think of the present and future of science and technology

Where will science go in the future, and how will that impact our lives?

I’ve been tracking this question for a while, so it’s good to have fresh research to hand.  A new Pew Research survey asked Americans what they thought about the future of science.

The results are a bit counterintuitive and very important for anyone interested in technology or education.  I’ll pull out the findings I find most interesting and useful.

To begin with, Americans are very, very positive about science.  Despite the present techlash, despite Democrats’ fears of anti-science Republicans and Republicans’ worries about liberal woo, about 3/4ths of us hold a mostly positive views.  Only 3% deem science to be mostly negative.

views of science

Unsurprisingly, those attitudes towards science correlate with knowledge of science. Pew sketched out that information level not by educational attainment, but through an 11 question battery added to the poll.  I’m not sure how rigorous that is.  The results make intuitive sense:

views of science based on knowledge of science

There are significant divides by race, with the largest gap opened up between blacks and whites:

views of science by race

(Again, I wish Pew tracked Asian-Americans)

Pew then asked what Americans like most about science.  The results are fascinating:

what Americans like about science

Science for health care is the leader by far.  The digital world is far behind it, barely mustering a quarter – and this might be a sign of the techlash settling into American culture.

Looking ahead, Americans are as happy or even happier about science in the future as we are of it in the past.

Americans look ahead to science

That echoes the first result in this post and goes beyond it a bit.  Again, the techlash and various culture war science arguments seem to have little impact on our overall sense of science’s possibilities.

Racial differences persist here as well:

Large majorities of white and Hispanic adults (84% and 83%, respectively) and somewhat fewer black adults (74%) are optimistic that new scientific developments will improve lives.

Our love for science in health care extends to the future as well as the present:

Here, too, medical advances prevail in the public mind as a likely source for improvements ahead, with six-in-ten U.S. adults (60%) referencing this topic when asked to think about developments in science that will make people’s lives better.

Now, on the negative side, what do we fear about the future of science?  Here the techclash appears clearly, with the digital world leading the way:

what Americans fear about the future of science

What can we take from this?  A few thoughts.

The correlation between attitude and knowledge may influence efforts to increase science education.

I’m not sure what to make of the racial dimension going forward (the historical reasons are quite evident).  Perhaps a Democratic party striving to focus on black and Latinx voters and donors will be slightly less inclined to be publicly pro-science.

Mooney_GOP war on scienceWhat does it mean that a large majority of Americans are bullish about science and tech, while we also hold many anti-science views, from climate change denial to quack “medicines”?  I think four possible explanations are in play.

  1. Many forms of science skepticism just hasn’t won over many adherents.  Science studies, for example, never really climbed back up from its humiliation in the Sokal hoax.  Creationism/intelligent design has suffered nothing but failure in public policy.  Democratic candidate Williamson, while making splashy appearances, only polls around 1% (538).  Meanwhile, even though the techlash is going great guns, the technology companies move from financial and user base strength to strength.
  2. People compartmentalize.  They can believe that climate scientists are scamming the world, or that evolutionary biologists are destroying religion, or that NASA endorses magic skin patches, while at the same time enjoying the benefits of ibuprofen, cryptography, air travel, and GPS navigation.  While this may look like a contradiction, it’s quite liveable.
  3. People focus their dislike on a sliver of science, not the whole.  Climate science and evolution are tiny, tiny strands of the overall fabric of scientific inquiry, statistically.  While historians, economists, and academics in general tend to see all sciences as a big slab, or folded into STEM, it’s easy to separate out the different fields.  For a parallel, see conservatives who despise the academic humanities, but happily read into history, literature, religion, and philosophy.  Or for an example further afield: I despise American cheese, but love most cheeses, and don’t see the former as an obstacle to the latter.
  4. Health care is especially important.  My intuition here is that advanced health care is such a valuable good as to overpower or sidestep opposition to other parts of science.  It seems that people who worry about specialists being uncaring elites and folks who celebrate other forms of medicine will ultimately accept antibiotics.  We know that health care is enormously important in American politics and life.  We put up with all kinds of awkwardness, horror, and immiseration in its pursuit; it’s far easier to set aside qualms about Darwin or science’s colonial history when seeking cancer treatment.

One more thought: I wonder if the rise of geek culture into the mainstream has helped build science’s reputation.

What does all of this mean for higher education’s future?

It’s good news for allied health, of course.  Pre-med, biology, physiology, radiology, etc. are well thought of and unlikely to be attacked.

That 29% of people who see technology problems ahead can augur several changes.  Computer science might become unpopular – not in terms of enrollment, necessarily, but politically and culturally, from the national level down to campus.  Fields perceived as critical of tech – media studies, science studies – might become more popular.  The use of technology in research might receive some criticism, although that isn’t too visible now – and when it is, through lovely photos and video, we love it.  In contrast, that 29% might start to resist technology in instruction.

The tracking of low knowledge to high skepticism might translate to more support for general science education: public intellectual work, a la Neil DeGrasse-Tyson; more core curricular requirements for non-science majors; outreach to K-12.

For this survey and its topic, I’d love to see more details.  What results if we look at education, gender, geography, age?  This AAAS study gives some interesting insights that way.  Has anyone surveyed by comparative scientific field – i.e., asking folks what they think of biology versus astronomy, etc.?

And for you, dear reader: what does your immediate world think of science?

Posted in education and technology, futures, technology | Leave a comment