Futures Conference: Trends + Signals + Patterns = Possibilities

The one clear takeaway from the 2017 Futures Conference, held Sep. 25 and 26 at the Borgata Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, is that the future will be here faster than ever before. Advances in technology, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and communications, will continue to accelerate at a pace not imagined just ten years ago. The Futures Conference examined how libraries, corporations, society and individuals must adapt to change and accept this rapid evolution for whatever positives or negatives it may bring.

“Futurists look at trends or signals of all types to get a sense of what may be, what could be or what will be, pushing the envelope of ideas and creativity,” said David Pescovitz, research director at the Institute for the Future, during his keynote address Our Magical Future: Science, Art and the Imagination. “These signals can reveal patterns for major change so better decisions can be made.”

Phil Bowermaster, A Matter of Days workshop

Cindy Ball of Oculus, showed how this magical combination of science and art can come together through virtual reality experiences. She demonstrated how this technology was not just for gaming, but for a variety of educational applications, permitting anyone to tour the International Space Station, climb Mt. Everest, tour the White House or visit other countries. In the medical field, virtual reality can provide on-the-spot medical training scenarios to doctors faced with an unusual disease or condition. Or imagine being able to experience another persons life through virtual reality? She concluded her presentation by asking “what do you, as libraries, want?”

A constant through all the presentations was the increased capabilities of digital infrastructure, described in detail by Phil Bowermaster, acceleration strategist and author, in his workshop A Matter of Days. Like Pescovitz, Bowermaster examined trends of the past to look toward the next 3,793 days in terms of self-driving cars, virtual friends, robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. “Libraries are curators of multiple realities,” he said, so future needs must be considered in their roles as marketplace, laboratory, office and curated reality.

Kevin Mitnick, with a device that captures digital information from 3 feet away.

The conference not only highlighted many of the positives of advancing technology and digitization, but a major negative, as well.  Legendary hacker Kevin Mitnick, in a live demonstration, hacked into an attendees personal information in under a minute and made a copy of another attendees room key. For all of his illegal and legal hacking experiences, the “world’s most famous and elusive hacker” said his favorite was hacking the McDonald’s drive-through at 16 years old, which provided him with hours of entertainment.

The trends or patterns were reinforced by statistics analyzed by Anthony Iovino, architect, and Dr. James Hughes, professor and expert on demographics, housing and regional economics. Iovino pointed out during his presentation Design Trends in Architecture that because of increased demand for more seating and more social areas at libraries, collections are decreasing due to that reallocation of space. Hughes discussed the major Demographic, Economic and Technological Changes coming as the Baby Boomers, the largest and most dominant generation ever produced, leaves the workforce and is being replaced by Generation Y, the first generation raised in the digital age, as the major factor in the workforce. The Millennials tend to spurn suburbia;  digital technology makes their workplace anyplace, anytime; marriage is less important; online shopping and gaming is. Hughes predicted that 25 percent of mall inventory could be lost over the next five years.

Rakia Reynolds, Fan of Your Brand workshop

Rakia Renolds, CEO of Skai Blue Media, in her workshop Fan of Your Brand, told her audience that that the media has changed and that in today’s digital and social media word, “you have six seconds to tell a story. You can no longer use a long opening paragraph of who, what, where, when and why. You have to say what’s most important on top – start with the why. Why is it important to that audience?” She also advised that before you ask for anything, you establish yourself as a resource for people.

Nicole Baker Rosa, of the Futures School, and her team wrapped up the conference with some hands-on training, Workshop: 21st Century Mindsets need to Create the Future. “The future is here,” she said, “it’s just not evenly distributed,” meaning that some people, libraries, have more resources than others to keep transforming and adapting to changes. “We have to look at complexity as a natural order of growth.” To deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity we have to accept it as natural and “we need a new breed of thinkers who are adaptable and resilient.

Hands-on training exercise during the Futures School workshop

“What is your next growth curve? Where are you going? What is your future?” she asked before starting participants on an exercise to create the future of libraries. Groups were given different trends and asked to discuss why it emerged; what would the implications be to libraries; and how might the trend continue to manifest.

See photos from the conference at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/njlibraryevents/with/37113627940/