Future thinking

I attended a meeting Monday that featured an interesting speaker, with thought-provoking ideas on the future generally and on the future of libraries, specifically. Thomas Frey is the Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute, a think tank for futurists. Frey arrived to speak dressed like his institute’s namesake, in Rennaisance dress complete with feathered cap and laced vest.

Some highllights:
Pythagoras and Archimedes are remembered as Greek mathematicians of the highest order, but there are no Roman mathematicians of note. Why? Primarily because Roman numerals (I,IV,IX, etc.) are in and of themselves equations, and therefore don’t lend themselves well to the computation of complex mathematical formulas. Hmmm. What tools are we using now that are preventing us from doing innovative things? Hmmm.

Frey named the juncture between the end of an era and the beginning of the next as Maximum Freud, and then questioned the group to see what we thought might be approaching Maximum Freud. Fax machines, floppy disks, invasive surgery….

In discussing libraries, Frey talked about the Confluence of Influence; people are no longer satisfied with just receiving information. They want to create it.

We are approaching the age of hyper-individuality. It’s a time-compressed world, and we are transitioning from a product-based economy to an experience-based economy.

Employment trends are revealing that the average time spent on a job in 2006 was 4 years. 45 million people work from home all or part of the time. Given the theory that this trend will continue, libraries may find themselves in a position to provide service to those who work at home. What should that library look like, and services could it offer? Some brainstorming ideas from the group:

Library for people who work at home:

  • Social director
  • Private space
  • Daycare
  • Technology center
  • Integrated patent support/research
  • Access to more expensive/cutting edge technology
  • Mentoring services
  • Use of satellite branch for grocery, etc
  • Data backup services

Just in case vs. just in time thinking;there’s an entire generation today who thinks that if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist. Thought – top right hand corner of each internet page should have an “Oh, Yeah?” button to verify source. (cool idea.)

We haven’t finished inventing the ultimate small particle for storage. Paper is still our most stable technology. Think of an archaeologist 200 years from now. If he finds a book, he can translate that….but what if he finds a floppy disk? Or a CD? Will the technology exist then to translate that material? Technical formats constantly changing: floppy to CD to stick, etc. What will information look like 200 years from now? How stable is our technology?

Search Technology will become increasingly more complicated – will become the role of librarians in the future.

  • The word “set” has the most definitions, followed by “run” at 66 definitions.
  • The word “home” will get you the most search results in a search engine, followed by “here.”
  • There are a number of words that are “dead” word – so overused online, it will skew results.
  • Search technology will become increasingly more complicated
    • Smell
    • Taste
    • Texture
    • Reflectivity
    • Harmonic vibration
    • Specific gravity

We are in a transition to a verbal society, according to Dr. Wm Crossman.In the coming verbal society people will talk back and forth with their computer, and the computers will have emotions.   Frey postulated that there might be personality services for the computer (ala David Letterman, Jim Carrey, Oprah, etc.)

    Starbucks has differentiated itself from other coffee providers on the Commodity level (can buy coffee anywhere), on the Product level (you can get coffee in any restaurant), and on the Experience level – Starbucks is unlike anywhere else.

      If you transition that thinking to the library world, how do we create the ultimate information experience?

            Interesting talk. Thought-provoking questions. Food for thought….

            “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

            ~Thomas Edison

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