HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
February 26, 2007, Herald Journal

What will the future bring?


Last week, on TV news, it was predicted that someday artificial limbs will be controlled by our thoughts. The thought registers somehow on an implant in the brain, and the implant signals the prosthesis to move.

I mentioned to my daughter how cursive writing has become almost a lost art. Most people use keyboards or print when they write, and only sign their names in cursive.

I wondered if someday, people also will forget how to read. People will have an implant in their brains. When they need information, they plug into a computer and download it directly, without having to use their eyes at all. Reading will become a lost art, just as cursive writing is.

Then, my daughter told me about a strange science fiction book she had read. Scrawny, noseless, grayish-green creatures temporarily abducted people. The people who had been abducted thought the creatures were space aliens, but they weren’t. They were human beings from the future.

The reason they had a strange appearance was because they had interacted with machines for so long, their muscles lost strength and tone, and they lost the ability to reproduce. Their noses became superfluous, like our appendix, because they didn’t use them. There is nothing to smell in outer space.

In the story, they traveled back in time to surreptitiously get the body parts they needed, she said.

It reminded me of what Gov. Tim Pawlenty had said. He was the guest speaker at the Minnesota Newspaper Association convention in January, and told us some statistics about education.

Kids between 13 and 18 spend the majority of their time interacting with some kind of device, either a cell phone, TV, computer, or iPod.

He pointed out how high schools are modeled after schools in the 1940s, when those devices didn’t exist. As a result, many students today are just coasting.

Of course, the book my daughter was telling me about is just fiction.

We know time travel is never possible. If it was, someone would have come back to show us.

It does make me think, though, about the future. Pawlenty is right. The mechanized world our kids live in, and the education they are getting, are seriously out of sync.