On the Horizon: Emerging Technologies
Future technology is one of my favorite topics, although it is hard to find time to keep up on everything that is currently out there, let alone all of the technology that is predicted to come. So I was glad to be able to view the resources in this class that discussed the most current technology as well as what may be coming. I have seen technology change a lot in my lifetime. In my job as an Air Force navigator I started out navigating across the world using manual methods such as mental and written calculations based on ground speed, heading, wind, and a few other variables. I backed this up using a sextant, from which I took readings from the sun, moon, and stars to help refine my position. Needless to say, this was extremely challenging. I was so happy in the mid 1990s when my squadron purchased crude hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) units that I could check out for a flight. They were not very fancy, but at least gave me a basic latitude and longitude that I could use to back up my other calculations. Nowadays in the planes I navigate, we have multiple GPS feeds, combined with an Inertial Navigation System (INS) to navigate with. We also have technology to communicate with Air Traffic controllers via a datalink, communicate back to our squadron, and allow our leadership (or anybody with the username and password) to track our aircraft position anywhere in the world. Technology has definitely changed in the 25 years since I joined, and it’s hard for me to imagine where it will be 25 years from now.
As a leader in the Air Force this has huge implications. When I used to navigate using manual methods, virtually all navigators knew the ins and outs of navigation and could easily adapt during equipment malfunctions. Today, there is so much reliance on technology that navigators can easily tend to become nothing more than button pushers without knowing what is happening behind the scenes. As a matter of fact, the Air Force renamed navigators to Combat Systems Officers (CSOs), which more reflects that they operate systems instead of truly navigate. The problem surfaces when equipment fails, which it periodically does. The airplanes I fly in were built from 1957-1963, so they are old. Even though a lot of the equipment has been updated, there are still many old aspects to it, which can cause technology to fail when we need it. If leaders don’t ensure that new CSOs understand and practice “old school” navigation methods, they may find themselves in a dangerous situation when equipment fails and they don’t know how to recover.
As a leader in the college classroom, I also have seen many things change due to technology. When I started teaching 15 years ago, no students brought laptops or tablets to class. The iPhone was still seven years from being introduced. Nowadays almost every student has some type of smartphone and many bring laptops or tablets, hopefully to take notes and not play games during class. Teaching methods have also changed. Many textbooks have an instructor companion site that gives good instructional ideas, PowerPoint presentations, videos, or other items that can be used in class. In most classes that I teach there is also an electronic/online classroom to supplement the brick and mortar classroom. The online classroom is a great repository for PowerPoint presentations, documents, and much more. This lessens the amount of physical paperwork I have to deal with and keep track of as an instructor. In a computer class that I teach, I have software on the instructor PC that allows me to view any of the student PCs in the classroom, if needed. If a student is having a problem on a particular assignment, with a simple keystroke I can take a look from my desk. I don’t use this method, as I prefer to walk over to the student and have some interaction. But the technology also allows me to bring up any student or the instructor’s PC onto the projector screen. This is handy when I have a teaching moment that I want to show to the entire class. In this particular course (ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership) I learned about a lot of technology that I either didn’t know existed, or had never used. I was amazed at how many things that are out there that I could potentially integrate into the learning environment. I look forward to trying some of these tools out. I am also anxious to see how technology in the classroom changes even further in the coming years.
The Internet Trends slideshow really amazed me, even though I feel like I stay up on technology more than the average person. Cell phone penetration changed from 1% of the population in 1995 to 73% of the population in 2014. This doesn’t even account for the increased capability of the cell phones in 2014 compared to those in 1995. Looking at the slide showing how technology has changed from 1975 to the late 1990s and comparing that to how much it’s changed from the late 1990s until today was also astounding. That slide really shows how frantic the technological pace has become. The amount of Internet capacity that is taken up by video is something that I tell students in all of my classes, as I think it is an interesting fact that many do not know. It shows them the heavy load that is being carried across the Internet. The slide show mentioned that 64% of Internet traffic was from video. I personally wonder if too many more people get Netflix, Amazon streaming, Vudu, or other subscriptions, how much the Internet can take without causing a slowdown. I was also interested to see how Internet usage differs around the world, especially in China and India. China’s citizens are using technology, mainly smartphones, to pay their utility bills, apply for passports, look up their driving violations, book hospital appointments, and order food online. This technology is happening in the United States, but has been a lot slower to catch on. From a leadership perspective, in many cases we are going to be forced into having to allow our workers to have access to this type of technology throughout the day.
Kevin Kelly brought up a lot of interesting points in his video. One that really caught my attention was where he discussed the fact that many/most of these devices now have eyes, in the form of a camera. He discusses that not only are we looking into these devices, but they are also looking back at us. There is technology that can track our eyes, for example. He showed an example of a heat map that shows where on a particular page the most attention is being given by our eyes. From that, the website can adapt to how we are using it. It can also potentially recognize our mood and whether or not we’re paying attention. It is much like looking through a two-way mirror except that the software can adapt from our actions. This may be scary to some, but at the same time should hold much promise for future technology. I can see how this could be used to target ads or important information that the content provider wants us to see, by putting it in the areas of the page that our eyes are looking at more often. I’ve already seen how online ads have changed over the past few years. In situations where the user is able to skip an ad after a certain period of time (normally a small number of seconds), the advertisers have become more creative and in that short amount of seconds they try to hook us in so we don’t skip the ad. As a comparison, television ads from years ago didn’t necessarily need to catch our attention that quickly since we had no way to fast forward through them or skip them. As technology changes, advertisers will have to continue to adapt. Leaders should take this as a lesson that we should now continually be adapting in our leadership style and methods to account for changing technology. What works and is in vogue today may not necessarily be effective 5, 10, or 20 years from now.