Imagine a world where a 14-year old will make $10 billion working from his bedroom, where giant computers which house immense capacities will shrink to the size of your palm. A world where you could live for as long as you wanted to, but if you did fall sick the pharmacy inside your body will automatically administer medicines based on internal readings. Some predictions are downright dire. Environmentalist Bill McKibben says that if we do not make major strides in combating global warming, it is likely we could see out-of-control rises in sea levels, enormous crop shortfalls, and wars over increasingly scarce freshwater resources.
This is not the theme for a science fiction movie but reality as it is seen by serious scientists as predictions for the year 2050.
Making predictions is never wise especially if you live to see your predictions failing (remember Y2K?) , but looking at numbers there are evidences that some of these predictions will definitely come true. For example, demographic changes across the world are a certainty. Rockefeller University mathematical biologist Joel Cohen says that by the year 2050 the majority of the people in the world will live in urban areas, and will have a significantly higher average age than people today. In the U.S., cities theorist Richard Florida thinks urbanization trends will reinvent the education system, making our economy less real estate driven and erasing the divisions between home and work.
Underlying these predictions is the advancement that technology has made to date and its power over the future. According to Bill Mitchell, the late director of MIT's Smart Cities research group, cities of the future will not look like "some sort of science-fiction fantasy," but it's likely that "discreet, unobtrusive" technological advances and information overlays will change how we live in significant ways. Charles Ebinger, Director of the Energy Security Initiative at the Brookings Institution also thinks that by 2050 we will also have a so-called "smart grid" where all of our appliances are linked directly to energy distribution systems, allowing for real-time pricing based on supply and demand.
So what exactly will all this technology innovation mean to the IT profession and its patrons as we see them today? For one, advances in technology will make IT professionals more empowered, thereby more motivated and active. Knowledge will be an advantage and with that knowledge IT professionals will be able to make dramatic advances in the field of technology.
According to a report, "Information Professionals 2050: Educational Possibilities and Pathways" Edited by Gary Marchionini and Barbara B. Moran, the most profound and far-reaching change in education (IT included) over the next 40 years will be the move from a mass production model focused on teaching to a customized, individualized model focused on learning. Learning itself which is the first step in an IT professional's career will be based on challenging his own knowledge and dealing with change.
The report, illuminating in its findings says that information professionals more than most others are constantly dealing with change. Change is more constant than any other phenomena for these professionals. Geographies, demographics, needs of people and everything else is playing a role in the way technology is invented and reinvented to address these changes. During the periods of change there is a 'blur' and this is something which IT professionals understand and respect. The blurring is not blindness but is actually the gap for new knowledge and innovation.
Thus, information as we see it is the foundation for most activities in today's world. The coming decades will bring the next generation of information professionals a whole new set of issues and fresh partners that will draw them across different boundaries.
So by 2050, , the precise issues, the exact partners, the particular constituent groups, the pressing information needs may all change, but the mission, the purpose, the heart of the craft of connecting people to each other and ideas will endure. The specific skill sets, the vehicles, the tools will evolve even more rapidly than today, but the purpose and goals of the profession will continue and be played out in different ways.