Episode 17: Do We Really Need That?

by Feb 28, 2020

Welcome to Education and Technology Futures, a videocast that highlights interesting trends and connections in the worlds of education, technology, and culture.

In this episode, we discuss how the future of education, technology, and innovation has not generally been decided at the intersection of “Do we really need that?” and “What we should do is…” Instead, we’ve invested in innovation for the sake of innovation and profit.

Full Transcript

Full Transcript

I saw a headline this week asking if we really need phones that fold.

The simple answer is, “heck no!”

Speaking from considerable experience, I can tell you that we didn’t really need phones that flipped, phones that had a QWERTY keyboard, phones with internet connectivity, or phones with touchscreens, apps, and video chat, and we certainly don’t “need” phones that fold.

And no, I’m not speaking as a Luddite or as some angry old guy who hates change. To know me is to know that I love new shiny objects to a fault and I readily embrace change.

What I’m saying is that the future of education, technology, and innovation has not generally been decided at the intersection of “Do we really need that?” and “What we should do is…”

More often, our innovations have focused on what is possible, what will get people’s attention, and what we can make happen. They’ve about what we can convince people they can’t live without, about addressing needs that people weren’t even aware they had. And, in a capitalistic society like the U.S., our innovations have most often been tied to how we can sell more widgets.

Unfortunately, this “innovation merely for the sake of innovation or profit” tends to create a certain amount of skepticism in the general population. And that skepticism generally causes us to be suspect of change and to erect barriers of mistrust. 

Even worse, our skepticism about the real value of innovations often keeps us from focusing on or doing what really needs to be done and those things will make a truly positive difference in people’s lives.

So, while many will continue to talk about what’s cool, influencers, and creating market demand, I’m wondering if it isn’t time for the rest of us to reframe our intentions and start thinking about innovation in terms of the things that matter.

Perhaps we can begin thinking and making decisions at a new intersection, the one at the corner of “What people need most” and “What can we do to make a real difference.”

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