What will remain from WFH and Learning from Home
Alexandra Whittington and ID Pearson
COVID has stimulated rapid change in technology and work practices that support working from home. Some of the changes might have happened anyway, but over much longer time. Some of the changes benefit workers, some their companies and some both, so we shouldn’t expect a return to the ways things were before COVID. Some of those changes are here to stay. It may be too early to be absolutely certain what will stick and what won’t, but we can identify enough of the forces at play to be pretty sure.
We always knew we’d communicate using video in the future – all the sci-fi said so, and it made perfect sense – but there were lots of barriers in the way. Many of those have now gone. We now have a wide range of good video comms platforms, not just Skype. Some are integrated and much better suited to business practices.
We have seen rapid parallel growth of business-oriented social media platforms such as Teams and Slack, Clubhouse and many others. Some of these will inevitably die out, and some will survive, as rapid evolution and competition weeds out those that don’t work as well as others, or are limited to just iOS or Android. With so much reward available, competition will be fierce and development rapid. These platforms will evolve, but they will not go away, and our future work practices will include them.
Hardware technology such as better cameras, with higher resolutions and light sensitivities, better focus and face tracking, have all made it much easier to accept video communications. Faster and cheaper broadband, incl mobile, makes it possible to transmit the high data bandwidths needed. These barriers have only recently been breached, but now that they’re gone, they will never return. Good, cheap, high quality video communication is here to stay.
Although less glamorous, cheap and attractive LED webcam lighting has also helped a little.
Green screen technology bypasses privacy issues. If you don’t want colleagues to see what your home office decor looks like, or that you have to use a tiny room, it is very easy to add a background image or video. Again, this is a recent tech development, another barrier that was high before COVID that is now gone forever.
A recent Economist article showed that the share prices of electronic payments companies rocketed during the COVID lockdown. Of course we already had online credit card or Paypal (and Stripe etc) payments before, but WFH has incentivised their development and removal of any minor barriers to them staying and being permanent.
It isn’t just technology that was holding things back. Forced familiarity has broken the significant adoption barriers. There was a critical mass of users that was needed, and it simply wasn’t there. When nobody you knew was using the tools, what was the point? First adopters get poor rewards. Now that everyone has been forced to use these practices, the social acceptance and incentive barriers have gone.
Overall, there are now very few barriers to using online communications tools such as video platforms for everyday business meetings. Before COVID there were lots.
COVID revealed many benefits of working from home. Some were always there, but again, forced familiarity has been a good introduction to them. The first and most obvious are no commute time, no travel costs and other significant financial savings such as not having to buy expensive coffees, takeaway lunches, or even much of a work wardrobe, especially as online video normally only shows head and shoulders. There are also major savings for employers on office space. They will still need offices, but far less space, only needing to accommodate the maximum number of staff likely to be there. Many companies are shrinking the space they rent or lease, with huge impacts on property values in cities. As people gradually return to offices, there may be some growth again, but the savings for companies are high enough for them to encourage staff to keep working remotely as much as possible.
There are even some minor social advantages in not going to the office, such as not being forced to meet people you don’t like much. Introverts may be very happy with fewer face to face interactions. Most people don’t like meetings, and it is easier to resist endless meetings when you’re not in the office. The fact that zoom etc are not actually much fun reduces any incentive to hold a meeting unless it is actually useful. This benefits employers and employees. Meeting junkies will find it harder to force colleagues into an endless stream of pointless meetings, and that colleague whose ego was built around constant meeting attendance and being seen to be involved in things will miss out. Good!
In terms of interpersonal experiences, the lockdown period has been particularly effective at merging the personal and professional domains. This massive experiment in working from home has revealed the extra burdens on working parents, women in particular. Now that these challenges have had the spotlight and attention, don’t expect women to go back to the status quo very easily. This entire episode has been not just an apt reflection of society’s inability to create a proper work-life balance for half the population, but a reminder that a 40-hour workweek favors men. Gender equality has actually lost footing during the pandemic. This is unacceptable during a pandemic or under ideal conditions. Many families were rewarded with more quality time and that’s probably going to be preserved as long as people can manage to maintain it.
Persistent fear and social cooling
COVID will not go away completely; new viruses will emerge frequently around the world, and from now on, each will cause a fresh round of fear – we can no longer dismiss them as things that only affect far-away countries. Occasionally there will inevitably be a virus far worse than COVID. COVID killed far less than 1% of its victims but some can kill up tp 40%.
The current nervousness and mild suspicion people often feel around strangers is very likely to persist for many years. Indeed, many people have learned to actually fear being close to others, which may persist as a long term phobia, mild for some, stronger for others. So we should expect that people will shake hands less, kiss, cuddle and hug less, and there will generally be less physical maintenance of emotional bonding between people. Some of our body’s emotional mechanisms are associated with touch, such as release of various hormones or neurotransmitters when we have physical contact with others, so this reaction is not just imaginary. These biological mechanisms evolved over millions of years, and if they are impeded, our social relationships will be weaker. We call that social cooling. Persistent fear will certainly lower the attraction of face to face proximity and make it easier to accept remote behaviour.
Though there isn’t a lot of evidence yet, these effects may well be stronger in children and young adults, whose brains are still relatively fluid. Pre-COVID behaviours were also less ingrained in young people simply because they had less time exposed to them. Given the rapid emotional and hormonal changes around puberty, many young people going through that phase during this emotionally intensive period may suffer lifelong effects.
COVID-19 tamped down all social activities except those that could be experienced online. Unexpectedly, everything from parent-teacher conferences to cocktails shifted somewhat coherently into the virtual world, while concerts, comedy performances, exercise classes, shopping, cinema, museum exhibits, and religious worship were all transformed into at-home digital experiences in 2020. Given the impact of social distancing, will private homes continue to morph into cultural and social spaces? Socializing from home is not only more convenient, but is undoubtedly less expensive and time consuming. The popular Broadway hit “Hamilton” serves as a great example of how exclusive cultural content was made more accessible during lockdown. Millions of people were able to experience a performance that was streamed (free) across the internet during lockdown. Previously, steep ticket prices and geographic proximity were huge barriers that kept the masses from enjoyment of the popular show. It’s quite possible that customers will demand similar options in the future, which could have a democratizing effect that is quite needed on things like arts patronage, physical activity, and leisure time. However, how will life look when our home is not just a shelter, but a workplace, school house, university hall…and a fun place as well?
Governmental temptations and pressures
Government has also gained some very valuable new powers that it will not let go easily. Lockdown itself is a very draconian measure that could never have been introduced without a threat such as COVID or major war, but it will be very tempting to use it frequently from now on, for any virus, any kind of civil unrest, even crime control. Worst of all, it is already being seriously considered as a means to achieve carbon zero, with lockdowns every 2 years being debated.
Now that government has that tool and knows we will accept its use even with weak evidence for its necessity or effectiveness, it may well be used in future any time it is considered useful.
The prospect of a lockdown at any time will have significant effects on most company strategies, plans and provisions. It doesn’t need to be used to have a significant effect – it just needs to be a possibility.
Other tools that are extremely attractive to government, that had only previously been resisted because of fear of public reaction are now much easier to push that they know the public will mostly accept them given even a moderate excuse. Increasing surveillance, monitoring, testing, face recognition and new ID mechanisms are just a few of the more obvious ones. COVID has justified accelerated development of all these techs without the requirement to further justify them, but they add up to a very rich (and still rapidly growing) toolkit for surveillance, monitoring, control and oppression.
Some financial benefits accrue to the government too. With fewer people seeking medical help, and indeed, wth many old people now deceased, there will be lower costs for health care for a few years, or at least it will cost less to clear the huge backlog that has built up during lockdown. It will be easy for the government to continue its message of helping the NHS, deterring some people from seeking help.
Other health care changes will remain too. Doctors and hospitals love working remotely. It reduces their workload (many people don’t bother trying to see them and just put up with things), it reduces their direct risks and costs (infection, violence, and the need for chaperones), surgery costs (insurance, waiting room space, car parks, staff numbers, consumables and costs of missed appts. Since they continue to receive full payments for each person on their books, these add up to greatly increased profits. They will resist returning to pre-COVID practices unless they are offered even greater pay.
Incidental government benefits include lower traffic levels, which reduces both road costs and congestion, reducing pressure on government from these directions. However, lower traffic also disincentivises taxes based on mileage, and favours taxes based on car ownership, so this will delay decisions such as replacement of car licenses by road tolling.
Lower mileage for electric cars reduces costs of public charging infrastructure and numbers of power stations, and allows more time for installation. This makes a significant government incentive to keep WFH if they can.
It’s worth pointing out that, combined with social media, WFH tools are enabling political activism in the COVID era. Technologies that allow people to text, call, or email strangers about issues for which they share a passion is a step forward in evolving civic engagement. Numerous social justice issues that have gained the spotlight during the pandemic year (democracy and voting, police brutality, women’s safety, racial inequality, to name a few) may be sustained indefinitely in the public discourse with the help of smartphones, social media accounts, and communications technology that brings information around the world at the speed of light.Throwing our support behind issues, candidates, campaigns, and funds is easier than ever. Also, we are far more tuned in to what’s happening in other countries than our own, given the global nature of the pandemic.
Wider economic effects
It is also possible to foresee persistent long term economic effects originating from COVID WFH practice. For example, companies now know that with WFH embedded and proven they can consider sourcing some staff from the global market. For some roles, that might mean a much bigger pool to pick from, so they can increase staff quality and reduce staff costs. For other fields, it will have no effect because the skills needed are localised. For still others, it will produce a global market for elite skills. The consequences will be that we will see elite salaries rise high, commodity salaries reduce greatly, but some roles will remain unaffected. For roles that need physical presence or face to face working, there will also be no major effect on staff cost.
A headline in the financial news recently read “Zoom towns are boomtowns”, citing the top 15 US “Zoom towns” composed of urbanites who relocated from big cities to small towns during the pandemic. White-collar workers are moving in record numbers to suburbs and towns outside of urban areas,which is a trend that is not going to soon reverse, judging by Manhattan’s low real estate prices. Major companies who have made all-remote workforces the norm are encouraging this trend while feeding another growing trend – digital nomadism. Digital nomads will be a formidable type of talent after the pandemic. Exploring the world with a laptop and a vaccine passport will never have seemed so appealing as it will for young people who’ve been cooped up for a year or more. The fact that a survey by an employment search website found that a third of the respondents said they’d quit their job before going back to the office suggests that the employer/employee power structure has shifted in favor of workers (at least, knowledge workers). Demographic patterns like these will impact the financial grandeur of large cities, but allow smaller cities to grow. There was already a significant trend towards de-urbanisation, but lockdown has accelerated it. This could change how we view the globalized economy.
During COVID expat employees were frequently sent back to their home countries, resulting in a type of reverse brain drain. Countries like Italy and Greece, for example,experienced some economic benefits when native segments of the educated workforce returned. The numbers were lower than some people had predicted, at around 7%, but this trend may continue if expats latch on to the WFH trend that, along with the growing acceptance of digital nomad life, gives employees a great deal more control over where they live. If it sticks, it could alter the traditional flow of talent from developing economies to more developed ones. Some countries could become havens (tax or otherwise) for affluent people interested in the digital nomad way of life.
Travel will be harder
Business travel was always perceived as a nuisance to some and a benefit to others. Again, some effects will persist from the COVID era. Most obvious is the need for COVID passports, which government is busily developing even as they pour scorn on the idea in press briefings. They are very likely to become compulsory not by government decree, though that may happen, but by the likely fact that people will have very inconvenient restrictions on what they will be allowed to do without one. That might remain for several years, and by then, new viruses are likely to emerge that will create an excuse to keep health passports, even as COVID is replaced by other names. Health passports might eventually vanish, but they may well be here to stay. During the next several years, we should also expect harsher treatments and tedious systems at many locations, such as potentially unpleasant testing enforcement. Anal swabs? No thanks! Potential confinement might also be a lingering threat that could sometimes become an issue during a trip. For example, quarantines, backed up with fines or imprisonment can suddenly take force. This presents a significant risk for some trips to certain areas.
Travel costs will increase too, not least due to having to allow potential expenses for the risks just mentioned. For a while, airlines will have to be highly competitive on prices to regain some lost business, but the longer term dictates higher prices to cover higher costs, lower traffic and desire to maintain profits and recoup losses during lockdown.
The ability to build up frequent flyer points on business travel may become extinct after COVID. A major lesson learned from 2020 is that some meetings should really just be an email. Therefore, after the pandemic, the criteria for what constitutes necessary business travel will change. Events that once would have required a trip will be evaluated differently, both by the company and the employee. In fact, some employees (particularly those who have relocated far away from big cities) may expect to receive bonuses or incentives for travelling away from home for work. Even though the vaccine will ease people’s fears around contracting COVID, business travelers in the next few years could still make a case that international travel puts them at risk and they deserve better compensation. Another argument would be that the costs of travel can no longer be justified as a business expense unless a face-to-face presence is absolutely necessary. And, working mothers may push back against the expectation to return to “normal,” when normal was an untenable set of demands that served to reinforce gender inequalities. Now that the work-life balance scales have tipped, don’t expect them to go right back to where they were in 2019.
All of this adds up to a major disincentive to business travel and favours working remotely. These effects might decline gradually over time, but they will remain significant for several years.
Future communications technology
Lockdown made us adapt to using basic video comms (though infinitely better and more versatile than we had a couple of years ago), but tech for AR and VR is accelerating and it won’t be long before they have their effects too. Surround audio, high resolution video, and full 3D immersion will soon become expected. Eventually, as VR becomes more ingrained into product visualisation and design, gaming and R&D, and even marketing and sales we will see a spread of sensory translation technologies, which today include vibrating gloves and other haptics, but which will eventually evolve into active skin (tiny devices embedded on or in our skin, linking to our nervous systems to record and replay sensations), and active lenses, writing high resolution 3D imagery straight onto our retinas.
We already know some of the roles of VR in home working – product visualisation, simulation, meetings, and full body, full size communication, as well as in gaming, retail, travel and the entertainment industry. These roles will develop and multiply, becoming forever ingrained into everything we do online, simultaneously becoming better, cheaper and more intuitive to use.
Roles of AR will include a wide range of useful overlays, and will also likely be a reasonable substitute for VR in environments where safety hazards otherwise prevent pure VR use. Avatars will have some business utility, but will really come into their own in social networking and gaming where they can add novelty, beauty, personality extension or role clarification, but also enable gender swaps, age swaps, roleplay and many other features.
AI can also add many extra features to comms, such as meeting facilitation, note taking, minutes, project management, or executive assistant and secretarial functions. Industry-specific AI can even add virtual experts in particular areas to a meeting attendance list.
Combining technologies, avatars can interwork with AI to offer personal substitution, so you can be in two places at once, or just duck out of unwanted meetings but still be represented partially. For those people on the autistic spectrum, AI could interwork with their avatar to enhance their social presence and improving the quality of their social interactions. Avatars and AI could also help introverts and less-assertive women to get a word in at meetings versus their pushier male or loudmouth colleagues. Avatars driven by AI can essentially level the playing field for everyone, especially if AI is chairing the meeting and managing who gets to talk when.
AI, Robotics and Drones
We see rapid progress on automation already. Robotics continues to become more advanced but also cheaper, making it feasible to automate jobs that previously were too difficult or uneconomic to automate. This has a bearing on outsourcing overseas, because if robotics is cheap enough, the incentives to move work to another country is lessened. This might therefore somewhat offset some of the forces described earlier that enable exporting to cheaper countries.
AI generally is improving, especially with deep learning gradually catching up and exceeding human capabilities in many niche areas. Further away is artificial general intelligence, where AI can learn to think across wide fields just like humans. It will come, but the next few years will still see most development in niche-specific AI, where there is still a lot of low hanging fruit to pick.
There is an increasing consensus that the best way to use AI is in partnership with humans, upskilling them to do jobs faster or better than they could otherwise. In that sense, AI can be thought of as just more of the same advance that we saw when Google replaced an hour in a library by a minute on a search engine. It will improve efficiency and productivity but not necessarily replace an individual job. However, in some areas, it might allow easier exporting of the job to a lower wage country, while importantly keeping the intellectual property of the AI in the home country.
Drones may have been rather overhyped in some areas but will still be important. An aerial delivery drone will probably not be allowed to land on a town pavement in front of a terraced house, where it could obviously present a risk of injury to pets, children or passers-by. However, they can safely be used already for delivery to a properly designed industrial (or hospital) delivery bay staffed by people trained in proper H&S procedures. In between, are people in suburbs with back garden lawns. Although technically feasible to deliver here, there are still many potential objections, so we should assume that this won’t be commonplace for some years. Like AI, drone delivery can speed things up compared to road delivery, making just in time industrial processes better, and allowing more distributed processing.
Drones also have other uses such as security and surveillance. Some of the human roles associated with these can theoretically be implemented anywhere, so again, this allows export of some jobs. They also allow direct substitution of some jobs, such as delivery driving or helicopter surveillance.
Training and learning
Many of the same factors apply in learning as for working from home. On-line learning has grown enormously during lockdown, helping retraining or simply alleviating boredom. The learning industry has somehow managed to retain its fees and structures during lockdown, but that is surely not sustainable, however hard they try. In the background, very many online courses have been springing up that allow people to learn fast in their own time, in their own homes, at low cost. This mostly new competition will take time to substitute or replace old courses, but the trend is now irreversible and some rebalancing will happen, with lowering of fee levels being just one of the consequences.
One key differentiating factor in online courses is whether they give a certificate. Many courses are free to do, but the certificate has quite a high price. As global markets for online working become the norm, certification will become increasingly important, so that business model might persist. It allows training companies to claim they are providing valuable social benefits while still making good incomes from those who can afford to pay.
There are particular benefits in using AR/VR for training, especially when learning skills appropriate to specific physical environments, where the work environment can be precisely duplicated, showing its risks, interfaces and so on, so that people can learn how to work safely in that particular environment without actually being there. AR and VR engage visual and audio memory instead of just text, potentially improving recall, though that assumes more stimulating visual mechanisms than bullet points on Powerpoint slides!
Another interesting application of VR to training and learning involves the use of VR to teach so-called “soft skills” such as tolerance. Workplaces may expect future WFH employees to use VR training to learn communication, empathy, and inclusion. One example already available is to help people understand the effects of racism. It may prove helpful to provide highly immersive employee training experiences. One advantage of VR is that it can be performed in the privacy of one’s home or at the workplace. Given the reverberations of the remote working revolution, emotional intelligence may become particularly important as the workforce becomes more distributed and people are in less face-to-face contact with colleagues.
There will be obvious effects on course costs and prices when class sizes can be in thousands, and for many courses, costs per attendee can drop very low indeed if materials are just online, available any time any place any language on demand. Superstar teachers with elite skills will be sought after globally and attract very high pay, while commodity teachers competing with massive global supply so on low pay. Indeed, some superstar teachers will have their own companies.
As chatbot tech continues to develop, AI guidance for students will also improve, so AI can act as a virtual tutor, or even lecturer, allowing a lecturer alternative to boring text. This has real potential to replace many teachers, or allow other teachers to reach out to more people, with AI dealing with some students while they focus their human skills where they are needed.
Post-COVID, educators might find edtech helps to get students caught up academically. However, this should not be a priority until sufficient socialization, sense of security, and some structured sense of stability has been restored for the youngest students. Sound emotional foundations are needed for good education, and they will need some extensive repairs. An interesting conversation that has emerged from the quarantine year is the impact this period will have on healthy childhood development. Education experts in the UK have proposed “a summer of play” to make up for the past school year’s deficiencies – not academically, but socially. With mental health-related red flags raised across swaths of society, it is being advised to forgo extra summer lessons meant for kids to make up learning losses, but instead focus on stress-relief and joy.
Bringing people back together at the workplace after COVID is probably going to offer some novel experiences. It may be fair to say workplace socialization will never be the same. Spending time with our teams serendipitously may become curtailed by the fact that so many employees are showing a preference for keeping a flexible schedule. There’s also the fact that some people have moved hundreds of miles away from their team during the pandemic relocation frenzy. And, inconsistent vaccination uptake across society could impede the ability to meet face-to-face. There’s the sense that it will be a significant aspect of the WFH revolution, but what will team building look like after the pandemic?
Retreats in nature, in luxury, and/or highly secluded locations may be a valuable tool in the future. If an organization is interested in increasing employee morale of teams across a distributed remote workforce, for example, it seems like attractive vacation-style locations will be the best way to lure people from their comfortable cocoons to attend team building events. These kinds of functions could become the perfect antidote to Zoom fatigue, providing intimacy and bonding on a personal level that would permeate over six months or a year.
It’s theoretically possible that some of these could also be implemented in VR, which is a novelty in itself for many, and can still achieve some of the same goals alongside remote working. However, real life will generally be better than VR for most people and that is where the main focus is likely to be.
Furthermore, hotels, AirBnB, and other forms of lodging (including castles) are quickly transforming into coworking spaces. This trend not only shows how fluid the concept of a workplace has become during the pandemic, but indicates that the business travel industry is adapting to the WFH/digital nomad lifestyle as well. The advantage for organizations is that team building can now complement, rather than obstruct, work-life balance by doubling as a vacation, since the hospitality industry is beginning to resemble WeWork anyway. Several hotels have implemented programs designed for working throughout the day out of guest rooms and other spaces. Some WFH (work from hotel) packages during the lockdown were geared toward affluent working parents and included a tutor for helping children with online lessons during the day, catering exclusively to digital nomads that travel in packs (eg, families).
Recruitment and Personnel Management
For organizations, a huge advantage of distributed work teams is that it increases the size of the job applicant pool. With many jobs now allowing WFH, companies can choose from a huge range of potential talent. The ability to interview and screen applicants online has also surely saved companies hundreds of thousands in travel and lodging expenses. Post-COVID recruitment practices will probably continue along these lines, shunning expensive and elaborate travel except for the most upper-level positions. Interview tactics for virtual job seekers will become a learnable and teachable skill.
The rise of WFH implies tremendous growth in technologies intended to monitor employees’ time at different tasks. The “big brother” aspect of the remote and distributed workforce has not reared its ugly head very prominently but it is waiting. Herein lies a huge uncertainty going forward: how much surveillance are employees and students willing to give up in order to learn and work from home indefinitely?
Career progress & WFH
Before COVID, occasional studies suggested that people in the office are typically better noticed by their managers and thus more likely to be promoted, and at the same time, people working from home often feltl undervalued, or were (reasonably) concerned that the boss suspected they aren’t working as hard as they are. We’re still waiting to understand the full impacts on these issues since COVID lockdown, though some are obvious, but in any case quite a lot of people have started new jobs since then and some have never even met their bosses or colleagues except on zoom. These factors will have very significant effects on whether someone is accepted as much a part of a team as those who already were pre-COVID.
Education too must suffer some of this problem, such as the problem of teachers assessing work if they have never met the student submitting it. A teacher can’t judge a student’s total merits by just marking their homework.
20 Things for the 2020’s
Obviously, the historical event known as the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will have a lasting influence on the world for some time. Considering epidemics and pandemics are natural occurrences that we can count on, we should view these instances as random catalysts of social change. What is new about COVID-19 seems like it represents the first big pandemic in a real-time globalized world, thanks to modern technology.
The changes we sense since COVID hit are social and technological in nature. They properly demonstrate the symbiotic relationship between the two, creating new behaviors/activities, while curtailing others. Below we offer two sets of 20 things: 20 that aren’t coming back and 20 that won’t go away. Welcome to the 2020’s.
20 Twenty things that won’t come back:
- Full-time cubicle life
- Five-day conferences
- Face-to-face parent-teacher meetings
- Formal business dress code
- Demoralizing team building events
- Workplace policies biased against working parents
- Default face-to-face contact at school/work
- Educational experiences without a digital component
- Long, boring, in-person training
- Disproportionate work-life balance
- Elaborate/expensive employee recruitment
- Inadequate technology skills
- Frequent flyers, and air-miles
- Technological illiteracy
- Agoraphobia as a mental illness needing treatment
- Homes that don’t include office space
- Unnecessary meetings
- Packed commuter trains
- High wages for jobs that can be done anywhere
- The two hour commute
20 Things that won’t go away:
- Dismal birth rates
- Surveillance capitalism
- Digital ID
- Governmental monitoring/track and trace apps
- Lockdown powers
- Reinforced green regulations
- Public willingness to do as govt tells them
- Use of face masks during flu season
- Zoom kit – LED ring lights, decent cameras and microphones
- Fear or suspicion of strangers
- High house prices in rural and pretty areas
- Lower daytime city population
- Toilet roll hoarding
- Higher prices for holidays/hotels/air travel (may be short term special offers)
- Overcrowded restaurants, holiday spots, sporting events
- Brick-and-mortar schools
- Shopping, but mostly as a social activity and diversion
- Online friends you’ll never meet
- Online shopping
Alexandra Whittington is a futurist educator, writer, and researcher. She is a Lecturer at the University of Houston, where her students describe her as “passionate” about the future. Her courses explore the impact of technology on society and the future of human ecosystems. She has published dozens of articles exploring diverse aspects of the future, often from a feminist perspective. Alex has co-authored and co-edited several books, including A Very Human Future and Aftershocks and Opportunities: Scenarios for a Post-Pandemic Future. She studied Anthropology (BA) and Studies of the Future (MS) at the University of Houston.
ID Pearson BSc DSc(hc) CITP MBCS FWAAS
Dr Pearson has been a futurologist for 30 years, tracking and predicting developments across a wide range of technology, business, society, politics and the environment. Graduated in Maths and Physics and a Doctor of Science. Worked in numerous branches of engineering from aeronautics to cybernetics, sustainable transport to electronic cosmetics. 1900+ inventions including text messaging and the active contact lens, more recently a number of inventions in transport technology, including driverless transport and space travel. BT’s full-time futurologist from 1991 to 2007 and now runs Futurizon, a small futures institute. Writes, lectures and consults globally on all aspects of the technology-driven future. Eight books and over 850 TV and radio appearances. Chartered Member of the British Computer Society and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science.
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