The Future of Technology

This seminar at the Technical University of Berlin (winter semester 2018/2019) is on the Past and Future of Technology, co-held by a colleague who is teaching about the past, while I focus on the future. The classes are held in an interactive format: each student is required to submit a question before class that is then discussed and pairs of students are required to make a presentation, for which various methods are available. The goal is to enable students to think critically about the future of technology, society and education.

1. Predicting Technology

1.1. From the Past to the Future: Predictions of the Past


– How did people envision the future 100 and how 10 years ago?

– What utopias and dystopias do we know and which predictions came true?

– The Internet: a recent example of a new, ubiquitous technology: looking back at hopes and fears. What do we know today?

Group Dicussion:

A 19th-Century Vision of the Year 2000 by Jean-Marc Côté:


1.2. Futures Studies: Predicting the Future of Technology and Society


From the Oracle of Delphi to Paul the Octopus:

– Why do people want to predict the future? Especially one so far ahead, they might not even see?

– What aspects of the future can be predicted?

– What do we think the future will look like: societally, culturally, technologically? What are our assumptions based on?

Literature for Group Activity or 500-words Assignment:


1.3. Predicting the Adaptation of Technology: The Hype Cycle


-How accurate can we be when predicting the impacts of a technology?

-What factors influence humans in their Futures Studies?

-How do cognitive biases influence our narrative?

Group Discussion:

Amara’s law: We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

What are historical proofs of this law? How does this law influence future tech predictions?

How does the “Hype Cycle” work, what are “peak of inflated expectations”, the “trough of disillusionment” etc.?


What can we learn from comparing the Hype Cycles of Emerging Technologies from 2000 to today?

2. Exclusive or Inclusive?

2.1. Singularity, Transhumanism and AI: Humanity of the Future


-What do the words singularity, transhumanism or artificial intelligence mean?

-What will it mean to be human in the future?

-What could be the advantages and disadvantages of such a “Brave New World”?



Create a future scenario in which singularity is here, society lives as transhumans and AI is omnipresent. Make a video, an interactive powerpoint presentation/prezi or use the classroom.

Literature for Presentation:

 2.2. Crackers, Hackers, Makers: The Democratization of Technology.

Group discussion:

-How can we define the words hacker, cracker and maker?

-What are hacker-, maker- and innovation spaces?

-Who defines how software and hardware is used?

-What can be done to democratize technology and create access for everyone?



3. Better Technological Futures

3.1. Ethical Questions of New Technologies and Responsible Research and Innovation

Expert Circle:
Everyone will be required to examine one aspect from the list of ethical issues around emerging technologies, such as:
-Conceptual issues and ethical theories
-Impact on individuals
-Consequences for society
-Uncertainty of outcomes and Perceptions of Technology
-Role of humans
These topics will be discussed in the “expert groups”. After this, the groups will be mixed and each representative will join “experts” from the other groups. They will share the key take-aways and create a poster summarizing the issues, which they will present and receive feedback from the other teams.

3.2. Better Futures: Critical Thinking, Social Innovation and Technology.

Group discussion:

-What is critical thinking?

-When is it important, when is it considered a “luxury”?

-How can we work with future generations to enable them, and thus help them create better futures through social innovation and technology?

Presentation: Why should we and how can we use critical thinking in the school setting to inspire the creation of better technological futures?