The Fourth Industrial Revolution Will Also Be Steam Powered

"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense."

You don't have to have read a line of Harry Potter to recognise these sturdy defenders of keeping-things-as-they-are in our own world. Ready to bat away any insurgent otherness that plays at the perimeter of acceptable reality. 

As the Dursleys were to learn however, no matter how spirited the defence, denial can be deadly. It's too late to hope for boring times. 

OOPS

We find ourselves thrust, as a species, into a rather dramatic story where we don't have luxury of closing the book or switching channels when it all gets a bit much. And by Jove, the stakes are perilous.

Stuffing our senses and imagining a Disney ending, isn't worthy of all the hard-won ancestry that went before us. If we mount no defence against the digital dark arts, we'll deserve the dystopia we're threatened with. 

THIS IS A CALL TO ADVENTURE

Hogwarts letter never came. (Copyright Warner Bros)

Yes, there are ready and realworld contenders for Death Eaters aplenty. And we have to figure it out without no Professor Dumbledore or McGonagall, nor the safety of Hogwarts to repair to. But magic, that we have. 

 

GET OVER THE GRIEF. GET TO KNOW THE WEAPONS

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
- Arthur C. Clarke, 1973

Tech is neither benign nor evil but the one who wields it makes it so.

Angry railing against the "unnatural" invasion of technology and how it's destroying us, democracy, and sanity makes us feel better, but doesn't actually help us do better. 

The more pragmatic choice is to have familiarity with the forms and functions of available magic, so we can use it masterfully too. 


NO, YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE A NERD 

This is not another prescription to hurry up and get into coding classes.

We do need to be prepared for what is to come. To be fluent in many new literacies. But brute-forcing yourself or someone you care about to become a code engineer isn't a requirement of readiness. 

Worse, if it's an insufferable battle, it may blunt our interest in learning for fun. Resourcefully figuring our way through tough subjects or novel contexts offers significant future advantage.

It's hard not to feel foolish and frustrated when we're learning something new though. Which limits the numbers of us those who delight in learning for its own sake. (Hat-tip to all you rare Hermiones).

If we're to have any hope, lifelong learning cannot afford to be dry or socially isolating.

ODDLY, THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION WILL ALSO BE STEAM-POWERED

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will need the key additive of Art to make STEAM or we may lose our way. STEM alone doesn't pull in the crowds. 

When we have artists, routinely working with scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, we start being able to see doors that we didn't even realise were there before.

Stories, games, song, design, fashion, may appear frivolous, but for humans, these are our most reliable and ancient transports for important information or inspiration

Captivating experiences like Punchdrunk's The Oracles (above) or Lockheed Martin's Field Trip to Mars (below) draws out the kind of curiosity and confidence it takes to STEAM-power an escape velocity beyond the perimeter of ordinary.
[Watch them, they're quick and you won't be sorry]

... and while you're here, just look at the artistry, tech and science that went into making this rolling hunk of wonder:

"It doesn't stop being magic just because you know how it's done"
- Terry Pratchett

Understanding complexity only magnifies awe.

And informed awe is so much more satisfying than the attribute-it-to-mystery version.

At the very least we need a richer understanding of "magic" so we're less vulnerable to exploitation, by those who profit from superstition. 

      ⌁☍ 

#DOSOMETHING

No matter how old we are, regularly making frivolous things with new kinds of tech is a practice that will yield cognitive gains for years to come. No formal course needed. Nothing riding on it, just for fun. Choose a day. Make it a habit. 

Don't know where to start? Try these: nab one of these free augmented reality apps for your phone or build a virtual reality tour with Google Expeditions.

Or you know, in the spirit of this post, get your wizarding on, friend.