Archive: May 2013

May 22nd, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Environment & Energy, Innovation | Comments Off

Hydroponic Farming and Dylan Ratigan

Have to admire what Dylan Ratigan is doing, working on a hydroponic farming venture with veterans, leaving TV stardom behind. The Daily Show reports…

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Dylan Ratigan & Life After Cable News
Daily Show Full Episodes Indecision Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

Dylan explains here, and you can follow his blog here.

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May 17th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Education | Comments Off

The future of higher education

All across America two things are happening about this time of year. First, graduates of colleges and universities are walking to the stage to receive their diplomas. Second, high school seniors are confirming their plans to attend, or not to attend, various colleges and universities. This year both of these traditions are fraught with uncertainties that are high by historical standards. Let me explain.

First, for full disclosure I spent my first career in higher education, on the admissions staff and then the faculty of one university, and subsequently teaching for two other universities before I left the education world after fifteen years, for consulting and my work as a full time futurist. I very much valued higher education then, and still do. In fact, I argue to many audiences that one of the central tasks of our time is to figure out how to enable literally millions more people to access advanced learning. I think that in just about any conceivable future more people will benefit more by learning more. As Craig Venter said recently, the future of human society depends perhaps 100% on science, and thus on an learned population.

But at the celebration parties of college graduates, and in the living rooms of high school grads there lingers this gnawing uncertainty – is the payoff worth the investment? For the new university graduate there is the relatively bleak employment picture they face. For the high school grad going to college there is the possibility they will take on mountains of debt, for an uncertain payoff. There are two answers to these dilemas, a short and positive one, and longer and more complex one.

The short answer is that during the recent economic crisis a college degree meant a much better chance of being employed than did a high school diploma. And the pay premium one receives for a college degree is still substantial when compared to high school only. So it is relatively easy to argue that the great advantages to a college education still exist. That is the short and positive story.

The longer and complex story has two related parts. Because of the very high cost of higher education and the fact that state support for students has declined precipitously everywhere, each new class of college students faces the likelihood of taking on larger amounts of debt, in many cases debt that is so large as to be crippling later in life. This is a system that cannot be sustained, and should not be. I tell all young people that if getting the degree means tens of thousands of debt, don’t do it. Find another way.

Which brings me, finally, to the biggest issue of all which is this. Higher education, one of the oldest institutions around, faces an existential crisis, in my opinion. That is, each institution faces the question of why they exist. In March of this year I had the opportunity to address the Society for College and University Planning. The slide deck is below, available for download at Slideshare.

With research assistance from well known futurist writer Sara Robinson, I suggested that each of the traditionally primary functions of higher education are in question in the current and future world. These functions have been:

    – credentialing
    – furthering knowledge
    – sustaining the society’s meritocracy
    – arguing for the good life
    – providing a physical place for learning
    – self-perpetuation

Credentialing is simultaneously being more heavily emphasized by higher education as a form of self-preservation, while at the same time being significantly undermined by the ability of anyone to access real time knowledge on the net. Historically universities were the repository of knowledge – literally where the knowledge was – and you could not access it unless you went there. That world is just about gone. In this century the American GI Bill opened higher education to masses of people. States, for a time, made higher education nearly free in many locales. This contributed to the growth of a true meritocracy where your ability to get ahead depended less on your background than your performance. Recently states have pulled financial resources from higher education, and the well documented growing income disparity threatens to return higher education to its place prior to the 20th century, when it was reserved for the wealthy and served primarily to sustain a fixed class system. As for arguing for the good life, colleges have in recent decades become significantly more focused on their utilitarian purpose – training people for jobs – and less on the concept of the liberally educated person, once the hallmark of modern society. This shift is interrelated with the need for self-perpetuation, as it is believed that this is what the market demands. In addition, there has arisen in the country a surprisingly strong anti-science movement. While suspicion of the “pointy-headed intellectual” enjoys a long history in the U.S., the fact that an entire political party has become quite heavily associated with the rejection of nearly all science is troubling (see Craig Venter, above).

All of this is to say, in ways that cannot be fully summarized in a few paragraphs, that higher education faces both the need, and the urgent opportunity, to reinvent itself. Among the questions I urged the members of SCUP to examine were…

    1. What does America (and global society) need from us? What is the purpose of higher education in this part of the 21st Century?
    2. What have we been good at in the past? What are we doing that is of no use, what should we let go of?
    3. What are the basic values we wish to promote, and how do we best do that?
    4. Whom do we serve – students, corporate funders and employers, government, our own careers?

In the end, I believe that higher education is incredibly vital to the future, and that change must come in how higher education serves the future.

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May 17th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Innovation | Comments Off

Glen Hiemstra Programs on iTunes

I was on iTunes the other day and noticed that two free podcasts in which I was interviewed are available there. One is a fireside chat, audio only, conducted by Lisa Haneberg. The other is a 53-minute video interview that was part of a series called Future Talks, with the interview conducted by Roger Simon. To download the podcasts just go to the iTunes store and search for Glen Hiemstra.

In coming weeks we at will be launching a successor program to the Future Talks series, called Future Conversations. I will be doing the interviews this time, focusing on interesting people and what they have to say about the future. Stay tuned for announcements about how you will be able to access this video series.

Glen is interviewed by Roger Simon for Future Talks

Glen is interviewed by Roger Simon for Future Talks

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May 17th, 2013 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Business & Economy | Comments Off

Safeguarding your child’s financial future

childsavingsGuest blog by Aimee Claire

Planning for a child’s financial future used to be considered a luxury, with only the wealthiest families able to provide for their life and education through trust funds or estates.   Today, tools for safeguarding the financial security of a child are available to everyone, and parents will want to take advantage of these many tools and schemes throughout their child’s life, often starting from birth.

There are several reasons why it is wise to plan for a child’s financial future.   Many parents simply want to save for their child’s educational future, putting aside money from an early age for a college education.   Providing for the child in the event of parents becoming ill or dying is also a consideration and an important reason to make financial plans for their protection.   Other parents may wish to leave property or other wealth to their child – a financial legacy with meaning.

Whatever direction a family chooses to go will be guided by their own personal financial goals and situation.   The one constant investing principle throughout is that regardless of what financial plan is chosen, it is vital to start saving for the child’s future as early as possible.

Ways to secure a child’s financial future

The first step for anyone looking to provide for their child is to make sure that their will is up-to-date.   A well-written will may provide for not only the financial protection and future of a child, but also for their physical well being in the event of the death of the parent(s).   For a young child, establishing a trust will see to it that assets are handled appropriately while at the same time protecting the interests of the child.

Life insurance should also be a consideration.   A life insurance policy is a valuable way to provide for loved ones after death, and also to provide a source for emergency funding during life.   A life insurance policy can be maintained by the parents for a relatively small monthly investment.

There are many different ways to save for college, but by far one of the most popular and successful is the 529 college savings plan.   Named for the IRS Code that authorizes its existence, the 529 is flexible and offers parents numerous tax advantages and the ability to retain control of their assets.

Other options for saving for a child include savings accounts and custodial brokerage accounts. Savings accounts, such as the Uniform Transfer to Minors Account (UTMA) or the Uniform Gift to Minors Account (UGMA), may be opened and managed through online banking; the child will get control of the Discover online banking account when they reach legal age.

For broader savings options many parents consider custodial brokerage accounts.   Easy to open, flexible and inexpensive, these accounts are taxed under a lower child’s rate and are filed under the child’s social security number rather than that of the parent(s). Like the savings accounts, the child will gain access to the money at legal age.

*About the Author: Aimee Claire is an enthusiastic, well-educated freelance writer with big ideas for the future. She is fascinated by the possibilities of modern technology, and what it could do for businesses in the future.

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May 16th, 2013 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Art & Society, Innovation | Comments Off

The Future of Gen Y: an interview with the co-Editor of Share or Die

We are the time when the future begins to be passed fully into the hands of a new generation, in this case the Millennial Generation, young people born basically between 1980 and 2000, and thus now ranging in age from the middle teens to their early 30’s. Two of them are Neal Gorenflo and Malcolm Harris, co-founder and Life/Art Editor, respectively, at Shareable Magazine. Now they have collaborated in producing an intriguing new book, Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis. In the book they have collected the stories of a number of millennial gen young people, mostly in their 20’s, who are creating and sharing their own ideas about how to manage in the new economic and environmental realities that we are moving into.

I had an opportunity to do a short email interview with co-editor Neal Gorenflo.

GH: What is going on with the job market for Gen Y?

NG: Young adults are faced with two huge problems. Unemployment rates that are sometimes double and more national averages. And unprecedented student loan debt, especially in the United States.

Malcolm Harris’ article in Share or Die, “Bad Education: The Student Debt Complex” covers this in gruesome detail.The average college senior in 2009 graduated with $24,000 student loan debt. And they are graduating into the worst job market for their age group in a generation. The result is that the most indebted generation in history is without the dependable jobs it needs to escape debt.

Young adults have no choice but to explore new options and even redefine what the American Dream means. Robin Chase, founder of Zipcar, said this recently at the Mesh 2013 conference, “My dad had one job his whole life, I’ll have seven, and my kids will have seven jobs at the same time.”

This is not all bad. The lack of jobs opens space for Gen Y to create work with meaning. And also have multiple streams of income, which can offer more financial stability.

GH: How do we adapt to disappearing jobs and stagnating wages?

NG: By lowering our spending, doing more for ourselves, and creating our own work. In the past, this has often been seen as sacrificing. But the peer to peer ethos that’s emerging valorizes this approach. It’s not sacrificing. It’s cool and even heroic, especially if you empower others with a valuable platform like Etsy, Airbnb, or Techshop that supports people on this path.

GH: What are your thoughts on working from home and the “stint” job lifestyle?

NG: More and more people have the flexibility to work from home, but they are also experiencing its limitations. This along with the freelancing lifestyle have fueled the growth of the coworking movement. In coworking, freelancers, startups, and remote corporate employees share office space in an open plan format. There’s also a conscious attempt to foster community and collaboration. Often coworking space are themed like the one where I work, Hub SoMa, in San Francisco. There’s evidence that this raises productivity and the quality of work life. Some people long for a sense of belonging at work even if the steady corporate job is a thing of the past.

GH: What are some easy ways for Gen Yers to build a meaningful work-life balance?

NG: One way is to have work you love with people you love and live near work. The walls between work and play seem to be collapsing and this is not all bad if you love your work and coworkers. And if you don’t have a commute, that’s more time and less stress in your daily life. Young adults are flocking to cities where they can escape commuting, find or create work more easily, and become part of a real community.

Still, I believe people need downtime. But I think Gen Yers maybe doing this differently than the typical two-week American vacation. They are increasingly taking their work on the road as freelancers, and mixing work and play as they experience new places and cultures. Or they are taking long stretches of time off for personal growth.

You can keep with news on the book or buy the book now.

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