(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education, technology, and culture.)

As with the iPhone, generative AI technology seems to have surfaced into the public space and gained traction quickly enough to be disruptive immediately (as measured from the time it entered the public space to the time it became disruptive). Like smartphones, generative AI has been around for some time and then, seemingly overnight, has become the only thing people can talk about.

But it’s really only “disruption” if people are doing more than talking — disruption requires action at multiple levels of the ecosystem (beyond Silicon Valley hype). In this case, I think we’re there. 

Yes, there is plenty of hype and lots of money being invested, but the general public is also poised to become immersed in generative AI as well, primarily through the one technology that binds us all — search. Last week, Google and Microsoft both announced the integration of generative AI with ChatGPT-type features into their search engines. While Microsoft’s product seems to be a bit farther along, it’s becoming clear that the infusion of this level of AI will likely change the way people search. Yes, there will be plenty of articles and ample gnashing of teeth about inaccuracies and dangers, but those concerns will mostly be swept away by usage statistics and continued investment and hype.

Sic transit gloria mundi, eh?

To be clear, technology investment and investor hype can be incredibly valuable once it is clear that technology disruption will take hold. Whether you agree with their particular perspectives, investors ask important questions about markets and ownership. One important question being asked just now is, “Who Owns the Generative AI Platform?

With the benefit of copious hindsight, it seems that successful disruption generally requires a combination of innovation and market desire. We have many examples where one of those exists without the other, and in such cases, potential disruption tends to dissipate. Take Samsung and its foldable phones. Really cool concept. Everyone should want one, right? Well, the market has spoken, at least for now, and Samsung’s attempt to “push” disruption has backfired. And then there’s the case of an industry that backs itself into a corner where innovation and disruption are pretty much outlawed, such as traditional publishing.

Speaking of disruption and the need for both innovation and market desire, is it any wonder why political playbooks for education fail to disrupt over the long term? The most recent attempts, in higher ed and K-12, have plenty of marketing push and some market buy-in. The challenges with these attempts are the lack of real innovation and a fickle, divided market. By the way, this is true for all such playbooks, conservative or liberal.

Taking a closer look at higher education, if there really are threats to the institution and our society, what are those that might bring about an “edocalypse”? Stephen Downes, in his post The Four Horsemen of the Edocalypse, suggests these possible harbingers of doom.

  • Disease – the politicization of knowledge
  • War – the loss of value of new knowledge and learning
  • Famine – inability to have and share experiences that lead to knowledge and learning
  • Death – existing only for the sake of knowledge and learning

Elsewhere in higher ed, Bryan Alexander and others discuss the continued decline in U.S. enrollments, there are growing concerns about racial inequities in treatment and funding (see here and here), and student debt and debt forgiveness continue to be a problem.

At the state level, Colorado provides good insight into how states struggle to address the challenges of workforce shortages and declining enrollments.

Speaking of the U.S. workforce, well, it’s complicated. Big Tech continues to “right size”  staffing after several years of binge spending (see here, here, and here), but as CompTIA’s latest job IT sector jobs report shows, there are plenty of areas in technology where job listings and job growth is strong. And, in order to attract qualified Gen Z workers, it appears companies may be inflating job titles.

Back to generative AI, I believe George Siemens is correct in stating that AI could be “an absolute systems-level threat to education – in terms of creation, teaching, assessment, and research.” To be clear, it’s not a matter of whether or not AI whether AI will take hold across higher education, regardless of the concerns about the disappearance of critical thinking. Forward-thinking administrators should already be developing strategies to embrace the changes AI will bring. Stephen Downes recently posted this presentation on Navigating the AI Revolution and, in it, suggests this important thought. “It is not what we do for our students. It is what we help students to do for themselves.”

As a mostly humorous suggestion, university administrators might also find some inspiration in this developing trend in Hollywood.

Have a great week, everybody!

Further Reading

Higher Education

The Four Horsemen of the Edocalypse

American higher education enrollment: the decline declines?

Revised NSC Model Still Shows Greater Enrollment Declines Than Does IPEDS

Cost, discrimination pose challenges for Black students

HBCUs have been underfunded for decades. A history of higher education tells us why

Meet a New Mom With $90K in Student Debt, Tired of ‘the Unfair Game’

A state’s plan to calculate the “economic value” of a degree

Coursera doubles down on degrees despite recent declines

State support for higher ed up for second year in a row

Free college keeps growing — at the state level

DeSantis debuts a new conservative playbook for ending DEI

‘Revolutionary’ housing: Colleges aim to support a growing number of formerly incarcerated students

The Realities of Working as a College Adjunct Professor

Oklahoma’s public college system was ordered to detail diversity spending


The School Crusades



How Gen Z and the Great Resignation Fueled Inflation in Job Titles

List of tech and media layoffs: 20,000 jobs lost. Another brutal week

Zoom layoffs: Company to cut 1,300 employees

Online Learning, Learning Design, and Education Technology

Rise of the Machines: What Colleges and Universities Need to Know About ChatGPT

Noam Chomsky on ChatGPT: It’s “Basically High-Tech Plagiarism” and “a Way of Avoiding Learning

History of the LMS

2022 Review: What’s the state of the VLE market in UK higher education?

Stephen’s Web ~ Navigating the AI Revolution

AI and the Future of Education and Learning – Five Predictions

Chegg Stock Price Plunges 23% As It Shrugs Off the AI Threat of ChatGPT

An online surge at Virginia Tech. But what about outcomes?

Donald Clark Plan B: How to prompt like a PRO! 100 types of prompt in ChatGPT for learning

Technology, Culture, and Workforce

Microsoft and Google AIs Will Transform How You Search Web

Microsoft Bing’s ChatGPT, Google’s Bard May Face More Scrutiny

Microsoft’s AI-Powered Bing Can Run Rings Around Google Search

Microsoft launches the new Bing, with ChatGPT built in

What Is Bard: ChatGPT Has a New Rival After Google Unveils Its AI Chatbot

AGI Could Be Worth Trillions by 2030s

Who Owns the Generative AI Platform? 

Generative AI’s star turn from Tom Cruise to Tom Hanks

6 Best AI Text Writers

An alternative to touchscreens? In-car voice control is finally good

How Samsung squandered its lead with the Galaxy Z Fold Series

Running a big publishing house is not as much fun as it used to be

Why VR/AR Gets Farther Away as It Comes Into Focus

If You Only Read A Few Data Articles In 2023, Read These