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Some Forces that Impact on Our Sociological Future

by Steve Steele, Applied Sociologist, Institute for the Future @ Anne Arundel Community College, www.aacc.edu/future

Here are some possible directions for sociologists in the near future as we are driven by a variety of social trends:

Synchronous and Asynchronous –

Teaching applied sociology (applied and all kinds) will demand being completely on line by 2015 or we will cease to be viable.

Individuation (“tailor-made worlds”)

Applied sociologists will work with clients to tailor social realities to meet emerging and ever complex social worlds.  We will be in the “social construction” business.

Systems thinking, Feedback and Dynamic Synergy - Living Synthesis

Sociology will finally be able to integrate the basic systems thinking into daily life.  We will translate our systems’ theories into understandable and usable terms.  Failure to do this will make us irrelevant.            

Information Acquisition to Knowledge Creation

Immediate access to micro, meso and macro level sociological data will make it possible for individuals to address the big picture (sociological thinking) easily from hand-held devices.  Sociologists will then be needed to guide the construction of reality to make sense of the information.  

Artificial intelligence and self-organizing systems

The mainstay of sociology, human interaction, will require elaborate understanding of human-artificial intelligence (other than human) interactions.  This exists already and as AI becomes more sophisticated (2010 +) we will be tailoring AI-AI interactions, AI-human interactions as macro, meso and micro levels.
 

Genetic revolution

Sociologists will need to face it – genetics counts for something!  Sociologists will need to learn the fundamentals of genetic research, its growth and its impact on human interaction and social change. Sociologists will adopt a more “balanced” view of the impact of genetics, its unique and social impacts.  Sociologist will be employed to determine likely social impacts of new genetic discoveries including cloning.

“Smart everything”

The infusion of chips into every element of life (including humans themselves) will produce major markets for sociological application.  Concerns will range from levels of social control to overcoming human limitations will demand new social reality construction.

Flattened hierarchies

Organizations as we know them in a Weberian sense will change radically. Enhanced individual and technological impacts will produce new conceptualization of the concept of ‘hierarchy,” and will be perfect markets for designer organizations and applied sociologists.

Globalization

A perfect fit for sociologists!  Fundamental use of basic sociological concepts – culture, subculture, and ethnocentrism and beyond – are and will be basic requirements as the velocity of cultural interaction accelerates.
 

Quick Fix to Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement produces several markets for applied sociology!  Program evaluation and the relevant feedback loops to systems drives and will accelerate social change. How this works, the impact of change and the management of change at all levels will be an integral element in sociology.

An increased variety of emerging communities

Sociologists will be involved in dealing with emerging community.  New community realities never before a part of human culture will emerge and require development and assessment by sociologists.

Rapid change, rapid resocialization

Accelerating change (the singularity not withstanding) will require an understanding of rapid resocialization and the revolution of self.  Sociologists will contribute to the adaptation of humans at all levels: macro, meso and micro.

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Selected references from which these trends were extracted include:

Cetron, M and Davies, O 50 Trends Now Changing the WorldBethesda, MD: The World Future Society, 2001.

Halal, William E The Top 10 Emerging Technologies The Futurist,  2000 Jul-Aug, 3-9
Marx, Gary Educating Children for Tomorrow's World, The Futurist, 2001 Mar-Apr,44-47