MICROSOFT FUTURE OF INFORMATION
STUDENTS OF THE FUTURE
DANIEL W. RASMUS
WITH INPUTS FROM THE STUDENTS OF ETON COLLEGE
Microsoft hosted 12 students from Eton College (King's College of Our Lady of Eton beside
Windsor) on 26 March, 2007. One of the exercises the students participated in was an overview of
the Microsoft Information Work Scenarios (high level overview in figure 1). The students then
broke into teams to fill out forms that defined the attributes of a student’s life, perceptions and
attitudes in one of the four 2017futures. The following stories were written by Dan Rasmus based
on inputs from the students.
INFORMATION WORK SCE NARIOS FOR 2017
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MICROSOFT INFORMATION WORK SCENARIOS
Thomas looks out over the foggy concrete plain that extends from his block of flats as far as he can
see. The horizon is interrupted occasionally by perfectly placed trees lining perfectly placed grass
rows that lead exactly to the same places as the perfectly placed concrete paths. School will start in
less than an hour, which gives him about 20 minutes to put the final touches on his art project.
Thomas struggles with art. As much as his teachers try to establish the relationship between art and
science, he cannot make the connection for himself, so his perfect path of A’s in math are followed
by a less than perfect path of lower grades in art and music.
With good marks in math, he thinks, he will be able to follow his father as a successful manager at
BPRDS. They are, after all, paying for his education. Thomas, and all of his friends, learn for BPRDS.
When they graduate from college, their test scores will help determine if they go on to university or
not. Most do from this rather prestigious middle management enclave, but in the country, where
the association between company and culture becomes vague, fewer students matriculate. For
Thomas and his friends there is little beyond school and neighborhood. Everything they do is
designed to prepare them for work at BPRDS. The company, however, has regular meetings with
students from various other schools around the world run by BPRDS or one of its subsidiaries.
Work is collaborative, his father often says, so it is never too early to learn to work with other
The tram arrives at it stop precisely when it should, and the students courteously walk onto the
tram, and take their seats. Thomas removes an e-pad and starts reading, occasionally fidgeting with
a control along the edge to advance the lesson. Sometimes pointing or dragging along the thin
membrane to work out an answer or select one. Thomas rarely uses computers any more, as most
things have some computing power associated with them. Everything, it seems, is smart, or about to
In one corner of his math paper, a small square appears with a challenge. School is still more than
30 minutes away, so he answers it. From three cars up, Nigel wants to play chess. Now the
connection between chess and logic is not lost on Thomas, so he agrees to the challenge and moves
out his opening pawn.
As they arrive at the Eaton stop, notices on speakers, on the walls of the tram and on the books and
devices the students carry, warn them to prepare to disembark.
As they walk into the first class, which much to Thomas’s dismay is art appreciation, the desktops
light up with the dim glow of OLED panels. A reminder of last night’s lessons appears along with the
order in which the students will present. Thomas is fourth. He performs with his usual hums and
hahs, and receives a mark that reflects his lack of confidence.
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Next comes statistics, and his mind and spirit both come to life. He manipulates multiple screens
and devices to analyze some of BPRDS customer data, creating a buying patterns maps with great
subtlety. It is too bad he can’t see the beauty for the numbers. His statistics teacher praises his
work, and he humbly accepts the accolades with respect. A few fellow students pat him on the back
between classes. Conflict is rare here, and when it does occur, it is usually pretty minor.
Uniforms have evolved over the course of the last decade. They have become more casual without
being scruffy. A bit of that tale comes into the narrative of “International Business” which occupies
the final slot of the day. Here students are unleashed on the Internet to find out the whys behind the
whats. Nothing is filtered. Every bit of intrigue and innuendo bubbles to the surface. The goal for
the students is to make sense of the massive influx of information – to find the real story behind the
rumor and misinformation. That is, in fact, the goal of the entire course. History, they are taught, is a
narrative laid down by its authors. And now history has so many authors, its sources have stopped
As Thomas unbuttons his second button and removes his loosely fit tie, his phone rings. He tabs the
ear jack and starts talking to Emily, a bit red in the face and with even more stutter than he
exhibited in his art class presentation. This is the second phone of the year for Thomas. He is not
one to adopt technology quickly. Things change a bit slower than they did in the past. O2range is the
only carrier of note if you don’t live within range of Ireland of France. (or have a sat phone). So the
service pretty much is what it is month to month, year to year. Thomas had to replace his phone not
because he was tired of it, but because it bounced out of his pocket as he was playing football with
his mates against the downhill side of Windsor Castle one Saturday afternoon on the way to the
train station and home. The combination of being late, not calling and then demonstrating the
excuse very physically with the smashed phone made for a very reclusive evening for Thomas that
When he gets home, his desk lights up just like the ones at school. It recognized him from myriad
little things: gestures, voice, finger prints. Given the number of simultaneous inputs that represent
Thomas to the network, it would be almost impossible for anyone to spoof his identity. His
identification is confirmed even before his left foot clears the door frame – and there on his desk,
are the assignments for day, or at least, reminders about them, along with the notes he took in class
earlier in the day, and the half written, half digested, half drawn sketches and thoughts that
represent progress for Thomas.
He knows that the question will be asked when his father arrives from BPRDS - “All your
homework done son?” His father well knows, that like his own work, homework is never really
done. Learning never really completed. But the question is an obligatory one nonetheless. The
question is also the precursor to being invited down for dinner. An invitation that is extended, most
of the time, only if the answer is the right one, or the excuse a good one.
A couple of months go by. Summer is approaching, which means coordinating vacation with the
school. His father’s two week break is the same as the break Thomas will receive. There is no
summer vacation. School, like life, never stops, you just have the opportunity for minor distractions
before going back to the routine. Before leaving he receives his marks to date, which are calculated
on a three year running average. He is in the upper 30% of his class, which is good enough, he feels,
to stay on track for following in his father’s footsteps. He even has a special mark in statistics that
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points to particular promise and perhaps even a gift for finding patterns in data. Not only do these
rewards help the student feel good, and reinforce an area of clear passion, but if they come
frequently enough, they may well be a precursor to the job offer that will inevitably come at the end
of this phase of learning.
As they drive toward Nottingham for the summer respite, his father looks in the rear view mirror of
the car, the one usually tilted to the left, but for some reason, curiously aligned straight away like
the mirror on an American car. The curiosity fades, however, pretty quickly as Thomas sees his
father mouth some words he cannot hear. He taps his right ear to mute the ear jack which is
currently playing retro Green Day.
“Whadcha say pop?” Thomas asks.
“Are you happy son?”
“I guess so Dad. I guess so. I’m certainly not unhappy.”
His father smirks and focuses again forward, as Thomas turns up Billy Joe’s haunting monotone,
picks up his e-pad and starts fiddling with a few numbers to amuse himself before taking a short
break to stare out the window, and wonder how all those people over the years found Robin Hood
so fascinating. At least the museums will not be focused on old art, and who knows, Thomas muses
to himself, I might even enjoy the caves and the Galleries of Justice and end up with a few colorful bits
of knowledge to share with my mates back home.
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MICROSOFT INFORMATION WORK SCENARIOS
If only, Stephen thought, that he could think about his family in America, or the children in China or
imagine seeing the remaining few animals still roaming freely in Africa. The world was not devoid of
imagination certainly, but it was devoid of opportunity. The opportunity to travel, the opportunity
to see dreams transformed into reality. But that was a worry for another time. School was about to
start and it was time to walk.
Stephen emerged from the row of modern flats that lined the north of Old Windsor. Behind him he
could see the grungy walls of Windsor Castle through the fog, dark and medieval in the dim dawn
light. These flats had been built after the Great Breach, when North America severed itself from the
world, leaving aging Europe to soldier on alone without her modern ally. The world had broken into
several geopolitical factions. Russia had decided to stay with Europe rather than go it alone. China
struck out at opportunity as American pulled its fleets back to its own maritime borders. Taiwan
was now part of China after only 26 weeks of war, or so we heard. Much of South Asia fell soon
afterward with very little fighting. South America had consolidated behind Venezuela and Cuba
with Marshall Law being declared everywhere. Australia was the furthest reach of New Europe, but
the links were tenuous at best. The militant Islamists had consolidated around a new leader, but as
American pulled out of the Middle East, tensions cooled. The Islamists fought local wars to bring
order to their own chaos. Newspapers, on buried middle pages, speculated that it would be years
before they were ready to deal with the outside world again. Terrorist attacks stopped completely,
and surprisingly, everywhere. Israel had not been heard from for months. India, so Stephen gleaned
from what he could, was a world creating and devouring itself all at the same time.
Again, enough daydreaming about the outside world: this is England, this is Europe, and that is
what matters. One of the reasons Stephen thought so much about the outside world was that
science and history was still being taught, in some cases, in old texts that gave credit where credit
was due. He knew how integrated the world was once. His parents told him about globalization, and
how people would protest about organizations like the now defunct World Trade Organization.
Those protesters had their way now, and they were not, Stephen speculated, very happy about it at
With the bonds between parts of Europe ever tighter, Europe was becoming much more
homogonous, with popular culture from France, England and Germany fighting it out for viewing
and listening with the likes of Norway and Sweden. Yes, the Norse countries and all of Northern
Europe had joined in. Turkey became embroiled in the Middle East and along with it, the threat of
Turkish immigration, and coincidentally, Northern Africa’s immigration to Spain also ceased. It is
too bad Stephen was not a language adept in this new world., but luckily, he knew most trading
partners still used English, or could, for most transactions.
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But again, enough of that rot. I have my sciences to do, thought Stephen. We need to be inventors
again. We need England to lead Europe, to find better ways to make do with what we have. That was
Stephen’s goal: to be an inventor. To find practical stuff that could help England.
When he arrived at school he found his line with the quiet quickness of one who studies something
well. He slinked unnoticed, as he should, into a line behind his mates, and waited for the bells to
chime the beginning of the school day, which would start with God Save the Queen and the daily
rendition of Carmen Etonense, sung in English.
So long as kindly light cherishes the shores of England May Eton flourish – she will
“Off to class with the lot of ya,” yelled a proctor. Best to do what they say. For the most part,
Stephen liked his instructors, even though his history teacher could be a bit of a git at times.
To science then, Stephen thought, to science.
As he searched the Internet for material on atomic theory, many of his routes to information were
blocked. The American flag waved on his screen more than once saying that the site he was looking
for was now only available to American citizens. And a couple of times, he saw the English flag or
the European Union flag as the search page informed him he had requested access to sites which
were deemed inappropriate.
His books and learning material were increasingly become electronic, as the Internet waned in
influence. The books, his instructors told him, could be more easily updated with current
information when they were digital. Stephen suspected that they could also more easily forget
things as well. As he read some history it seemed that parts were hastily written. Story lines were
confused as plot lines abruptly ended with little explanation. It seemed to Stephen that his grades
were not as important as his parents made them out to be. In other words, receiving good marks
was not a huge struggle, because not even the teachers knew what to grade on anymore.
Stephen did like his smart new uniform. For some reason, as much as they say they hate it, teenage
boys actually do like dressing up in uniforms. Perhaps it is because they believe that teenage girls
like seeing them dressed up in uniforms.
School work is about school work. It is not a time to socialize or collaborate, it is a time to learn. So
Stephen keeps to himself. A few chums come over weekends or holidays, but most of the time all of
them are concentrating on what they need to learn to be successful, even if the school isn’t sure
what that will be given all the recent changes in the world.
The well-controlled computer terminals, and those used by instructors, are the extent of technology
at the school. Well, modern technology. They are either old American computers or newer, but
seemingly clumsier English models. After the Great Breach, it was like countries were learning
things again they didn’t know they needed when it was so readily accessible elsewhere. Design was
something England was relearning. As for communications, cell phones were a historical footnote
for children. Adults still had them but they were limited to work use and close family use, and
everybody knew the government was listening in, or could be, at any time.
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Technology doesn’t change very quickly, but if the government mandates it, it can change over
night. New television boxes were invented to help better control information, and expand the
emergency response capability of the government, so every house had to have one. After they went
in Sky TV went out. No explanation. Fewer channels received and that was just that.
At noon Stephen went to cloisters. It was a good way to control off hours chit chat. Let them reflect
on their day, on their life, on their God and on their Country.
After lunch Stephen received his aptitude test scores. Stephen will not be an inventor, he sees. He
will be a civil servant, perhaps in the tax office, perhaps in transportation. Those were his most
Through history and through grammar Stephen slogged on through the day, his head increasingly
lower as he thought about America, about China and about Africa. As he dreamed of inventing
things for a country that had already decided he would not be an inventor.
And he finally walked home. He walked to his scruffy new flat, where he could see the great walls of
the old Castle rise about the horizon, and the sun glint off the heavily leaded, diamond-shaped
panes of glass. And the cold so common during Lent Half took hold of him, wrapped itself to his very
bones. And he sang,
Donec oras Angliae Alma lux fovebit, Floreat Etona! Floreat! Florebit!
under his breath quietly, thinking not of Eton, and not of England, but of Rome.
Sonent voces omnium liliorum florem.
As he drew a picture of himself in his notebook, and quietly tucked it under his mattress.
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MICROSOFT INFORMATION WORK SCENARIOS
It was the beginning of Summer Half. That was the best thing that could be said. The once exclusive
gates of Eton College were no longer the domain of higher education that King Henry VI imagined.
They were much more what he feared as he was deposed by Edward IV in 1461. All was rank chaos.
The ancient walls still stood, but the discipline was gone. The walls were just walls, and the place
just a place. It was, however, still a place of learning, with teachers as far away as Ipswich and
London bartering for positions that included warm rooms and meals if not much else.
Samuel was born in 2000 before The Crash. He was born in a world of affluence and possibility, but
fifteen years later, the world was a much different place. A terrorist organization had bombed major
trading centers across the world. Not the banks, not the vaults, but the computers. And rather than
coinage and bills flying into the air, the morning was greeted by dark smoke and sparks. That day
the money had stopped flowing, the transactions had stopped processing. Credit cards no longer
worked or did most identification systems at financial institutions, and if they had, it would be no
matter, as there was nothing to withdraw. The ones and zeros that represented the money had been
erased in their entirety, and it was left now for the world to reinvent itself. But as Edward of York
perhaps never realized, the chaos of change can take many years to recover.
And so Samuel walked out into the bright hot, muggy summer day, to attend school. There would be
no need for candles today, or the rationing for batteries or power. Today they could read through
the light of the windows, or simply sit outside. But first to church for the mass, and for
remembering – and then to school and the hope for a way to rebuilt what had been lost.
Having managed to put together a collection of books on child psychology, that became Samuel’s
major so to speak, at least his area of concentration. That was his first assignment when he arrived
at Eton-Thames College. Other subjects were taught as materials permitted. Some instructors
created their own material, others cobbled together enough for shared books, others participated in
school barter programs where books were exchanged with other schools for a year, and then
Samuel did fine in most of his subjects, but was not so good at geography, having a bit of difficultly
remembering the names of points in space. That shortfall is not so horrible as would be imagined,
for the world has grown smaller and more intimate, and most people have no hope of meeting
anyone in far off places. Air traffic has all but ceased with the exception of personal flights by the
few who have figured out how to redefine wealth.
The students at Eton-Thames College all know each other. They know few others of their age
because their community stays much to itself. Some transactions take place at the edges of the area,
where farmers trade for food, teachers for books, merchants for clothing or textiles, and technicians
for repair equipment and parts. Students still talk about the Internet, but only in a historical
context. After The Crash every country put up a firewall, as did every company, and as the Internet
fractured into smaller and smaller piece, it eventually stopped connecting at all, and then ceased to
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matter at all. Some companies still connected to other to share information, but most people don’t
trust technology much. It was the cause of The Crash.
Because of the close knit communities that formed, students have great respect for their educators,
and their educators for them. They are taught how intertwined they are. The educators know the
past and the students represent the hope for the future. As isolated as Eton-Thames College is,
Greater Windsor has become much more egalitarian. The Castle riches were quickly moved to
London and beyond, and so the Castle now serves as the central-seat of Greater Windsor, with
many of the displaced homed in its vast rooms and chapels. Local honor goes to the man chosen to
sleep on the tomb of Henry VIII in St. George’s chapel.
The students also get along well. They have seen the results of hatred, and peril of power in the
hands of the ignorant, so they are attentive students and reflect the attentiveness the city has for
The world is not devoid of technology. There are a few computers here and there, multi-function
cell phones, even though they no longer connect to a network, still offer themselves as calculators
and in some cases spell checkers, maps, even encyclopedias. Computer batteries are pretty much
non-existent, but regular batteries trickle in. Technicians have figured out how to pack batteries
into compatible cartridges to power some devices, including laptops, but they don’t work very well
or for very long. Samuel is familiar with a few basic computer ideas, like operating systems and
word processing. It is said that in American software and computer companies are starting to come
on line, to negotiate their existence with legislators. It is likely that they will be highly regulated
and that global transaction systems won’t be returning any time soon. Samuel loves connecting
with the technology he can when he can. He has no fear because he cannot conceive of how these
innocent, disconnected devices could so threaten the continuity of the world.
Alas, the classroom is now mostly a place of pencils and chalk, of talking and play acting, of singing
and of signing. It is a place that reinforces for Samuel and the other students the values that Greater
Windsor have taken up, of the church and of the community. It is a place where self-reliance and
community relationships intersect, where every day the act of teaching demonstrates a belief in the
community and in the necessity of learning. Where teachers learn from each other, where members
of the community actively participate in the school and the classroom, and where pride is taught to
be tempered, but not discounted.
For Samuel, and for his family and for his community, success is measured as survival. The survival
of individuals, of community and of England, though England is a part of a larger world that means
little to Great Windsor. Samuel knows when he is successful because it is immediately evident in the
way he is treated, with the respect he is given.
Samuel has used his knowledge of child psychology to aid a family with an autistic child. Samuel has
befriended them, and every day, in high heat or torrential rain, he visits them for two hours on the
way home from school. He does not speak of this to his friends. He does not brag about his good
deed or ask in any way for remuneration. Everyone knows though. The community is small, the
connections are thorough, respectful and quiet. Samuel is respected because of this act of love and
learning. It is said that the girl is starting to speak. It is said her first word was “doll” and he second
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As Sam leaves school for the day he walks along toward this home, whistling something against the
strong wind that blows his hair clean off his forehead and forces him to lean forward to walk. Yet he
walks forward and whistles. He thinks a little about what else there might be, what else the world
was or is, and then he thinks of Emma rocking with her doll in her arms, and all he wants to do is
get her to see the world that he sees, to feel the bright sun, or the strong wind against her hair, and
to understand that she has people who will protect her and love her, and that they are all here, in
Greater Windsor, and that she need want for nothing else in the world.
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MICROSOFT INFORMATION WORK SCENARIOS
The day is bright and warm. Sunlight is glinting off from a picture frame in Cameron’s room. The
picture frame begins to buzz, then play music. A few minutes later the picture frame transforms
from Lyle the Golden Retriever into Cameron’s mother, who is staring at him with her arms crossed.
Cameron moans and tosses himself, headfirst onto the floor before rebounding to an upright
position and walking toward the shower. As he crosses the entry to the toilet, he leans back and
commands the television to turn on. Then says “correlate latest news with project,” and keeps
After his shower Cameron looks at the television and sees that not much new has happened over
night. The world markets have done little to enhance his net worth. When all the information you
want is available, he thinks, the world moves slower than you might expect. I’m sure Mr. Bernard will
find something to challenge today, he always does. In his mind he practices Mr. Bernard’s name
until its seems to stretch into a word that rhymes with Barn Yard. Mr. Bay Nard, Mr. Bay Nard.
After getting dressed, Cameron pulls a combination of digital paper, real paper, his slate PC and a
small book together and lovingly shoves them all into his backpack. Before he leaves his room he
grabs his cell phone, which is jumping and wriggling around his nightstand like a frog on a hot
stove. He has video from Sam in America, several texts from chums at school and a voice mail from
Maria. Ewe, would that girl never get a clue? The phone is fully charged having absorbed power from
the nightstand’s radio transmitter all night.
“Off,” he yells back at the tele, and with a sizzling click, the wide screen monitor turns black.
From this point on Cameron rarely looks up from his phone. He answers all the text messages, and
then laughingly records “his morning thoughts” for Sam in America while pointing the camera at
Lyle, who looks a bit bemused himself to be offered as Cameron’s alter ego. A single touch of the
control and the display that once filled the television upstairs now fits itself into his handset. As the
diminutive display is hard to read with this much data, Cameron slaps the phone down on the
countertop and the butcher-block surface erupts in charts, graphs , story headlines and video clips.
The thin OLED veneer draws input from the phone, and power from the phone and other nearby
sources. It doesn’t take much power at all, so almost anything can be a display these days. Some of
the girls even wear clothing that scrolls through some of their obsessions during the day. The boys
love the technology, but don’t want to wear it, but it does make for a great way to compare their
fantasy football stats during lunch.
“How’s the project Camey?” asks him Mum.
“The world is really slow when you watch it turn.”
His mother nods and smiles a bit at how unknowingly profound her son’s statement is.
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“Well, don’t watch it so often and you will be able to see change better. Now off to school with you. I
have conference calls to get ready for and you have some learning to do.”
Cameron lives about 20 minutes from Eton, and takes the bus from his 18th Century home in
Colnbrook. He spends the entire trip from home to school texting friends, many of which are hiding
under their covers in New York, São Paulo or Mexico City, trying to make sure their parents don’t
know they are still chatting it up past midnight.
Before getting off the bus, Cameron taps an icon on his phone and the day’s activities for The
Economics of Science and Technology appears on his screen. This will give him about five minutes
to prepare for the class. That should be plenty, he thinks.
Today’s assignment is to initiate negotiations with other students across England in order to create
the ace project team for the next phase of the project. They have a full project description. They also
know, from past experience, that the project description is probably rubbish and will change a
dozen times before their assignment is due. What Cameron wants to attract are smart, flexible
students. But then, so does everyone else. He wants people he can rely on to think around problems,
but mostly he wants people he can trust while having fun.
The class will spend the majority of the next week talking to dozens of students. And the students at
the other schools have the same assignment. This is not about the Eton students interviewing
others, it is about a massive negotiation and convergence on a team that kind of organically
emerges from the hundreds of interactions over the week. Many of these students already know
each other from other collaborative assignments, so that can help the teams form more quickly, or
it can provide a false sense of security. Teams built from acquaintances often think they will be
good, only to find out they get along for all the wrong reasons, at least within the context of the
The school no longer provides computing equipment to students. They bring what they bring, and if
they don’t start out with adequate hardware, the school works with the parents the first few weeks
of a term to get them useable equipment. All information and applications come in from the Net—
and every device includes the basics (chat, text, camera, photo editing, video, documents of various
kinds and browsers and readers for every conceivable format of information). Some information
isn’t authorized for this area, it being a school and all, so it just stays away. Information doesn’t
want to get into trouble. It knows where it belongs and if it strays, its fingerprints can be easily
traced by Scotland Yard. For certain assignments teachers also post information that is only meant
for students, and only to be read after a certain time, and then of course, it kind of disappears after a
certain time too. That last feature has taught the procrastinators not to procrastinate.
But like every good idea, somebody finds a way around it. Cameron’s friend Herbert (which
Cameron pronounces often as Hew-Burt, dragging out the “hew” well beyond its means) video
tapes many assignments and data points in high resolution so he can play things back to himself.
Rumor has it that Ministry technicians have figured this out and will start randomly scrambling bits
so that CCD sensors will get confused when recording protected information. Eyes and brains will
not notice a change.
Calls, chats and video fly pretty regularly during negotiation week, but other things need to be
completed as well, so now to Mr. Bay-Nard’s class and his analysis of last night’s events. Cameron,
you see, is trying to grow his portfolio. He racked up a roaring two Pound fifty two increase over
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night without any trading. He profited just about enough to buy a Coke and an order of chips. He
didn’t think Mr. Bay-Nard would be overly impressed.
“Ah, Cameron, I see you are a rich bloke this morning, eh?” Mr. Bernard quips as he nudges
Cameron with his elbow. “It’s alright boy, Sally only made twenty P, so you aren’t the bottom of the
Cameron likes Mr. Bay-Nard. He is fun, he jokes around and he knows stuff. He may have seemed
informal, but he knew stuff, scary stuff. He could see an indicator through a maze of misinformation.
And today he would prove himself again.
“Cameron, that Indian mutual fund of yours. Did you not look at competitive action to the holdings?
One of the prime competitors of your telecom sealed a deal with much of Northern India’s social
network switching, a technology your holding is behind in. You probably could have seen that
coming if you had looked at these patent filings and these acquisitions. If you had just sold the fund
you wouldn’t have lost nearly as much yesterday, and if you had converted it soon enough, you
might have made a neat profit. Hard to anticipate when an announcement will be made to time the
buy, but you should have figured out the sell. Next.”
Well, there it is, Cameron thought. He hadn’t been tracking the right things. He wasn’t even looking
at competitive positions within his fund. But he would now. He was just thankful he wasn’t Sally
with her twenty P. But he was sorry he wasn’t Nigel. Nigel earned four hundred Pounds over night
and was well ahead in the competition with over four thousand Pounds total net profit. And the
winner received half the earnings for his or her own use. Much better than good marks!
As he left class, Cameron looked down at this phone to see the edges of his team starting to
converge, literally. A fuzzy boundary was forming around about forty students that looked
compatible. He intensified his understanding of them, and his negotiation. A few others fell off, a
couple of more crept in from the ether.
Off to literature then. Over the last week his literature teacher, Mrs. Crowhich (Cameron’s mental
version was Crow-Watch), was trying to see if they could write poetry worthy of a literary journal.
Cameron liked playing with words. His entry went like this so far:
To the contention
Like the flowers she choose
He knew she loved the rose
Above the others
But without a forward spark
He would not be brave
He would count the opportunities lost
And the humility saved.
It was a start. They would sit around the table and talk about off-rhymes and meter and how free
free verse should be. And then they would go forth and rewrite their lines in anticipation of many
channels of input. They would blog at each other. A line here, a suggested rhyme or line break –
perhaps even give away an inspired image that fit only with that poem. Sometimes a suggestion
would come in over text. And as the days turned to weeks, the craftsmen appeared. The craftsmen
were the clear winners in poesy as they used to say. And they would have their readings, and their
journal, and they would be elevated to compete across England, and eventually Europe. And people
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would take notes, and they would be remembered. Some of them started earning pay from
advertising companies before they left school. With so much advertising around, fresh was good
and it seemed like the poets also got a job before the science or math students.
The final class of the day was Analysis and Correlation. Students were given a set of data sources,
and a goal and they were asked to put together a report that analyzed the information to make the
goal appear as strong as possible. Cameron’s goal was to prove which one of several LED
technologies would be best for next generation automobile headlamps. He was given constraints on
power, on material (as many of the materials used for LEDs were becoming notoriously expensive
as their sources diminished rapidly) and on output. He had to use the data provided, but he could
also draw in twenty percent of his report from the Net. There were rewards for finishing first (with
quality) and for best argument. And again, people were taking notes.
Everything was a competition now. Marks were still around, but they were only important for those
who didn’t win outright. The ones who won had all the prestige, well, at least for a while—because
winners weren’t necessarily consistent or universal. Biology often challenged the art students and
literature often humbled the math geniuses. Over the course of the year, most students found a way
to excel at something, and most found themselves on teams that won occasionally. Exceptional ones
found ways to apply their particular skills in places where they should matter (like Camille’s rather
artistic rendering of her statistics challenge). All of the work ended up as part of your life resume.
School was no longer a mystery to employers that simply stated an affiliation and a date of
completion. Everything one did, and the products of their work, were viewable. Some simply let
them be viewed, others readily publicized them, especially as they neared university.
School wasn’t about learning stuff, it was about doing stuff, and that made school a story to live
through, and stories could be shared, augmented and enhanced. Conversations with parents were
kind of like meetings with colleagues. Parents and children shared their wins and losses, and they
asked each other for advice. The parents were taking notes too. They knew what their children
were good at and where they might help them. Cameron read his poem. His mother and father
smiled, and his sister giggled. At eight, Cameron knew, she just wasn’t sophisticated enough to get it.
After dinner Cameron blogs a few new lines for his poetry class, and negotiates a big deal with a
stats expert in London who goes from a fuzzy dot to a solid dot — and he traded his mutual fund
before the markets opened in India, buying a little known, inexpensive stock in a firm that was
experimenting with a new material for digital displays. And as he went to bed, he got under his
covers and chatted it up a bit with his raucous American friends, one of whom sent the red behind
of a Baboon to him as an avatar. Bob was always trying to one up Cameron, and this was certainly
more impressive than pretending to b Lyle.
Outside the moon rose through high clouds and crickets chirped just above the hum of the frame on
the nightstand. Cameron’s mind was racing from art to science to economics and then to poetry. He
was putting patterns together. He was asking himself questions he would ask his teachers and his
peers tomorrow. He did not dread the next day, but in fact, could not wait to get to it. Sleep seemed
such a waste when there was so much to do and learn, and so many things he needed to do so he
could be prepared to win the next challenge.
And then there were Maria’s eyes. Maria’s sweet dark eyes and her lips the color of the rose she
loved so much. And as he closed his eyes finally, Cameron thought fondly of Maria and the fun of
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this day, and imagined the fun for the day to come. He was happy to be a King’s Scholar and he
knew the school would proud of him, no matter what he ended up doing in the future.
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Questions used to generate the Future of Information Work profiles:
• Who is this student (give him or her a name)?
• When was this student born?
• How far does this student commute to attend school?
• Where does s/he go to school?
• What does s/he want most in this world?
• What does this student like to study (major)
• What subject/s does this student struggle with?
• Where does this student live?
• How does this student discover personal relationships?
• What kind of tools does this student use to assist his/her learning?
• What hobbies does this student have?
• Where does this student get his/her information?
• Does this student get all the information he/she needs to effectively learn in school? If not,
• Does this student get along with educators? If not, what gets in the way?
• Is he/she able to work effectively with other students? If not, what gets in the way?
• What kind of clothes does this student wear?
• How closely is technology integrated into the life of this student?
• Is this student comfortable with technology?
• Does this student adopt technology quickly, or not? Does he/she view technology as an
enabler or a hurdle?
• Does this student keep up with changes in technology? Does he/she like keeping up with
• Describe the school this student attends (public, private, charter, etc.)
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• Where does this student store his/her data?
• What are his/her frustrations with school?
• What does this student need to know to obtain a diploma/graduate?
• How is this student measured in the school?
• How does this student measures “success”?
• How is this student rewarded? How does this student want to be rewarded?
• What does this student do after school hours?
• What does this student learn outside of the classroom that the school does not help him/her
assimilate through formal learning?
• Is this student happy?
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