Rakunks, Hybrid Jobs, Learning Agents, and other speculations on the future

Just finished reading Margaret Atwood‘s new book The Year of the Flood, what Atwood describes as speculative fiction.  She is one of my favourite writers, a Booker Prize winner, and still writing incredible stories at the age of 70!

Most of the Flood story takes place in the dystopic near future, in which there aren’t too many humans, or flora and fauna for that matter, excepting some disturbing genetic animal splices like the rakunk (raccoon/skunk) and the liobamb (lion/lamb, drawing on biblical references). The corporations have taken over, and life is total crap.  A small religious group calling themselves God’s Gardeners grow their own food in secret gardens on rooftops, and warn that a Waterless Flood (pandemic) is coming. Guess what?  They’re right.

All a bit depressing, yet Atwood writes with such passion, insight, and yes, humour, that the reader feels drawn in, to ponder their own future.  Before getting into those ponderings, here’s an excellent short (7 minutes) PBS video interview, that nicely profiles Atwood, her wit, and the Flood.  The interviewer is Jeffrey Brown, and takes place in Atwood’s home in Toronto.


If you can’t see the video, or to read the interview transcript, click here.

Future roles in the organization?

Inspired by the rakunk and other genetically engineered marvels, I’ve dreamed up a few roles that I think would well serve the future organization; one that values systems thinking, collaborative communities, and a more positive future (than the Flood):

  • Indigenator; An indigenous person; a senior executive whose responsibility is to embed ancient wisdom in the organization
  • Bioteller; biological storyteller; someone whose role is tap into, and communicate, the organization’s health, from a systems (i.e., organization as a living system) perspective
  • Arts Resource Manager; someone whose performance is measured by the extent that the arts (e.g., music, literature, theatre) are resourced and embedded into organizational culture
  • Social Netha; standing for Social Network Health Advisor; these people ensure employee’s are functioning to their social/emotional capacities
  • SCA; a Sustainable Community Auditor (certified of course!); this position pays homage to Wendell Berry‘s 17 Rules for a Sustainable Community; I envision each employee, as a condition of their employment, making regular, positive, contributions to the broader community


Learning Agents

And who will help us learn those future jobs?  The KnowledgeWorks Foundation, in Ohio, in partnership with the Institute of the Future in Palo Alto, speculate who in their 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning.

In their Forecast, they see creation emerging as a powerful force.  Creators will transform many sectors of the world the body, organizations, institutions, society, the economy and knowledge. The forecast envisions a world where bottom-up, collaborative, innovative capabilities give us the means to re-create nearly everything.

And helping with our task to create are Learning Agents; examples of which are:

  • Learning fitness instructors. They will help learners build and strengthen the basic cognitive, emotional, and social abilities essential to learning, using simulations, biofeedback, and hands-on activities to reduce stress, hone mental capabilities, and learn brain-friendly nutrition.
  • Community intelligence cartographers. They will tap the collective intelligence of their local communities. They will leverage social networking strategies to develop swarms and smart mobs in order to identify emerging learning opportunities in the community, organize community members, and locate community resources.

I like the fitness instructor one because it sounds like it could get kind of interesting!  And, as for the community cartographer, a couple of years ago, I participated in a mapping of my own neighbourhood, found it rewarding on many fronts (not the least of which is getting to know your neighbours better), and highly recommend the exercise to others.

Other Agent roles envisioned are: personal education advisor, education sousveor, social capital platform developer, learning partner, learning journey mentor, and assessment designer.

I wonder if Learning Agents is what Seth Godin had in mind when he posted this?

More crosses, hybrids, splices?

What hybrids do you see on the horizon; of cultures, of species, work-related? Have some fun.  I’d love to hear your speculations.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to my blog. Thanks, Ben.


  1. Andrew May says

    Ben, your work, and this blog, suggest exciting synergies with sustainable community development. I am improving my understanding of what sustainable community development can be, with an eye to establishing best practices for facilitating the interpersonal dynamics involved in visioning, planning, strategizing and executing projects. As human relationships are the milieu within which sustainable development initiatives function, I suppose it’s obvious that whatever processes facilitate human communication and relationship in turn facilitate community development. I will keep your blog handy and remember your professional focus when it comes time to develop the facilitation model I have in mind. Best of luck in future.

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