The year is 2047.
A person is walking along Center Street in Carroll County. There’s surveillance everywhere. Their clothes are made by 3-D printing. Autonomous cars are on the road.
Overhead, drones buzz.
These are just some of the possibilities Carroll countians could see in three decades, according to futurist Jay Herson, professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Herson gave a two-hour presentation Thursday to a small group in Carroll Community College’s K building to talk where the county and world could be in 30 years.
Herson focused a lot on the trends, which fell into categories including social/demographic; health; technology/science; environment/public safety; education and learning; economics/business; and politics/government.
He spoke a lot about technology’s role in a changing world, and the prevalence of artificial intelligence, something that will change the job market.
Instead of full-time employment with benefits, Herson said, people will work on gigs, which he defined as short-term contract employment. In turn, he said, this will change how education works. There may be facilities where adults and students come together to learn, he said. And, he added, learning will be a life-time task, as people continue to gain different occupational skills for their gigs.
The gig economy would not be consistent with four-year colleges and universities, Herson said. This would lead to the growth of community colleges, and what he called “a la carte education” — taking courses for a particular skill in demand.
He also spoke on topics including co-working centers, creative employment, automation, universal basic income and changes to entertainment.
But, he reminded those in attendance, these ideas are just possibilities and not a definite plan of the future.
“These are things to think about. They’re not predictions,” Herson said.
The 15-voting member group was created in January to help Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners think strategically beyond the five- to 10-year horizon typically involved in county planning. Members are divided into two sections, the first composed of five people representing the county’s five commissioner districts — Martin Hackett, District 1; David O’Callaghan, District 2; Marc Fisher, District 3; Bruce Holstein, District 4; and Robert Meekins, District 5 — as well as Mendy Dunn, Eugene Canale and Christopher Ruppert, representing the Carroll County Association of Realtors, the Carroll County Planning Commission and the banking industry, respectively.
The remaining seven members represent one of seven “clusters” of community agencies or organizations, such as public safety, education and health. Lynn Wheeler, executive director of the Carroll County Public Library system, represents the education cluster, while Ed Singer, county health officer, represents health.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, who was a big proponent of the council, said he liked the presentation a lot. It got people to think about how important it is to look at the evolution of small trends, he said. The county can be thinking about the future and make some decisions based on these trends, he added.
“I think there’s a lot of different ways we can go,” Howard said.
This will be especially helpful for the Long Term Advisory Council, he said.
For Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, the presentation made him think about where he thinks Carroll County will be many years from now.
"Surrounding counties will continue to press for radical leftist legislation that will drive their best, brightest and most productive families out of these counties, and into Carroll ... propelling us to the top ... providing we do not screw up the very things that already make Carroll the best place to live in Maryland,” he said via email.
Donna Sivigny, a member of the school board as well as a member of one of the Long Term Advisory Council’s clusters, said the presentation was really interesting. The big takeaway, she said, comes from some of the wildcards Herson talked about, and the probability and credibility of them.
But, she said, it’s important to remember what Herson talked about are possibilities, not a prediction.
“This is just a template,” Sivigny said.
Holstein also said he found the presentation helpful. It offered a lot of food for thought, he said, and stimulated people’s minds.
For Sivigny, the presentation was really a chance to get people thinking ahead about the future, she added. It’s all about creating the strategic vision, she said.
“It gets us thinking about the right questions,” she added.