Finding the Black Swans: Highly Improbable, High-Impact Ideas

January 13-15 in Austin, Texas

The Internet. Tablets. 3D printing. Wearable technology. All once outliers in discussions of possible future learning scenarios, unlikely developments in their early days according to the common wisdom, but each laden with enormous potential impact even then. Imagine if we could have anticipated these developments as they were happening and maximized their educational value early on. How might we have influenced them? Taken advantage of them? What would we have done differently? How could we have used them — right away — to the benefit of teaching and learning?

The NMC Horizon Project has built an enviable record of highlighting emerging trends and technologies for more than 12 years, but even the best, most proactive environmental scanning can’t predict the Black Swans, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb called them in his landmark book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. This is the essential notion behind the 2015 Horizon Project Retreat, and the impetus for its informal name, “The Black Swan Ball.”

By design, the Horizon Project profiles trends around which there is a great deal of expert consensus. During the 2015 retreat, we will look away from the things we all agree are likely to the outliers, those low-probability but potentially high-impact ideas and technologies that, if they captured the world’s attention like the Internet or the smartphone did in the last 20 years, could create real change. To do this, we will convene 100 of the most creative minds from the NMC Horizon Project Expert Panels and key NMC groups, an international group of thought leaders from universities, schools, museums, and libraries.  The invitees represent the entire learning space, from children to adults, and formal education to informal.

Our goal: To think deeply about such potential outliers, and try to find ways to recognize these black swans early in their evolution. The ideas we capture will be published a collection of the voices represented, and featured on a new website where the work will be taken to the social media sphere: BlackSwanBall.org.

The process we plan is to take two days to break away from our daily routines and immerse ourselves in the lovely retreat setting of the Hyatt Lost Pines. The program is focused on a range of possible scenarios, utopic and distopic, developed and developing world, digital and nondigital, all designed to help us to begin to think about educational scenarios in very different ways.

We invite you, as a member of the NMC’s community of thought leaders, to be part of what is sure to be a most significant dialog! Please plan to be with us in Austin, January 13-15, 2015!