A professor of media and technology in the School of Education at the University of Portland, Eric Anctil is witnessing the world change in exciting and often frightening ways. He simultaneously worries and celebrates the future of humans in a TechnoHuman future. How people work, live, socialize, communicate, love and even hate, are in constant motion and evolving into an uncertain future.
It is that uncertain future that is the focus of Eric’s work which is to search for humanity in a TechnoHuman world and to shed light on the hidden shadows of change beneath the surface as humans evolve side-by-side with their technological creations.
Born and raised in Portland, Eric has taught in higher education since 1999. In that time he has presented at numerous conferences, been a keynote speaker for large and small audiences, appeared on a variety of radio and podcast shows, and has been an invited speaker to groups of all ages and types. In addition to public appearances, Eric has published his scholarship in various journals and books and he is the author of Selling Higher Education: Marketing and Advertising America's Colleges and Universities; Curriculum Leadership: Readings for Developing Quality Educational Programs; and, Curriculum Planning: A Contemporary Approach.
Eric regularly consults with elementary schools, high schools, post-secondary institutions, and private and non-profit businesses about issues related to technology in the curriculum, professional development, and building 21st-century schools.
Prior to working in higher education, Eric was a middle and high school teacher. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a master’s degree from Portland State University, and a dual-bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon.
Eric’s passion is to give people a line of sight into the hidden ways that technology is quietly shaping their behaviors, decisions, and actions. When people use the artificial intelligence embedded in their cell phones, cars, or homes, they are summoning predictive algorithms of code to assist (and even direct) in their life choices. That simple action means a lot when it is done hundreds or thousands of times per day.
Fake news, click-bait headlines, Amazon reviews, and well-curated social networking profiles are recent examples of how software code, the devices we use, and human behavior are in constant motion with one another. It happens subtly over time, but when seen at a distance, the changes in human behavior is profound.
Technology has been influencing and guiding humans since the earliest inventions and innovations. Fire led to the modern kitchen; irrigation begat industrial farming; air conditioners allowed for the desert cities of Phoenix and Las Vegas; and, the simple sandal eventually became Air Jordans.
However, with the advancement of the microprocessor in the second half of the 20th century, human’s ability to rapidly develop information processing has led to repeated generational computing advancements in a single lifetime. Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, big-data aggregation and storage, and predictive analytics are just a few examples of technologies that have come to challenge what it means to be human. This advancement has created what some are calling a new TechnoHuman Condition.
The time is now to confront and manage the complex future that change is quickly ushering in a new age of human existence. The hero is us. Humans. The villain is ignorance of the change that is happening all around us in plain sight. The challenge is real and is ours to take up. The time is now. (Nothing less than the future is at stake after all.)
Consciousness, humor, empathy, pain, joy, regret, creativity, deception and faith are all uniquely human and threatened by a digital and automated future. It's a future created and controlled by a relative few, but its reach and impact is profound and happening almost invisibly and in plain sight.
When robots are as normal to have embedded in our lives as today's cell phones, what of our humanity will survive? When "smart" contact-lens implants are as common as tattoos, how will they guide our behavior? How we see? What we remember? What will we be encouraged to forget?
Inherent in these questions (and there are so, so many more) is a decision we have to make as a species. Do we continue to (somewhat) blindly embrace technology and see its intrusion into our lives as an inevitable evolution started with the invention of the wheel, or do we try to build a walled garden where the technology is on one side and we are safely on the other?
Eric Anctil doesn't have all the answers but he knows we have to keep asking the questions. Eric believes we have to examine the hidden powers that lurk under the surface of our screens and inside our Amazon Echoes. It is imperative we find ways to harness the power of our technology to improve our quality of life without surrendering what it means to be human as we slowly evolve into our machines and give them the power to control us.
The challenge of our generation – and that includes any generation of people alive today – is to chart the future for those humans who will come after us. We are their mentors; we are their guides. We must create a world where humanity has its rightful place in a digital future.
The creation is of our making. We have a duty to protect it and ourselves.