When you read the words American Dream, what comes to mind for you? Kids? White picket fence? A stable nine-to-five? Or maybe no kids? A cozy rental? A job that lets you telecommute?
Brian David Johnson, the chief futurist for the Intel Corporation, is working on a book about the future of the American Dream — and he’s studying Vermont as part of his research.
Johnson is holding a town hall-style meeting in at Champlain College on Thursday to hear from Vermonters about the American Dream in the 21st century — and beyond.
On what, exactly, a futurist does
"As a technological futurist, I look about 10 to 15 years out in the future, and model how people will act and interact with technology. And I do that because it takes the Intel Corporation, where I work, about five to 10 years to design, develop and deploy the chip that goes into our computers. So it's of vital business importance today for Intel to know what people will want to do 10 years from now."
On the goal of this American Dream project
"The notion of the American Dream really starts to surface questions and discussions that you don't normally get. So, having a conversation about the future of education, or the future of work, can be kind of bland. But the moment you say to people, 'Tell me about what you think the future of the American Dream is,' it charges it in a way that I think is much more human and much more passionate."
On choosing Vermont for research
"The reason why I wanted to come to Vermont was because Vermont, for me, is a microcosm of the United States. You have such a wide variety of different occupations, from agrarian to high tech, and you also have people who can trace their roots back to the Founding Fathers living next to people who have been in the country for less than a couple months. So for me, I'm super excited to hear, when I go and talk to folks, in very much this sort of 'town hall' way, to really hear what they think. Because that's really going to help me."
On how the research works
"What I like to do is go out and find out what people think. Find out their opinions. What are they worried about, what are their hopes, what are their dreams, what is the future that they want to live in, and what's the future they want to avoid? And then for me, I then go and investigate that. That's one of my goals as a futurist, is to go kind of dig into that, and then I'm looking forward to coming back. And [I] want to hold more town hall meetings ... I'm going to be writing a book. We'll probably be doing some things online, and also working with Champlain College and some of the local schools to involve kids."
On the practical outcomes of this exercise
"The first thing that I have to say is I like taking on hard subjects. And sometimes I like picking subjects that if I don't get it right, or don't handle it with enough care, that I could get a punch in a nose. That this is important, and that's kind of why I wanted to do the American Dream. And it surfaces, with passion, some really interesting conversations about education. How are we making sure that we're educating our young minds, and also our elderly minds, our aging minds? How are making sure to educate them? As we look at work, we see that work really has changed in the past few decades. For me, as we start looking at work, well, what will that mean? Is it a nine-to-five job or is it a telecommuting job? I think, as we start to find out, that has real implications to the businesses that we build to how we measure what our future might be like."
Brian David Johnson will host a town meeting-style forum in the Argosy Gym in the IDX Student Life Center at Champlain College on Thursday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public; register here.