Accelerating Change

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Six scenarios for the Technological Singularity

Two articles related to the Singularity Summit have appeared on preparing for the Technological Singularity:

First, Jamais Cascio writes on a Metaverse Roadmap Overview:

In this work, along with my colleagues John Smart and Jerry Paffendorf, I sketch out four scenarios of how a combination of forces driving the development of immersive, richly connected information technologies may play out over the next decade. But what has struck me more recently about the Roadmap scenarios is that the four worlds could also represent four pathways to a Singularity. Not just in terms of the technologies, but — more importantly — in terms of the social and cultural choices we make while building those technologies.

The scenarios explored are:

  1. Virtual Worlds: the combination of simulation and intimate (highly personalized) technologie
  2. Mirror Worlds: the intersection of simulation and externally-focused technologies
  3. Augmented Reality: the collision of augmentation and external technologies
  4. Lifelogging: brings together augmentation and intimate technologies to record the experiences and histories of objects and users (what Cascio refers to as “participatory panopticon“)

Read more at Open the Future

Second, Bryan Gardiner writes on the Wired blog that Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, multi-millionaire Facebook backer, and the president of Clarium Capital Management, a global macro hedge fund, is devising a Singularity-aware investment strategy based on two, polarized scenarios in a near-future world where machines will become smarter than humans:

  1. Negative scenario: where machines won’t need us and humans become expendable
  2. Positive scenario: where humans would still have a positive outlook

Regardless of the two scenarios, Gardiner points out that the volatile booms and busts over recent years are indicative of the market’s attempts to align itself with near-Singularity transformations:

In essence, he argues that each of these booms represent different bets on the singularity, or at least on various things that are proxies for it, like globalization. What’s more, we’ve been seeing them now for over 30 years.

The markets are catching on to accelerating change. Why not bet on the Singularity in our schools as well?

A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production

My doctoral dissertation, A New Paradigm of Knowledge Production in Minnesota Higher Education: A Delphi Study, is available for purchase online or for online preview:


Download now and save! For the month of September, the PDF edition is available for download at the discounted price of $30.00 $15.00 (50% off)!

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Quick poll on 21st century education

I sent an email out to a few folks with a short question:

Which trend will have the greatest impact on education in the 21st century?

[ ] Globalization
[ ] Rise of the knowledge society
[ ] Accelerating change
[ ] Other: _______

The results will be posted below as I receive them. If you did not receive an invitation, but would like to participate, please email me at with your response.

I will update this response summary over the next couple evenings:


(64 responses recorded as of last update)

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Adaptive learners matching the changing environment


Famous for changing the color of their skin, chameleons are more like mood rings,
with their color changes reflecting mood, temperature, light, and other stimuli.

Based in the analysis of Hatano (1982), Brophy, Hodge, Bransford (2004) wrote a short and interesting work in progress where they analyzed the idea of adaptive expertise as the “ability to process information quickly and identify solutions to common problems as a display of competency in a particular skill and/or depth of domain knowledge”.

Considering the accelerating changes of the present and the unpredictable chaotic up coming future, the authors describe the importance of empower “learners to have flexible knowledge that allows them to invent ways to solve familiar problems and innovative skills to identify new problems. We suggest that the more desirable definition of expertise relates to students ‘adaptive-ness’ to identifying and solving novel problem”.

This adaptive expertise is based in the idea that “without a fluent and flexible use of knowledge a person will not be able to identify and expand on that creative idea”, that’s why the “life long learning and adapting to new situations is a critical component to succeeding in the workplace and in personal affairs”.

With pedagogic models established in the 19th century, teachers who were born during the 20th century and students from the 21st century the society (schools, enterprises, governments) demands citizens able to develop “innovation skills that will assist in their abilities to solve routine problems and identify new problems”. This kind of expertise will allow “the ability to identify new opportunities in this continuously transforming environment for change that make them more productive and profitable”.

Instead of routine experts our Learning Society requires citizens “who begin by identify what they know about the problem and what more they need to define in order to solve the challenge. The learner expands on these thought first by comparing them with their peers, then comparing them with experts familiar with aspects of the initial challenge”.


  1. Work in Progress – Adaptive Expertise: Beyond Apply Academic Knowledge (Sean Brophy, Lynn Hodge, and John Bransford).
  2. Hatano, G. Cognitive consequences of practice in culture specific procedural skills. The Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, 4, 1982, 15–18.

Images Source: © 1996-2007 National Geographic.

Top ten list #7: Ways U.S. education is failing to produce creatives

ten-days-sm.pngToday’s list discusses how U.S. education is failing to create students that will succeed in creative, knowledge- and innovation-based economies. Not surprisingly, No Child Left Behind heads-off this list as failure #1:

  1. No Child Left Behind. NCLB is producing exactly the wrong products for the 21st Century, but is right on for the 1850’s through 1950. NCLB’s fractured memorization model opposes the creative, synthetic thinking required for new work and effective citizenship.
  2. Schools are merging with prisons. As soon as students enter schools, they lose many of their fundamental rights, including the right to free speech. Students who do not wish to conform to prison-like, automaton production must develop individual creativity to survive… often at a price.
  3. Inadequate teacher preparation, recruitment and retention. The U.S. public schools have always been lemmings, but are now failing to produce teachers who are savvy to the contemporary trends their students must learn and respond to in times of accelerating change. The other half of the picture is teacher-modeled creativity, something the public schools have never seriously attempted.
  4. Insufficient adoption of technology. The squeeze is on from both ends: Student-purchased technology is usually derided, suppressed, and sometimes confiscated. These tools are part of the technology spectrum kids know they will have to master. On the other end, technology in the schools is dated, the Internet is firewalled, and there isn’t enough equipment to go around.
  5. Focusing on information retention as opposed to new knowledge production. Disk-drive learning is for computers. Knowledge production and innovation are for humans. The first requires fast recall and low error rates from dumb systems; the second, driven by intelligent people, builds the economy and keeps America competitive.
  6. Innovation is eschewed. Most U.S. teachers think innovation is something that requires them to suffer the discomforts and pains of adaptation. They don’t accept change as a necessary function of expanding national competitiveness. Many U.S. teachers might be more comfortable in industrial world economies and societies represented by China and South Korea, or 1950’s America.
  7. Continuous reorganization of school leadership and priorities, particularly in urban schools. Serious questions can be raised whether schools are the organizations required to cope with semi-permanent underclasses, violent youth, incompetent, irresponsible parenting and negative adult role models. What institutional substitutions would you make for the schools?
  8. National education priorities are built on an idealized past, not on emergent and designed futures. Blends of applied imagination, creativity, and innovation are required to visualize preferred futures, to render them proximal and grounded, and to forge them into empirical realities. On the other hand, it is quite possible that Secretary Spellings and other highly placed education “leaders” have never had an original thought in their entire lives.
  9. Social class and cultural problems in schools and communities suggest that the schools live in a Norman Rockwell past. Bright kids capable of novel thought and new culture creation have never fit into the industrially modeled American schools, and lower-middle class teachers have little respect for working- and poverty-class art, music, and culture. It appears that the schools are populated by timid, unimaginative, lower-middle class professional placeholders who crave convention (spelling bees, car washes, exceptional sports performances) over invention.
  10. Failing to invest resources in education, both financially and socially. Education is formal, informal, and non-formal in structure and function. It is possible that formal education will be recognized as the least powerful of this trio, in part because it is so dated, and in part because it occurs in such a small percentage of life compared with the other two types. Perhaps new funding algorithms and decisions must follow this ratio.

Top ten signs the "Singularity is near"

ten-days-sm.pngAs we stated in yesterday’s top ten list, human-surpassing intelligence will guarantee that the future is far more different than we can imagine. Our second top ten list plays off ideas from Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is near, Hans Moravec’s Mind children and Robot, and the work of Vernor Vinge. Onward Singularitarians!

  1. Accelerating returns: S-curves of change are occurring much more rapidly, forcing humans to cope with unexpected resource diversity. Much of this exists in the form of bona fide forms of abundance, for which there are few or no means of effective absorption and equitable distribution.
  2. Advances in genetics: By many definitions of creation, including those within religious systems and conservative science, humans are about to become as gods.
  3. Advances in nanotechnologies: Richard Feynman pointed out a basic new direction for R&D: toward the much, much smaller. After a clumsy start that attempted to blend Newtonian mechanics with nanomachinery, the field has broadened and moved into chemistry, circuitry, and molecular self-assembly.
  4. Advances in robotics: The more spectacular advances in robotics are occurring at the level of microelectromechanical systems. In many ways less sophisticated than nanobots, mems offer the potential for a myriad of near-term applications, including some within the human body.
  5. Advances in computational capacities: According to Ray Kurzweil, reverse engineering of the human brain is on a path to duplicate the brain’s circuitry within one or two decades. Cost estimates of such systems are projected to follow the now-familiar downward curve even as capabilities skyrocket.
  6. Advances in understanding human intelligence: Intelligence may need to be redefined as higher-order domains of potential and capability rather than properties specific only to humans. Dovetailed intelligent humans and smart machines have already begun to generate a gradual equation of organic and inorganic intelligence potentials and capabilities.
  7. Virtual reality is beginning to complement reality: In a yin-yang manner, virtual reality (VR) and classical reality (CR) are dovetailing as well as coexisting. Distinctions between VR and CR may gradually dissipate as the properties of both are defined and measured empirically and as more blended systems and experiences are created.
  8. Paradigm shifts in thought and the senses are emerging as important cultural software: It will become ordinary to speak of paradigm changes outside the boundaries of cognition. Knowledge and innovation workers must change their thinking and feelings both anticipatorily and reactively to create opportunities and cope with sudden changes.
  9. The future is more difficult to imagine than ever before: The more information that becomes available through trends, scenarios and visions, the more that numerous alternative futures can be created. Alvin Toffler recognized this in 1967, but it is an insight that continues to provoke claims that humans are incapable of entertaining more than a handful of future alternatives, most of them utopic (all too “unlikely”) or dystopic (all too “likely”).
  10. Accelerating technological change is accelerating social change: Technological advances routinely change our cultural norms, political systems, economics, and modes of thinking. New cultures are routinely created, both as new configurations of blends of existing cultures (transcultures) and innovative, designed, personal cultures (postcultures).

Call for papers: Global Leapfrog Education

Call for papers

Global Leapfrog Education

Volume 2, Number 1 – March 2006

(Submissions are due November 30, 2006)

Global Leapfrog Education (GLE), a new, open access journal, is devoted to exploring how, through education and human capital development, communities can transcend current problems and challenges by empowering themselves with the tools to invent their own futures. GLE publishes articles spanning a wide range of interests related to leapfrog education (viz. change, technologies, knowledge production and innovation, global youth leadership, and futures-oriented philosophies and theories of education).

GLE offers its authors:

  • Timely peer review and publication
  • Free online publication
  • Web-based platform for comments and discussion
  • Online manuscript submission and tracking
  • International editorial review board

Scholars of all fields are invited to submit articles and reviews on topics in the following areas:

  • Accelerating change and related technologies
  • Knowledge production and innovation
  • Global youth development and leadership
  • Futures-oriented philosophies and theories of education

Articles considered for publication are normally between 8 and 25 pages in length. Detailed information regarding author guidelines and the submission process are available online at:

Journal Web page:

Editorial contacts:

New Scientist: Emerging dark age of innovation

New Scientist’s Robert Adler writes:

“…we are fast approaching a new dark age. That, at least, is the conclusion of Jonathan Huebner, a physicist working at the Pentagon’s Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California. He says the rate of technological innovation reached a peak a century ago and has been declining ever since. And like the lookout on the Titanic who spotted the fateful iceberg, Huebner sees the end of innovation looming dead ahead. His study will be published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change.

“Huebner draws some stark lessons from his analysis. The global rate of innovation today, which is running at seven “important technological developments” per billion people per year, matches the rate in 1600. Despite far higher standards of education and massive R&D funding “it is more difficult now for people to develop new technology”, Huebner says.

    Read the full article.