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Five predictions for 2011 that will rock the education world

Continuing a tradition started in years past, I list out my predictions for the key stories that will rock the education world in 2011. If I could put it into five words, 2011 will be all about mobile, mobile, change, change, and mobile. This next year, I’m looking more at the big picture:

  1. 2011 will be the Year of the Tablet, but schools still will not know what to do with them. Let’s face it, technology companies do not quite know what tablets are good for, either. Rather than provide consumers with details on the iPad, Apple called it “amazing” and “magical” at its launch — but what does it do? Tie it in with the unfortunate reality that schools lag behind in technology leadership (they generally need others to tell them what to use), my fear is that we will end up with a lot of schools buying into the tablet craze but having no idea what to do with them. 2011 will be the year that we start to look for real leadership for educational technologies, and start to look into using new technologies to do “amazing” and “magical” things.
  2. Accelerating adoption of iPads, iPhones and other mobile technologies into social and cultural frameworks is transforming computing into an ambient experience — that is, immediate and purposive access to ICTs is available anywhere and anytime. Just as 2010 saw shifts in culture where it is no longer socially awkward to check into FourSquare or Facebook while on a date, 2011 will see the social and cultural acceptance and embracing of ambient computing continue.
  3. The New Normal: The recession is officially over, but many people are left unemployed or significantly underemployed. This human capital crisis needs to be dealt with promptly as people who thought they could live a middle-class lifestyle with old economy jobs (i.e., manufacturing and retail) are now considered as obsolete and unemployable. The challenge for educators and governments is to help them retrain for relevant career pathways — or, enable them to create new, innovative jobs that have not existed before. This new recognition of the importance of life-long learning and human capital development could launch a “Manhattan Project” equivalent in education that will transform our generation.
  4. We’re not out of the woods, yet. The principle of accelerating technological change prompts social change, which requires new technological transformations, and so forth. We are slowly recognizing that the only constant is change, and many industries will experience increasingly rapid cycles of transformation — for humans that are ill-prepared for change, this could mean more socioeconomic turmoil and unemployment. 2011 will give us a taste of what’s to come.
  5. People are mobile, too. Rapid developments in mobile technologies also enable society to become much more mobile, and we will see this reflected in the workforce, of which the leading edges will exhibit Knowmadic qualities. 2011 may not yet be the year of the Knowmad, but it could be the year that individuals wake up and realize they have options. For countries like the U.S. that are obsessed with controlling immigration, how would they respond when their best and brightest (especially our most competent educators) begin to migrate elsewhere? Will anybody be left around to turn off the lights?

What do you think?

Read my predictions from previous years:

Intellectual property rights in 2025

The European Patent Office engaged in a two-year futuring project on futures for intellectual property rights in 2025, interviewing 50 key players – including critics – from the fields of science, business, politics, ethics, economics and law. Their opinions were sought opinions on how intellectual property and patenting might evolve over the next fifteen to twenty years.

Four primary scenarios were developed from the projects activities:

  • Market Rules (business): The story of consolidation in the face of a system that has been so successful that it is collapsing under its own weight
  • Whose Game? (geopolitics): The story of conflict in the face of changing geopolitical balances and competing ambitions
  • Trees of Knowledge (society): The story of erosion in the face of diminishing societal trust
  • Blue Skies (technology): The story of differentiation in the face of global systemic crises

These scenarios are driven by five driving forces that create the most uncertainty:

  • Power: “globalisation has redefined this power structure, with established sources of authority – such as governments – challenged by the many new powerful actors that are forming alliances and cutting across traditional boundaries”
  • Global Jungle: “economic, social and political competitive flattening of the world between a multiplicity of players that include countries, regions, hotspots and city states, market sectors, global companies, organisational and business models, consumer markets and workforces, business and universities as well as cultures. In this global jungle, there are many who are ill-equipped to adapt.”
  • Rate of Change: “The growing divide between the short and long-term goals leads us to ask: How do humans and their institutions adjust to cope with the rate of change?”
  • Systemic Risks: “There are also major risks created by our dependency on the complex natural and man-made systems that support humanity.”
  • Knowledge Paradox: “The transformation of data into information and then into knowledge – information that can be utilised to build capabilities – is also far from straightforward. This raises the question: As information becomes increasingly abundant, what knowledge has value?”

More is available in the free “Scenarios for the Future” compendium, which is available from the EPO website.

BT futurist on Nobels and alien thinking

Australia’s Computerworld jumps on the futures bandwagon, and provides insight into the 21st century (in stark contrast to what others are writing on the future). In an interview with British Telecom futurist Ian Pearson, a few daring predictions emerged:

1. “Thinking” is going to seem very alien to many people:

We will probably make conscious machines sometime between 2015 and 2020, I think. But it probably won’t be like you and I. It will be conscious and aware of itself and it will be conscious in pretty much the same way as you and I, but it will work in a very different way. It will be an alien. It will be a different way of thinking from us, but nonetheless still thinking. It doesn’t have to look like us in order to be able to think the same way.

2. Some machine intelligences will outsmart humans by 2020, and they will begin winning Nobel Prizes.

This raises an important concern. Our schools are not preparing students to thrive in an environment with a plurality of creative and intellectual modalities. Rather, through regimes such as No Child Left Behind, they are being transformed into cookie-cutter automatons. The irony is that as machines become much more intellectually-capable and creative, human capital is becoming more mechanistic. Which has the better potential to thrive through this century?

Three Singularities, three conversations

cog-threat.jpgEliezer Yudkowsky, on the SIAI blog, posted his observations of the emergence of three “logically distinct” schools of thought related to the Singularity:

  1. Accelerating change (Ray Kurzweil, Alvin Toffler, John Smart): “technological change feeds on itself, and therefore accelerates” along a predictable curve.
  2. Event Horizon (Vernor Vinge): “Shortly, technology will advance to the point of improving on human intelligence (brain-computer interfaces, Artificial Intelligence). This will create a future that is weirder by far than most science fiction, a difference-in-kind that goes beyond amazing shiny gadgets.”
  3. Intelligence explosion (I.J. Good, Eliezer Yudkowsky [and, I’m sure, many others]): “the smarter you get, the more intelligence you can apply to making yourself even smarter.”

All three interpretations of the Singularity, Yudkowsky argues, require specific delineation to avoid being mashed into –and interpreted as– a single, apocalyptic metanarrative in popular discourse. Perhaps to better prepare educators for seemingly more absurd, ambiguous, and chaotic futures, we ought to build Singularity awareness, acceptance and preparedness by serializing our conversations:

First, change is accelerating. The good news is that we can plot out, reasonably predict, and prepare for much of it. What changes are our schools prepared for?

Second, a smarter society will start to build smarter things. Human intelligence hasn’t increased, but distributed knowledge across society will help us build improved humans, successor species and machines that will outsmart us. Students enrolled in schools today will likely face a future where “natural” humans are no longer the most intelligent species on the planet. How can we prepare them?

Third, our future could be very, very weird. Period. Are we doing anything to prepare students for futures beyond anyone’s imagination?

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?

Designing education for sustainable innovation

Presented at the JTET conference this morning:

Arthur M. Harkins, Ph.D. (USA)
John Moravec, Ph.D. (USA)
University of Minnesota

Abstract

This presentation is concerned with complex subjects, but presents them in ways that audiences can understand and professionally contemplate. The core concept of the paper is “sustainable innovation,” which presumes the necessity for continuous innovation to cope with changes wrought by technology, socioeconomic trends, global climate transformations, celestial changes, and by change itself.

Background

Ray Kurzweil has written that machines and software are beginning to challenge the supremacy and hegemony of humans over other species. Kurzweil argues that ever-shortening ‘S-curves’ of electronic hardware and software development are creating pressures to bond humans and machines into various networks and systems. Some of these include self-flyable Airbus aircraft, early implants (such as pacemakers and hearing amplifiers), and the later prospect of artificial eyes and adjunct cybernetic brains.

Kurzweil’s projections include step-by-step ‘dovetailing’ of humans with artificial systems. This process is already creating ‘gray areas’ between humans and such devices as robot arms and artificial kidneys. These and many other aspects of Kurzweil’s thinking appear to justify assertions that Trans-Humanity (TH) is evolving, and very quickly, as a complex ecology of cyborgs. The long-term prospect of uploading human central nervous system contents into non-biological units would complete the transition to a radical new embodiment of intelligence, which may be called Post Humanity (PH).

Foreground

In all of this great change, why must schools stress sustainable innovation? With the help of education, how can young people retain and grow their individuality? How can they continuously reconfigure their collective memberships with others, including those within cyberspace? This paper will explore such questions and related ones by creating and discussing short sustainable innovation scenarios illustrating the roles of formal and informal educational systems. The paper will construct scenarios for two different types of sustainable innovation: those based on anticipating and creating the futures of TH, and those based on PH. The ethics and morality of both sustainable innovation types will be suggested by metrics associated with personal and collective choices.


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