Kia ora koutou
I was privileged to attend the SingularityU Summit in Sydney last week. I really enjoyed the fact that the summit was not just about education, but spanned a range of domains such as digital biology, exonomics, future of crime, work, energy, healthcare, transport, blockchain, startups, artificial intelligence, robotics. We had a very interesting presentation on the history of disruption and of the shift from an economy underpinned by the assumption of scarcity to one underpinned by the assumption of abundance – a sharing economy in which individuals willingly share what they have because they believe there is plenty. The summit was incredibly interesting and left me profoundly moved.
SingularityU was all about exponential technologies and their impact on the world. One of their main messages was that the big narrative of the 21st century will not be the change itself, but the speed of change. They suggested that with exponential technologies, we think that change is happening in a linear way as it normally does, and we are lulled into a false sense of the pace of change. And then suddenly the world is different. The question is whether we are ready and will be able to take full advantage of the opportunities that will be afforded by these exponential technologies.
I think this is a huge challenge for education, because when you consider how much the world has already changed and the exponential change that is forecast for the next 30 years, and you then look beneath the surface of education, it still looks surprisingly like it did 100 years ago. Yes, we have more computers in schools, but, in general, the way education is delivered is still very 20th century. Education, which should be early adopters, even the creators of new technologies, is lagging way behind.
In education, we need to be preparing to leverage the affordances of these exponential technologies, which will certainly change the role of the teacher, but will never eradicate the need for human teachers. We need to be mindful that technologies amplify inequality; thus, we need to ensure we use technologies in ways that reduce inequality. In this changing world, it is going to become increasingly difficult to know what is truth and we will need to ensure that students begin learning critical thinking and ethics at an early age in their education. They will need to approach everything with “critical” and “ethical” mindsets. A core competency for the future may well be more than just being a continual learner, but the ability to “unlearn”, which, as we know, is very difficult.
Considering our future leaves me breathless, but also excited about the possibilities. I hope we have the courage to leverage those opportunities to make education and the world a better place for all – especially children around the world.