We already live in a world where science fiction is science fact, so why are our education systems are still stuck in the Industrial Age?
TODAY THERE IS no denying the impact exponential technologies are having on culture, society, work, and the planet, and as they become more capable and powerful their impact over time, for better and worse, is only going to get greater.
Everyone’s grown up with the concept of science fiction, as well as the concept that it’s precisely that – fiction. But from deflector shields to invisibility cloaks, hive minds to holograms, laser weapons to light sabers, telepathy to tractor beams and beyond, everything that you once thought of as science fiction, in one way or another, and albeit in some cases at a basic level, is now science fact. In fact many of them are so real that even as an ordinary Joan or Joe you can go and prod and poke them for yourselves.
But there’s more, and there are now a bunch of exponential technologies emerging that make even sci fi in all its glorious forms look tame, from autonomous companies, programmable organisms and self-evolving robots, through to artificial humans, meat grown without the animals, and all kinds of new computing platforms including biological, chemical, DNA, and liquid computers. And then, of course, there are the technologies that let us stream our minds directly to YouTube, and others that turn the human body into one of the universes most powerful supercomputers. Throw in some anti-gravity technologies and a couple of pre-crime technologies and some cancer killing nanobots, and all of a sudden even Hollywood’s finest script writers would have so many options to write about their heads would spin.
The net result of all of this is that the jobs and skills we all need in order to thrive in this future will change, as will the way we teach children and what we teach them. And while I could pick many examples in order to demonstrate the point I’m going to pick one that should, hopefully hit closer to home than some of the others I could use.
During a time when we see the emergence of robots capable of self-evolving and self-manufacturing themselves, albeit at a basic level, on the one hand today only a few schools are even teaching children about the basic principles of robotics, and then on the other, to compound the issue, the curriculums and subject matter they’re using are often a decade or more out of date. But that’s the tip of the of the continent sized iceberg.
Today the vast majority of companies around the world complain about shortages in key skills such as cyber security, data science, and software development, the result of which means that some companies, such as Google and Microsoft are already running initiatives to automate these tasks which means when our students do eventually venture out into the jobs market in a decade or so’s time with Degrees and Diplomas in hand the jobs they’ve been gunning for will be either semi-automated or fully automated. And then what do they do, and how will they adapt?
As the future jobs market gets hit by wave after wave of disruption, much of which will be the result of new technological developments, it is therefore, in my opinion, ironic that out of the hundreds of powerful exponential technologies I track at most nine of them are even being discussed within schools – let alone taught. Will your children know how to code a quantum computer? Will they know how to design life that has four, six, or even eight base pair DNA using synthetic biology? Will they know how to navigate the ethics of all these technologies, like AI and genetic engineering, and create businesses using them? Or, like many students and workers will the future be something that is “done to them” rather than something they “master and lead?”
All this, and more, is why we created the 311 Ed-X initiative, an exponential education initiative whose ultimate aim is to help anyone, irrespective of their ability or background, unleash their exponential potential and thrive in the exponential future.