If you have any interest in technology and its impact on humanity, you have undoubtedly come across the idea of the singularity (if not, see here). I find the idea fascinating. As an educator, the singularity scares the hell out of me. As a science lover, I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities. The idea that at some point, in the not too distant future, we will have the capacity to mesh technology with humanity at a molecular level completely changes the way that we should think about learning and knowledge. Experiences and information can suddenly be processed and accessed in unique and unimaginable ways. If the singularity is to occur, I have no frame of reference to understand what impact it will have on me as a human. We cannot afford, though, to wait for that possibility before redefining our understanding of knowledge and learning; we have to have the conversation right now.
“The Industrial Revolution saw humanity overcome the limitation of our muscles… in the digital revolution we transcend the limits of our minds.” – Jason Silva
You see, we measure humanity’s achievement through the development of technologies. It was technology that allowed us to rise up and dominate our environment, creating tools and weapons in ways that no other species could. But the concept of what technology is has evolved tremendously. At its simplest form technology is a means of overcoming our limitations. Heretofore, in most respects, those limitations have been physical. We developed machines to lift weights that far exceeded our human capacity. We developed processes to assemble and distribute products far quicker than any hand ever could. Such technological innovations have fundamentally changed our society, leading to a more connected and instantaneous society, while at the same time having a large impact on the job force. These are the technologies inherent to the industrial revolution.
In the digital revolution, though, technology extends the intellectual ability of humanity. We are no longer limited by our mental capacity. Knowledge is integrated, accessible, and most of all ubiquitous. Nowhere will this be felt more than in the field of education. Already there has been an influx of technology into the sphere of teaching that has pushed educators to re-imagine what teaching should look like. Techno enthusiasts argue that the memorization of vast amounts of concrete facts is useless in a continuously connected world where I could look up the date of an unheard of battle on the device in my pocket. The necessary conclusion of this reasoning, then, is that the purpose of the school has to shift dramatically to encompass a larger mission of preparing students to work a connected world with various expectations. What happens, though, when we hit the critical mass? What happens when the idea of teaching finite content becomes secondary to skills? After all, does skill acquisition require 13 years of formalized education?
Paul Wiseman and Bernard Condon recently pondered whether machines would create a “world without work.”
My question is will technology create a world without school?