Pardon my husky voice.It’s dusty here, or I’ve got a Supercold and the future’s all out of throat lozenges; take your pick.
I realize that many of you are thrilled about a possibly-imminent Singularity.I realize this because the young me is among you right now.Anyway, that Singularity sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it?Well, it could be, but please heed this warning: If you don’t take certain precautions, your cool Singularity could get damn nasty; and I mean five-stories-tall-robots nasty and scary-robot-motorcycles nasty and ruggedly-handsome-robot-human-hybrids-who-steal-a-movie-right-out-from-under-you nasty.And do I really need to mention the dust problem again, or the Supercolds…
…and the unfortunate lack of throat lozenges around here?
A comprehensive report asserts that web-mediated learning has been found to be more effective than face-to-face learning.
New York Times: Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile.
My initial reaction is that both learning settings are critical and that students empowered with laptops in a classroom setting, such as in Maine, would probably outperform both groups. That said, it certainly does open the doors wider to distance learning and, hopefully, sweeping educational reform.
Stating a lack of social focus as a fundamental problem, I recently joined the ranks of those critiquing the tentative Singularity University (SU) curriculum. I found (and still do) the proposed courses to be too hard-tech centric, which is often a critique I level at singularitarians and transhumanists who often seem to project their current selves into a post-Singularity future, thus impairing the visioning of how we get there.
At the same time, I want to clarify that though I do agree with the crux of Jamais Cascio's argument that, "A useful Singularity University ... would be one that dove deeply into the nature of disruption, how society and technology co-evolve, and how we deal with unintended and unanticipated results of our choices," I believe his suggested curriculum goes too far in that it does amount to a "social studies/liberal arts crash course with a future twist" as Brian Wang pointed out in the discussion thread. It's not the sort of thing that will appeal to economic movers and shakers.
Still, I strongly disagree with Wang's assertion that, "The politics, ethics and social matters do have their place but as part of a TED conference or a conference specifically on the risks and issues. Trying to force feed it in this kind of program will not work." My issue being that I believe politics, ethics and social matters to be part of convergent acceleration.
The emphasis needs to be on the manner in which all of these technologies, trends, and issues fit together. (Please follow below the fold for Proposed Curriculum.)
Harvard education professor Daniel Koretz says we're not doing a good job teaching our children how to solve complex problems, thus failing to raise a generation possessing the new mandatory level of cognitive ability.
Koretz argues that we're teaching too much memorization and not enough "complex application of knowledge" and that "we need to back off the lower level skills to make room for the higher ones".
Mark your calendars! The business case for ‘smart infrastructure’ has been made by one of the world’s biggest companies. On November 6th, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano delivered a speech (text / video) at the New York Council on Foreign Relations. Palmisano highlighted ‘Big Blue’s vision of a ‘Smart Planet’ and the tremendous near term opportunities in building out the global smart infrastructures for energy, water, information, and transportation of people and goods.
Palmisano echoed a vision described by visionaries and futurists long ago of a ‘digital planet’. Now we might expect broader endorsements for ‘smart infrastructure’ by mainstream business and policy leaders especially in the US under the incoming Obama Adminstration. We can also build more reliable forecasts and roadmaps based on expectations for investments and application of technologies that improve the flow of traffic (without adding more lanes), more efficient energy grids, wider access to clean water and food, improved personal safety, and more secure information flows around financial, governance, and healthcare information.
Quotes from Palmisano’s address: What’s making this possible? First, our world is becoming instrumented
“There will likely be 4 billion mobile phone subscribers by the end of this year… and 30 billion Radio Frequency Identification tags produced globally within two years. Sensors are being embedded across entire ecosystems—supply-chains, healthcare networks, cities… even natural systems like rivers.“
Second, our world is becoming interconnected
“Very soon there will be 2 billion people on the Internet. But in an instrumented world, systems and objects can now “speak” to one another, too. Think about the prospect of a trillion connected and intelligent things—cars, appliances, cameras, roadways, pipelines… even pharmaceuticals and livestock.“
Third, all things are becoming intelligent
“New computing models can handle the proliferation of end-user devices, sensors and actuators and connect them with back-end systems. Combined with advanced analytics, those supercomputers can turn mountains of data into intelligence that can be translated into action, making our systems, processes and infrastructures more efficient, more productive and responsive—in a word, smarter.“
For most of the 20th Century, the U.S. was the world leader in science, technology, and innovation, with the best scientists, the best universities and the most advanced research and development programs. But all of that has begun to change as other countries and regions have become more advanced and more competitive and increasingly challenge U.S. dominance “
A recent article in the New York Times addressed the U.S. technological decline, and the ways Senators Obama and McCain have approached the issue. This story includes some eye-opening statistics about the loss of U.S. primacy in technology, innovation and R&D. At the top of the story, the Times points out the importance of this sector for America’s economy and role in the world:
For decades the United States dominated the technological revolution sweeping the globe. The nation’s science and engineering skills produced vast gains in productivity and wealth, powered its military and made it the de facto world leader. Today, the dominance is eroding.
One sees this in multiple indicators, but perhaps the most important is the country’s high-technology balance of trade. Until 2002, the U.S. always exported more high-tech products than it imported. In that year, the trend reversed, and the technology trade balance has steadily declined, with the annual gap exceeding $50 billion in 2007.
The U.S. has also fallen behind in spending on research and development, which drives high-tech innovation and development.
Scientists and engineers are going to develop the solutions to our energy challenges. An obvious fact, but what if we’re not preparing people for those careers in the US? At the recent NanoTX’08 conference, Dr. Zvi Yaniv, CEO of Applied Nanotech, Inc. discusses the challenges of educating scientists and engineers in the US. All is not rosy, but all is not lost.
Dr. Zvi Yaniv is an expert in LCD technology. He received his PhD in Physics at the Kent State Liquid Crystal Institute in 1982. Shortly after he graduated, he was recruited by Energy Conversion Devices to run their LCD laboratory. Three years later, he spun out Optical Imaging Systems, OSI, Inc. “The premier Liquid Crystal Display Company in America, designing displays for our avionics, for F22, phantoms, helicopters,” he says. “And I loved it!”
By as early as 2010, Microsoft, IBM and others will introduce software enabling students to communicate with computers similar to how we communicate with each other – using words, body language, and gestures.
These sophisticated new computers will understand ordinary everyday spoken words in English, Spanish, Chinese, or any major language, and will use avatars – on-screen images that could appear as Einstein, Columbus, or even a local classroom teacher – to communicate on a personal level with each student.
These future teaching machines will bring education to life. Utilizing virtual reality, they will take students on virtual trips to interesting places and events in the world, fly into space, or wander inside a human cell.
Interactive computers will gather and process video, graphics, and information from anywhere on Earth via the Internet, and reformat this data into words and images that will be clearly understood by each student, regardless of their comprehension level.
These education machines will also become the home of future artificial intelligence that will complement the teacher’s ability, guiding students through course work, supplementing the teacher’s knowledge and answering simple queries to liberate teachers to concentrate on individuals without the rest of the class sitting idle.
If there’s one thing that haunted me all through elementary
school, it was the teachers, constantly reminding us that
practicing cursive was a crucial skill needed in life. Hours each
day were spent preparing for this veritable Hell of a place called
High School where the bullies were bigger, the textbooks were
heavier, and every paper had to be written in cursive. That last
point was hammered in – No teacher in high school would
EVER accept a paper from a student if it
wasn’t written in cursive.
Then came August 20th, 1997, my first day at high school. The US
History teacher shocked me with the words, “Don’t hand-write your
papers, I can’t read them they’re so illegible. I’ll only accept
typed papers.” I couldn’t believe my luck! I had scored the one
teacher that didn’t require students to write papers in cursive.
But in reality, every class I had that day I heard the same thing.
Cursive is illegible… type everything. All that practice had meant
nothing, cursive had been eliminated. It was dead.
In an age where airline tickets have gone electronic and bills
can be paid online rather than through check, handwriting itself is
becoming less and less important in our daily lives. One school
teacher even likened learning cursive to teaching kids how to drive
a stagecoach when they should be learning how to drive a car.
Students these days find it easier and quicker to type up lecture
notes than to write it out by hand. The sheer simplicity,
efficiency and speed of typing will be the undoing of
True, things aren’t looking too bright for longhand writing, but
just how bad is it? Online bill pay has killed the check along with
credit and debit cards. Blogs, social networking sites and Email
has obliterated the need for letters. Resumes are Emailed.
Applications are filled out online. All in all, for people who are
heavily immersed in the technology of today, writing is no longer
important. Sure, there is the occasional Post-it note, the grocery
list, or even written instructions. But when you think about some
of the technology most futurists say is coming around the corner,
these can all be wiped out. Refrigerators that order food for you
when your stocks get low. Voice recognition software that makes it
quicker to record instructions than to write. Even Post-its could
be replaced with flexible electronic paper, endlessly reusable and
When was the last time you saw fast-food restaurant employees
actually key prices into the register? Today, clerks behind the
counter press buttons with pictures of cups, burgers, or bags of
fries. They never need to read or remember cost of items.
Futurist William Crossman, author of Vivo [Voice-In/Voice-Out]:
The Coming Age of Talking Computers, believes that tomorrow’s
mobile and virtual reality devices, using visual displays like
those in fast-food restaurants, will render reading, writing, and
text obsolete in the not-to-distant future.
Crossman explains why this transformation will take place.
“Before Homo sapiens ever existed, ancient proto-humans accessed
information by speaking, listening, smelling, tasting, and
touching. They relied on memory to store information they heard.
Speaking and listening was civilization’s preferred method of
communication for millions of years.
Then about 10,000 years ago an explosion of information emerged
with the onset of the agricultural revolution and memory overload
quickly followed. Human memories were no longer efficient and
reliable enough to store and share the huge volume of new ideas. To
overcome this problem, our forbearers developed a remarkable
technology that has lasted for thousands of years – written