The Future of Learning: The Science Fiction Design Intelligence of Singularity University

Go to the profile of Darlene Damm
Oct 05, 2019
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This article is part of the Forum Network series on Digitalisation. But it doesn't stop there – wherever you are, become a member of the global Forum Network community to comment below and continue the conversation!


Dear Members of the Forum Network,

Our community at Singularity University, an organisation devoted to helping solve the world’s social challenges by leveraging exponential technologies, recently held a two-day workshop to envision the future of education given how we predict exponential technologies will transform the world in the coming years.

Cosmic Pioneers: How technology will transform our future – and us

Cosmic Pioneers: How technology will transform our future – and us

We invited 50 members of our community to the workshop representing a diversity of professions, nations and economic backgrounds. After the workshop, we captured our findings and ideas in the form of a science fiction graphic novel that explores the lives of two students in 2039. We invite you to read the graphic novel here.

The graphic novel not only explores what the future of a student, teacher, school and curriculum might look like, but also allows us to imagine and ask other questions: What technologies do we need to invent to improve access and quality of education for both children and, increasingly, adults who need to engage in life-long learning? Where should we invest money? What issues should policymakers, ministries of education and departments of education be considering? What is the role of the private sector, especially in creating learning opportunities for adults in the workplace?  Should parents and children have a voice? What is the role of non-profits and foundations?

While our graphic novel presents one possible future, our broader goal is to spark conversations around how all of us can create a vision appropriate for our own communities, given expected technological developments.

Today, we are inviting members of the OECD Forum Network community to start this conversation. We would love to hear your reactions to the novel, especially around questions including:

  • What did you think of the graphic novel? How might the story unfold differently in your community or region? What would you change about the story?
  • As the field of digital learning grows, learning opportunities can be created anywhere and scale anywhere. Given this, who do you think should determine the curriculum in the future?Should an international organisation like the United Nations create a universal free digital K-12 curriculum translated into every language that any teacher or student can access? Should countries and states continue setting the curriculum? Should private companies or parents determine what children learn? In our graphic novel, we suggest that artificial intelligence agents could determine what people should learn based on their personal learning journey and a global knowledge bank of information about the state of the world and the social challenges we need to collectively solve. What do you think?
  • Currently, a number of startups, companies and universities are building new technologies to improve student learning experiences and retention. Some of the technologies are controversial: for example, facial and body recognition software that can be used in the classroom to determine if a student is engaged and learning but could compromise privacy and security. How should policymakers approach these technologies, many of them coming from startups and that are easy for students or teachers to deploy in the classroom?
  • In Brain Computer Interfaces: The Last Frontier of Human Privacy [paywall] published by the Wall Street Journal in 2018, Bryan Johnson, the founder of the neurotech company Kernel, challenged the world to think about how we will value knowledge when it might be possible to download someone else’s knowledge including their thoughts, thought processes and creativity. What if in the future one can download someone else’s knowledge gained from attending university or from serving as an executive of a company for three decades? Should everyone have access to one another’s knowledge as a public good? Should some people be able to purchase other people’s knowledge? Is downloading someone’s thoughts any different than buying a book they wrote? Does downloaded knowledge qualify someone for the same work as self-learned knowledge? Will people exchange their knowledge the same way they exchange other types of personal data to participate in free social networks, browse the Internet or work in their job? How do we think about learning, work and privacy as we come closer to making concepts like telepathy or downloading and reading thoughts real?

The Technology Pendulum: From hope to fear – and back?

The Technology Pendulum: From hope to fear – and back?
  • How do you think the OECD should grapple with these issues in terms of setting strategies and policies for the future of learning and future of work? What areas should they focus on?
  • What other topics raised in the graphic novel do you think policymakers should be considering today?

Thank you for helping us explore these questions and spark a larger conversation!

Continue the conversation and help us co-create the agenda

All of the discussions you have on the Forum Network inform our thinking for the OECD Forum event each year – join to respond to Darlene's article and comment to help us co-create the agenda

Related Topics

Digital Inclusion Future of Education & Skills Artificial Intelligence Privacy & Cybersecurity

Banner image: Singularity University

Go to the profile of Darlene Damm

Darlene Damm

Vice Chair & Principal Faculty of Global Grand Challenges, Singularity University

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