Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Educating for a Posthuman Society

Thanks to recommendations by Netflix and a colleague, my wife and I have started watching Suits. It's a clever show with a protagonist who's eidetic memory allows him to practice law despite having not attended law school. We've only watched a few episodes so far, but it's already clear that this character's memory skills are not enough for him to be a great lawyer.

In a similar way, I would argue that the value of education is not in filling students with facts, but rather in helping them develop the tools to synthesize meaning. Computers are very good at remembering things for us, we need to educate students to accomplish things that humans are uniquely qualified for.

Furthermore, if Ray Kurzweil and others are to be believed, life-extension technologies may soon allow us (or our consciousness) to live forever. Google's Calico project is actively working on idea. We may need to consider what attributes and skills our students, and we ourselves, may need in that sort of future. If you're interested in more about this, start with the Wikipedia articles on transhumanism and posthumanism.

We often hear about educating students for jobs that don't exist yet and the accelerating pace of change, but we're still not sure what that looks like. Will technology become some sort of benevolent babysitter for humanity?

For now, though, I trust my colleague's recommendation more than the automatic recommendations by Netflix.

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