Posted by: crudbasher | February 29, 2012

Forget Augmented Reality, How About Augmented People?

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. – John F Kennedy

I like to look over the next hill. What I see there are a whole bunch of technologies that would have been considered science fiction a decade ago, that will be science fact in the next. Obviously I can’t keep track of every possible ramification of these things so I am focused mostly on how they affect education. The reason I named this site Education Stormfront is I believe the forces about to hit education are going to inevitably revolutionize the way we learn. You can’t stop them, you can’t control them, you can’t co-opt them, you can only adapt or be overrun. So, with that in mind let’s look at another cloud in the oncoming stormfront.

Technology in its most pure form is an enhancer of people. It allows people to do more, or to do the same much easier. The forms this can take are either physical, such as using a car to get to work, or intellectual such as using a cell phone to talk to someone far away. In each case though, the technology is not changing our human capacity itself. There are some technologies coming down the road though that will. This will present yet another dilemma for schools and society in general.

There is a lot of research going on about human enhancement. People have always searched for ways to improve their abilities. For example, there is a product you can get in drug stores called 5 hour energy. It’s a drink that basically gives you a boost of energy via caffeine, sugar and other substances. Professional athletes are always being tested for performance enhancing substances. They are banned because they give the athletes an unfair advantage. I believe in the not too distant future we will develop substances and technologies that will enable a boost in mental capacity. It may be just a drug that does it temporarily (see the movie called Limitless), or it might even be genetically engineering children to be smarter.

 

This brings up a whole bunch of questions society isn’t ready to deal with. What if the technology to do this is very expensive? What will happen if only the very wealthy have access to it? Perhaps companies will offer the technology as a perk of employment? If that is the case, do all ideas you come up with while enhanced belong to the company? How will schools deal with this? If some students are enhanced mentally, it blows the whole idea of standardized testing away. Does this mean that every teacher will have to be enhanced as well? How much will that cost? How does this change politics? Does the government want a bunch of citizens with increased mental capacities? Do they get a say? The government will be all over this.

Then we get back to the whole equality issue. There will be stories of the enhancement gap among different ethnic and demographic groups. I am also 100% sure there will be a movement to ban mental enhancements all together in schools if not everyone can have them. Like in sports, it will give some people an “unfair” advantage.

At that point the veil will drop and schools will be revealed for what they really are; factories turning out a standardized product. To standardize a product, you want consistency. You don’t want the product to be of too poor quality, but you also don’t want it to be too good either. Schools aren’t about making each child the best they can be, it’s about making them to a certain minimum standard.

Nobody has answers to these questions yet, but mark my words, they will be asked fairly soon.

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. – Winston Churchill

 

 

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