Posted by: crudbasher | February 5, 2015

Future Myopia

I have said many times that we are linear beings living in exponential times. This means that we have a hard time predicting the future. (see The Stormfront)

For example, here is a link to a gallery of fascinating predictions from the 1950s. Things like jetpack wearing mailmen and radiation enhanced crops are predicted. Even so, they got somethings right. For example they predicted wearable electronics and teleconferencing. A lot of what they got wrong though is they take something they know and just enhance it with technology. For example, a jetpack wearing mailman was an extension of the new jet engine technology. This was the start of the atomic age so why not enhance plants with radiation?

The point here is many people look at education reform as taking the current model and bolting on whatever the latest technology is. Often though reformers can’t see that these technologies are going to change the whole design pattern of the way we learn.  I think I’ll start calling this Future Myopia.

Another recent article talks about a vision of the workplace in 2040.


MYOB has released its ‘Future of Business: Australia 2040’ report, which examines the possible impact of emerging technologies on business and work over the next 25 years.


Forget the traditional office or even the remote workspace — localised centres based around suburbs or communities will emerge as the home of business as a response to the growing expense of traditional inner-city office buildings, Mr Raik-Allen says.

These giant warehouses, used by employees from many different companies spread around the globe, will be home to the technology that makes the interconnected workplace possible.

“Within each will be rooms filled with giant wall-sized screens allowing us to work in a fully virtual, telepresence model. Banks of 3D printers would be continually churning out products ordered by the local community.”

Ok let’s stop right there. Even today we are seeing the rise of personal, wearable display devices such as Oculus Rift, and Google Glass. In 10 years, I predict we will all have access to contact lenses and glasses that will create fully immersive virtual experiences around us. So if we have access to that, why do we have to have a building with wall sized screens?? Seems like a waste of space to me.


Launching a new business and hiring 500 people could be done in minutes, he argues. “Your company could be just you and a couple of project managers: the thinkers, controlling every aspect of the company through new digital interfaces.”

Yes I agree completely and to carry it further, I expect businesses will be created and then destroyed very quickly. I expect most people will work for many companies at the same time and at all times of the day. You will either be creative, or unemployed. Manual labor will be taken over almost completely by robots. We all have a lot more free time. In fact I think the 40 hour work week will disappear.


Here’s where it gets really crazy. If you thought smartphones and wearables were the height of personal technology, wait until you have chips implanted under your skin and downloadable apps for your brain.

Nanobots will swim through your blood, diagnosing illness and clearing blood clots. Brain augmentations will heighten our senses or allow us to control technology with our minds.

For example, implants in the retina could farm off the raw data to miniature processors implanted in our bodies, analysing the images to identify things that can’t be seen with the naked eye, and then feed that back ‘into the stream’, effectively giving us augmented vision.

Ok so again he is predicting personal immersive virtual reality and yet he thinks we will work in buildings with wall screens. ;)

The whole brain modification thing is something I haven’t done a lot of research on but nothing I have seen leads me to say it’s impossible. What if you can upload information directly into the brain? What if you can upload skills? What if in 10 minutes you can become a violin virtuoso? Direct brain interface sounds outlandish but there is nothing I can see that says it’s impossible.

2040 is only 25 years away. My son will be 27 years old. 25 years ago was 1990. I was graduating high school. In that time we have seen the Internet and Smartphones be developed and sweep the world. What will happen in the next 25 years? Does it seem likely that in 25 years we will still be grouping children together into a room to hear a teacher talk about a topic? I don’t think so so what will we do and how do we get there? That’s what this blog explores.


Posted by: crudbasher | February 2, 2015

A PC For $35

Every year new phones get released and they are pretty much the same cost as the year before. This tend to mask the overall fact that computing is getting cheaper, very quickly.

When you look at the cost of computers you should look at the cost to do a calculation, not the cost of the machine itself. If this year’s computer costs the same as last years and yet does double the calculations, then the cost per calculation has dropped by 50%. Because of Moore’s Law, this is pretty much what has been happening for the last 50 years.

One of the big initiatives in the public school system is to buy laptops and tablets for their students. Many times this flops because of a lack of followup support, or a lack of teacher training or any number of factors but I have been saying for a while that it’s a pointless task because they will become nearly free within the decade. Case in point:

H/T Gizmodo

What does that mean in reality? Well, the Raspberry Pi Foundation claims that performance is six times faster than the old model. Speaking to The Register, the company’s head Eben Upton explained that “it’s a usable PC now. It was always the case that you could use a Raspberry Pi 1 as a PC but you had to say ‘this is a great PC in so far as it cost me 35 bucks’. We’ve removed the caveat that you had to be a bit forgiving with it. Now it’s just good.”

And, somehow, it still costs just $35.

Microsoft has also announced their new Windows 10 will be free for the Raspberry Pi. That’s just really impressive. So keep in mind that in another few years this performance level will be nearly free. The thought of the public school leviathan trying to keep up with that technology curve is ludicrous. Just let the kids bring their own gear and focus on innovative teaching methods to use them.

See also Why Bring Your Own Device To School Is Inevitable

Posted by: crudbasher | January 28, 2015

A Video Showing Virtual Reality Training

This post relates to the Simulation theme.

This year should be very cool for Virtual Reality. That technology has been on the horizon for literally decades but it looks like the time is right to make it a commercial reality. What really interests me about it is the whole idea of using it for experiential learning. With that in mind here are two videos. The first is a tech demo from Epic showing an apartment in Paris. This demo is not actually in VR but it easily could be. The point here is to show how good the visuals can be in VR.

The second video is the actual VR training video. In it a Youtuber plays Eurotruck which apparently is a truck driving simulator. When he puts on the Occulus Rift VR helmet he becomes immersed in the game. What is significant is he can use the mirrors just like you would in a real truck. There is no reason you can’t use this exact technology for training truck drivers. Now this won’t completely replace driving a real truck but it’s a lot cheaper and safer to do the initial training in VR. You can simulate various weather conditions just by pushing a button.

Here’s the video (note there is some profanity as he plays but not too often)

Your students will have this technology within the next 1-2 years.

Posted by: crudbasher | January 27, 2015

Great Article Describing A Telepresence Experience

We tend to throw around terms like Virtual Reality to describe things that are actually not that. The author of this article talks about his VR experience but a VR experience is defined as Virtual, meaning synthetic and not real. Instead he is using a Head Mounted Display to experience real reality from a different point than his physical body. This is called Telepresence even if you use a HMD to do it.

I am completely convinced however that the general public will call this VR so it will stick. *sigh* lol

Back on topic. When I read this story I got a whole bunch of ideas as to how to apply this to education. There are lots of places in the world I want to visit. Doing it via Telepresence might be the easiest way to do it.

H/T Engadget

I don’t know what John Carmack, Mark Zuckerberg or Palmer Luckey have in mind for the future of VR, but after what I experienced I’m ready for a virtual reality feed from every major event — NBA All-Star Game, Super Bowl, State of the Union address, whatever. It’s not quite teleportation, but having seen 4K, 8K and everything else, the sense of “being there” has never matched what even this heavily compressed stream on a phone and $200 headset could provide.

This technology should have a big impact on the way we learn in the not too distant future.


Posted by: crudbasher | January 23, 2015

Live Cameras On Hockey Players

Drones and remote cameras are opening up many experiences to Internet viewers. While it’s not as good as actually being there, it’s still a lot better than reading about it in a book. This tech is becoming much cheaper and in fact most of us carry around a smartphone with a decent camera with which we can broadcast to the world.

H/T Gizmodo

The NHL/NHLPA just inked a deal with GoPro to bring action cams to televised hockey across the United States and Canada using the camera company’s newly developed broadcast solution. Basically, in order for GoPros to be usable in live broadcast settings, the company had to develop a very small very lightweight wireless transmitter. The inaugural usage will be this weekend’s skills competition before the All Star Game. The cameras are ready for use during the game itself, but it’s not 100 percent clear whether they’ll be used in the broadcast.

That is very cool and the tech is going to spread rapidly into other sports. I can imagine though a whole other area of broadcast for educational use. Imagine having a local guide to Egyptian pyramids, or controlling a drone through a cave in Europe. The world has more amazing things to see than we can ever see. Remote learning will help make it real for school kids.

Here’s a video of the footage they can get from the Hockey players. Very cool!

Posted by: crudbasher | January 22, 2015

Microsoft’s Project HoloLens

Here is some background on Simulation.

Oh Microsoft, you doth tease us so! I’ve had a love hate relationship with Microsoft for decades. They are a company that hires some of the best people around and then cripples them with a horrendous marketing/management culture. In Microsoft’s research labs for example, they are funding research on some ideas that aren’t likely to be practical for 30 years. In my mind they are one of the biggest underachievers in the industry.

So when I see something like their new project Hololens I take it with a huge grain of salt. First a concept video.

What you are seeing is not a hologram per se. Instead, this is Augmented Reality. This is one of the technologies that I think will change the world in a way similar to how the smart phone did. It will bring the Internet into the physical world and blend the two together.

As with most concept videos there are some good ideas and some bad. The good ideas are where the woman is designing a motorcycle and has it visualized in front of her. Being able to see an object in real space at actual size is a good idea. Some bad ideas is where people are creating things by walking around them and crouching down etc… That will get tiring quickly. It is just like how some people thought a touchscreen will replace a keyboard and mouse. My laptop has a touchscreen but I rarely use it because it is tiring to hold your hands up. Ergonomics plays a big role in Augmented Reality.

There is a very good article about the Hololens technology at Wired. In it, the creator of the project gives a good explanation of why AR is going to be big.

[y]ou used to compute on a screen, entering commands on a keyboard. Cyberspace was somewhere else. Computers responded to programs that detailed explicit commands. In the very near future, you’ll compute in the physical world, using voice and gesture to summon data and layer it atop physical objects. Computer programs will be able to digest so much data that they’ll be able to handle far more complex and nuanced situations. Cyberspace will be all around you.

There are two factors that make this perfect for learning.

1. Immersion: this means you are surrounded by information that is blended with reality. This provides a much richer experience than just watching a video. It’s more interactive with keeps a learner engaged.

2. Portable: The full potential for this technology will be when it becomes fully portable. Apparently the headset has a depth sensing camera in it plus the computing technology to make it work (this is impressive).

It won’t take very long for people to start coming up with learning that can be done based on where you are. The video has a great example of this at 1:05. A woman is repairing her sink with the assistance of someone else who is walking her through what to do. Not only can he see what she is doing remotely, but he can draw on parts of the video which she then sees layered over reality. It’s amazing.

This demonstrates collaborative, personalized, just in time learning. The person exploring a Mars location at 1:16 is also very cool. The sort of experiential learning is I think going to be very effective in the future.

Of course there is one huge education take way from this. You don’t have to be in a classroom to do any of this. The idea that in order to learn you have to go to school is a remnant of when knowledge was scarce. Once you separate the teacher from the learner, it doesn’t matter how far away they are.

We will see if Microsoft can produce a product that is close to this concept video. Knowing them, I’m sure they will screw it up somehow. :)

Posted by: crudbasher | January 20, 2015

Update: Google Might Invest In SpaceX’s Satellite Internet

Update to this update: Google did invest in the venture.

I wrote about this yesterday. Elon Musk is starting a new endeavor to create a constellation of satellites to deliver global Internet access. It’s very ambitious and will require a lot of funding to make it work.

Well here’s a possible funder. H/T Arstechnica

The Information reported on Monday that, according to “several people familiar with the talks,” Google is considering investing in SpaceX to support its plan to deliver hundreds or thousands of micro satellites into a low (750 mile) orbit around the globe to serve Internet to rural and developing areas of the world. The Information’s sources indicated that Google was in the “final stages” of investing in SpaceX and valued the company at “north of $10 billion.” SpaceX is apparently courting other investors as well.

Posted by: crudbasher | January 19, 2015

Every Obstacle Has A Solution

I tend to be an optimist. I know when you read my posts I talk a lot about disruptive change but that is mostly to the established systems. Society is always in a constant state of evolution and change. This idea guides my thinking.

When you look around at society, government seems to be the most constant thing doesn’t it? By extension then, public schools are equally rooted in the fabric. I mean, we will always send our kids to school right? It sounds like a no brainer but why?

Take another industry like Internet service providers. At my house in Orlando I have two options for ISP, Comcast and Time Warner. Once they merge I will have only one option. That makes me nervous. Still, as long as you have to run a wire to my house for Internet, nothing will change. Running that wire is expensive. And yet, in this day and age, nothing is impossible. Turns out a solution is to go over their heads. Literally. :)

Elon Musk touts launch of ‘SpaceX Seattle’

As guests drank beer and wine and sipped Champagne from glasses etched with the SpaceX logo, Musk outlined an audacious plan to build a constellation of some 4,000 geosynchronous satellites, a network in space that could deliver high-speed Internet access anywhere on Earth.

Those satellites are to be designed by software and aerospace engineers in SpaceX’s new engineering office in Redmond.

Well dang. I wonder how well this will work? He wants to use very small satellites, just lots of them. It is a very disaggregated model really. :)

An ISP like Comcast makes money when what they are selling is scarce. They want you to pay more money for more speed and data. A company like Google makes money when bandwidth is very cheap and plentiful. A company like SpaceX is using this dichotomy to make money solving the problem. SpaceX wants to go to Mars. Doing a satellite global Internet system is a means to that end. Think about that for a moment. It is now within the capabilities for a medium size company like SpaceX to establish a global communications system. Then ask yourself what will happen if Elon Musk decides he needs better engineers than he’s getting via the public school system and invents a better replacement?

He might not, but I bet somebody will. What seems like a permanent obstacle can be overcome.

Here’s a video and transcript of the event.

Posted by: crudbasher | January 12, 2015

Automated Content Is The Key To Custom Education

When you really look at what the school system does, you would have to conclude that one of it’s primary purposes is to graduate students who have internalized certain pieces of information and know how to apply them to their lives. It is of course very debatable as to the level of success the system does this, but that seems to be a primary goal. This information can take many forms; books, videos, lectures, websites, etc… but all of it has to be created by a person. Because this takes a great deal of time, the material has to be written in such a way as to be usable for most students. It’s not customized in any way.

The Internet also runs on content. Rapid production of new content is the main goal of many websites, especially the ones who are trying to gain a daily audience. Technology is rapidly advancing in the area of content creation and may soon allow automatic creation of materials.

Robot Journalist Finds New Work on Wall Street

Software that was first put to work writing news reports has now found another career option: drafting reports for financial giants and U.S. intelligence agencies.

The writing software, called Quill, was developed byNarrative Science, a Chicago company set up in 2010 to commercialize technology developed at Northwestern University that turns numerical data into a written story.


Quill is programmed with rules of writing that it uses to structure sentences, paragraphs, and pages, says Kristian Hammond, a computer science professor at Northwestern University and chief scientist at Narrative Science. “We know how to introduce an idea, how not to repeat ourselves, how to get shorter,” he says.

Companies can also tune Quill’s style and use of language based on what they need it to write. It can accentuate the positive in marketing copy, or go for exhaustive detail in a regulatory filing, for example.

Quill can also take an “angle” for a piece of writing. When writing about sports for an audience likely to favor a particular team, for instance, Quill can write a story that softens the blow of a loss.


Systems like this are improving rapidly. If you noticed in that quote where they talk about being able to tune the “style” of the content, you may realize that you can use that feature to customize the content for different learning styles. So systems like this may be able to create lessons for students in real time, customized for each student and building on what a student as previously learned.

This also scales to a global size with the other article I wanted to mention.

Language Translation Tech Starts to Deliver on Its Promise

Last month, Skype, Microsoft’s video calling service, initiated simultaneous translation between English and Spanish speakers. Not to be outdone, Google will soon announce updates to its translation app for phones. Google Translate now offers written translation of 90 languages and the ability to hear spoken translations of a few popular languages. In the update, the app will automatically recognize if someone is speaking a popular language and automatically turn it into written text.

The Internet is transforming the world because it allows much more rapid communication of ideas between people. A current limiting factor is that content only works with people speaking the same language. Imagine what will happen when the whole world gets put into the same chat room. Take the amount of information available today and increase it by an order of magnitude. That is what is happening soon. The effect on education should be dramatic because you will be able to access classes and resources from anywhere in the world. The third world will be able to learn from the first world.


Posted by: crudbasher | January 5, 2015

I’m Back!

Greetings and Happy New Year everyone!

January marks the start of the 5th year of this blog. I have written just north of 1100 posts but in August I hit a wall. Really I had several problems. My self assigned goal was to write a new post every weekday (which I mostly did). My other goal though was to explore how education was going to change with technology. As my ideas have evolved, I found myself having to put more and more back story at the top of each post to try to give people a sense of context. This became a disincentive to writing. I decided to take some time off and see if I could fix these problems. Well, here are my solutions.

I am setting up a series of pages on the menu bar which will be a crash course on my thinking to date. It will have a FAQ section, plus a series of pages on the main themes on the blog. Naturally it will also have a primer on the Theory of Disaggregation, which is something I have been evolving since the beginning.

I am no longer going to write every day. Instead I will write when I have something to say. The best thing to do if you want to keep up with when I post is to sign up for the email notifications or the RSS feed. I will still post a few times a week I am sure so I will keep my ideas moving along. :)

For those of you who are long time readers, thanks for sticking with me and I hope to keep providing worthwhile food for thought!


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