I’ve become increasingly interested in exploring education from a new perspective. When lecturing at the University of Glasgow, I met a number of colleagues from various disciplines (education, engineering, computing science, culture and literature etc) who presented their thoughts on the future, and in particular in developing a stance on positivity or negativity. I have mentioned this in a previous post (Optimism, pessimism, education and the human future). In addition, I have been lucky enough to be involved in scholarly works and policy making on global catastrophic risk and existential events. Engaging in discussions with colleagues and following the work undertaken from the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, the Future of Humanity Institute (University of Oxford), the Leverhulme Centre for Future Intelligence and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (University of Cambridge), I have come to the realisation that education and contexts for learning need to be presented to children and young people so that they at least have some knowledge of the potential risks that may exist in their future. We need to go beyond the immediate exploration of the environmental impact of [not] recycling and focus on technology (seeking a better understanding of the planet’s carrying capacity and the role that technology plays – queue Thomas Malthus 1766-1834) and debunk myths that artificial intelligence simply means killer robots. Yes, this is a huge risk to humanity (see the latest discussion from Professor Hawking), but it’s not going to go away and it needs careful consideration. Our children are our future programmers and they’ll be the ones who take these technologies onto the next level; but where within the curriculum do they explore the agency between humanity and machine? The Leverhulme Centre tells us that intelligent machines will help us to do everything better, from curing cancer to cleaning up our cities. But they will also give rise to many questions and new challenges. Ensuring that the transition to the age of AI goes well is one of the great challenges of our time. So my point? Within the Technologies curriculum, we need to find space to speak with our learners and to explore the future of humanity through their education, building on a better understanding of technology and the relationship that it has with society.

 

 

 

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Posted by Lee Dunn

Academic Staff University of Glasgow and Author of Science Fiction