The technologies of today and its many different variables are going to shape the human learning dramatically in the coming decades.
Our society is facing unprecedented changes like the emergence of pandemic like covid 19, intelligent machines, engineered organisms, artificial intelligence, and consequent skill and job displacement, etc.
This is why we need a big-picture view of exponential technologies that are shaping our social and physical evolution. We also need a clear understanding of possible actions and strategies that can make our-self useful in the fast-changing world.
We cannot understand the “Learning of the future” and the ”Science of future learning” without grasping how much technology can advance and how much “learning” machines can do.
In my opinion there are three evolutionary levels of technological advancement which can directly affect the future of human learning .
1. Technology as an assistant, connector and enabler.
This level includes using technology to improve learning by assisting and connecting. This means using methods like blended learning and combinations of technology tools like Learning Apps, Games(gamification), Augmented and Virtual reality, etc.
This demonstrates the success of immersive technology companies in ed-tech world that are helping the acceleration of learning and mastery.
Another example is the computational thinking perspective (computer based math) of math learning proposed by people like Conrad Wolfram which is challenging the unresponsiveness of our math curriculum. This perspective believes that math should be learned in problem context and by using computational tools, not by traditional memorization and steps methods.
The near-future expansion of these kinds of technologies could involve both scale and quality.
Secondly, these learning technologies will be more and more brain-friendly and research-based. They will increasingly use neuro, cognitive, behavioral and social learning sciences to refine their design and context adaptation.
According to Peter Diamandis of Singularity University following are the five important technologies that are going to reshape education in the near future 1) Virtual Reality, which can make learning truly immersive, 2) 3D Printing, which is allowing students to bring their ideas to life real-time, 3) Innovation and expansion of Sensors & Networks, which is going to connect everyone at gigabit speeds, making access to rich informational resources available at all times, 4) Machine Learning, which is making learning more adaptive and personalized, 5) Finally, Artificial-Intelligence based personalized teaching companion.”
2. Technology as a Human extension or Biological extension.
The second level of futuristic technology includes an extension of the human brain and biology towards the information grid.
In 2012 Ray Kurzweil predicted that Human brains will someday extend into the cloud, he said, “You can learn new material at any age, but there is a limited capacity. That’s one of the things we will overcome by basically expanding the brain into the cloud,”. Fast forward in 2017 the term “Neural lace” made headlines after Elon Musk launched his new initiative Neuralink, a medical research company that aims to merge the human brain with intelligent computers.
“Neural Lace” is conceptualized as an interface that will link the human brain with artificial intelligence. The device will be an AI interface woven into the human brain. The device would enable users to access Google and other tools by just thinking about it or back-up their personal information from the mind in case he or she dies physically.
Similarly, Facebook’s research unit called Building 8( now Facebook Reality Lab) is working to make it possible for people to type using signals from their brains, part of the lab’s broader effort to free people from their phones.
Further in this category Nicholas Negroponte (the inventor of the touchscreen and also founder of the MIT Media Lab) thinks that nanobots in our brains could be the future of learning, allowing us, for example, to load the French language into the bloodstream of our brains using biomechatronics, that is, cybernetic technology used to reproduce and improve the physical abilities of living organisms.
Finally, apart from the above projects which are publicized, It is estimated that governments and militaries around the world particularly Chinese and US Governments are heavily investing in secret projects which are intended to expand the machine-human connected intelligence.
3. Technology as a Substitute. (hypothetical and possibly dystopian)
This kind of technology is positioned in the integrational interface of machine learning, synthetic biology, and automation, enabling disruptive changes in both computer science and biology.
This combinatorial nature of multiple technologies coming together may give rise to The Biointelligence Explosion as the British philosopher David Pearce conceptualized. He wrote an essay “The Bio-intelligence Explosion” in which he explores how recursively self-improving organic robots will modify their own genetic source code and bootstrap our way to full-spectrum superintelligence.
There are two resultant possibilities if self-improving technologies emerge as a superintelligence. 1) It will work under the control of human beings Or 2) The new super-intelligence will take over control and develop itself into a master species dominating the universe.
The self-evolving super-intelligence which will lead to Singularity, which is a theory to explain this possibility, a hypothetical situation in the future when technological growth becomes irreversible and uncontrollable, which could result in possible overhaul or updation of human civilization. This hypothetical situation suggests that the intelligent agent would enter a “runaway reaction” of constant and recurrent self-improvement cycles, with each new and more intelligent generation appearing more and more rapidly, causing an intelligence explosion and resulting in a powerful superintelligence that would far surpass all human intelligence.
The first two levels are already a reality. The third level is still hypothetical.
We are definitely seeing the continuing progress of technology evolution in that direction. Most thinkers are in agreement that Level 3 is a theoretically possible scenario. It comes with a warning.