What role will schools play in this "exponential" moment?

Photo by Jingyi Wang on Unsplash

Photo by Jingyi Wang on Unsplash


Recently, a senior executive at one of the world's largest technology companies spoke to me about the intersection of exponential technologies and learning.

After reading Weapons of Math Destruction and World Without Mind, I was hoping for a more optimistic perspective about how we can use these tools to form young people.

Instead, he told me:

  • "We are hearing kids ask, 'When I grow up, am I going to work for robot?' Well, yes, some people are going to work for robots. And if you think about it, right now, that's what an Uber driver does: he works for the algorithm, which tells him exactly what to do down to the last turn of the wheel."
  • "In the 20th century, we had three huge institutions that, for better or worse, provided strong points of view on the role of technology in our lives. The Church, the State, and the Family provided moral centers of gravity. But those three centers have shrunk dramatically. Who is going to play that role in the 21st century?"
  • "The nature of 'exponential' means that the technology is ultimately uncontrollable." The Matrix wasn't just a movie, he said, but also a metaphor for ceding more control, more privacy, and more thinking to exponential technologies.

Most concerning of all, he said, "I don't think we have that much time to figure this out."

So what role will schools play in this threshold moment? Two questions you need to answer:

  • What discussions is your school having, right now, to prepare students for this world and the one that is rapidly taking shape?
  • What experiments is your school running to understand the essence of this moment?

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Christian Talbot