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aNewDomain — In a recent article, Erik P.M. Vermeulen ruminates about what he should be teaching his students about technology, especially given the disruptive effect various technologies have on traditional social and hierarchical structures.
It’s a well thought out article. But as compelling as they are, Vermeulen’s arguments for changing education in light of new technologies are anything but new. That doesn’t invalidate them, of course. But it does raise an important pair of questions: What has really changed? And what happens if we do nothing about it?
What has changed is that technology has become more democratized and supportive of self directed social interactions. These interactions can, in theory at least, operate independently of traditional hierarchical power structures — such as teachers in classrooms. We must learn to control them or, as pundits have been warning us since the dawn of technology, “… they will control us.” (Cue references to Mary Shelley, Fritz Lang, The Matrix, Ex Machina, Blade Runner, etc.)
Teaching students to manage themselves and their interactions with emerging technologies makes good sense as long as students are also taught to continually learn and to be aware when others, like Russian trolls, advertisers and Facebook posters, are better than they at managing and using new technologies.
That said, one criticism I have of Vermeulen’s short article is its relatively narrow focus on technology, in terms of computing and electronics, at least at the beginning of the article. I would be equally concerned as Vermeulen is towards the end with understanding advances in genetic technologies and biology, too.
Such technologies, as amply illustrated by Siddhartha Mukherjee in his excellent book, The Gene: An Intimate History are already showing us how to alter both human and non-human life forms.
For aNewDomain, I’m Dennis D. McDonald.
An earlier version of this story ran in Dennis D. McDonald’s DDMCD site. Check it out here.