Here is the talk I gave at TEDx Duke ” Preparing Your Children for a World you can Barely Imagine.”
Some of the images are a bit pixelated but you can get a copy of the slides in my previous post.
For those who prefer text….here ’tis:
CHART 1: TITLE
Today I want to share a VISUAL STORY about THAT MOMENT TIME when you FIRST REALIZE what it REALLY MEANS TO BE A PARENT and HOW THAT TINY SLIVER OF AN INSTANT in the RELENTLESS UNFOLDING OF TIME forever CHANGES YOUR OUTLOOK on LIFE!
Now, while I am sharing my PERSONAL FAMILY STORY …. we are all part of a big family called HUMANITY. So … in essence …. this story is really about what ALL OF US CAN DO to PREPARE EVERY CHILD to SUCCEED in a WORLD THAT WE CAN BARELY IMAGINE.
CHART 2: Eureka!
Now, I have been TEACHING for over 15 YEARS. WHY? Because, for me, there is NOTHING MORE FULFILLING than experiencing THAT MAGICAL MOMENT when another HUMAN BEING is VISCERALLY IMPACTED by the POWER OF AN IDEA.
I ADMIT IT, I am ADDICTED to EUREKA MOMENT’s
CHART 3: Grandad
In hindsight, it is NOT REALLY SURPRISING that I became an EDUDATOR. In fact I, I come from a LONG LINE of educators
This is my Grandad, Michael O’Driscoll … He was the HEAD MASTER at the LOCAL TECH-SCHOOL in my home-town of Youghal, Ireland. Everyone knew and loved my Grandad. He was a REAL PILLAR OF THE COMMUNITY.
CHART 4: Pillar
He was always TUNED IN to what was GOING ON AROUND TOWN and many, many people SOUGHT HIS WISE COUNSEL …. over a PINT OR TWO …. long after he had RETIRED FROM THE CLASSROOM
CHART 5: Passing
One GLORIOUS SPRING DAY my grandfather STEPPED ONTO THE TEE one of the LONGEST FAIRWAYS on the GOLF course in YOUGHAL. He DROVE THE BALL FURTHER than he had ever done before … and at that the VERY SAME INSTNT…. HE PASSED AWAY …. One of his close friends later related it to me this way – “Shir, he was DEAD before he hit the ground boy.”
NOW, every CLOUD has a SILVER LINING …. In this case, I TAKE SOLACE in the fact that Grandad PASSED AWAY PAINLESSLY doing something that he LOVED surrounded by his PEOPLE WHO LOVED HIM.
CHART 6: Unyielding Obsession
Grandad has this WONDERFUL WORKSHOP at the back of his house. As a GOSOON, I spent COUNTLESS HOURS with him TINKERING WITH BROKEN RADIOS or REPAIRING GRANDFATHER CLOCKS.
Through those INTERACTIONS, his passion for FIGURING THINGS OUT was passed along to me in the form of my KEEN INTEREST TECHNOLOGY.
To this day, I still remember THE MOMENT when this KEEN INTERST became an UNYIELDING OBSESSION. It was April of 2000 ….. Another BEAUTIFUL SPRING DAY ….. I was on a plane coming in to land at LaGuardia. On the final approach, I looked out the window at ONE OF THE GREATEST MARVELS of HUMAN and TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENT EVER: NEW YORK CITY. I DISTINCTLY REMEMBER that the Empire State Building LOOKED ALMOST ALIVE as it SHIMMERED in the EARLY MORNING SUN.
And yet, despite this INCREDIBLE vista, I FOUND MYSELF CRYING UNCONTROLLABLY … I was COMPLETELY DISTRAUGHT. WHY? Because I had READ Bill Joy’s article “”WHY THE FUTURE DOESN’T NEED US” in Wired Magazine and, I IMMEDIATELY realized that I had FALLEN PREY TO THE SIREN SONG of TECHNO-OPTIMISM….. and I’d never PAUSED TO PONDER THE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES of technology’s RELENTLESS MARCH through the UNFOLDING OF TIME.
And thus began my DEEP DIVE to understand how TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS HUMANITY.
CHART 7: Technology Odyssey
To START WITH, I paused to ponder the TECHNOLOGY ODYSSEY that my Granddad went through DURING THE ARC OF HIS LIFETIME. He witnessed the invention of the Telephone, the Television, the Automobile, Manned Flight, Sputnik, Transatlantic Radio, Highway Systems, A MAN landing on the moon, …. He even saw the advent of the Information Revolution with Computers.
If you stop think about the AMOUNT OF CHANGE MY GRANDFATHER ABSORBED DURING HIS LIFETIME, I am ACTUALLY surprised he did not SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST walking down main-street in Youghal as opposed to passing away ON THE GOLF COURSE.
CHART 8: CHILDREN
Now, these are my kids….Aidan’s 8 and Liam is 5….and BOTH the RESEARHER and the FATHER in me want to know ONE THING…..
CHART 9: Arc of Life
How will the ARC OF MY KID’S LIVES COMPARE to that OF MY GRANDFATHER’S?
- What will their TECHNOLOGY ODYSSEY look like?
- Will they experience MORE OR LESS CHANGE?
- Will they be as FULFILLED IN LIFE as he was?
And perhaps the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION of all….WHAT CAN I DO AS A FATHER TO ENSURE THAT AIDAN AND LIAM EXPERIENCE THE FULLNESS AND JOY of life THAT MY GRANDFATHER DID?
CHART 10: 3D Rate of Change
As I dug deeper, I QUICKLY became FASCINATED by the role that TIME PLAYS in determining THE RATE OF CHANGE OF SOMETHING. Whenever we say the words … “RATE of CHANGE” … TIME ITSELF is baked into that equation…. It’s right there in the DENOMINATOR
But with each SUCCESSIVE TIME DERIVATIVE, the RATE OF CHANGE ITSELF is also CHANGING. It is easy enough for us to COMPREHEND SPEED AND ACCELERATION ….. we feel it in our CAR. But when we move into a THIRD DERIVATIVE RATE OF CHANGE ……Quite APPROPRIATELY DEFINED as JERK ….. We loose the ABILITY TO COMPREHEND IT VISCERALLY
CHART 10: Time Jerk Wormhole
Here, I’m suggesting that the TIME-SIGNATURE OF LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY is NO LONGER SYNCHRONIZED WITH VELOCITY OR ACCELERATION. INSTEAD, it is SYNCOPATED WITH JERK…. And as a result, TECHNOLOGY is LITERALLY jerking HUMANITY AROUND.
CHART 11: Exoskeleton
Now, BECAUSE we HUMANS ARE NOT PROPERLY INSTRUMENTED to process a THIRD-DERIVATIVE rate of change we have NOT noticed that our planet has developed a DIGITAL NERVOUS SYSTEM that CONNECTS PEOPLE AND AMPLIFIES INSIGHTS at a SPEED AND SCALE that we can BARELY IMAGINE.
Basically, the WORLD HAS WEAVED THE WEB into an ELECTRONIC EXOSKELETON that is MOVING THROUGH TIME AT a RATE OF CHANGE we HUMANS are not well equipped to DETECT.
CHART 13: DDDK
AND SO, as TECHNOLOGY STARTS to SERIOUSLY JERK US AROUND, we find ourselves facing a DIGITAL DIVIDE OF A DIFFERENT KIND. This divide is NOT about the HAVES and HAVE NOTs in terms of ACCESS. It is a divide about the KNOW and KNOW NOTs in terms of SURVIVAL.
Given that each individual’s ABILITY TO PROCESS AND STORE INFORMATION has REMAINED RELATIVELY CONSTANT OVER TIME, how do we BEGIN to BRIDGE this EVER-WIDENING DIGITAL DIVIDE?
What can we do to prepare EVERY KID for a world where:
- Technology is Proliferating
- Information is Exploding
- Time is Compressing
- Change is Accelerating
WHERE DO WE EVEN BEGIN?
CHART 14: Possible Futures
Drawing on GRANDAD’s PASSION to FIGURE THINGS out, I laid out A SET OF POSSIBLE FUTURES FACING HUMANITY:
In the ENSLAVED scenario TECHNOLOGY LIMITS, BOUNDS AND ATTENUATES THE FULFILLMENT OF HUMAN POTENTIAL. Technology plays a role in how we CONSTRUCT OUR SENSE OF IDENTITY. WE REDUCE OURSELVES, and MAYBE OUR DREAMS, to fit the CURRENT FORM FACTOR OF THE TECHNOLOGY. Here, Aidan and Liam SURF IN THE SHALLOWS OF THE INTERNET ERODING their CONTEMPLATIVE AND INTROSPECTIVE THINKING ABILITIES …. Opting instead to go to the ALWAYS ON ANSWER BOX when faced with a QUESTION. At the highest level, our INTERNET INDWELLING DUMBS US DOWN to a point where we a become IT LABORERS living a life of INDENTURED SERVITUDE to SERVER FARM OWNERS.
In the EMPOWERED scenario TECHNOLOGY EXPANDS, AUGMENTS, AND AMPLIFIES the HUMAN QUEST FOR FULFILLMENT. The flywheel of TECHNOLOGY PROLIFERATION and JERKINESS SYNCOPATES to open up NEW FRONTIERS OF OPPORTUNITY for Aidan and Liam. The technology serves as a FULFILLMENT SERVICE to help our children realize their BIGGEST AND BOLDEST DREAMS. At the highest level, the 1 TRILLION HOURS OF COGNITIVE SURPLUS that exists in society today is CONNECTED AND AMPLIFIED TO CREATE A BETTER WORLD FOR EVERYONE
In the ENMESHED scenario Technology REDEFINES THE NOTION OF THE FULFILLMENT OF POTENTIAL IN A POST-HUMAN SENSE. More and more we are BRINGING INTO OURSELVES TECHNOLOGICAL AFFORDANCES that allow us to do certain things better than we have in the past. Range goes from a COCHLEAR IMPLANT, to HEART VALVES, through a SMART NANO-PILL to get better at CALCULUS, to the potential for ETERNAL POST-HUMAN LIFE by transferring THE NEURAL CORRELATES OF OUR EMOTIONS into an AVATAR in a VIRTUAL WORLD. Here it is not a QUESTION of whether or not our children REMAIN INTACT AS HUMAN BEINGS, but what NEW FORMS THEY WILL ASSSUME and WHAT FULFILLMENT WOULD LOOK LIKE FOR THESE NEW POST-HUMAN FORMS. At the highest level, the MESHING OF MAN AND MACHINE creates a NEW RANGE OF POST-HUMAN FULFILLMENT OPPORTUNITIES, but the PRICE OF ENTRY is giving up OUR UNIQUELY HUMAN IDENTITY
Now, because minds are NOT OPERATING AT THE SAME CLOCKSPEED AS the ENVIRONMENT within which we OPERATE, we have an ERRANT SET OF ASSUMPTIONS about HOW LONG it takes for THINGS to HAPPEN. In the EXTINGUISHED scenario, the EARTH’s ELECTRONIC EXOSKELETON CONNECTS and AMPLIFIES the UNANTICIPATED CONSEQUENCES OF OUR COLLECTIVE ACTION FAR MORE QUICKLY than we anticipate leading to THE ERADICATION OF LIFE on Earth MUCH SOONER THAN WE ANTICIPATE
In essence HUMANITY becomes an UNFORTUNATE CASUALTY of our COLLECTIVE INABILITY to ANTICIPATE the RATE OF CHANGE of an EMERGENT CATASTROPHIC COLLAPSE
CHART 15: Touchstones
Now, if the EXTINGUISH scenario happens …. ALL BETS ARE OFF! BUT, MY BET is that we will avoid EXTINCTION … And if we do these SEVEN TOUCHSTONES I UNCOVERED may prove USEFUL in preparing EVERY CHILD for an INCREASINGLY UNCERTAIN FUTURE……
FIRST: LOVE THEM UNCONDITIONALLY:
Loving your child without condition is the most LIBERATING AND CONFIDENCE-BUILDING THING you can do. Without SELF-CONFIDENCE our children will NOT have the COURAGE OF THEIR CONVICTIONS to keep them on the RIGHT TRACK and STAY THE COURSE towards PERSONAL FULFILLMENT
SECOND: CULTIVATE THEIR CURIOSITY:
Curiosity is the underlying MOTIVATION for learning. It is the LUBRICANT for the LEARNING PROCESS and the LIFEBLOOD of PERSONAL GROWTH. Without CURIOSITY our children will STOP LEARNING. Without learning they will STOP ADAPTING…WITHOUT ADAPTATION there is little chance for SURVIVAL in a WORLD that’s CHANGING as fast as ours.
THIRD: FOSTER THEIR SENSE OF IDENTITY:
Without knowing WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU STAND FOR, you are far more likely to END UP somewhere OTHER THAN where you WANT TO BE. Without a STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY it MUCH MORE likely that our children will become ENSLAVED by technology or ENMESHED with it.
FOURTH: RESPECT THEIR SKEPTICISM:
In a world awash with information a HEALTHY SENSE OF SKEPTICISM becomes PARAMOUNT. RESPECT FOR OTHERS, even if they OPPOSE your own POINT OF VIEW, is CORE TO THE FABRIC of a JUST AND FAIR SOCIETY. Without ENSURING that the STRENGTH OF ANY CONCLUSION is equally matched by the STRENGTH OF ITS EVIDENCE, our children could quickly become CAUGHT UP in a world that LACKS VERACITY.
FIFTH: ENCOURAGE THEIR INTROSPECTION:
As the world OUT THERE Jerks us around UNPREDICTBLY, it important that the world IN HERE maintains ITS SANITY. Without ONGOING SELF-REFLECTION the likelihood of our children LOOSING THE BEARINGS OF THEIR INTERNAL COMPASS and getting LOST in a SEA OF DIGITAL DILUSSION increases.
SIXTH: INDULGE THEIR PLAYFULNESS:
Play is not the opposite of work. It is a CRUICBLE FOR CREATIVITY and a PORTAL TO NEW POSSIBILITY. PLAY also allows us to understand how to WORK WITH OTHERS and WORK THE NETWORK to accomplish a DESIRED OUTCOME. Play fuels the QUESTING DISPOSITION that every child should have in their toolbox today.
WITHOUT PLAY the joy and wonder of life are rendered IMPOTENT. Who would want their child to live in such a DULL AND DRAB world anyway?
SEVENTH: NURTURE THEIR SELFLESSNESS:
Developing a SENSE OF CIVIC DUTY and EMPATHY FOR HUMANITY is CORE to ensuring the CONTINUITY OF CIVIL SOCIETY. Without the INTRINSIC WILLINGNESS to HELP ONES NEIGHBOR the potential for our children to EXPERIENCE PERSONAL FULFILLMENT evaporates BACK into the EXOSKELETON
Chart 16: Full Circle
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT … THE SEVEN TOUCHSTONES that SPRANG FORTH from my FATHERLY ODDYSEY. It’s NOT a bad list , even if I DO SAY SO myself! Why? …… Because if I showed it to Grandad, he’d probably say “THAT MAKES SENSE TO ME … IT IS WHAT I’D DO IF I WERE YOU”
And so, AFTER ALL OF THIS, we COME FULL CIRCLE to the UNIVERSALITY OF HUMAN TOUCHSTONES, IRRESPECTIVE of the TIME we LIVE IN
Chart 17: Sorry !
So, please ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES for DRAGGING YOU through the ANGST OF MY PERSONAL ODDYSEY …… In HINDSIGHT, I probably should have just KEPT ALL OF THIS TO MYSELF ; )
HOWEVER, I DO HOPE that my story MOTIVATES you to WORK HARDER at doing WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW you SHOULD BE DOING as a PARENT.
And for ALL OF US here TODAY, lets PROMISE OURSELVES to HIT AT LEAST ONE OF THESE TOUCHSTONES to help a CHILD WE KNOW succeed in a WORLD WE CAN BARELY IMAGINE, LET ALONE PREDICT.
Chart 18: Thank You!
GO RAIBH MILE MATH AGAT!