Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Re-Making Humanity

Posted by durencls on June 2, 2010

In 1997, I was intrigued by the ideas presented in the film Gattaca.*   Set in a non-specific future earth, where genetic enhancement is the norm, the film tries to answer the question – is genetics everything? In this vision of the future, good, responsible parents consult with a geneticist before conception and work to give their child every genetic advantage possible.  Even simple dating decisions are made based on DNA comparisons – readily available from streetside kiosks.  In this future world, if you are not genetically perfect, it is assumed you cannot compete with those who are, and you are automatically relegated to lesser, more menial jobs. This science fiction idea could have significant implications for education – how do you teach in a genetically modified world?  Are those without genetic enhancement excluded from some educational opportunities?  What is fair?

Well, that future vision is now one step closer to reality:

ROCKVILLE, MD and San Diego, CA (May 20, 2010)— Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI), a not-for-profit genomic research organization, published results today describing the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell. [Read the entire Press Release]

Yes, there you have it, we can now manipulate genetic code to create artifical life. How soon until we are trying to teach genetically engineered children?

While our ability to manipulate genetic code is growing by leaps and bounds, neuroscience is experimenting with cognitive enhancement through chemical enhancement and neural feedback devices.  Off-label use of Adderall and other chemical neuroenhancers used to ‘strengthen’ ordinary cognition is already having an effect on how students ‘gain an edge’ at higher institutions.  Research and marketing companies are leaping to join the emerging  “Brain fitness” market.

At the same time, research is progressing on technological enhancements to human functioning – with implications not only for education, but also bio-mechanical engineering.  In one experiment by the School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading, Dr. Mark Gasson has had a high-end Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip was implanted in his left hand for over a year for the purpose of experimentation. This chip allowed him secure access to his University building and his mobile phone, as well as tracking his movements.  When he allowed his chip to be infected with a computer virus last month, he says that he, “…found it a surprisingly violating experience because the implant is so intimately connected to me but the situation is potentially out of my control.”  Further, Dr Gasson states:

“I believe it is necessary to acknowledge that our next evolutionary step may well mean that we all become part machine as we look to enhance ourselves. Indeed we may find that there are significant social pressures to have implantable technologies, either because it becomes as much of a social norm as say mobile phones, or because we’ll be disadvantaged if we do not.” 

If genetic engineering, neurological enhancement, and/or technological improvements to our cognitive abilities are clearly a furture trend, what are the implications for finding success in the 21st Century Workplace?  What skills and/or training will be needed by enhanced individuals for success?  And what of the likely “enhancement gap”?  What kinds of supports or preparation will this ‘disadvantaged’ group need to find success? To compete in this not-to-distant future?

This is an example of how the technologies themselves may affect not only how we educate, but also who and why.  And as teachers – will we ourselves have to be enhanced in order to serve an enhanced population or to qualify for our jobs?  [Oooo, creepy!]

Let us know what you think!  First person to comment on this post wins a free cognitive enhancement of their choice – performed in a hidden laboratory, during a thunderstorn, by your hosts! BwAH, ha, ha!**   

*The field of futurism is, of course, rife with references to science fiction films and writings, and as blog hosts we are certainly not immune.

**Just kidding! But Bill was sure ‘bwAH, ha, ha’ had to go in this post SOMEwhere!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: