Andy: Today we will start a new ongoing discussion for the new series titled “Singularities - Rethinking EdTech”, implying that there are different kinds of singularities. I know you're part of the Singularity University, and singularities are occurring in education, technology, and so on. So to start this series off, I think a very general prompt is fine. And I came up with the following: In your opinion, what new technology or set of technologies will present the largest challenge to high school and family education in the next decade?
Esther: I'm happy you've asked this question. It's been sitting on my desk, and I have actually been thinking about this. How will we be dealing with the virtual world, considering that so many people will be focused on the virtual world? And kids are going to join the virtual world as just a fun experience. But then, they're going to be somewhat trapped in that world because it's going to be engaging. And that's where Mark Zuckerberg is trying to take everybody to better. Imagine if all the kids were involved in the virtual world... if we thought that they were glued to their cell phones today, I think we're going to have to realize that they're not really glued all in today's world because that virtual world will, even more, trap them. And I'm not sure that I think the virtual world is really going to help us that much. I think it's a way to live out your passions and your dreams much more easily, without fear of injury, unlike how it is in the real world, but it's still a virtual world. It's not real. But I do think parents are going to have to deal with that. And I do think that there will continue to be issues with just the web in general. And concerns about things like: "what is true from what is not true." There are so many people that are... I guess they get their excitement in life by posting fake news. I don't know what we can do about it because it's coming in droves from various countries, and I do not want to mention any in particular, but there are some countries where this seems to have already become a national pastime. And I think, you know, with the fake news issue and the fact that there's so much, I don't know how intellectual harassment online will be in the virtual world. So we need to think of ways to protect kids, protect ourselves, and protect their families. And the best way, in my opinion, is to have a course offered in all schools that is required about "what is fake news." What is its nature, deep fakes, and other fictional phenomena? People need to know about it. And they need to know that when a bank calls you online and tells you that someone made a $1,000 purchase on your account, the voice is actually fake. We need to know how to tell them to stop that. You need to realize that this is a form of fraud that is highly deceptive. It's so scary what is going on in today's world. So we've got a lot of issues. I think helping kids in school think independently is a way to protect them as adults.
Andy: Thank you, I read an article about a week back. There was a little bit of a glitch in our connection. I thought you finished talking; sorry about that. It's a bit bumpy.
Esther: I did finish, sorry. Okay.
Andy: I can maybe prompt you a little bit more here because I read an article last week about the metaverse, and it talked about all of your concerns. And it pointed out a possibility that what we saw happen in the past four years with, let's say, news on narcotics, I guess, just alternative realities; sometimes you can't tell what is real and what is not real. It goes beyond political divides. It's all kinds of different news variants. And it is being said that it's symptomatic of something that could be much more enveloping on the horizon through this virtual world. It could get to the extent that by being a participant in the virtual realm for a significant portion of the day, and the interactions there, and the meaning gained from it, that it could get to the point where it could hijack the organic reality. This argument stems from the fact that, for example, deep fakes and all kinds of other things, including interest groups, that affect your way of perceiving certain issues or things inside of that world. Well, it will all become a very nuanced and interactive perceptual-immersive experience in real-time inside the metaverse. When you may be challenged to extract meaning from the organic world anymore, you might start to doubt the information and experiences gained through the organic reality. I don't know, I'm at a loss for words regarding articulating this potential phenomenon, but I get it. I see that there might be some existential danger posed to the organic reality by this collective virtual reality (danger to our ability to accept interactions and information exchange in the organic reality).
Esther: Well, I can see the danger because it's very engaging, the virtual world, that is. People can wear those headsets, and you can; your body feels like you're experiencing that. And in real life, and it can be addictive and dramatic. And it's going to take a lot of energy not to participate because everybody's going to be doing it, and then you're going to be wondering, are you the only one left out? So I'm, I am not happy with the future of the metaverse. I'm concerned. I think we need to live in the real world.
Andy: I agree. I feel that it's more than a double-edged sword. It's volatile. And we'll see too, for example, there could be limitations on the human body. They talk about suits even where you would wear maybe a thin layer that would stimulate your skin and even make you feel the wind or whatever it is in that environment. But maybe there's a limit to how much the body can accept an inorganic perceived reality… maybe there is just a kind of threshold where we will get a headache or, you know, whatever it is. I hope it is like that. I hope there will be some kind of rejection for natural reasons that technology companies and moneymakers cannot easily address.
Esther: That's right, but you know what it's going to be like, you can take a ski trip to Australia or to Austria or to Switzerland or any place, and you don't really need to go. You just put on your headset. And the equipment itself will not be very much.
Andy: In this first stage with the headsets, it will already be very compelling because something like 16k immersive VR, via 6G networks, which are under research and development in Korea already (that is 6G unmistaken), that's possible, real-time 16K resolution full real-time VR. But maybe in the second stage, it won't be about that fidelity of the of the visual, but maybe in the second stage more so about a true neural lace through to technologies like Elon Musk has developed (Neuralink), where it would actually be able to stimulate the brain and different sensory organs from a more fundamental standpoint.
Esther: Well, I have you ever tried one of those VR headsets?
Andy: I mean, I have none here. I haven't tried the latest stuff. The only ones I've tried are the ones from way back in the 90s.
Esther: Oh, no, the latest ones are pretty incredible.
Andy: So, in other words, you kind of even know you don't actually feel the breeze, but still, just the whole experience of it just kind of makes you somehow experience that feeling.
Esther: Yeah, it's pretty dramatic. And I think that it's just the beginning.
Andy: Yeah, it is for sure.
Esther: Um, I think, you know, my philosophy would be to stay away. But honestly, you know, it's just like, how could I say stay away from the web, you know, for an iPad. But don't have an iPad? Don't have a phone? Don't have a computer? You know, there are people like that out there. But they're very far and few between. So, yeah, it's kind of nasty.
Andy: A tidal force to be reckoned with.
Esther: Yeah. And then people are going to be buying things with that—digital currency. I mean, you're just going to be living in your brain. That's crazy. Sorry. I mean, yeah, it is alarming.
Andy: I think it will affect classrooms. If we take it back to that practical side. The amount that cellphones affected the engagement level of high school students was and still is noticeable. And then maybe this will make it even harder to get their attention because they'll come to class kind of out of it. And then waiting for their chance to get back into the metaverse or whatever technology they prefer.
Esther: I don't know. I mean, one of the things that I talk about, because I hear about it from industry, is that many of the jobs that we're going to be recruiting people for in 2030 haven't even been conceptualized.
Andy: Sure. That's the singularity.
Esther: The singularity. That's right. I don't know. No, it's very challenging for all of us very much.
Andy: Thank you for your enlightenment and your rich answers. They always help to guide many different learners from many different places. So I'll do my best to transliterate it.
Esther: Thank you, Andy. You're welcome. Appreciate you are philosophical. I love the way you think. Very, very good. Very interesting.
Andy: Thank you.
ABOUT THIS SERIES The Harmony Plus "Singularities - Thinking Ed-Tech Series" explores ways in which education and technology are both revolutionizing each other.