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The Multiple Futures of AI: Ed3 World Newsletter Issue #27
Time to be a futurist.
This monthly newsletter serves as your bridge from the real world to the advancements of AI & web3, specifically contextualized for education. If you haven’t already subscribed, join here:
Dear Educators & Friends,
Yesterday, OpenAI released a guide for Teaching with AI. Nothing ground-breaking, but it provides a few use cases, confronts some issues like algorithmic bias, and is probably a launching point for additional resources. Perhaps this is a response to educators looking for guidance and perhaps… it’s a reaction to the AI hype cycle starting to lose momentum.
Most hype cycles experience a massive boost with an “innovation trigger” that leads to a “peak of inflated expectations” (ref. Gartner).
We experienced that with web3 in 2021 when NFTs & crypto escalated beyond reason. Of course, the sound of the crash was deafening. The steep decline in a hype cycle often surfaces inherent issues and obstacles that cause…reality to set in.
But I think the AI hype cycle will shake out slightly differently.
🔥My hot-take: I do think there will be a decline caused by regulations for privacy and data security (already problematic in Europe and the US is soon releasing an Executive Order with regulations on AI use). But I don’t think we’ll experience a steep decrease in AI utility or adoption the way we did with web3.
In my last issue, I mentioned that AI’s popularity may be attributed to it’s easy access and easy win for the masses. Because of the proliferation of AI today thanks to OpenAI, I think the “plateau of productivity” is coming faster than any previous technology. AI’s “slope of enlightenment” will be closer to the advent of web1, where a few key players will build transformative technologies for rapid adoption by the world.
So where does that leave us, in education?
Well, I don’t recommend putting your student data into AI apps yet. But I think this is an empowering moment for educators to ride the slope and ideate the many futures of learning with AI. And keeping these futures in mind, avoiding the perpetuation of broken education systems.
Enter, Futures Thinking.
If you haven’t heard of it yet, Futures Thinking leverages present-day facts to create provocative and plausible stories about possible futures through synthesis, sense-making, creativity, and visualization (ref: Institute for the Future). It’s like scenario planning (classic business strategy) on steroids.
I became obsessed with ‘Futures’ when Jane McGonigal published her book, Imaginable last year. A few months later, Stanford d.School released a framework of skills to help educators engage in more generative mindsets about the future. But if you search for futures thinking, you’ll find that it’s quite ubiquitous across sectors and these ideas are not novel (see origins). And even though I’m still new to it, it is one of the most worthwhile concepts I’ve learned about in the last decade.
Futures Thinking allows you to prepare for the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world (thanks, Jane) by activating the following ideas:
Multiple Scenarios: Hypothetical simultaneous stories about the future to visualize different plausible outcomes based on trends and events;
Trend Analysis: Identifying and studying trends to understand their potential implications for the future (example: the Gartner Hype Cycle);
Horizon Scanning: Systematically exploring a wide range of sources to identify early signs of potentially important developments;
Backwards Planning: Starting with a desired future outcome and then working backward to identify the steps that need to be taken to achieve that outcome;
Wild Cards: Unexpected, low-probability but high-impact events that can disrupt current trends and trajectories;
Delphi Method: A structured forecasting method that gathers expert opinions in multiple rounds, refining forecasts with each round;
Systems-Thinking: Evaluating how different trends or events might influence each other now and in the future, and how each variable in a futures ecosystem impacts another.
So, for this issue, I thought we could stretch our imaginations and learn about the multiple futures of education in the age of AI. As you dive into these resources, you’ll start to understand Futures Thinking and how to prepare yourself for what could be.
Here’s a plausible, but maybe not immediately probable, future I’m thinking about:
Imagine a world where students own, decide, and shape their learning ecosystem which expands beyond physical spaces, political borders, and bureaucratic barriers.
🌆In this Future, a “decentralized autonomous classroom” is a social space in a city of learning, where a student votes on all decisions as a learning citizen.
🤝When she opts into a learning pathway, AI tailors what she learns, how she learns, and who she learns with, to her pace, style, and aspirations.
🏅Smart contracts automate custom verified credentials with atomic competencies.
🥽Along with community-supported real-life field experience, she finds herself in a simulated metaverse, collaborating across continents and absorbing diverse perspectives. Her competencies are securely etched on a decentralized ledger, recognized universally and owned by her.
🐚Based on peer evaluation of her work, she earns digital tokens that increase in value with network effects.
💼Her dynamic portfolio broadcasts her skills to a global marketplace that is seeking, validating, and rewarding expertise in real-time.
🌱As she continues learning into her 20s, 30,s and into her 90s, her learner record continues to grow.
See you in the Futures.
Learn about Futures Thinking
📹Intro to Futures Thinking
Futures Thinking: A mind-set, not a method
Five approaches to Futures from an Educator
8 ways to ignite Futures Thinking
How AI can advance Futures work
How AI chatbots handle Futures prompts
🔉 Passive fatalism vs active co-creation of Futures with AI
The latest on AI and the future of work
Anticipating the futures of AI: Signals amongst noise
Five predictions about AI & learning
Future trends of generative AI (graphics on pages 9 & 25 are super interesting; page 35+ shows emerging opportunities)
🔉 The intersection of Futures Thinking & education
The Gartner AI technology Hype Cycle of 2023
For worst case scenarios of AI, check out our Threats to AI issue
Do Something with Futures Thinking
First, try internalizing these five principles.
Next, try diving straight in. I found this incredibly comprehensive toolkit to facilitate Futures Thinking. I suggest trying each activity.
Then perhaps, invite small groups of people to practice together. In fact, I’m going to try it myself and you’re welcome to join my experimental group here.
Finally, if you’d like to facilitate local, in-person conversations or events around the future of education in Web3 & AI, apply for a micro-grant!
📅 Ed3 Events
Empowering Educators for the Digital Future (Sep 1, Australia IRL)
Web3 & Education Social Networking Event (Sep 1, Ed3verse)
Weekly Coffee Chat on Web3 in Education (every Saturday, Discord)
Institute For the Future Ten-Year Forecast 2023 for AI (Sep 12, Online)
Futures Thinking Experimental Group Discussion (Sep 13, Zoom)
Mint an Ed3 Educators NFT for life-time access to web3 events, content, conferences, & other perks… and to support the work of this newsletter.
This week’s Ed3 World newsletter is about Futures Thinking. More to come on other web3 & emerging tech topics. We’re excited to bring education into the Metaverse & to help you leverage the opportunities in the new world.