Ray Kurzweil is concerned primarily with “smart” technologies: technologies which replicate human intelligence and subtlety (“Ray Kurzweil”, 2009, n.p.). Kurzweil predicts that this type of technology will continue to improve at an exponential rate, and he outlines a number of dangers to this increase in technology as well as obvious benefits. If one assume that Kurzweil’s predictions will be accurate, then it becomes important for students to prepare themselves in three key ways: students need to focus on developing fundamentally human characteristics such as empathy, students
need a thorough understanding of technological ethics, and students need to think on a global rather than local scale.
Kurzweil points out the fact that continued improvement of technology will mean that more and more functions in human society are managed and controlled by smart technologies. Because of this, I feel that it is fundamentally important for students to balance their technological skills with true understanding of those characteristics that cannot be undertaken by technology. Characteristics such as empathy run the risk of being forgotten as technologies such as social media and online banking replace the human encounters in life with automated technological substitutes, which encourage shallow, one-size-fits-all interactions. However, emotional complexity is as important to human culture as development is, and it is therefore important to safeguard these characteristics which run the risk of being forgotten as humans become more and more dependent on technology.
Similarly, where technology improves at such an exponential rate, the human ability to use technology for harm also increased exponentially. I therefore think it is important that students’ understanding of technology is balanced by a firm grounding in ethics. Ethics are often neglected in education, as society mostly assumed that they are learned through social contexts. However, as described above, the increasing reliance on technology in everyday life has made ethics easier to ignore: for example, it is easier to ignore the reality of child labour when shopping online than it would be if it were necessary to buy an item directly from a third-world market-stall. Because technology makes it so easy to ignore ethical issues, it is important that students actively learn the ethics of using technology responsibly.
Finally, as Kurzweil indicates in this video, technology has enabled connectivity on a global scale, and continues to make global interactions more and more easy. Because of this, I think students should be prepared for technology to erase more and more of the cultural boundaries that have previously demarcated separate nations, cultures, and localities. As technology becomes an increasingly shared global language, such local differences are likely to disappear. For this reason, I think it is important that pupils learn about global communities, in preparation for this shift in world culture; technology may produce a global culture, but it is important that human diversity also be celebrated rather than erased.
Overall, the, I think it is important for students to prepare themselves for the cultural changes technology is likely to create.
- “Ray Kurzweil: The Coming Singularity.” (2009, April 28). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uIzS1uCOcE&feature=youtu.be.