Education and Enhancement in a Transhuman Future

 By David Lewin

Should we expect the schools of the future to be saturated with technology? It has been widely reported (e.g. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/319288) that some leaders within major Silicon Valley tech companies have, rather hypocritically, chosen to limit the influence of their products on their own children, by restricting access to screen time and social media.  Take the following report:

“You can't put your face in a device and expect to develop a long-term attention span,” [said] Taewoo Kim, chief AI engineer at the machine-learning startup One Smart Lab … A practicing Buddhist, Kim is teaching his nieces and nephews, ages 4 to 11, to meditate and appreciate screen-free games and puzzles. Once a year he takes them on tech-free silent retreats at nearby Buddhist temples. (https://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-parents-raising-their-kids-tech-free-red-flag-2018-2)

Other educational spaces also appear to provide shelter from technology saturation, for instance Waldorf schools, which prioritise outdoor learning and low-tech play. This concern to shelter students reflects certain perceived risks of technology saturation: distractedness and diminished attention span, heightened depression and anxiety, poor health and obesity and, in extreme cases, suicide.  Limiting access to technology has become newsworthy because of the prevailing assumption that technology enhances education. Whatever the truth of the matter, we currently know little about the long-term impact of many technologies on the educational formation of young people: the influence of technology seems widespread, indeterminate, and seldom given sufficient justification.