Speculative fiction and the future of learning

by | Thursday, November 17, 2022

One of the most fun projects I have been part of was working with authors of speculative fiction around the futures of learning. This was the result of a collaboration with the Center for Science and the Imagination, Slate magazine and New America (supported by the Principled Innovation initiative). Essentially we worked with three acclaimed authors of speculative fiction who wrote stories about their vision of the future of education and learning. Each of these stories was paired with response essays by 3 academic experts who provided their scholarly perspectives on the themes and ideas explored in the stories. In addition, I had got to moderate 4 different webinars, one for each story (with the author and respondent) and one culminating webinar with the three authors. In essence, we got three thought-provoking stories, three insightful responses, and four engaging conversations around a set of powerful ideas. (I provide a sequential list, with links towards the end of this post).

Though the project was done by April 2021, I had secretly hoped for another opportunity to build on this work. That opportunity came with the announcement of the Anticipation 22 Conference at ASU.

We submitted a proposal to the conference a few months back titled: Putting Descartes before the (education) horse:
Speculations on bio-technological evolution, multispecies relationships, and human exceptionalism
(PDF). Honestly, the goal was to find another opportunity to hang out together. Last week, Simon Brown, Shiv Ramdas, Iveta Silova, Katina Michael and I actually got to meet up over zoom and continue the conversation where we had left it off, almost a year-and-a-half ago. You can find the video of our conversation below.

The background

To give some context, this is how we described the project Future Tense Fiction: Learning Futures project

Amidst breakneck technological change, social upheaval, and environmental emergency, we need to rethink learning and education to prepare humanity to meet the challenges of a complex future. This transformation needs to go beyond the walls of the classroom. It should encompass virtual and informal learning environments, information literacy, critical thinking, trust, and community. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of high school, or college; it’s an ongoing process of reexamining and rethinking ourselves, our relationships, our communities, and our physical and social environments. It’s a process that involves constant adaptation to a world in flux. The series explores how learning experiences of all kinds will be shaped by technology and other forces in the future—and the moral, ethical, and social challenges this will entail.

And below is a bulleted list of products that emerged from this project.

On a somewhat separate topic, but related to the Anticipation Conference was a panel on Democratizing Futures organized by the Center for Science and the Imagination. Moderated by my friend Ruth Wiley, the panelists (Laura Cechanowicz, Lauren Withycombe Keeler, Ed Finn and myself) responded to questions put to us by a authors, futurists, world-builders and the audience. This was a great session and the video is given below.

A few randomly selected blog posts…

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