Education needs to go back to school

In the next 15 years, 38% of jobs in the U.S. will be automated. This is probably a generous estimate, and the fact is that most of the jobs that we have today will be automated. Even the most prestigious of professions, such as doctors, will see their livelihoods threatened by automation – why would you go to a human doctor who isn’t capable of holding all of the information when there is a robot doctor that is?

So we need to begin to think about what is the role of humans in this new world, and how to prepare our children for the fight ahead. At this point it is worth noting that there are two jobs which will more than likely survive, albeit bittersweetly, and they are that of the Psychologist and Philosopher – there will be a lot of people searching for meaning when they are jobless, so these jobs will most likely survive thanks to the coming existential crises.

Coding and computer education on the other hand can translate into jobs in the future and prepare our children for the radically different world from the one that we know today. Even artists and designers will code in the future, it won’t just be engineers because coding and programming is simply an interaction with the machine. That interaction with a machine doesn’t necessarily have to be in the form of being an engineer – it can be in the form of many other job roles. And that’s why coding or being able to program is such a fundamental skill regardless of what people will want to do in the future.

Education can learn a lot from games, games are a puzzle that need to be solved and require thought to complete. In a game, as you progress you gain points through trial and error. In education you lose points for every mistake you make. Games elevate children, and they give them the sense of it’s ok you’re not doing it correctly – we’re simply just going to try again. While the entire education system is built on the fact that for every mistake you make you get a punishment. This level of punishment cannot compete with positive engagement, and education is suffering because of it.

Another educational blind spot is its inability to celebrate collaboration in its entirety. In games – many are activated through engagement with one another – Minecraft being perhaps the best example. If you talk about collaboration in the classroom the teacher will call it cheating. It may not be this simple but that education has a lot to learn from the successes of the gaming industry over the past 50 years, and collaboration has been crucial to its success.

Even if lessons aren’t taken from that industry, change is rapidly approaching the educational sector anyway. Teaching as a profession is going to change rapidly, and teachers’ roles will become more akin to a mentor more than anything else.

Classrooms, too, will see a radical transformation, and become closer to studios – spaces where children interact with one another instead of copying what the teacher is saying. Many people talk about the possibility of virtual classrooms, and these could be a possibility. However the question is always what exactly does it deliver to the educational process. How does it improve children’s education? How do you know how does it make a difference in their trajectory in life? These are important questions to ask about changing systems in the future.

In 2017 Facebook launched Facebook Spaces in partnership with the owned company Oculus. Facebook Spaces is the social media company’s virtual reality application that allows users to interact in a virtual environment as if they were in the same room. 

In fact today you see more and more products and services that actually give children what they need for the future actually come from after school. You have after school coding clubs and products and services which teach language and all kinds of things around our art and design – this is called education technology. In the long run, robotic teachers, who children can have with them all day long could one day raise the question of whether schools are needed at all. There is an incredible amount of future possibilities ahead of the education sector, with the only underlying truth that radical change is approaching.

One way to approach this change is to develop an emphasis on the six C’s of education. These are: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Culture, Connectivity and Creativity – by looking at the future of education through these lens, it becomes less daunting and more possible a task to prepare children for the fragmented work environments that we have ahead. Education needs to celebrate these things, and ask the question of what value humans can have in a world that is fully automated? The most important skills for children in the future will be critical thinking, emotional intelligence, creativity, collaboration and communication because these are the things that really make human beings unique as a species – and the more the education as a whole invests in this idea, the less we will have to worry about in the future.

What is an ICO?

Similar to an Initial Public Offering (IPO), in which investors purchase shares of a company, an ICO is how new projects and companies capitalise on the widespread cryptocurrency curiosity seen in the tech world today by offering new cryptocurrencies created by themselves in exchange for others (such as bitcoin).

The first ICO sale (known then as a token sale) was held by Mastercoin in July 2013. As of the 25th of November this year, there has been an astounding total of $3.7751 billion raised cumulatively through ICOs – the appetite for the token fundraising is reaching a crescendo. In May, the web-browser startup Brave saw its ICO sale reached its $35 million mark in just 30 seconds and Filecoin, another startup focussed on storage space, broke records this year by raising $262 million.

But how does it work? ICOs aren’t just synonymous with stock, they can take many forms, including services. Taking Filecoin as an example, by using the technology behind Bitcoin, Filecoin facilitates the peer-to-peer buying and selling of storage space in a model that could completely disrupt current providers such as DropBox. Minors of the cryptocurrency earn tokens by providing storage or retrieving stored data for users, which can then be exchanged in other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum.

But with so much misunderstood technology today, the fundraising method is somewhat controversial, and ICOs have already been banned in China and South Korea altogether. Why? Because “It would be an open network,” says Jerry Brito, executive director of the digital currency think tank Coin Center. “So there would be no company that China could go to and say, ‘Please censor this.’”

It sounds too good to be true, and in many ways it often is. Even with good intentions, startups fail and investors are placing their trust in things which haven’t yet been created. Many this year have already speculated that the ICO bubble is about to burst, but it looks like 2018 will reign in some of the chaos as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates tradable financial assets has become increasingly interested in ICOs. Jerry Brito goes on to note that: “What happens in the US is going to drive what happens to ICOs broadly,” says Brito. “I think that we are going to see enforcement actions against clear scams.”

So what are ICOs? An unconventional, modern take on fundraising that is wrapped up in blockchain technology. Will 2018 be as big a year for ICOs as 2017? Watch this space.

How technology can be a honeypot for retailers

Misconception of which technology to adopt when, and how fast, has a large impact on profits and consumer experience. Retailers must act with a calm mind and avoid unfocussed digital activity in order to avoid the often unnecessary minefield of issues ahead of them.

But many don’t. Currently there is still a disconnect between physical and digital across a majority of retail business. Online and mobile commerce is often still managed separate to the traditional store business, and, as of yet, they fail to work well together and are still very static and separate. Some brands are progressing but in general, they are still far away from a seamless experience. Consumers showrooming is one of the evolving trends – entering a stores to see, touch and experience a product, and leaving to buy from a competitor online later. Only if a brand is well-equipped and able to provide a relevant and seamless customer experience across all platforms, it will succeed.

Brands should never embrace tech just for the sake of it. iBeacon technology, for example, only a few years ago championed by many retailers, is for the time being dead in the water. At the peak of this trend, there were neither really useful customer use-cases nor enough smartphones that were iBeacon compatible or enabled. Because of this, no meaningful experience for both the customer and the business took off. It was an early technology that was not really ready for mass market adoption. Even Apple, its inventor, mostly abandoned the technology for now. The retail world was not ready and had no real practical use for it.

The same can be said for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR). We are still a couple of years away from a broad market adoption. We witnessed Facebook slowly reducing its global distribution plans for Oculus Rift, and startups raising money while reducing their burn-rate, to survive the years until the technology really takes off. Now is not the time to widely adopt the technology and retailers should test it, but wait until it makes more business sense.

Another question retailers have to ask is, is this technology scalable? Digital mirrors are supposed to enable and ease the shopping experience – but today they mostly require a person to explain to the customer how it works, and the setup and maintenance costs can dramatically eat into the profits of a business.

A technologically oversaturated world loses its tangibility which is crucial to the customer experience. People like real experiences, a beautiful and artful display of products, natural light, a real and cozy fire, wooden tables and real plants. Trying to replace all of that through digital means does not provoke the same human response. You should never exaggerate digital. If not implemented with thought, it can feel very cold and impersonal. Technology should never be “in your face” and you should always augment and enrich real experiences.

Some of the most sophisticated omnichannel concepts today derive from digital players going offline. The quintessential e-commerce store, Amazon, decided to open up brick and mortar locations across the world. Digital-first companies can start “green field”, meaning they can scout out the best locations and are able to ensure that they are perfectly integrated into the existing infrastructure. Currently, the most seamless experiences in the market are coming from these players.

That is not to say that completely rejecting technology is the way forward. An important consideration is to assess what needs to actually be in store and what products can be sold primarily online. Everything that can be sold online should already be sold online at this point. Not only can this improve margins but it allows brick and mortar venues to focus on selected premium products that really need to sell in-store – those that require a lot of information, touch or are highly personalized.

Technology, when applied correctly, can boost a brand’s influence and those who have honed data collection and management techniques are the most successful.

The adoption of machine learning and the understanding of it is key to remaining relevant. The most effective companies build personalized profiles of each customer, and learn from every transaction and behavior. Data is the new gold, and currently the mobile phone is the most useful device to collect this data and make use of it.

You can observe machine learning technology in retail when looking at shopping portals and recommendation engines. Companies such as Amazon are able to predict with quite some accuracy the other, seemingly unrelated, preferences of the customer. Understanding how to use this technology and fine-tuning it over time is what really gives a competitive advantage. 

Data is precious to retailers but is even more precious to its owners. One of the biggest issues for this evolving new ecosystem is not simply how to manage this data, but how to manage it safely. If you mess it up, you can never make it right again. Currently, consumers only trust a few brands and share their data with them. Companies should set guidelines, build opt-in applications, and never abuse this data in any way.

But relying on data entirely would be foolish, creation has more to it than data and until today, great products and services come to life because of humans, not because of data. It may be possible to predict a large chunk of an individual’s interests and behavior, but there is a whole world out there that is completely detached from data. Stepping away from retail for a moment, data has been almost useless in predicting large historic events of the past decades. The world is more than just data and algorithms and it will never be 100% predictable.

The technological future we are now inhabiting is littered with retail potholes, but it is also one of the greatest opportunities retailers have ever witnessed. By using technology in the right way, and continuously asking whether it really makes sense for the customer, retailers will be able to balance the physical and digital worlds and to stay stay relevant in this rapidly changing world.

IOTA in the new mobility

IOTA is a Distributed Ledger Technology that delivers many of the same benefits associated with blockchain technologies, such as a shared identity and network-based trust. It creates an immutable ledger of data that is stored across a distributed network. It enables peer-to-peer asset transfer and monetary exchange without central intermediaries.

However, IOTA is not based on a blockchain with its associated scalability challenges, energy consumption and transaction fees. The IOTA tangle is a Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG) to create a distributed ledger that scales and has no transaction fees. Lightweight clients and the IOTA tangle’s off-line capabilities make it a perfect fit for the Internet of Things (IoT). By enabling trusted connectivity and micro-transactions, IOTA uniquely enables the Internet of Things (IoT) and the emerging Machine-to-Machine (M2M) economy.

As promised, we want to help scale knowledge and a conceptual understanding of Distributed Ledger Technologies and its use cases in mobility and transportation. When we say the “New Mobility” we think far beyond the traditional automotive sector, but take a holistic view of the movement of people and things across any mode of transportation. We think far beyond the traditional siloed value chains in automotive. In fact, we see the emergence of a new ecosystem of mobility that will reshape existing siloed value chains. We believe that innovation will happen at the intersection of traditional value chains as new business models emerge in a distributed peer-2-peer (P2P) economy.

We believe that Distributed Ledger Technologies have a critical role as the new fabric that will enable this emerging ecosystem. IOTA will establish trust in an open network, facilitate transfer of ownership, provisioning of services and associated financial transactions without any central intermediaries. JJ Jungwirth, Chief Digital Officer at Volkswagen Group calls it the “Smart City Operating System”.

With the digital transformation of mobility and the shift towards electric vehicles we will see a convergence of mobility and transportation with our energy grid and our communication networks. This increased connectivity calls for appropriate measures to mitigate risk associated with cyber attacks and data security. IOTA can bring trusted connectivity to this converged infrastructure and help insure the integrity of the data. What is more, it facilitates the seamless exchange of data across a network of connected devices, the Internet of Things (IoT). With its ability to enable micro-transactions without any transaction fees, IOTA opens the door to new business models in IoT and the emerging machine-to-machine economy enabled by autonomous, robotic systems. Let’s explore IOTA’s huge potential across our 5 core themes: Connected Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles, Electric Mobility, Shared Mobility and Urban Mobility.

Connected Vehicles

One of the key disruptive trends that are already well under way is connected mobility. Connected vehicles turn cars into digital platforms. Ubiquitous connectivity creates a complex network of things that includes vehicles, but also smart infrastructure, buildings and smart homes. With the emergence of digital services, the entire value proposition and monetization of mobility shifts from hardware to digital content and services. Identities, asset transfer and frictionless monetary exchange are critical in this world.

IOTA enables trusted connectivity in Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Anything (V2X). With its protocol, IOTA establishes trust across an open network of people and things. Because each network participant is validated by the network, parties can trust that people and things are who they pretend to be (and that they actually exist).

IOTA enables trusted connectivity in Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) and Vehicle-to-Anything (V2X).

Another interesting application in a world of connected devices is Over-the-Air (OTA) updates. Automotive OEMs and Tier 1s are exploring a range of applications for IOTA to complement existing offerings or build new services, ranging from creating an immutable audit trail to ensuring data integrity by preventing man in the middle attacks. Last but not least, the ability to monetize content or on demand features using the IOTA token is a area of great interest.

Masked Authenticated Messaging (MAM) enables secure P2P data transfer. Vehicles can share data without compromising on data privacy. Removing personally identifiable data is not sufficient to protect privacy as data can easily be traced back to individuals using patterns. With IOTA’s MAM, vehicles can share data and events generated by on-board ECUs in a P2P fashion, be it granular data from breaking and suspension systems or real-time up-dates of Highly Automated Driving (HAD) maps based on computer vision systems and AI from Mobileye and others. Through network-based trust, the data recipient can trust the source of data without the need to compromise the privacy of the driver or passengers. This feature is also highly relevant for Departments of Transportation (DoT) and other public sector players that see the potential of connected vehicle data, but need to adhere to high standards of privacy and data protection.

Connected vehicles can also support wireless transactions through digital wallets. Initial scenarios include fueling, charging, parking and toll collection, as well as drive through restaurants to name but a few. Ultimately, we see autonomous, robotic vehicles emerge that will leverage IOTA to become their own economic agents.

Autonomous Vehicles

We believe that automated driving will ultimately lead to fully autonomous, driverless vehicles. Robotic taxis will likely be the first incarnation of driverless cars in view of the high cost of sensors and the need to achieve a high level of utilization to recover the cost of autonomous driving equipment. Most players and industry observers suggest that 2021 might be the year robotic taxis will enter our roads. However, players such as GM say they will launch a robotic taxi service as early as 2019. We believe that Level 4 and 5 (SAE) driverless vehicles will become their own economic agents. They will seek to generate revenues by finding people and goods they can transport. Robotic taxis will need to pay for energy, maintenance and repair services as well as insurance and potentially road usage charges.

In his recent interview together with IOTA co-founder Dominik Schiener, Volkswagen Group’s Chief Digital Officer JJ Jungwirth talked about the billions of transactions that a future digital infrastructure would need to process every day. Autonomous vehicles will not only rely on data and artificial intelligence, but they will also generate massive amounts of data about themselves and their environment.

IOTA will provide identities for people and things. Digital twins will be virtual representations of physical objects and model all data associated with vehicles and their components. Data related to accidents (yes, there will still be accidents) will be stored in blackboxes that become immutable thanks to the IOTA tangle as a distributed, immutable ledger.

Through digital wallets and network based trust, IOTA will empower the machine-to-machine economy where autonomous robotic systems become their own economic agents. As an autonomous vehicle stops at a traffic light, inductive charging may transfer energy wirelessly with IOTA tokens streamed in exchange. But they may also exchange data through the tangle – for free. Trusted identities, asset transfer and fee-less micro-transactions through the IOTA tangle make it possible.

Electric Mobility

Even though inductive charging is still a more distant future, it appears that electric vehicles (EV) are finally on the path to eventual mainstream. However, high costs of electric vehicles and the need to build out the electric charging infrastructure are obstacles. Large-scale electric mobility will also challenge the energy grid when a large number of vehicles want to be charged after the daily commute. As we rely more and more on renewable energy and as consumers turn into prosumers that not only consume, but generate energy to feed back into the grid, IOTA can enable P2P energy trading, help stabilize micro-grids and support scenarios such as vehicle-to-grid. Today, a range of energy companies and automotive players are exploring IOTA for electric charging infrastructure and related payments. The electric charging infrastructure is still a bottleneck. But with IOTA, it becomes possible for households to recover some of their investment in their private charging stations and even sell some of the renewable energy they generate through their solar rooftops.

Shared Mobility

It is a known issue that most of our cars simply sit around unused most of the time. In order to realize more sustainable (and affordable mobility), we need to foster a world of increasingly shared mobility. However, today’s platform economy has lead to an undesirable concentration of power and income inequality. Shared mobility service providers dictate terms and conditions. In many cases these services are at odds with existing regulations and lead to unfair competition. Centralized platforms create honeypots of data that are attractive targets for hackers. Centralized platforms do not own any assets, but pass the associated cost and maintenance burden to drivers. They ‘simply’ match demand and supply and take a cut out of each transaction.

IOTA has the potential to enable a ‘true’ sharing economy where we share rides and assets in a peer-to-peer fashion. How? The role of today’s centralized platforms such as UBER or Airbnb is to establish trust between unknown parties. People feel safe to stay at somebody else’s home because Airbnb establishes trust through its brand, validation steps and most importantly peer reviews where both renters and hosts rate each other.

The IOTA network can enable “distributed trust” trust between untrusted parties in an open network. It becomes possible to establish trust through the network without the need for central intermediaries. This opens the door to a “true” sharing economy, where a local community can engage in P2P shared mobility and establishes their own terms. It also becomes possible to model shared ownership, like the shared ownership of a car in an apartment complex. With a single, shared identity, we can provide frictionless access to a range of different mobility services, be it car sharing services, ride-hailing, bike or scooter sharing or simply a variety of public transportation options such as bus, metro or train. And we can seamlessly share the assets we own with members of our community and transact without the need for intermediaries. IOTA also makes it possible to control, share and monetize what is probably the biggest asset of our times – data.

Urban Mobility

Smart Cities rely on data to make smarter decisions both with regards to dealing with unexpected events, operational scheduling and tactical planning but also to inform better strategic infrastructure investment decisions. The impact of accidents or weather conditions can be mitigated with data. Huge economic and social value can be unleashed as a result. In a world where sensor data can be shared in real-time across a distributed network, a car that detects black ice can propagate such information through the peer-to-peer network. Vehicles could crowd-source highly accurate on-street parking data to reduce parking-related traffic. A smart city powered by the IOTA network could provide incentives for ride sharing when the parking situation is bad due to an event. Air quality data could enforce mobility policies that restrict access for vehicles that do not meet certain emission criteria. Road usage charges collected in real-time could replace fuel taxes and help fund infrastructure investments. A heat map of erratic breaking events or potholes can help cities prioritize investments. And better information on the mobility patterns can help optimize multi-modal mobility and a single, shared identity may create seamless access to multi-modal mobility. And given the role of mobility to provide access to education, jobs and social life for all, shouldn’t communities provide their citizens with mobility tokens that can be consumed across different modes of transportation?

With the distributed IOTA Data Marketplace, we have a shared infrastructure at our disposal to unlock data and create opportunities for it to be shared and monetized. The potential of IOTA is to help citizens in a community to retain control over their data, but to unleash its potential by making it accessible without giving up on privacy or monetization options. After all, data should be “free”, but not free. Data is the new oil. The IOTA network creates the opportunity for an inclusive data-driven economy that creates social good and protects privacy.

Mobility and transportation is a massive industry and analysts from ABI Research forecast global Mobility as a Service (MaaS) revenues to “exceed a trillion dollars by 2030.” The big mega-trends that shape the future of mobility are mutually reinforcing. Connectivity is prerequisite to autonomous vehicles and the convergence of mobility and transportation with the energy grid and communications infrastructure. Unlike in today’s individual ownership models where cars sit in parking lots 94% of the time, autonomous vehicles will achieve high utilization rates. Fleets of robot vehicles will be electric as EVs have lower maintenance requirements and promise better fleet utilization. The higher cost of EVs is offset by lower cost of operation. Robotic taxis will create compelling cost advantages that will challenge traditional ownership models and lead to an increase in shared mobility. The reduced need for parking space in urban centers will help increase density by repurposing parking lots and at the same time create more green space to create attractive and liveable urban centers.

We believe that in order to realize the promise of the future of mobility we need a new fabric that empowers the emerging business networks that replace traditional industry siloes. This fabric must not be owned and controlled by anyone, but should be a truly distributed, self-organizing network. On top of such a new fabric, innovation will spawn and enable new creations to thrive that we cannot even imagine today.

How AI presents a unique opportunity for humanity

As with any advanced technology, there is a risk that Artificial Intelligence can be abused, and many worries about what it will mean for humanity are grounded in logic. However much of what gets covered in the press is not only negative but speculative – apocalyptic visions of an intelligent AI taking over. I choose to focus on a more positive aspect of AI, it’s effect on humanity and the positive process I believe we humans are going through as we develop it.

Last year, Microsoft introduced Tay. A Twitter chatbot that went from an AI ‘modelled to speak like a teen girl’ into an anti-feminist racist within 24 hours. The backlash was quick, and Tay was cited as an example of why we should be worried about AI – because AI can behave in ways humans may not predict. Yet Tay only evolved the way it did once it interacted with offensive twitter users due to the fact it was trained to learn from people’s interaction with her, without the ability to distinguish right from wrong.

When I heard about Tay coming out as a racist, I didn’t see a failure, I saw an opportunity. An opportunity for humanity to reassess the information we put online and how we interact with each other on a human level. By identifying what made Tay so poisonous so quickly we can track the flaws in our own behavior, reiterate and improve. The dangers or bad behavior we associate with AI are really just a mirror of the flaws we have as humans – the ones that we should try to fix. AI helps us to identify these flaws. Facial detection technologies often fail to detect the faces of people of color due to biases in the training data of the algorithms. AI has only increased our awareness of these biases, resulting in efforts to improve by using less biased and more diverse training data sets.

One of the main challenges facing AI development is that in many ways it operates as a ‘black box’. “There is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did” MIT professor Tommi Jaakkola states and “it is a problem that is already relevant, and it’s going to be much more relevant in the future.” The challenge of ‘reverse engineering’ is not that we don’t understand how those neural networks work, but rather, in many cases, it is hard to “understand” why the algorithm outputted a specific result. It isn’t like classic programming, where we can trace the sequence of instructions that led to a specific output, given a certain input.

Which is why it is difficult to appease calls for regulation. It is much harder to reverse engineer exactly what is happening from a Deep Learning algorithm. It’s hard to look at neural networks that were trained to solve the problem and come up with an intuition as to why it works. The bottom line is that the algorithms are programmed by examples (training), and they can be designed to keep evolving as they are introduced to new data. Once an AI is out there in the ‘real world’, analyzing new data, we cannot predict the outcome with 100% certainty. Therefore, regulating or controlling the algorithm is far from trivial.

It will be hard or even impossible to predict how AI more intelligent than humans will behave. The truth is that if we ever reach that point we can only think or simulate within the boundaries of our own intelligence. In a way, artificial general intelligence (AGI) designed to keep learning is a lot like our own children. We try our best to teach them how to distinguish right from wrong and give them the tools to learn and cope with what life brings. But at the end of the day, they’ll become independent and will take their own course.

Even if we ensure that AI such as Tay are trained with the right data that reflect the desired behavior, we still can not anticipate what will happen once they are exposed to new experiences. Hence the challenge on the one hand, and the opportunity on the other. We need to find a way to teach AI morals: what is right and what is wrong? This will be a huge hurdle to surmount.

The challenge is that since the dawn of the internet, our main source of training data is already biased and is a reflection of our own biases. Even if the AGI that we create is more intelligent than ourselves, it will still have been trained on biased data. But since we are only aware of our conscious biases: How will we uncover our unconscious ones? Can AI reflect these incognito forces? The opportunity this creates, however, is the chance for us uncover these biases and create a diverse representation of the world, a more inclusive one.

Ultimately, we are only beginning to understand the potential of AGI. Like all technological research, we should approach the topic with a certain level of caveat, but we should also not jeopardize progress with dystopian fear. The current debate is dominated by this and shadows the opportunity for us to look at the potential for a positive transformation as we develop AI and as AI becomes more present in the public conversation. As we develop AI, we are exploring our own biases, our own morals, our own values, our own ethics, trying to sculpt a representation of the world that reflects them, based on which we will train AGI.

Fortunately, if you are reading this, you are a testament to how this conversation has begun to open up. We are already well on our way to questioning our own ethics and addressing conscious and unconscious biases, and therefore preparing a positive foundation for the future of AI and of this planet. I for one continue to be excited about the future that awaits us and remain hopeful for what lies ahead.

Education is changing

The deeper into this stage of history we wade, the more it becomes clear that both students and workers are about to face a dogmatic change that much of the world is woefully underprepared for. However, many are trying to arm society with the knowledge to navigate this change, and whilst the debate over how to revise the system has just begun, technology is beginning to take the driving seat in many school systems as they aim to drive change rather than be driven by it. This process is creating a new market, education technology (Ed-Tech), and the likes of Capital IBIS and EdTechXGlobal have forecast that the Ed-Tech market could be worth $252 billion by 2020.

But how did we get here? Last year global education expenditure was around $5 trillion, “2 times the size of the software market, and 3 times that of the media and industry”. In part, it’s these numbers which are forcing education institutions to embrace the fourth industrial revolution. Education is racked by what is known as “Baumol’s cost disease” a phenomenon identified by two economists William Baumol and William Bowen in the 1960s. ‘Baumol’s cost disease’ occurs in sectors where labour productivity has low growth rates whilst at the same time unitary labour costs exceed a feasible threshold. Put simply, universities have become a costly affair. Not only for those who run them, but for the state that helps fund them and for the families which pay for them. A 2010 report by the American Bureau of Statistics found that education has exceeded regular inflation since 1979.

A recent report by investments management company Vanguard showed that, in the US, a first-degree study cycle costs more than $250,000 in over 40 colleges. The document said that in 2015 the cost of one year at a public college was on average $18,943 dollars whilst at a private institution it was $42,419. It predicted that, in the next 18 years, both would skyrocket to $54,070 and $121,078 respectively. In the United States, from 1971 to 2015 average tuition increased by 276%.

In Europe, with the exception of the UK, universities are cheaper and are attracting a growing number of American students. However costs are on the rise there too, and by 2035, globally there will be an estimated 2.7 billion students. To manage this, at least two universities need to be built every day. This demographic trend puts all universities under pressure as they are forced to continually hire more staff. The facilities are also under pressure so that the quality of education offered could easily be adversely affected. It is here where technology steps in. In the UK alone, it is estimated that businesses will need an approximately 1.2 million new digitally skilled workers by 2022

At the public-owned Texas A&M University, the fourth biggest college in the States, two economics professors, Jon Meer and Steve Wiggins, have begun to experiment in what the future of universities could be. The two professors have pre-recorded their lessons in order to introduce their students to the Principles of Microeconomics, and with the help of the British education-publishing company Pearson, created an interactive platform from which students could be taught. To test a student’s progress and attention, students are asked questions related to videos that can only be watched once. Through the platform, professors can monitor student progress with ease.

On the topic of Microeconomics, Glenn Hubbard and Tony O’Brien, authors of a huge piece of work aptly entitled Microeconomics have now released a digital version of it. Their new software grants access to much of the original material of the book, together with the support of other new technologies. The program notices if a student is having trouble with a particular chapter and can provide additional, tailored explanations alongside extra material such as interactive exercises, videos and animations. A digitized version of the book can also be updated more frequently and for fewer costs than issuing reprints year on year.

Technology is phasing out physical books and it is doing the same with professors. At Georgia Tech University, computer science professor Ashok Gael has developed an AI called Jill Watson (in collaboration with IBM Watson). Jill’s mission is to help professors with their teaching workloads; granting them more time to focus on research and teaching complex matter instead of the more tedious tasks of stating which texts need to be read and what deadlines to be heeded. As AI advances, so will its application across education. Many companies are already making large investments in adaptive learning, an educational method which uses computers as interactive teaching devices: the aforementioned Pearson is now teaming up with IBM to develop a more advanced version of Jill.

The Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation is funding intensive research into adaptive learning. “Over three academic terms, from summer 2013 through winter 2015, the ALMAP grant program” – that is, the Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program the foundation initiated a few years ago – “provided 14 higher education institutions with seed funding to incorporate nine adaptive learning products into 23 courses and to conduct quasi-experiments (side-by-side comparisons with comparison groups) to measure their effects on student outcomes, and to gather data on cost impacts and instructor and student satisfaction”.

A recent study shows that “93 percent of teachers say their students would be excited to use virtual reality and 83 percent say that virtual reality might help improve learning outcomes”. “The biggest developments in university teaching are being driven by technology. The old techniques of talk and chalk are being challenged by lecture capture, flipped learning and decision-making based on data analysis”, reported the Guardian last June. MIT Technology Review agrees: a revolution is afoot. In particular, the review praised the online university courses and the impact they are having all around the world: it’s the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years. Till a few years ago, these courses would have been dismissed as a second or third choice education. Now they are supported by some of the most influential and renowned institutions. Backing Coursera, perhaps the biggest Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) provider with 1.5 million students, are the likes of Stanford plus many other schools. Edx, another MOOC platform, is backed by MIT and Harvard. The two institutions have announced they will certify these degrees, thus giving these courses a concrete value. Rather interestingly, these courses are totally or partially free to use.

The trend has been set. In the last six years, 764 universities have activated 8,000 MOOC courses. By the end of last year, more than 58 million students had enrolled, and in the last four months alone, over 200 universities have announced that they are launching MOOC platforms.

An even more radical development is being undertaken in Paris, where coding school 42, founded French entrepreneur-billionaire Xavier Niel in 2013, is headquartered. Here there are no teachers at all and no prior skills nor degrees are required to attend. Students must find solutions to projects and even grade each other’s work. This new format however still boasts one of the most stringent selection processes going. Last time opened itself up for registration, 64,000 people took its online logic test, under a third of those passed and just 1,000 got in. These select students went on to enjoy three to five years of schooling for free.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a new education software/series of micro-schools have been set up. AltSchool, the company behind it, have their pupils use tablets and computers to follow personalized educational paths that are monitored by teachers and parents. Since the first school opened in 2014, six more have since opened. Many of the world’s tech giants have supported the new venture and by May 2017, AltSchool had raised 130 million dollars – including donations from Mark Zuckerberg and Peter Thiel.

Ultimately we are witnessing a huge paradigm shift, and current educational systems are being shaken from the roots up. Although the first reports referring to the impact of adaptive learning technologies state that there is not any significant improvement as far as the students’ performance is concerned, this could simply be a hangover from outdated testing and an under-adoption of the subjects of the needed in the future. Whatever the case, the support of some of the most educated persons and institutions on the planet would suggest that the changes we are seeing are here to stay.

What is net nutrality?

Net neutrality is one of the founding principles of the internet: that all who use it are equal and that we must not discriminate or charge differently by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or method of communication.

If net neutrality is neutered, it will most likely mean higher chargers and fewer choices, as well as hand the already powerful telecoms giants more control over what you can view online.

Until recently, it has always been the internet has always worked, and the idea has kept ISPs from dictating a user’s internet experience, but on December 14th, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote for it to be abolished.

But not without being met without resistance. Back in July, a 43-page comment was submitted by 200 tech leaders directly to the FCC in July. What’s more, more than 20 internet pioneers and leaders including the “father of the internet”, Vint Cerf; the inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee; and the Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak have describing the plan as “based on a flawed and factually inaccurate” understanding of how the internet works.

The current backdrop to the debate is a period of increasing consolidation amongst telecommunications and content companies. Comcast owns NBC Universal, whilst AT&T is currently in a fight to buy Time Warner. Verizon owns AOL and Yahoo.

The repeal of net neutrality will give these giant companies free rein to favour their own sites, services, and content, and discriminate against those of rivals. Putting an end to the internet as an open-network.

Broadband providers will be able to impose new fees onto both individuals and internet companies. If Netflix wants to be able to stream one of its shows to a Comcast customer, they will now have to pay a toll to Comcast. If Spotify wants to be able to stream music to a Verizon customer, it will have to pay a toll to Verizon.

These tolls will be irritating to the giants, but they will be devastating for smaller companies and startups who cannot afford the new costs. Startups who hope to become the next big thing will see lambasted by new charges thanks to the ending of net neutrality. So there you are, net neutrality has been a cornerstone part of our internet creed since the beginning, but this month all of that may be about to change.

What is net neutrality? It is the belief that the internet should be an open playing field, one that favours no business, individual or nation over another. Let’s hope it stays.

Exponential R-evolution

Humans often vastly underestimate the speed of change technology can bring, and the impact of having every human being on the internet is going to be immense. We already have seen how much the world changed with almost 4 billion connected. When that figure inevitably doubles and areas of the world such as Africa not only have LTE but possibly even 5G, the world is going to look radically different. This will be the first time in human history where every human being on earth is connected through a common standard of communication. The truth is that the mobile medium still has a huge amount of growth in the world outside of the West.

The first two decades of the microcomputer revolution were characterized by the creation of faster and faster microcomputers. It wasn’t until the internet revolution, combined with the mobile revolution in the late nineties, that we began to see digital technology permeating everything and exponential growth changing things in unexpected places. No-one at that time could have predicted the power of social media, nor the huge impact the digital revolution would have on logistics, retail and everything else.

The digital revolution is even impacting health and the human body – currently, we have wearables, in the coming years we will begin to move onto implantables. The constant monitoring of the human body will become the norm.

At the same time, hyper-exponential growth is taking place across the genetics industry. Just as in the 1970s, where we had all the pieces in place for microcomputers (screen displays, ROM etc.) but still hadn’t experienced them in the consumer world, huge breakthroughs have built the foundation for consumer genetic technology – a technology which is fast approaching.

We now have CRISPR technology which enables the quick, accurate and inexpensive manipulation of the genetic code. Gene sequencing technology, which only 10 years ago cost a billion dollars to sequence a single genome today costs under one thousand dollars. This is an incredible rate of change – we’re talking about doubling every few of months instead of every couple of years. It’s now easy to imagine that we’re going to have gene sequencing devices that people can have in their homes or at least in the doctor’s office allowing immediate access to critical medical information.

Although the rapid rate of growth is exciting, our governmental systems are not designed for the speed that technology is advancing. When you realize that the best AI safety law was Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics (imagined in 1942) you know that something is amiss. Sadly, just as with nuclear weapons – there probably will be no consensus on how to regulate this technology until some amount harm and pain has already occurred.

This is largely caused by not only by human’s inability to comprehend the magnitude and implications of this growth but also because many of our leaders are technological immigrants, not digital natives. Every government needs technocrats in their ranks and a smart approach to the dynamic changes occurring across the world. This is an immediate concern, as our morals and the entire reasons we put governmental and monetary systems together were not designed for the future world of abundance, a world approaching faster and faster as growth continues exponentially.

Capitalism is a system for the distribution of scarcity, once the norm is abundance, we will begin to see that this system does not work. Already we are seeing more data-driven monopolies arise and a greater concentration of wealth. With the rapid loss of jobs over the next 50-100 years (a huge rate of change in terms of the human context), our societies will undergo a form of existential crisis. In the US especially, where there is an almost puritanical following of capitalism, it is going to be an extremely difficult to adapt. We must reinvent governments in a way that we don’t even envision yet, but if we are going to ride this wave of exponential growth with success this is what we must do.

We need to acknowledge that huge exponential growth will mean a massive change for society as a whole. What we have to realize now is that it is becoming almost impossible to predict how we are going to react to this evolution. How are we as humans going to be able to adapt to this rate of change? My hope is that being aware of these challenges will allow us to adapt with the least possible pain.