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Science Education for Immortal Cyborgs: What’s the Big Idea? David Geelan We cannot know the future

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we cannot know the future
We cannot know the future
  • The future will surprise us somehow – whether it be a new technology we didn’t expect that gives us unlimited cheap energy or faster than light travel, contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, an asteroid that wipes out a country and takes down the world economy, or a new super-disease
school science won t do it
(School) Science won’t do it
  • The science we teach in school really only reaches the end of the 19th century
  • Most of the math we teach in school is thousands of years old – the newer bits are a couple of hundred years old
  • What has been changing human life, and will probably continue to do so, is technology
science technology
Science & Technology
  • ‘Science’ comes from the Greek word ‘scientia’, meaning ‘knowledge’ – science is about generating knowledge
  • ‘Technology’ comes from the Greek word ‘tekne’, meaning ‘making’ – technology is about making stuff
  • They have a dynamic and stormy on-going romance
technologies of the body
Technologies of the Body
  • The crucial change that is most visible right now (remembering that the future will surprise us) is the movement of technology across the barrier into the human body and mind
  • These technologies are the ones that will challenge our existing assumptions the most
technologies of the body6
Technologies of the Body
  • xenotransplantation
  • mechanical organs
  • genetic engineering and cloning
  • augmentations, prostheses and implants
  • cyborg manufacture/growth
  • androids
  • artificial intelligence
  • life extension
life extension
Life Extension
  • During this century, average life expectancy in most Western countries increased by 30 years, from mid-40s to mid-70s
  • Currently, the rate of life extension is around 2 years per decade – a year for every five years – and increasing
  • If the rate of life extension were ever to reach one year per year, humans would be effectively immortal
inequities in technology
Inequities in Technology
  • This is the case in Western industrialised countries, but not in much of the rest of the world. In large parts of the Southern Hemisphere average life expectancies are below 55 years
  • The same applies to all of the other technologies of the body
inequities in technology12
Inequities in Technology
  • Westerners already use far more of the world’s scarce resources – energy, water and land – than those in other countries, and have more impact on pollution, including climate change. If life extension technologies mean that their numbers increase as a proportion of world population, this is a more serious problem than population growth elsewhere in the world
purposes of science education
Purposes of Science Education
  • Given that these technologies (as well as surprises) have the potential to radically change the societies in which our students will grow up, and that they will be the ones who have to decide what to do about them, and live with the consequences, what is the role of science and math education in preparing them?
purposes of science education14
Purposes of Science Education
  • Science and mathematics education currently seems to have two main purposes, which are often seen as being in opposition:
    • ‘science literacy and numeracy for all’ – equipping every student in our schools with the scientific and mathematical ways of knowing as important tools for making social and personal decisions
purposes of science education15
Purposes of Science Education
    • Training – and perhaps more pervasively, sorting out – those who will become future professionals in science and mathematics
  • I would argue that these are complementary (at least as far as training future professionals goes: we need to figure out something better for sorting, or stop doing it) rather than in competition, but that the former purpose is crucial, and we’re not making it yet
science education for the future
Science Education for the Future
  • To some extent, you and I will be involved in the social decision-making about these technologies during the next 20 years
  • But it’s really our students – those in school now and in the next few years – who will both influence and be influenced by the technologies of the body
  • Our job is to do the best job we can of preparing them
what s the big idea
What’s the Big Idea?
  • One way to do this is to avoid focusing on the particular ‘factoid’ we’re teaching today, and to focus on the ‘big ideas’ of science, or of our branch of science
  • It’s important to acknowledge that these are simply ‘ways of knowing’, and that there are others, but to be explicit about why we value scientific and mathematical knowing
big ideas in science
Big Ideas in Science
  • Regularity and predictability
  • Falsifiability
  • Empirical testing of theoretical ideas