21st Century Kids
Posted 15 August 2007 - 02:27 AM
Posted 15 August 2007 - 02:51 AM
Posted 04 November 2007 - 10:09 AM
Open your mind to the possibilities - A must read for people inspired by visionary thinking
Hyperdrives, nano-minting, accelerated brains with direct computer interfaces, conversations with dolphins, indefinite lifespan... It may all sound a little far-fetched, but consider the current acceleration of scientific knowledge. This acceleration inevitably leads to exponential growth in technological progress. Now project this 180 years into the future! Shannon Vyff does exactly that. In her novel '21st Century Kids' she pulls the reader straight into the fascinating world of the year 2188. When we get there, we will encounter highly advanced human beings - upgraded to a version 5.0 of the earlier model, so to speak. Does this sound too strange to you? Think twice. Already today, we live in a time of Web 2.0 and the 3.0 version will follow soon. People's lives are improved by products like pacemakers, artificial limps, and cochlear implants also known as bionic ears. So what happens if this trend continues? Not only continues, accelerates?
Ray Kurzweil in his highly acclaimed book 'The Singularity is Near' defines the technological singularity as a point in the future when technological advances begin to happen so rapidly that normal humans cannot keep pace. In the fifth of his six epochs of the universe's evolution he foresees the merger of human technology with human intelligence. This is what Shannon Vyff's book is all about. So will we all end up as version 5.0 humans? Not necessarily, but there is a way and the book's plot contains all the hints on how it could be achieved.
While Ray Kurzweil established a solid scientific foundation for the expected accelerating changes, the author of '21st Century Kids' brings this scenario to life with two vivid and memorable characters: a girl named Avianna and a boy named Avryn. Both children die in a tragic car accident and are rushed to a hospital where contemporary medicine soon reaches its limits. Normally two death certificates would be signed and the grieving parents would prepare the funeral of their two beloved children. Is there no other way? Well, actually there is. Avianna and Avryn's parents decide to put their children's bodies into cryonic suspension. Advanced vitrification techniques are applied to protect the bodies and the delicate brains.
Avianna is the first of the two to awake 180 years later. At first she can't see anything, but hears voices in her head. She is vastly surprised to have survived the terrible accident and it takes her a while to grasp the full significance of what is really happening. Her badly injured body has been repaired by nanorobots. Her fully intact brain - which had not suffered from oxygen deprivation - was being greatly enhanced with ultramodern computer technology. She realizes she can think so fast that the experience of an hour of events barely takes a minute. Talk about quality time! The Internet - now called the grid - can be connected to every brain directly. That way the cerebral cortex can access encyclopedic information or any kind of information in almost an instant. There is no need for a web browser, Wikipedia search fields, or archaic mouse clicks. Even speech-to-text interfaces are superfluous. Just a thought. That's all it takes. Too hard to imagine? Okay, in today's techno-babble language our future brain would run at something like a 100 terahertz, have its own IP address (IPv6 of course!) and a wireless 10-petabit connection. Say good-bye to slow cursor response and limited bandwidth.
Avianna learns about numerous changes that have taken place during her time in the cryonics chamber: molecular manufacturing is done by nano-minting techniques, aging was ended in the year 2101, humans can choose between biological and robotic forms, schools are the tallest buildings in the cities, status is gained by accumulating knowledge instead of physical beauty or market capitalization. When Avianna leaves the hospital she quickly masters how to decorate walls with her thoughts. She also boards flying cars to cross the city and even takes a cool mini-break to see the magnificent ice buildings of the North Pole. Too magical? Sit back and make sure your seat belt is securely fastened. Modern hyperdrives allow spaceships to travel the galaxy in a matter of months instead of millennia. In fact, seat belts are not really needed for the smooth ride. This may be a bit too miraculous and could leave the impression that things are always perfect and never go wrong. Well, this is about to change. Several extrasolar planets suitable for human colonization have already been reached by the new pioneers of the late 22nd century. Contact with one of the colonies has been lost. Was there a terribly tragedy? One of the lost colonists is Avalyse, Avianna sisters's great-great-granddaughter and Avianna boards a starship to join the search party. A mysterious world awaits her, full of beauty and charm, but also fraught with danger and challenges at every turn.
Shannon Vyff has crafted a gripping and powerful tale that portrays the transhumanist visions in vivid personal detail. Her storytelling is entertaining, insightful and thought-provoking. She captures the imagination of young readers and adults alike, while also deepening the knowledge about the true potential of technological progress. All of us need to be aware of the accelerating rate of paradigm shifts. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in the mid-term future of the human species.
(author of "The Future Happens Twice")
Posted 25 February 2008 - 06:19 AM
Where schools are likely headed.
by Shannon Vyff
PARENTGUIDE News October 2007
I’m sending my kids to school in the year 2189. Even then, in a world of neural hardware chips being added to our brains so that information of entire libraries can be held within one’s head, there are still things to learn.
Many of us today look forward to a day when humans may use newer and better technology to improve themselves, live longer, even travel within the universe. Of course this forward thinking also relates to our children. According to a Harris poll, more than 40 percent of Americans would use genetic engineering, if it were readily available, to improve their children’s mental and physical prowess.
I turn age 32 this year. I have three children, ages 10, 8 and 5. School for them is vastly different than the schools I grew up learning in 25 years ago. Yes, the desks remain, but something new has emerged: neurologically focused teaching from analyzing MRIs and the biology of how children learn. By looking at the areas of the brain engaged while a child learns, teachers have been able to implement theories of left-brain and right-brain learning into the curriculum.
Now that it’s known that some children understand words better than numbers, there is a sensitivity to the fact that children learn in different ways. More physical movement, manipulatives and auditory learning have been added to traditional lesson plans primarily through visual experiences like reading. Contemporary teachers are also influenced by cognitive psychology and knowledge of multiple intelligences in ways that enable them to see each child as unique. By acknowledging that different brains process and store auditory, visual and kinetic signals differently, teachers do not hold children accountable to the same mold that I encountered during my own school days.
Modern children frequently use computers and the Internet. They spend more time researching subjects online than in books on the shelf. Such technology enables children to quench their endless curiosity in an efficient manner and get more up-to-date information than ever before. With proper parental protection and guidance, there is a world of opportunity, advancement, networking, educational games and informative Web sites that children can access anytime. Children today get a broader education about the world and their place in it than they did 25 or even five years ago.
Many children in the United States also possess an understanding that a large portion of the world does not have access to the same technological advances that they have. One study by Comscore in 2006 listed the percentage of total Internet users at 14 percent of the world’s population. Usually kids have heard about many people in the world having never made a phone call, let alone using a computer. Yet, over the next 25 years, we can expect a growth in Internet use in America as well as in the entire world.
There are many benefits of this unprecedented amount of communication among countries since the advent of the Internet, including the knowledge that other countries’ educational systems pressure politicians to push for increases in educational funding in their own countries. The competition is expected to increase over the next 25 years, as countries try to keep their colleges, high schools and middle schools up to speed. Already countries with the best technology are at the top of the lists ranking educational excellence. America is not among the top five countries with the highest Internet use per percentage of population. This gives politicians a strong incentive to focus on net-wiring not only our communities but also our schools.
Studies indicate that schools in America with computers outperform those without such technology. According to Time magazine, the United States Education Department reported in the late 90s that children in classes with computers outperformed their non-wired peers by 30 percent. Some of the best schools today, public and private, require students to have laptops— sometimes even providing them. Children with laptops in the classroom can take notes on their computers, access Web sites to compete in educational games and take their projects from room to room, gaining multi-subject insight and input from various teachers.
Many studies also show that just having a home computer raises a student’s test scores. There are countless benefits to parents being able to stay in touch with teachers about homework or a child’s daily behavior via e-mail. Children at home can now use Web sites and passwords they received from their school to access online application-based tutorials that may enhance their grades in the classroom.
In the next few decades, we’ll be seeing an explosion in the amount of educational Web sites that have partnerships with schools, encouraging more and more children to supplement their in-class learning with online activities. Teachers are able to show children Web sites that have live cameras at famous museums, in addition to showcasing many free educational movies in their classrooms. Sites have been developed that teach complicated science concepts through cartoons, enabling young children to grasp formulas and equations that in my school days we did not know until high school. As computer processing power grows, and bandwidth builds over the years, we’ll see a vast increase in this simulated-environment learning that teachers may utilize in their classrooms.
In many ways, the recent growth in home schooling has been fueled by the creation of online schools. From kindergarten through high school, children can read materials for a class and take tests online, having tests then instantly scored. The school can recommend Internet lessons in areas which the child appears to need advancement. Children who have been students in these online schools generally test above average, when compared with other students taking national school tests. In the next 25 years, we’ll likely see more parents choosing Web-based schooling as online schools become even more advanced with the ways they teach and test.
I’m a believer that in the schools children attend 200 years from now, lessons can be downloaded overnight into a student’s brain. The next day, students discuss what they learned and creativity trumps demonstrations of rote knowledge. These futuristic schools utilize virtual reality technology to take simulated “trips” to other planets that have been colonized or to “travel” to parts of the Earth that are uninhabitable. The kids of the future also have access to live-immersion movies, at school and at home.
No one can predict the future very well beyond a decade. But, we can do our best forecasting with the trends we observe now— comparing what we’ve seen in the past and extrapolating that into the future. There are probable futures, preferred futures and wild-card futures. I strive to present a relatively real future based on possibilities scientists currently perceive as most likely. This way, when children read about adventures or school in the future, they also learn a lot about the world right now. And maybe they’ll be a little bit more ready in 25 years for the schools that their own children will attend.
Shannon Vyff is the author of the speculative sci-fi adventure for families, 21st Century Kids (Warren Publishing, Inc), available on ww.amazon.com. You can see her and her children on the Barbara Walters special “How to Live to Be 150.” A known futurist and life extension practitioner, Vyff is also one of the authors of the nonfiction book The Scientific Conquest of Death (Libros en Red).
Posted 21 May 2008 - 06:04 PM
To begin with, the title, while not a misnomer, is misleading. It suggests that this is a book for kids, but in fact this is really a book for "the whole family."
Someone, it might have been Kurt Vonnegut, once wrote that it was too bad nobody had put together a manual for people newly born as to what they might expect from life in the future so they could prepare better for it. Well, 21st Century kids is a major contribution to that end.
This is a book about children (adolescents actually) but it is definitely not, only a book for adolescents. It is a book that simply, but brilliantly, projects the rapidly emerging scientific technologies of space exploration, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, nanotechnology, cryonics, radical life extension, etc., that make-up the gathering momentum of The Singularity, or that point in this century when humans will have evolved into a new, transhuman, species. This will of course be an event equal in importance to the evolution of Homo-sapiens from Neanderthals, with many more promises, and some perils.
It begins simply enough in 2008. A family is on their way to a church Christmas event when there is a tragic automobile accident. Two children who did not survive the accident but who do survive 200 years in cryonic suspension, Avianna, a precocious and determined 12 year old whom every parent would want as a daughter, and her slightly younger brother, Arvyn (Vyff has an alliteration for the letter A) awaken to a new world of the late 21st century, in which all of the far out scientific and technological projects already unfolding have transformed almost everything.
Like Mark twain's, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; H G. Well's, The Time Machine; and Edward Bellamy's, Looking Backward; 21st Centuries Kids is a serious text disguised as an enjoyable read. Vyff has also crafted a great story around the solid forecasts of the 20th and 21st centuries leading futurists, RCW Ettinger, Buckminster Fuller, FM 2030, Ray Kurzweil, et al...
Herself a leading Transhumanist (the 21st century equivalent of the humanists of the past century), author, educator, and parent, who apparently tested 21st Centuries Kids out on her own kids, who then literally demanded that she publish it for which we can all be thankful.
Again, this is not just a kid's book but it is especially important for parents and children seeking a fact-based antidote to the terrifying and destructive future fairy tales youngsters are so often subjected to today in popular media, which overwhelms so many of them with irrational hopelessness and helplessness during the time when they should be dreaming and preparing to "boldly go where no one has gone before." However, since the future will directly affect most grown-ups now alive, including probably many who don't think they will be around to see it, this is an important and useful book for everyone.
A word about the author, Shannon Vyff. Shannon is a mother, religious educator, author who, like me, regrets that biology is not moving as fast as technology. She has dedicated 21st Centuries Children to "the 6.4 billion human beings alive today" in hopes that we will use our ingenuity to move to the stars "after the 900 or so million of us who have enough to eat everyday find a way to help the billions who do not."
This is a serious and significant contribution to a literature of the human future. And, it is a treat.
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