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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Eckard Blumschein: on 6/19/14 at 15:50pm UTC, wrote Dear Marc, You didn't answer my question of May 27. Hopefully you are in...

Wilhelmus de Wilde: on 6/13/14 at 14:57pm UTC, wrote dear Marc, Congratulations with your first place in the finalist pool. I...

Marc Séguin: on 6/7/14 at 2:43am UTC, wrote Jonathan, Thank you for your comments, and the link to the American...

Laurence Hitterdale: on 6/7/14 at 2:31am UTC, wrote Hello Marc, Thanks for your thoughtful and gracious remarks on May 27. ...

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FQXi FORUM
May 19, 2019

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: To Steer Well We Need to See Clearly : the Need for a Worldwide Futurocentric Education Initiative by Marc Séguin [refresh]
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Author Marc Séguin wrote on Apr. 24, 2014 @ 18:05 GMT
Essay Abstract

Given the fact that the future is open and hard to predict, and that humanity is not a single organism with a single purpose, what are the initiatives that could realistically improve our ability to steer the future? There is no shortage of studies that analyse current trends in order to determine the likelihood of different future scenarios. But when it comes to actually steering the future, although some initiatives at the national level can have real impacts, international initiatives (like the Kyoto Protocol) often fall short of their intended goals. The fact that many people around the world have lost faith in figures of authority and “Big Government” only compounds the difficulty to enforce international resolutions. If humanity is to act in a concerted and coherent way to successfully steer the future, it will have to be on the basis of the collective will and understanding of a sizeable fraction of the world population. To achieve this, we need to have a worldwide conversation about the current state of the world and the realistic options that humanity can take. To make this possible, we need to raise the collective awareness about the topics that are the most relevant to the future (energy, natural resources, environmental protection, biological engineering, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, societal trends, etc.): we need a worldwide Futurocentric Education Initiative. We also need to foster a balanced and constructive attitude toward the future: we must counter the arguments of the fatalistic pessimists who exaggerate the problems we face, but also of the techno-optimists who believe that future technologies will save us no matter how careless we are. If humanity is to successfully steer the future, its citizens will need to rise to the challenge and become future-literate.

Author Bio

Marc Séguin has a master degree in Astronomy and another in History of Science from Harvard University. He is the author of several college-level textbooks in physics and astrophysics. He has spent the last 25 years exploring ways to teach introductory physics better, and he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.

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Ross Cevenst wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 10:38 GMT
Hi Marc,

I think your point is a good one - if we want both citizen involvement in decisions and a sensibly steered future we need to have a broad base of citizens who are highly educated about the problems of the future. I think your list of potential topics covered in such an education is generally very good.

Of course, at the moment we have a great challenge in that even in many 'educated' countries we achieve unimpressive literacy and numeracy outcomes. So the great challenge will be not only lifting that as a prerequistite of these topics, but then also making time for these topics in the curriculum.

Another issue from my perspective is that there is often great conflict over what is taught in education from various people with a political or philosophical agenda. For example, your topic of examining wealth disparity would be a nexus of fierce debate and accusations. That's not to say they are not worth working to reach a solution on, but I wonder if you have any thoughts as to avoiding such thorny entanglements?

Lastly I want to say that your idea of online courses on these topics sounds like a good starting point, and I think proposals on how they might work, their content, their funding, their strategy to gain an audience and their medium (video content seems to be more effective for teaching some things than large swathes of text for example) would be an interesting follow-up.

Thanks for writing this paper. Let me know what you think of mine if you get a chance!

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 05:45 GMT
Hi Ross,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I agree with you that if people don't have basic literacy and numeracy, it's hopeless to think they can acquire "future-literacy" through a futurocentric education initiative. But, at least in the case of numeracy, maybe the acquiring of numeracy can be motivated by a futurocentric goal. In today's schools, a lot of students don't see the need for mathematics beyond basic arithmetic, and even then, pocket calculators are ubiquitous... Maybe we can be more successful if we convince students that it is important to be mathematically literate in order to take part in a reasoned discussion about the future: for instance, thinking seriously about the future is likely to benefit from the knowledge of the properties of the exponential function, or of basic notions in probability and statistics.

To make room for futurocentric topics in the curriculum, we will have to rethink certain priorities: for instance, in math class, we put a lot of emphasis on more or less "robotic" procedures to solve certain type or problems, but far less on the formulation of interesting questions that can be tackled by mathematics, or on the interpretation of the results of a computation. In the near future, powerful mathematical software like Wolfram Alpha (a free web-based resource) will be as ubiquitous as pocket calculators, and this could free valuable time for more meaningful learning objectives (see, for instance, the work done by Conrad Wolfram's team at computerbasemath.org).

Your are also right to worry about the potential ideological conflicts that could arise from certain elements of the futurocentric curriculum, for example, the "rich-poor gap". The basic futurocentric curriculum should start by presenting the basic facts that are not very controversial --- for instance, the very fact that the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing, without diving right away in the causes of the phenomenon or what should be done about it (see, for instance, the Wikipedia entry "Great Divergence"). A healthy debate could then be initiated, and everyone would benefit if a certain level of civility can be maintained. But, we can foresee that it will not always be easy!

Over the next few years, I certainly plan to experiment a few futurocentric modules with my students (I teach introductory physics to 18 and 19 year old students who plan to pursue a career in various STEM fields), and I hope that many parallel endeavours (and fruitful collaborations) will take place across the Interwebs!

I will certainly read your essay and comment it on your forum, and I will make sure to rate it when all the essays are in and my "grading curve" is ready!

Marc

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Margarita Iudin wrote on Apr. 28, 2014 @ 23:19 GMT
Hello Marc,

I read your submission on a worldwide Futurocentric Education Initiative. It is hard not to agree with you about the importance of some things before the others and on consolidation of the humanity’s efforts toward upcoming changes. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I do not know you, but I guess that you are a good teacher and a caring man. However, (a) in your plan...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 05:59 GMT
Hello Margarita,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I agree with your point (a). As I wrote on page 4 of my essay,

The futurocentric curriculum presented in Table 1 is a rough draft that is not meant to be exhaustive: one of the greatest challenges of a successful Futurocentric Education Initiative will be to determine what the optimal curriculum should be.

I also...

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Susan Plante wrote on Apr. 29, 2014 @ 00:59 GMT
I like your point of view because it is both optimistic and rallying. In this era of corruption and discord (but aren't they all?), it would be easy to lose interest and let go, when in fact, we need to get knowledgeable and act in a positive fashion. I think your initiative has a lot of potential in that respect. A futurocentric approach to education would certainly fire my mind and motivate me...

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James Dunn wrote on Apr. 30, 2014 @ 18:16 GMT
Marc,

quote: If humanity is to successfully steer the future, its citizens will need to rise to the challenge and become future-literate. Let us bet that knowledge is a good thing, and that the more numerous are the citizens of the world who have a sound basic understanding of the way the world is and evolves, the more happy, prosperous and secure the future of humanity will be.

I think part of STEM or more recently STEEM efforts in public schools are attempting to introduce students to Futurocentric subjects as you cite.

An important part of that effort is not being addressed. Critical Thinking and Predicting Consequences is not taught significantly in public schools.

Without these skills, knowing about future potentials alone will not create a significant number of related career pathways.

I am proposing, and have created the foundation for a 501(c)3 to implement, the teaching of Common Sense in our school systems. This would allow students to act for themselves on Futurocentric potentials, and create customized career pathways suitable for their interests.

Some will act in a business capacity, others in research, others as technicians...

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Joe Fisher wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 19:52 GMT
Dear Mr. Séguin,

Your abstractions filled essay was extremely well written and I do hope that it does well in the competition. I do have a minor quibble that I hope you do not mind me mentioning.

A good number of credentialed scientists have convinced me that it has taken thousands of years for the human brain to evolve. There appears to be about 7 billion naturally born brains presently running about on the planet. Are you seriously telling me that a group of scientists can really fabricate a superior brain out of ingredients that are completely different than the stuff a normal human brain is made of?

Why don’t the scientists tell women how superior brains are easily constructed so the women can avoid the pains of childbirth?

Regards,

Joe Fisher

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 20:45 GMT
Joe,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay.

From your comment, I see that you have some doubts about the realistic prospects of "artificial intelligence". It could be, as you are suggesting, that it is impossible to construct a truly intelligent structure, that it has necessarily to EVOLVE over thousands of years. It could be, as you are suggesting, that any intelligent structure has to be made of the same "stuff" than the human brain (flesh and blood). It could be, as you are suggesting, that human beings are not ingenious enough to construct a truly intelligent artificial structure.

Then again, it could be that none of these issues are deal-breakers, and that we will find a way to construct quite powerful intelligent structures out of electronic circuits. What we have so far (powerful search engines, self driving cars, decent automatic translators) is not "general intelligence", but it is a form of intelligence, and it is quite impressive. Who knows where this will lead us in the next few decades? I, for one, will keep an open mind. But, as with any scientific issue, the only arbiter will be reality.

Marc

P.S. I don't quite see how having access to an artificial intelligence would help women to avoid the pain of childbirth! ;)

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Joe Fisher replied on May. 2, 2014 @ 13:35 GMT
Marc,

The author of the essay HIGGS FIELD and QUANTUM GRAVITY is Chess Master George Rajna. As I pointed out to him, although the IBM machine easily beat Kasparov, every chess grandmaster is capable of playing simultaneous games of chess out of sight of the board and the pieces. No machine could ever be developed capable of visualizing a single chess move without first being informed where the pieces are on the board. As I rudely pointed out to another author, no quantum computer will ever be built capable of breaking wind. (The comment was removed because I used a vulgarity) Any proposed artificial intelligence must be fed with abstract lies such as 1+1=2, and there is a fixed constant speed of light. As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my essay, REALITY, ONCE, both of these abstractions are factually incorrect.

Joe

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Author Marc Séguin wrote on May. 4, 2014 @ 22:54 GMT
Many forum participants (including myself) are having trouble rating essays: the process "hangs" at the last step and does not complete. I have found that if I use Google Chrome instead of Firefox or Internet Explorer, the process works fine...

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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 5, 2014 @ 14:58 GMT
Marc,

Great essay. I agree that changing the way we think by teaching better ways is at the heart of advancement, by allowing us to use the potential of that quantum computer in our heads properly. A few others here agree.

I also liked the pro-active approach of providing a 'list' for a futurecentric plan of action. T kind of went that way myself some time ago, in my head, and...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 19:27 GMT
Peter,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I like your suggestion that we should learn how to teach science better from the way architecture is taught. Architecture and science both have restraints (architecture must produce structures that can be built, science must produce theories whose predictions fit with observations), but they also leave an important part for creativity, imagination and "thinking outside the box"... as your own essay spectacularly illustrates. We should keep that in mind if we want to build an optimal futurocentric curriculum!

Good luck in the contest!

Marc

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Aaron M. Feeney wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 02:38 GMT
Greetings Marc,

I appreciate your enthusiasm about the ideas I've been working on. Your science-fiction scenarios were fun. I enjoyed seeing what occurred to another mind within the delightful logical territory of future-viewing machines. In my view, the most likely scenario you offered was the "virtuous" self-fulfilling prophecy.

That's so cool that you will be teaching some of the ideas from my essay to your students. I am honored, and happy that you find them so useful. I will email you directly soon with something I know you will enjoy, and will post another comment here once I have found the time to read your essay carefully. All the best!

Aaron

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Aaron M. Feeney replied on May. 11, 2014 @ 00:56 GMT
Hi Marc,

Did you receive my email? If not, it might have ended up in your spam folder. I hope you're having a great weekend.

Aaron

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 11, 2014 @ 02:42 GMT
Hi Aaron,

I got your e-mail. Thanks! I will read what you sent me and reply directly to you by e-mail.

Marc

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 7, 2014 @ 14:51 GMT
Hi Marc,

Thanks for your fine essay on the importance of a future oriented education. I agree very much.

I personally like to expand all possible notions of education, but this is a minor point. It is good to see other essays valuing eduction.

Thanks,

Don Limuti

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 15, 2014 @ 23:56 GMT
Don,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I have replied in your own forum.

Marc

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Georgina Woodward wrote on May. 9, 2014 @ 03:02 GMT
Hi Marc,

Very well written. You make a very good case for futurocentric education. I know that in my children's high school they are able to take a future problem solving class and their primary school had an extra curricula future problem solving group as extension activity for selected pupils. There was nothing like that when I was at school,I think it was assumed the future would be very much like the past. Its not going far enough but is a start especially as topics such as ecology and climate change are also covered in science and sociology classes. There are also many TV programmes, TED talks and you tube videos about future problems that are easily accessed.Whether people want to access that information is another question.

Just being educated is not enough though there also has to be a change in social attitudes. Perhaps through public information broadcasts. I know my car is polluting and I do not need it to get to town. If I felt guilty, or judged, for driving I would be much more inclined to cycle to avoid that emotional discomfort.

Good Luck, Georgina

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 15, 2014 @ 23:44 GMT
Georgina,

Thank you for reading my essay and for your comments. I agree that public information broadcasts could be helpful.

I have read your essay and will comment on your forum.

Marc

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George Gantz wrote on May. 15, 2014 @ 14:00 GMT
Marc - You've submitted a very nice essay: clear, concise and practical (and therefore quite different from most - including my own). Two thoughts - I like the outline of the Futurocentric agenda, but think it might need to be re-prioritized. Question of looking at value and meaning should come first - followed by the understanding of limits to empirical enterprise (statistics, uncertainty …), and THEN to the practical issues of energy, food, technology. Although in teaching to the agenda (I am not a teacher) you probably need to start with the practical just to keep people interested - and then hopefully get into the limits of analysis and questions of value. Unfortunately current debates are mostly stuck in the former.

The second point - while the pursuit of an agenda is important, it is also important to consider behaviors - how do we treat each other as we explore the Futurocentric agenda? This was the point of my essay (The Tip of the Spear - please excuse the pun) - and I would appreciate any comments you might offer.

Thanks - George

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 01:39 GMT
George,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I agree with you that proper behavior, and the questions of value and meaning, are key. At the same time, as you say, they are much harder to teach than the practical issues related to energy, food and technology.

In my rough draft for a futurocentric curriculum, I already have a point where some of the issues that you raise can be addressed (Point 12: The Good Life in an ever-evolving technological world). This point certainly needs to be expanded: issues of value and meaning should be discussed whenever we have the chance if we want the futurocentric education initiative to truly help humanity to steer the future better.

I have read your essay and will comment on it in your forum.

Marc

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 16, 2014 @ 01:46 GMT
By the way, George, you have mentioned that my essay was more practical than most... thank you, but I believe my essay is still not practical enough! It is easier to say that we need "more relevant education" than to propose actual ways to make education more relevant!

I have read a lot of the essays in this contest, and I find that it is easier to find well constructed analyses of the problems that we will face in the future than proposals of actual implementable ways to steer the future better...

But I am an optimist at heart, and I believe that, via collaboration (a key factor that you emphasize well in your essay), we will succeed!

Marc

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KoGuan Leo wrote on May. 16, 2014 @ 05:53 GMT
Dear Marc,

We share the same goal and idea.

"If humanity is to successfully steer the future, its citizens will need to rise to the challenge and become future-literate. Let us bet that knowledge is a good thing, and that the more numerous are the citizens of the world who have a sound basic understanding of the way the world is and evolves, the more happy, prosperous and secure the...

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on May. 17, 2014 @ 15:08 GMT
Marc,

Thanks for that rousing call to action! I also view free lifelong education as an entitlement and collective priority. I am reminded that when U.S. President Kennedy called for an all-out space effort, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon less than 10 years later. Would that we do the same for education.

Deserved high score from me.

All best,

Tom

P.S. -- in looking for the best introductory physics text, have you an opinion on Susskind/Hrabovsky, The Theoretical Minimum? I found it well done.

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 17, 2014 @ 23:14 GMT
Thomas,

Thank you for reading my essay, and for your belief in the importance of education. I have both volumes of "The Theoretical Minimum": I haven't had the time yet to read them thoroughly, but I read some sections here and there, and they seem to be very well done, at an "intermediate" level that is not often found in pedagogical works.

I will read your essay and comment on it in your forum.

Marc

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Jens C. Niemeyer wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 13:44 GMT
Marc,

Excellent essay! You make an important point that I believe many educators would agree with. In a world like ours with constantly growing complexity, it is important to teach a certain portfolio of skills that will allow everyone to make a realistic assessment of how her or his choices will affect the future. As you also point out, there are already encouraging initiatives in this direction (MOOCs, YouTube tutorials, etc.). It will be interesting to see how these will evolve in the next few years. The debate you are calling for would be extremely helpful to support and focus this development.

I was about to recommend David MacKay's and Richard Muller's books when I saw that you already mentioned them in one of your footnotes. Great choice!

Jens

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on May. 18, 2014 @ 23:20 GMT
Dear Marc,

I generally agree with your premise that "Big Government" has lost much authority, and that any action will have to be based on collective will and understanding of the citizens.

This does seem to imply the need for broader and more effective education. Although you focus on future-centric, I note that you have a degree in history, and I do believe that only history can provide the perspective we need for some understanding. But your point about current "deficit of meaning" in schools is well taken.

I hope you read my essay and comment. We agree in the central place of education, and the need for bottom-up government, not top-down.

My best regards,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 00:22 GMT
Edwin,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. In my years of teaching, I have found (unfortunately) that history, for most students, is not high on their "interest" list: maybe it's because they are already 100% occupied in discovering the present world, in all its mind-boggling complexity. That's why I hold some hope in a futurocentric approach: trying to motivate them by talking about issues that are key for our survival in the future... and, of course, in discussing them, history will necessary enter by the back door, so to speak!

I had already read your essay: I will rate it and comment on it on your forum later tonight.

Marc

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Michael Allan replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 07:34 GMT
I never thought of that before, but I was the same. Only later in life did I lose my indifference to history; as though first I had to acquire a past of my own. Then it became a favourite topic. - Mike

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Mohammed M. Khalil wrote on May. 19, 2014 @ 16:25 GMT
Hi Marc,

Fantastic essay! You provided great arguments about the importance of future education, and your solution "the Futurocentric Education Initiative" is, I believe, applicable and important. I strongly agree with you.

There are some similarities between our essays. In my essay, I discussed the importance of raising the public understanding of science and improving education to accelerate the progress of science. I would be glad to receive your opinion.

Best regards,

Mohammed

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 19, 2014 @ 21:07 GMT
Mohammed,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I have read yours, and I agree that there are similarities between our ideas. I will grade your essay and comment on it on your forum.

Marc

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Hoang cao Hai wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 02:06 GMT
Dear Author Marc Séguin

A very basic initiatives and focus - education is always and forever the foundation for hope in our future.

10 points for your specific proposal - Hải.CaoHoàng

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 17:04 GMT
Marc,

Finally got to your essay and was pleasantly surprised. I am in complete agreement with your statements that "citizens will need to rise", "knowledge is a good thing", and "people around the world have lost faith in figures of authority and Big Government".

Our biggest agreement is on any action must "lead to positive outcomes for the greatest number of humans".

I also totally agree with every item on your '"futurecentric" curriculum.

Where I think we may have a bit of difference (my essay is here) is that:

- While you have 13 "Topics" I am not restricting the curriculum in any way and saying everything we know in science should be shared, especially the result-cause relationships and, not necessarily the 'why of cause-effect relationships' to hedge risk.

- I am not sure who decides what to do (who is responsible for action) in your case. In my view, every citizen is independently responsible for improving their individual future.

Please read my essay and let me know if you agree, or not, with how close our thoughts really are.

-- Ajay

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 07:04 GMT
Ajay,

Thanks for your comments on my essay. Here are my thoughts on the two "differences" between our proposals that you have mentioned.

1) My list of 13 topics is only a rough draft for a futurocentric curriculum, so there is room for many things that I did not mention. However, if we want to teach anything concrete, it is important that we define and optimize the "core curriculum". What you propose is different: you want all potentially useful scientific knowledge to be accessible to anyone, so they can "play" with it and find local solutions to improve their lives. This can take place in parallel with a Futurocentric Education Initiative. In fact, one measure of a successful education initiative would be that the "average" citizen would have a good enough basic education to be able to successfully play with the scientific knowledge made available -- to have fun playing, you need some basic skills!

2) The questions "Who decides" and "Who acts" are, of course, particularly tricky. To determine the content of the futurocentric curriculum, we will need a potentially difficult worldwide conversation between all major actors - governments, educators, industry leaders, scientists, scholars, artists, spiritual "leaders", etc. To implement the education initiative, we will need the help of the teachers, the writers, the artists, in fact, of anyone who wants to help educate other people. And the "average" citizen needs to want to learn what is being proposed, so, in the end, every citizen is responsible for improving their individual future, like in your approach.

In conclusion, I think our ideas are quite complementary.

Marc

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Tommy Anderberg wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 20:29 GMT
As anyone who knows me will attest, I am essentially unteachable; I must learn my own way. So I read your essay as a total outsider, and then I did what any sensible outsider would do in 2014: I googled "future oriented education". You probably know all about the following initiatives already, but just in case, and as an opportunity to comment on how they might fit in with your own, here are a few things I found worthy of note:

- Marc Prensky is currently creating a Global Future Education Foundation and Institution (and writing two books about it, including one proposing "a new, future world curriculum") with goals which look similar to yours.

- New Zealand wins the search engine placement battle, with entries like Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective and Shifting to 21st Century Thinking in education and learning. Apparently the New Zealand Council for Educational Research has been thinking about this for more than a decade.

- Marco Rieckmann has thought about Future-Oriented Higher Education: Which Key Competencies Should Be Fostered Through University Teaching and Learning?, and Derek Hodson about Science education for an alternative future.

- 2014 is the last year of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, proclaimed in December 2002 by the United Nations General Assembly. I had no idea. The issues emphasized by EDS seem to partially overlap with your curriculum, and UNESCO's International Implementation Scheme may contain some applicable wisdom. Or not. As I said, I had no idea...

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 26, 2014 @ 22:09 GMT
Tommy,

Thank you for the links. I was aware of some of these initiatives, but some were new to me. I will certainly look into it!

Marc

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Preston Estep wrote on May. 21, 2014 @ 02:33 GMT
Hello Marc,

Your essay is clearly written and makes a very good case for improving education by emphasizing critical, numerical, probabilistic and statistical thinking. I agree with most of your individual proposals, although I think you place too much faith in humans to execute your plan. After all, these options have been available to people for many decades, and people of generations past (at least in the U.S.) were probably better versed in these many areas than they are today. Education isn't the primary culprit; it is people's evolutionary baggage that makes them biased, or inattentive, or lazy, or distracted, or immersed in instant gratification, or more likely, all of the above.

To guide long-term decisions, your proposal places trust in current human priorities, and thus current levels of rationality. Substantial research by Kahneman and Tversky, Keith Stanovich, Tom Gilovich, Dan Ariely, and many others convince us that people are neither rational nor good forecasters, even when they are focused on the future.

People have great difficulties with large data sets and thinking about long-distance and long-term consequences of our actions, and as we and others in this competition (see Sabine Hossenfelder's essay) have pointed out, what limited understanding we have is prone to cognitive biases and statistical errors. We agree with you that a focus on the future is essential, but these intrinsic limits to our current thinking abilities present an impassable obstacle.

We think our proposal is the only truly efficient (albeit, long-term) approach and, while our proposed solution is not as specific as yours, we want people to engage in a serious conversation about the issues we raise and how to create better brains and other thinking machines - especially the best scientists and engineers who typically have little motivation to consider these issues because they are comfortable with their own intellects. The most rational and intelligent people only feel satisfied with their present mental status because human perceptions are selected to be relativistic about abilities, but the problems highlighted by both of our essays apply to everyone.

I hope your essay does well. I also hope that you read our essay and that we persuade you to some degree of the soundness of our proposal. Whatever the outcome, we wish you all the best,

Preston Estep (and Alex Hoekstra)

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 21, 2014 @ 03:57 GMT
Hi Preston and Alex,

Thank you for commenting on my essay. I have read your essay and I agree with a lot of what you are saying, although, most of the time, my own views are a little less "pessimistic" about the current level of human minds. I will comment on your essay in your forum.

Marc

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Robert de Neufville wrote on May. 21, 2014 @ 03:58 GMT
An educational initiative specifically—rather than incidentally—aimed at improving our long-run decision-making is a fantastic idea, Marc. I think you are right that important issues like these can be taught if put into context, even to students who have little interest in memorizing the order of the planets.

The development of such curriculum will not always go smoothly, as you say. In fact, I'm sure curriculum development would be very contentious. We still need to reach scientific consensus on many of these issues. And people whose fundamental beliefs are challenged by the science—or who have a stake in the path we're already on—will fight hard to shape the curriculum to their own liking. But as you say,just the conversation about the curriculum would be well worth having.

In my opinion, this is one of the best essays in the contest. I hope it does very well—it deserves to.

Best,

Robert

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James Lee Hoover wrote on May. 21, 2014 @ 16:43 GMT
Marc,

Excellent points in your essay. With a rather varied background, including my education, I can testify to the need for a broad education and one that considers the long-term effects of our actions, not repeating the negative lessons of history. Your Futurocentric Education Initiative will help discount our world's fixation on short-term comfort and greed and toward a viable future we can reach and survive in.

My essay builds on the same concepts, but emphasizing the role of the human mind and scientific vision in steering toward a viable future. I would like to see your comments on my concepts as well.

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James Lee Hoover replied on May. 31, 2014 @ 15:07 GMT
Marc,

Having had rating problems with my Firefox browser and with some 5 days remaining, I am revisiting essay I've read to see if rated. I find that I rated yours on 5/21.

Have you had a chance to read and comment on mine?

Jim

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 02:27 GMT
James,

Thank you for reminding me! I had read and rated your essay (about 10 days ago), but I never got to comment on it on your forum. I will do so shortly!

Marc

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Arthur R. Woods wrote on May. 22, 2014 @ 16:24 GMT
Dear Marc

I really enjoyed your well written and well structured essay. I support your visionary initiative 100% and I especially like the idea of people becoming future-literate. What a great expression!

Extremely important, you write:

"To truly influence the course of humanity, an initiative will have to start by influencing the minds of the most people possible, and to do so, it must implicate them in the process. The time has come to have a well-informed, serious worldwide conversation about the future."

The first challenge will be to conduct an open conversation free of any political agenda. The second challenge is to get it started soon enough. Perhaps this FQXi contest is a precursor to getting such a conversation going.

I agree with your comments to my essay that the concept of Greater Earth meshes well with your futurocentric curriculum. If all humanity would have the necessary room, resources, information, education and technology to survive and thrive, there would be no limit to human aspirations. Everyone needs to be made aware of these possibilities and opportunities. Worldwide peace and prosperity could indeed be obtained if we all would become future-literate.

I hope to see you in the finals!

Arthur

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Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 10:55 GMT
Dear Marc,

interesting work. The potential risk of an essay centred on education is one of sounding a bit obvious, but I think you have sufficiently avoided this problem, by providing some non-trivial arguments, justifications, and implementation details for your proposal. The prose and the logic is fluent, and makes up for a pleasurable, effortless reading.

I certainly agree that education is likely to be more effective, in steering our future, than some global institutional efforts, whose results `are often disappointing`.

Some criticism now. There are at least a couple of points in which the text, in my opinion, suffers from the `do the right thing` syndrome (in other words, is excessively generic), i.e. TOPICS 12 and 13 of your futurocentric curriculum. They sound to me too generic and obvious to capture a concrete implementation, and invite a (perhaps equally obvious) reaction that I am pretty sure you would agree with: the devil is in the details! Who can tell to really understand `the way the world works`? Which world? First, second, third? One thing is trying to come up with a futurocentric curriculum by having a `discussion` within, say, the United States. Another thing would be to involve (also) Europe, with its more marked diversity among countries. And yet another thing is to extend it to Middle East, Far East, Africa, etc. There are many worlds; and even it there were only one, it would still be a complex system endlessly open to unpredictable evolution steps (I`m being quick and generic too, but I guess you get the point).

You very correctly point out that inventions such as the cell phone have contributed to steering humanity (at least in life styles) beyond `the prognostications of professional futurists`, and, I would add, beyond the control and capacity of global `political` institutions. Who can predict what the next revolutionary invention would be, and what effects it will induce? These factors, largely unpredictable and un-steerable, are likely to play a stronger role than any other.

About the implementation of your plan, I appreciated your experienced concern for motivating high-school students to work on the topics of the envisaged curriculum. One may wonder, however, whether perspectives on the medium-long-term collective future of humanity would be more effective, in motivating high-school students, than the perspective of their short-term, individual, professional future. In this respect I find the essay by Hossenfelder as more realistic, when it assesses the laziness of human beings: we are not so good in interacting with scenarios that are far in space and time. (I guess that your proposal could nicely borrow some of her original ideas.)

Finally, a closing, semi-serious remark. I think your final quote of the Millenium Institute:

`These great conversations will be better informed if we realize that the world is improving better than most pessimists know and that future dangers are worse than most optimists indicate.`

is a good example of the weakness and genericity of these global endeavours. To me the quote is perfectly tautological: it directly follows from the definition of optimistic and pessimistic person!

Best regards

Tommaso

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 14:41 GMT
Tomamso,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay, and for your very insightful comments.

I agree that my topic 12, "a future-literate citizen needs to be aware of the different factors that translate into a fulfilling life, and of the importance of taking into account the social, psychological, spiritual, artistic and cultural aspects of the lives of the citizens of the world", covers a lot of ground and is very generic. Being a physicist, I was much more explicit in other topics more related to the "hard sciences", but I wanted to emphasize that a futurocentric curriculum can be enriched by contributions from all aspects of life, including the artistic, the spiritual, etc. Obviously, this single topic needs to be expanded to be more detailed and specific.

My topic 13, "a future literate-citizen needs to have a wide and deep enough understanding of the way the world works so as to be able to evaluate the plausibility of a claim about the future in the news, or of a futuristic scenario in a work of fiction" has some kind of special status: it calls for the integration of knowledge about the other topics, as to acquire some sort of "gut feeling" about the plausibility or the implausibility of a claim about some future scenario or technology. For instance, a future literate citizen should be able to realize that injecting an adult organism with new DNA, no matter how advanced the technique, could never transform that organism into a new type of organism (like a human being into a man-animal chimera) in a few minutes or hours. Why is this important? I think some of the knee-jerk reactions that people have against some technologies (like genetic engineering) are influenced by what they see in science fiction stories (even though they are aware it is science fiction). I love science fiction, even when it is not realistic. But I think it is educational (and fun) to pick apart some science fiction scenarios in order to advance our understanding of how the real world works, and what is realistically feasible in the near future.

In the next part of your criticism, you write:

"Who can tell to really understand `the way the world works`? Which world? First, second, third? One thing is trying to come up with a futurocentric curriculum by having a `discussion` within, say, the United States. Another thing would be to involve (also) Europe, with its more marked diversity among countries. And yet another thing is to extend it to Middle East, Far East, Africa, etc. There are many worlds; and even it there were only one, it would still be a complex system endlessly open to unpredictable evolution steps."

I think you have nicely summarized the most difficult challenges that has to overcome any concrete proposition about "steering the future". I think it is only natural (and practical) to start by having local conversations about what should be on a futurocentric curriculum, before going "worldwide". It will certainly be very challenging to have a worldwide conversation about steering the future, because "the future is not evenly distributed" (in the words of William Gibson).

[CONTINUED ON THE NEXT POST]

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 23, 2014 @ 14:51 GMT
[CONTINUED FROM ABOVE]

You also raise the important issue of whether or not "perspectives on the medium-long-term collective future of humanity would be more effective, in motivating high-school students, than the perspective of their short-term, individual, professional future". I think it could be, in some cases. For instance, future math majors sometimes do not see why they should know any biology, and students who want to pursue careers in the health sciences sometimes wonder why they need to learn about physics. If we can tie knowledge to its universal relevance for steering the future of humanity, I believe we can raise the motivation of, at least, some of the demotivated students. (Students who already love learning for learning's sake will do well no matter what.)

You mentioned Sabine Hossenfelder's essay, that suggests that we use "priority maps" to build a more-or-less automatic system that tells people how much their priorities match with the decisions they take, in an "intuitive and emotional way" that counteracts our laziness and lack of time to research the consequences of our actions. I found her approach very interesting, and it would certainly complement the education initiative I propose. It is useful to have automated helpers (like pocket calculators), but in order to use them at their full potential, I believe it is important to have internalized some basic knowledge about the way they work (you must know some basic things about numbers and math before being able to use a calculator). So even if one day we fully implement Sabine's system so that our decisions are guided in an effortless and intuitive way via a brain implant, I think the system will work better in conjunction with widespread future-literacy in the population.

As for the Millenium's Institute quote, "these great conversations will be better informed if we realize that the world is improving better than most pessimists know and that future dangers are worse than most optimists indicate", I know it sounds generic and somewhat vacuous, but I think it actually states something important. I know too many people who are concerned about the future of humanity, but who have so thoroughly internalized all the most extreme prophecies of doom that they fully believe that civilisation will collapse (never to rise again because of depleted resources), even if we outlawed all cars tomorrow and became all vegans. I think we need to keep a nuanced and balanced outlook, especially when we teach to young people who are just beginning to learn how the world works. (But we must also avoid to be overly optimistic and to believe that everything will turn out fine no matter what we do.)

Thank you again Tommaso for all the interesting issues you raised!

Marc

P.S. Your essay was one of the first I read, and I really enjoyed it, but I didn't take the time back then to comment on it and rate it. I will do that soon: see you in your forum!

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 15:42 GMT
Dear Marc,

Yes indeed , when you want to move on you need an "organised" way to realize that but....

Humanity is so different in its specific units that these units are forming "groups" with each one also different viewpoints, in politics these groups are trying to cooperate but have to "concede" with others (so there fine ideals have to be rubbed of) so the further we go in cooperation the more is rubbed of and the lesser is realized, that is my problem with mondial governments.

My perception is that humanity has to change its idealistic goals from egoistic short term profit making to an achievement of higher consciousness. Perhaps when the average age of a human being was 200 years and not about 80 years we should already be more cautious because we were more involved ourselves on the long term....

I hope that you can find some time to read my essay : "STEERING THE FUTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, and leave acomment on my thread I would be obliged if you would leave a rating that is in accordance with your appreciation.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 12:42 GMT
Dear Marc,

I enjoyed reading your essay, which I think is very well written, deep and fun. I think the worldwide Futurocentric Education Initiative is an excellent idea. I completely agree that "the key word here is understanding", and that "knowledge is a good thing, and that the more numerous are the citizens of the world who have a sound basic understanding of the way the world is and evolves, the more happy, prosperous and secure the future of humanity will be".

Best regards,

Cristi

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 08:00 GMT
Marc,

Nobel's rationalism was not future-literate but logically consequent.

I reiterate the unwelcome question I addressed to Flavio Mercati :"What do you mean? How many people does the Earth need?"

Future-literate, as you described it, refers to symptoms rather than to truly basic moral perspectives.

Eckard

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Tihamer T. Toth-Fejel wrote on May. 28, 2014 @ 02:20 GMT
Dear Marc,

I loved many of your quotes (we both stole them from the same authors :-) ), e.g. "The future is where we are going to spend the rest of our lives." You even included ideas that I had to cut (e.g. explain why negative predictions are so popular) because I was busy specifying Three Crucial Technologies in my essay.

> "we need a worldwide Futurocentric Education...

view entire post


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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 21:41 GMT
Dear Tihamer,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay, and for your comments. You certainly raise a lot of valid issues with the idea of education helping humanity steer the future: the challenge of making people value education (especially about "difficult" topics that deal with the issues we will have to face in the future), and the challenge of making sure that we teach the "right thing". I agree with you on both counts.

Your solutions are interesting: working towards a semantic "intelligent" web that can help us make the right decisions against our weak willpower, and the need to diversify off planet. I also agree that the optimal "21st century attitude" should be a blend of realistic optimism and a willingness to "work smart" to make things happen. Here's to the future!

Marc

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Denis Frith wrote on May. 30, 2014 @ 13:18 GMT
One aspect of the future is not hard to predict. The technological systems provide goods and services to society by irreversibly using up limited natural material resources, producing immutable material waste and irrevocably devastating aspects of the environment. These systems are aging as friction does negative work on them. The service they provide is unsustainable.The challenge is on for humanity to steer the future usage of this infrastructure using the knowledge that has been acquired.

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Anonymous wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 09:53 GMT
Dear Marc,

I totally agree with your ideas and conclusions. Need to make a revolution in Education, especially in school. Need to educate primarily creators thinking about the future of Humanity. The system «Futurocentric Education» must necessarily widely introduce Philosophy and Ethics. Right you mark the need for change in mathematics education. Basis of mathematical education should be the principle of historicity and visibility. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." (Albert Einstein) «The truth should be drawn with the help of the cognitive computer visualization technology and should be presented to" an unlimited circle "of spectators in the form of color-musical cognitive images of its immanent essence.» (Alexander Zenkin «Scientific Counter-Revolution in Mathematics»). Information Era is "The era of people with mathematical mind"(Yuri Milner). "Shut up and calculate" any more won't pass, it is necessary to pass to "Understand and quickly calculate ". The Future requires an understanding and accurate calculation. I invite you to comment on and appreciate my essay.

High regard,

Vladimir

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Author Marc Séguin replied on May. 31, 2014 @ 19:23 GMT
Vladimir,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay. I am glad to hear that you agree with me that we should refocus education to leave more place for thinking about the future of humanity. I agree that "understand and quickly calculate" (with the help, if necessary, of powerful free math software such as Wolfram Alpha) should be the main goal of math education.

I will comment on your essay on your forum.

Marc

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Michael Allan wrote on May. 31, 2014 @ 11:02 GMT
Hello Marc, May I post a short, but sincere critique of your essay? I'd ask you to return the favour. Here's my policy on that. - Mike

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Jun. 1, 2014 @ 02:41 GMT
Michael,

I accept your challenge! :)

I posted my review of your essay on your forum.

Marc

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Michael Allan replied on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 10:23 GMT
Thanks Marc, Yours is one of the more innovative theses, which makes it riskier. I see a possible trilemma. My question depends on which of the three horns applies to your thesis. The first two assume that we already know where to steer, and how:

1. Let's just do it. Already the thinkers have the knowledge and the movers and shakers the power, so let's get going and steer the future. Why bother launching a Worldwide Futurocentric Education Initiative (WFEI)?

2. No, we cannot just do it. We've the knowledge but not the power. We're blocked by political opponents which requires us to "start by influencing the minds of the most people possible" (p. 3). For this, we will launch WFEI.

Then what prevents those same political opponents from blocking WFEI?

3. Actually, we haven't the knowledge. So we'll launch WFEI and get more people to think about the steering problem in their spare time.

Given that our brightest minds, experts and professionals are lost on the question of where best to steer, or how best to steer, then how could ordinary folks (the rest of us) clear up the confusion?

(Or did I misunderstand your thesis? Or err in my analysis?) - Mike

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 15:26 GMT
Dear Marc Seguin

You succeeded to write very original essay about proposed topic.

I agree that knowledge about future is important and that it is fine that it is united into one school subject. But, it is not easy to motivate people that they will accept this learning besides all other learning. But it will be fine to incorporate it to the other school subjects.

One are of nearer future are electric cars. It can be presented to people, how cleaner would be cities, how healthier and nicer would be life with electric vehicles in majority. I think that larger interest given by such presentations can give such vehicles much sooner. I think, if we would be interested much more, such vehicles would exist in majority today already. We all can have impact on this, not only the car factories.

You write also that you "spent 25 years exploring ways to teach introductory physics better." Thus, maybe you can be interested my paper about better visualization of special theory of relativity. Here is one good paper, which better introduces quantum mechanics (QM). Baez gave an example, how to more clearly introduce General relativity.

My essay Best regards

Janko Kokosar

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Jun. 2, 2014 @ 20:28 GMT
Janko,

Thank you for taking the time to read my essay, and for the links: the article by Baez on general relativity seems particularly interesting!

I have already read and rated your essay, but I didn't leave any comments. I will do so on your forum.

Good luck in the contest!

Marc

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Gbenga Michael Ogungbuyi wrote on Jun. 4, 2014 @ 06:55 GMT
Dear Marc Séguin,

I take the extension of this forum as an opportunity to learn from your intellectual article. I wondered why I have not read it!

For the first time, I am reading a piece that in my view is directly linked to the theme of this contest. Good job man! I found your assertion "striking an ever-evolving balance between technological advances and the

social, psychological, spiritual, artistic and cultural aspects of the lives of the citizens of the world" clearly overwhelming. This is also my main goal of my article.

You deserve an award in this contest. I have increased your leadership by rating you high.

I will invite you to read my article STRIKING A BALANCE BETWEEN TECHNOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM using this direct link http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2020

Your comments and rating will be well appreciated.

Expecting your appearance on my essay.

With highest regard to you Marc,

Gbenga

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 02:04 GMT
Ggenga,

See my answer to your post just below...

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Author Marc Séguin wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 02:03 GMT
Gbenga,

Thank you for the very nice comments you made on my essay!

I have read and rated your essay a few weeks ago, but I didn't leave any comments back then. I will now do so on your forum.

Good luck in the contest!

Marc

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Neil Bates wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 02:06 GMT
Marc, as an educator I appreciate the need for teaching our youth not only how to enter their own near-term future (as citizens and workers), but also the long-term future as both creators and colonizers of that future. That education should indeed include both skills (and not just specific applications, but better background such as critical thinking skills) and an attitude of caring, cooperation, and critical measured optimism. My own essay addresses the issue of critical thinking, as well as training in volitional skills ("willpower), among other things.

Best wishes on finding consensus on implementation, however - many "establishment" forces will lag behind or resist, so maybe the insightful sectors of various societies will need to develop informal social networking systems to impart this kind of education. However, future pressures may at long last stimulate a more systematic application as needed.

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 03:35 GMT
Excellent essay Marc,

I agree with every point you make, and I echo some of your observations in my essay, that talks about the value of play for both education and research. You make an important observation about the general public's lack of interest in Science, or lack of intelligence about basic scientific realities, and I think it is a key issue to address. I've thought quite a bit about that myself.

I was reminded again and again, at various points in your essay, about the experiences of my friend Floyd Holt, who developed something called the 'spaceship classroom' as a means to hold his students' attention, and who used his High School Physics classes as a platform for Futurocentric thinking. His emphasis to students was that they create the future, or must help build it.

You are to be commended for putting so many good ideas in one place.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 03:52 GMT
Floyd's current effort is..

The American Science and Technology Center of NY.

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Author Marc Séguin replied on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 02:43 GMT
Jonathan,

Thank you for your comments, and the link to the American Science and Technology Center. I greatly enjoyed your essay too!

Playfully, ;)

Marc

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Jun. 5, 2014 @ 04:20 GMT
Marc,

I thank you for a serious review of my essay. Your comments below show more than a perfunctory look:

"You seem to put a lot of hope in future scientific breakthroughs based on modifying the natural structure of atoms and subatomic particles: making atoms donate more electrons to boost the conductivity of the electrical grid (p.5), exploiting an hypothetical sub-quark level of structure (p.6), compacting the atoms in an astronaut body to shrink it in order to offer better resistance to cosmic rays in space (p.7), modifying the structure of the H20 molecule to make snow melt in winter on the roads (p.7)... I am a bit skeptical about the likelihood of such breakthroughs, but who knows, maybe a lot of currently held physics will be overturned so that these things become possible... In science, it is always important to keep an open mind."

I did not mean to give the impression that these perceptions are genuine, but only that we need to stray from the orthodox perception with more imaginative thinking, somewhat like Einstein's fancy.

I had trouble rating with my Firefox browser and changed to Opera so I am checking those that I have read. I find that I rated yours on 5/21.

Thanks again for the attention you gave to my essay.

Best of luck.

Jim

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Laurence Hitterdale wrote on Jun. 7, 2014 @ 02:31 GMT
Hello Marc,

Thanks for your thoughtful and gracious remarks on May 27. Unfortunately, work requirements have not allowed me time to respond before now. At this point, detailed comments will not be useful. I do want to say that I did read your essay, and I believe that it merits the high ranking it holds. Best wishes to you in the final round of judging.

Laurence Hitterdale

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Jun. 13, 2014 @ 14:57 GMT
dear Marc,

Congratulations with your first place in the finalist pool.

I hope not that the discussion ends just now and maybe you will find some time to read my essay : "STEERING THE FUTURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS" and maybe leave your comment.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Jun. 19, 2014 @ 15:50 GMT
Dear Marc,

You didn't answer my question of May 27. Hopefully you are in position and willing to answer other ones:

You wrote: "... spent the last 25 years exploring ways to teach introductory physics better, and he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for."

Can you please specify what particular problems you refer to?

Are you currently a teacher of physics yourself or do you intend providing pieces of advice to teachers?

Eckard

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