At Shift Happens, the annual conference on Art, Learning and Technology. The keynote address was by Sir Ken Robinson, beamed in live from LA via a mostly wonderful Skype videocall. Sir Ken gave a distinctly critical take on the tsunami of techonological innovation unleashed since Sir Tim Berners Lee and Mosaic launched the modern interent in 1993. First fact: those turning 18 this year will have lived their entire lives in the prescence of the interent.
He started from the standpoint that there are several processes unique to human history happening now. Firstly, since 2000 more than 50% of the population are living in cities. In transport, or in communications, transformative technologies such as the car and the phone have arrived at an ever-more rapid pace and are driving evolution. Certain inventions, such as the telescope or the clock, reposition our sense of who we are, and the internet has this transformative power. Physical evolution however carries on extremely slowly and we are still very much like animals in physical evolutionary terms. Mental evolution (or culture) is happening extremely fast and is separating us the natural world extremely quickly. Technology is a key tool driving this cultural change.
One of his worries is that imaginative, physical and social knowledge will be eroded by technology-driven entertainment. His agenda for tackling this revolution, which is chasing our sense of our own identities and abilities:
The arts and sciences, though still distinct, are converging again.
There is unprecedented growth in access to information
Environmental change is real and growing – the earth cannot sustain ten billion plus people without competition for resources
There is an ageing population, and with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Children born today may actually expect to die earlier than their parents.
There is a shift to greater spiritual awareness.
The inequality in wealth distribution is becoming ever greater.