A key part of KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight work is depicting images of the future. This can take various forms — scenarios, infographics, artifacts of the future — and it can even include immersive experiences or simulations. On September 20, our strategic foresight team partnered with Remake Learning, Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, Education Uncontained and local high school students from Quaker Valley High and Nazareth College and Career Prep to create a simulation as part of the Thrival Festival’s Life.Code Interactive Experience.
We simulated a hiring process from the year 2040. The simulation sought to give participants the experience of applying for work in the year 2040 by having them visit the Department of Lifelong Learning’s Algorithmic Hiring Center. While visiting the center, participants used HoloLens to take a short quiz to “update their readiness profile” and were then matched “algorithmically” with jobs from The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out. The simulation concluded with an exit interview, where participants were asked about key readiness skills.
The simulation was intended to get participants to think about how work, readiness, and the hiring process might change over time by exaggerating certain aspects of our current reality (using algorithms in hiring), playing on trends (increased automation in the workplace, the atomization of work), and introducing new and novel ideas (social and emotional competencies as key readiness components).
Throughout the creation and execution of the simulation, students played key roles: from programming the HoloLens, to creating the art hanging in the cubicle, to serving as actors. Below is an interview with one of the student consultants, Kat Kelly, reflecting on the experience of creating this future simulation.
You recently helped with creating an experiential futures simulation for the Thrival festival. Can you tell me a bit about it?
It’s basically a mixed-reality quiz experience using the Microsoft HoloLens that’s supposed to outfit the participant in a career area. The point was to display the idea that this could be a way that people are informed of their career prospects in the future.
What parts of the simulation did you help create or take part in?
I handled all 2D animation and most of the design aspects of the project.
Why do you think it is important for people to consider the future? How can simulations help people think about the future?
Thinking about the future is how it happens. The lightbulb wasn’t invented before it was thought about, and the same protocol applies to any advancements that have and will be accomplished.
I feel like simulations, in the state they are now, are best used only to provoke thought due to their “futuristic” nature. (Unfortunately, the tech isn’t quite there yet to completely immerse someone in a futuristic mixed-reality environment.) Being in a mixed-reality environment, if you ask me, brings how far technology has come right in front of you. The next thought is, obviously, how far can it go? How far will it be in a few years? I think thoughts like this can be easily triggered in a simulation.
This simulation was about work but in many ways was about thinking through how learning might change to better prepare people for an unknown future. As a high school senior and as someone who will have to work in the future, how do you think learning should change?
I think that education could greatly benefit from a mostly self-directed approach from a young age. Many kids my age could seriously benefit from an approach to learning that frames it as less of a job and more of a necessary responsibility. The current education system puts little emphasis on the reality that in order to be a functioning member of society, a respect for learning is important. I feel like so many high school students these days lack direction because the current system rewards mindlessly going through the motions, when real careers require active thinking and constant focus. Overall, I think the learning system should be organized around self-direction, with some guidelines.
As Kat’s responses reflect, experiencing the future can be a powerful tool for thinking about change. Having a shared experience through a simulation can democratize the future by creating a shared reference point to reflect on and plan around. They can also make thinking about the future a more visceral, emotional experience, rather than a more cognitive one.
What experiences have you had that have caused you to think differently about the future?
In our fifth comprehensive forecast into the future of learning, you will discover how current trends could impact learning ten years from now, and consider ways to shape a future where all students can thrive. Sign up now to be among the first to receive Forecast 5.0.