I marvel at my phone. It surfs the internet, finds my e-mail, lets me twitter, takes calls, and gets along well with my computer. It’s a calendar, a stopwatch, a newspaper, and a means of distracting my daughter when she needs distracting. It’s the height of integration (for now). So many systems amalgamated. So many advances in technology blended together.
Yet it serves as only a sign and symptom of a much larger trend: increasing connections.
We live in integrated worlds. Myriad spheres overlap and influence other spheres. As the layers and connections increase, so does the complexity and the reverberations of actions, both positive and negative. While many of use get pretty excited by the integrated nature of our technology, it is the interrelated systems of nations and cultures that pose the largest long term impact.
A short list of challenges in today’s world:
- Climate change
- The Great Recession
- Rising extinction rates
- Access to potable water
- Basic rights
- Education for all
This list is by no means exhaustive or comprehensive. Social and environmental issues run the gambit from site specific challenges to global ramifications. We have about as much hope of cataloging them all as of convincing a 2 year old that whining is an ineffective method for achieving one’s goals.
What’s more, this list isn’t new. Most of these issues have followed (perhaps even pushed) humanity from the savannas of Africa to all corners of terra firma.
So, what’s the point?
The point is this: The complexity of these issues escalates exponentially as the connections and interactions between people and nations increase. Actions by one party potentially impacts others on a much grander scale than ever before. And as the networks grow, so do the effects of our decisions and our patterns of living. (An example of this theory in action: Iranian elections.)
Of course, in this case, the enabling keystone of expanded spheres of influence is technology, which has effectively flattened the world by decreasing the role of proximity as the necessary cornerstone for communication, collaboration, and conflict. (Technology has also exacerbated the divide between the haves and the have nots, but that is fodder for another post.)
The result is that our problems, as people of Earth, are now, more than ever, shared problems. Solutions to those problems cannot be found or enacted in isolation. Want to minimize global climate change? One must act locally and globally. Watching An Inconvenient Truth won’t be enough. Adjusting one’s consumer patterns can make a difference, but real change will happen when a mass of interconnected citizens who demand or create action. (Or a great calamity forces us to rethink.) Technology allows previously isolated groups to join together, for better or for worse, and drive change.
What does this have to do with education?