“Computers are useless,” Picasso is said to have said. “They can only give you answers.” But what if exponential technologies — virtual reality and artificial intelligence, for example — could also help us to ask better questions?
In our age of accelerating change, this is not an idle question. As Wired founder Kevin Kelly has said, “This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines.”
But we cannot navigate that race unless we reframe our relationship to exponential technologies. Picasso was wrong (or didn’t live long enough to see the possibilities of the computer): VR and AI are not limited to providing only answers; they can also enable us ask better questions — if we choose to “race with them.”
Such a choice begins by aligning leaders from industry and education.
Last month, Malvern Preparatory School did just that by hosting Re:frame + Re:charge, a workshop on the future of leadership and learning. The experience convened a diverse mix of leaders from PwC, Siemens Healthcare, Christiana Health, Wellshire Farms, UPenn’s Fels Institute for Government, St. Joseph University’s Arrupe Center for Business Ethics, Malvern Prep and Woodberry Forest.
After playtesting virtual- and mixed-reality devices, participants gathered in small teams to formulate big questions. Some of those questions included:
- How might we ensure a pluralistic design mindset for exponential technologies? (For example, a virtual reality physics lesson based on IndyCar may appeal to a certain demographic, but not to another. How do we design for both?)
- How might we use virtual reality to bring non-neurotypical users into better engagement with neurotypical peers?
- When we introduce exponential technologies, what commitments are we implicitly making? Are we prepared to do the necessary change management in order for such technologies to take root in a healthy manner?
The stakes are high: in order to create an optimistic future, this is a race we must win. Fortunately, a select set of applicants will generate a new set of questions on Aug. 9-10 when they undertake the Re:frame + Re:charge journey to explore how we might use exponential technologies to ask better questions about leadership and learning.