In an episode of the Simpson’s, Marge Simpson buys Homer a set of subliminal audio cassettes (remember them?) that he was to listen to when asleep, to help him lose weight. The company instead sends him a set of cassettes to improve his vocabulary! For the period he uses them, Homer piles on weight, but his vocabulary abounds with mellifluous and splendiferous pronouncements!
Sounds like something from science fiction, but research into sleep learning, or hypnopedia, has accelerated in recent years. Research has shown that if ‘awake’ learning is complemented by ‘sleep’ learning, the retention of information is considerably higher. How much? It is known that the brain is active during sleep, mainly sorting and storing events from during that day and if this was better understood hypnopedia could become a useful tool in a learning process – maybe a learning tool in itself – in time.
So apart from hypnopedia, what do we see about learning, looking into the future? We already know that eLearning is big in industry training and also increasingly so in education. We can already see some way into the future, where new technology will continue to make delivery of content easier and more effective. Screenless projection and then holography will free the mobile phone from its restrictive screen size and will make it the sole device that people will use. Huge open online courses will be common with participants from all parts of the globe participating and interacting. Gamification will become a big part of all learning. Virtual reality will remove any restrictions from learning as any scenario can be replicated for students.
So, exciting times ahead for learning indeed! Everything that is listed is already there and working right now. Nothing there is ‘under development’, it is all actually available here and now, but it is just lacking one vital ingredient to becoming mainstream – cheap and powerful computing power.
Right now, we have arrived at a point where there is a ‘bottleneck’ to technological progress, and to understand this, we need to look at Moore’s Law.
Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors per square inch on an integrated circuit would double every year, and that has essentially been the case ever since then – up until recently. Chip manufacturers have been steadily reducing the size of the components on their chip to increase the computing power, but now they are at such small sizes they are coming up against manufacturing difficulties – components on a chip are now down to .0000014 mm in size and it may be impossible to get much smaller.
As a result of this slow-down, furious research is going on around the world in universities, research laboratories and chip manufacturers for a successor for the silicon chip that has served us so well. IBM has recently unveiled a $3BN investment program, part of which is investigating other ways of increasing computer power. A lot of research is being done in neuromorphic computing, which mimics the way the brain processes information, while Google is working on a quantum computer which will process information in a new way that “could perform calculations that would take a conventional computer millions of years to complete”.
So back to talking about learning! We have all these burgeoning technologies waiting for a breakthrough in computer technology. When it happens, developers will be unleashed from the shackles of developing systems and products within a confining parameter of computer speed and memory. An avalanche of advancements could be unleashed in what could become ‘disruptive technological breakthroughs’- something that has the power to obsolete established industries overnight.
The problem is that it will happen at such a speed that it will be difficult to pick out which of the new emerging technologies will be a winner – although the best thing to do would be to keep an open mind about everything. Ken Olson, who was President, Chairman and founder of Digital, the world’s largest mainframe computer manufacturing company, scoffed when he was approached with the idea of personal computers in every home. In 1977 said: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” We know what happened: Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) declined with the advent of the personal computer and finally went under in 1998.
and even if an 18-something year old clad in khakis and overalls walks into your office one day and claims that he has discovered something that will revolutionize the world – give him a hearing – it may be hypnopedia at work!
In an episode of the Simpson’s, Marge Simpson buys Homer a set of subliminal audio cassettes (remember them?) that he wa...