SPIMES – the new, new thing?

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I’ve just finished watching (via a RWW link) a video featuring David Orban titled “Free to be Human” in which he talks about Spimes – the name given to objects that can be tracked through space and time throughout the lifetime of the object. Orban explains how he sees such objects as ushering in a new paradigm of computing use as part of the Network of things, the fast approaching time when we’ll have more ‘things’ connected on the internet than people.
The slideshow from the presentation is embedded here:

I referred to the network of things in my talk at the recent TUANZ event in Wellington, surmising how this might impact in education. In my keynote at the ULearn conference last year I showed part of a clip from a TED presentation showing illustrating siftables,  tiny computer blocks that interact with each other to make networks (and music), as an example of the use of spimes in education.

In his talk, Orban suggests that we may be in the last era when objects rely on humans to function – noting the progression from mainframes, to personal computers, to mobile phones – all assuming human use to make them function. He points out that modern mobile phones are already communicating with the cell towers around us as we drive around, without any reference to us at all, and that our modern cars already have between 50-100 sensors in them that are communicating and ‘making decisions’ quite independently of human intervention.

What particularly interested me about Orban’s address is the optimism he expresses towards the end about how such technological development might hold a hope for us as a civilization, that through the process of what Orban calls “planetary co-evolution”, we might become free to become human again, to be able to think and operate independently of our machines.

Certainly challenging food for thought so early in the morning, but a fascinating insight into what might lie in our (not too distant) future. Certainly the signs are there that the internet of things is evolving around us already. Whether it will enable us to achieve Orban’s dream of planetary co-evolution remains to be seen.

What it reinforces to me is the importance of the need to focus on building the capacity for futures thinking as referred to in the NZ curriculum – and explored further in recent NZCER research.

2 thoughts on “SPIMES – the new, new thing?

  1. Comment emailed to me today by David Orban:

    Education is key to have a chance, and play a role in shaping our future. Without it, our tossing out ideas in a somewhat incoherent if fascinating manner, does nothing but delude us into thinking that we matter, and that individual of societal choices are made with a sense of responsibility.

    I am very glad to see the Futures Thinking is part of the NZ Curriculum. It would be interesting to prepare a comparative analysis of how this features in all OECD countries.

    In May I will be participating in an EU workshop on the Future Of Learning, and I am certainly curious to listen to what my colleagues will have to say, and contribute with my often controversial, but sometimes still useful arguments.



    David Orban
    skype, twitter, linkedin, sl, etc: davidorban

  2. Response to David Orban…

    I really enjoyed your presentation – both in terms of what you had to say and the manner in which you presented – well done.

    I agree with you – education is essential. That’s what I’ve committed myself to through my career – with a focus on the bigger picture, and how we can adequately prepare our students for their future and not our past. I had some involvement from its conception with the development of the NZ curriculum and am very proud of what we have achieved – a competencies based approach based on the initial work of the OECD. I’m sure we’ll see some comparative studies emerging in the future.

    What I particularly liked about your presentation was, as I said in my post, the optimistic expression of thinking about how all this might impact on our future. My continuing dismay in education is that so many of these sorts of innovations are met with a blanket cry of “it’s not safe!” or “our kids will be at risk” or “only the wealthy will benefit” etc. All this mires us down in a bureaucratic tangle of risk aversion and the adoption of a ‘lowest common denominator’ stance which becomes self defeating in terms of innovation and futures thinking. Substitutes for critical thought and futures thinking are found in the discourse of ‘standards’ and compliance.

    I want to contribute to an education system that will enable my children and my grandchildren to grow up as fully participating members of society, confident about how to make that contribution and capable in thought and ability to work with the tools and technologies available to them actually make it happen.

    Keep up the great work!


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