117. Old Human vs. New Human

[Editor’s Note: On 8-9 August 2018, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) co-hosted the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference with Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies in Washington, DC. Leading scientists, innovators, and scholars from academia, industry, and the government gathered to address future learning techniques and technologies that are critical in preparing for Army operations in the mid-21st century against adversaries in rapidly evolving battlespaces. One finding from this conference is that tomorrow’s Soldiers will learn differently from earlier generations, given the technological innovations that will have surrounded them from birth through their high school graduation.  To effectively engage these “New Humans” and prepare them for combat on future battlefields, the Army must discard old paradigms of learning that no longer resonate (e.g., those desiccated lectures delivered via interminable PowerPoint presentations) and embrace more effective means of instruction.]

The recruit of 2050 will be born in 2032 and will be fundamentally different from the generations born before them. Marc Prensky, educational writer and speaker who coined the term digital native, asserts this “New Human” will stand in stark contrast to the “Old Human” in the ways they assimilate information and approach learning.1 Where humans today are born into a world with ubiquitous internet, hyper-connectivity, and the Internet of Things, each of these elements are generally external to the human. By 2032, these technologies likely will have converged and will be embedded or integrated into the individual with connectivity literally on the tips of their fingers. The challenge for the Army will be to recognize the implications of this momentous shift and alter its learning methodologies, approach to training, and educational paradigm to account for these digital natives.

These New Humans will be accustomed to the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to augment and supplement decision-making in their everyday lives. AI will be responsible for keeping them on schedule, suggesting options for what and when to eat, delivering relevant news and information, and serving as an on-demand embedded expert. The Old Human learned to use these technologies and adapted their learning style to accommodate them, while the New Human will be born into them and their learning style will be a result of them. In 2018, 94% of Americans aged 18-29 owned some kind of smartphone.2 Compare that to 73% ownership for ages 50-64 and 46% for age 65 and above and it becomes clear that there is a strong disconnect between the age groups in terms of employing technology. Both of the leading software developers for smartphones include a built-in artificially intelligent digital assistant, and at the end of 2017, nearly half of all U.S. adults used a digital voice assistant in some way.3 Based on these trends, there likely will be in the future an even greater technological wedge between New Humans and Old Humans.

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

New Humans will be information assimilators, where Old Humans were information gatherers. The techniques to acquire and gather information have evolved swiftly since the advent of the printing press, from user-intensive methods such as manual research, to a reduction in user involvement through Internet search engines. Now, narrow AI using natural language processing is transitioning to AI-enabled predictive learning. Through these AI-enabled virtual entities, New Humans will carry targeted, predictive, and continuous learning assistants with them. These assistants will observe, listen, and process everything of relevance to the learner and then deliver them information as necessary.

There is an abundance of research on the stark contrast between the three generations currently in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.4, 5 There will be similar fundamental differences between Old Humans and New Humans and their learning styles. The New Human likely will value experiential learning over traditional classroom learning.6 The convergence of mixed reality and advanced, high fidelity modeling and simulation will provide New Humans with immersive, experiential learning. For example, Soldiers learning military history and battlefield tactics will be able to experience it ubiquitously, observing how each facet of the battlefield affects the whole in real-time as opposed to reading about it sequentially. Soldiers in training could stand next to an avatar of General Patton and experience him explaining his command decisions firsthand.

There is an opportunity for the Army to adapt its education and training to these growing differences. The Army could—and eventually will need—to recruit, train, and develop New Humans by altering its current structure and recruitment programs. It will become imperative to conduct training with new tools, materials, and technologies that will allow Soldiers to become information assimilators. Additionally, the incorporation of experiential learning techniques will entice Soldiers’ learning. There is an opportunity for the Army to pave the way and train its Soldiers with cutting edge technology rather than trying to belatedly catch up to what is publicly available.

Evolution in Learning Technologies

If you enjoyed this post, please also watch Elliott Masie‘s video presentation on Dynamic Readiness and  Mark Prensky‘s presentation on The Future of Learning from of the Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Conference

… see the following related blog posts:

… and read The Mad Scientist Learning in 2050 Final Report.


1 Prensky, Mark, Mad Scientist Conference: Learning in 2050, Georgetown University, 9 August 2018

2 http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

3 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/12/nearly-half-of-americans-use-digital-voice-assistants-mostly-on-their-smartphones/

4 https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Generational-issues-in-the-workplace.aspx

5 https://blogs.uco.edu/customizededucation/2018/01/16/generational-differences-in-the-workplace/

6 https://www.apa.org/monitor/2010/03/undergraduates.aspx

33. Can TV and Movies Predict the Battlefield of the Future?

(Editor’s Note: Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to present Dr. Peter Emanuel’s guest blog post, illustrating how popular culture often presages actual technological advancements and scientific breakthroughs.)

Did Dick Tracy’s wrist watch telephone or Star Trek’s communicator inspire future generations of scientists and engineers to build today’s smartphone? Or were they simply depicting the inevitable manifestation of future technology? If we look back on old issues of Superman comic books that depict a 3D printer half a century before it was invented, we can see popular media has foreshadowed future technology, time and time again. Clearly, there are many phenomena, from time travel to force fields, that have not, and may not ever see the light of day; however, there are enough examples to suggest that dedicated and forward thinking scientists, trying to defend the United States, should consider this question:

Can comic books, video games, television, and movies give us a glimpse into the battlefield of the future?

For today’s Mad Scientist blog, consider what the future may hold for defense against weapons of mass destruction.

Let’s get the 800 lb. gorilla out of the room first! Or, perhaps, the 800 lb. dinosaur by talking about biological warfare in the future. The movie Jurassic Park depicts the hubris of man trying to control life by “containing” its DNA. Our deeper understanding of DNA shows us that life is programmed to be redundant and error prone. It’s actually a fundamental feature that drives evolution. In the year 2050, if we are to control our genetically modified products, we must master containment and control for a system designed since the dawn of time to NOT be contained. Forget bio-terror…What about bio-Error?! Furthermore, the lesson in Jurassic Park from the theft of the frozen dinosaur eggs shows us the asymmetric impact that theft of genetic products can yield. Today, our adversaries amass databases on our genetic histories through theft and globalization and one only has to ask, “What do they know that we should be worried about?”

Let’s move from biology to chemistry. A chemist will argue that biology is just chemistry, and at some level it’s true. Like the movie Outlander and anime like Cowboy Bebop, today’s Middle East battlefield shows the use of CAPTAGON, an addictive narcotic blend used to motivate and subjugate radical Islamists. In 2050, our mastery of tailored chemistry will likely lead to more addictive or targeted drug use that could elicit unpredictable or illogical behaviors. Controlled delivery of mood/behavior altering drugs will frustrate efforts to have a military workforce managed by reliability programs and will require layered and redundant controls even on trusted populations. Such vulnerabilities will likely be a justification for placing weapons and infrastructure under some level of artificial intelligence in the year 2050. Imagine this is the part of the blog where we talked about the Terminator and CyberDyne Systems.

Today, the thought of man-machine interfaces depicted by the Borg from Star Trek and the TV shows such as Aeon Flux and Ghost in the Shell may make our skin crawl. In 2050, societal norms will likely evolve to embrace these driven by the competitive advantage that implants and augmentation affords. Cyborgs and genetic chimeras will blur the line between what is man and what is machine; it will usher in an era when a computer virus can kill, and it will further complicate our ability to identify friend from foe in a way best depicted by the recent Battlestar Galactica TV show. Will the point of need manufacturing systems of the future be soulless biological factories like those depicted in Frank Herbert’s book series, “Dune”? As we prepare for engaging in a multi-domain battlespace by extending our eyes and ears over the horizon with swarming autonomous drones are we opening a window into the heart and mind of our future fighting force?

Some final thoughts for the year 2050 when we maintain a persistent presence off planet Earth. As Robert Heinlein predicted, and recent NASA experiments proved, our DNA changes during prolonged exposure to altered gravity. What of humans who never stepped foot on Earth’s surface, as shown in the recent movie, The Fate of our Stars. Eventually, non-terrestrially based populations will diverge from the gene pool, perhaps kindling a debate on what is truly human? Will orbiting satellites with hyperkinetic weapons such as were pictured in GI Joe Retaliation add another dimension to the cadre of weapons of mass destruction? I would argue that popular media can help spur these discussions and give future mad scientists a glimpse into the realm of the possible. To that end, I think we can justify a little binge watching in the name of national security!

If you enjoyed this post, please check out the following:

– Headquarters, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is co-sponsoring the Bio Convergence and Soldier 2050 Conference with SRI International at Menlo Park, California, on 08-09 March 2018. Click here to learn more about the conference, the associated on-line game, and then watch the live-streamed proceedings, starting at 0840 PST / 1140 EST on 08 March 2018.

– Our friends at Small Wars Journal are continuing to publish the finalists from our most recent Call for Ideas — click here to check them out!


Dr. Peter Emanuel is the Army’s Senior Research Scientist (ST) for Bioengineering. In this role, he advises Army Leadership on harnessing the opportunities that synthetic biology and biotechnology can bring to National Security.