By Valkyrie Ice
Back when I was in my early teens, I read a book called Escape Velocity by Christopher Stasheff. It’s a prequel to his popular “Warlock Series.” As much as I enjoyed the main series, it’s a little dull. But there’s a section early in the book in which the main characters enter a bar and hear the bartender and a patron discussing physics.
What follows is a discussion of “Stealth Education” i.e. educating people without letting them know that they are being educated. Stealth education is an informal education system, one which teaches by using a person’s interests and curiosity to lead them to greater knowledge and understanding, as opposed to the rigid classroom environment in which everyone is expected to learn the exact same things at the exact same pace, regardless of individual aptitude. Now, I’ve often discussed how with advancing technology, it’s inevitable that we will create educational systems that are individualized and customized to the person being taught. Much as with “Stealth Education”, people will learn without realizing that they are being guided and coaxed to a higher state of understanding on any given subject.
So, I woke up a few days ago, and on the Computer World site, I discover an article about Google’s “Field Trip” app. This app provides “contextual awareness” for your location by using the phones GPS, Google maps, and various other sources to help you be “more aware” of your surroundings. Depending on your focus, it can tell you what shops are nearby (ads), or what cultural spots might be near (did you know that anonymous building was a small museum?) or just “flavor text” (in 1889 so and so did this and that). You can customize how often such “pop ups” occur as well.
“So what?”, you may ask. What does one have to do with another? The answer is in that “flavor text” that the Computer World article calls “quirky.” The author found it of limited appeal, and mentioned that it would improve as Google added other categories.
You see, what we have here is a “Stealth Education” app. Right now, it’s just a “novelty” whose real purpose is to promote targeted advertising sales to the stores in your area, who will pay to push an ad through to your phone as you walk by. That’s why the app is “free”. But that “flavor text” is being drawn from a variety of sources and can educate you on the historical facts of the area you’ve been walking thorough for years, either casually, or if your interest is peaked, provide far greater detail.
Now, imagine that same act taking place five years from now, with a HUD interface, enabling you to now look at the same old bland street you have spent years walking down, but with a wealth of knowledge about it available for you to peruse as you desire; from historical notes to friends comments to comments left by tourists… you name it. A world that is interactive to a degree far beyond what we have today, and in which we are free to absorb knowledge to any degree we choose, in a manner that we enjoy, and can share. Hell, I’d even bet Zynga will make a game out of it.
Stealth Education. Trust me, that effort to remain deliberately ignorant just got a lot harder today.