Mark Suter

Below is a creative writing excercise in response to the prompt “What will education look like in 2040, and how will museums play a role?”

3:29pm, March 14th, 2040 AD

“My first and likely last journal entry on a Qwerty keyboard”

I turn 28 in 15 days. Dad helpfully pointed out at breakfast that neurologically speaking, I’m approaching my peak of memory encoding and decoding. “It’s all downhill from here, Madilyn.” he said, only partially kidding. Thanks Dad. I know he’s just relaying insight from the Ark, but, sometimes I don’t like to know that my brain is that predictable. But, just in case there are no other means to remember what things are like right now, (we all remember the Bit Plague, yes?) I’ve resorted to this “laptop” I found in dad’s basement. I’m sitting with my feet up with it on my lap, as I assume that’s what laptop means. Plus, he hasn’t changed a password in 24 years, and this is obviously a pre-neural pattern recognition device. The Qwerty keyboard is a trip too, from my Dvorak Mynd 8.

My Journeyman asked me to demonstrate my understanding of how education got to where it is now to ensure we don’t make the mistakes of the past, so I chose the written word, typed on an original Dell laptop from the 2010’s. Being a colleague of dad’s, I think she’ll get the homage to the era. I really want to work within the Ark, not just play on it, so I’m pulling out all the stops.

How did education get like this?

The mind of edu-entrepreneur Blaine Cobbes saw an opportunity to rebrand museums and education as mutually dependent entities in 2016. Hiis daughter skipped school to take part in a massive scale Civil War sim in a “virtual reality” (VR) platform called Fidelity. His daughter had no concept of how heavy a Napoleon cannon was, got them all stuck in the mud, and consequently changed the sim’s outcome by way of mispositioned artillery. The thousands of role-playing soldiers were dismayed. She was, however, able to clearly communicate to her superior officers the predicament, altering the strategy that eventually cut their losses. Her imagination was captured, and her dad saw the potential for immersive learning in what amounts to an experientially separate dimension, based entirely on the original, primary sources.

Mr. Cobbes brought his daughter to an edu think tank and with her, pitched a new conglomerate that would use the (unproven) hype of VR to create massive scale historical and fictional experiences based on the tangible primary sources of museums for the next generation. The new organization received investments, and was dubbed the “V-Arkive”, a hardly-clever play on VR and Archive. The name was shortened a few years later to V-Ark, and eventually users just started calling it the Ark. Alphabet joined in 2022 as a major stakeholder, helping to integrate IBM and Google’s deep learning neural research through the evolving headsets and outfits. Combined with the then-freakish capabilities of quantum computing, neural data gleaned from users turned into insights into human development on all fronts.

All of this neural data crunching is made possible through developments in quantum computer processing that uses light particle orientations to store more than just 1’s and 0’s. In short,a sarcastic yet brilliant group of researchers formed the world’s first quantum computing data crunching (aka “processing”) company, Crunch, with slogan, “Big Asinine Data”. They took over the big data category in 2028, when a successful marketing stunt/study they ran went viral in a good way. Crunch researchers took neural data from 1000 volunteers in 2021, making predictions in various metrics including income, marital status, aptitude, job satisfaction, and health vitals. Turns out they were nearly perfect in their predictions.

The most interesting element for P-12 education and the Ark was how users would fair in side-by-side comparisons of users still learning in the industrial-era (IE) school system vs the newly developed Ark. IE was still grouping students by age with no fluidity to advancement, and their rankings were derived from tests given in a prison-like lockdown room. Many of them continued the system into college and eventually were plopped helplessly into the real world without a day of actual work experience. This created an opportunity for a method of customized learning and entertainment never seen before, the Ark.

The Ark had a series of distinct advantages. The neural data is able to provide honest feedback on intimate emotions like “happiness with my career choice” and even how confident a user is with ambiguous problem solving in different contexts (alone, as a team leader, as a subordinate, etc). The Ark is not only used for recreational purposes, but serves as the world’s largest Open Educational Resource (OER) platform as well. Museums work alongside teachers and developers to create lifelike creations in the Ark that are presented in dynamic complexities based on the user interacting with it. For instance, when I was a level 10 in the Ark, I drove the original Model T made by Henry Ford. The engine failed, so I popped the hood and checked it out, found a bad oxygen to fuel mix ratio, and adjusted it. My friend Jase was the same age, but only a level 8 and drove the same car. He had similar sputtering engine noises, and was presented with only options to call a mechanic or higher level Arker. The neural data that was crunched and re-presented in a usable way to optimize advancement was incredible at the time. Now we just expect it. Crunch working with the Ark team provides apprentices like me with the right amount of challenge to advance me as fast as I’d like. When I don’t feel good, I can dial back the challenge level, which I know also slows down my progression for the day, but it’s ok. We all have “those” days. When I don’t stay up late playing in the Ark, I dial it up to 11, and make more progress in one day than my peers do in a week. It’s great meeting new people within the Ark because they’re from all regions of the Earth and different ages. My favorite is being thrown into “apprentice arenas” where the system is learning from us as much as we are from it. 4 years ago, I was with a group of cocky 14 year olds that the system was struggling to challenge, so it put them with me in a “Do or Die” challenge. There were 5 of us, each new to each other and with a diverse set of math, language, kinesthetic, and problem solving skills. We were asked to create an algorithm that when applied to any size data set would pull out 5 users with equally complimentary and conflicting key metrics. Needless to say, I discovered they were baggage and created a solution in 3 hours by myself. To my surprise, the loot was a paid apprenticeship with Ark’s edu team, which is why I’m writing this.

The Ark Edu team and I have developed a series of tools for building OER’s right inside the Ark itself. Museums that were once seen as dusty and boring are now perceived as the most innovative, influential teams in the education world, focusing their expertise on both preserving the real world exhibits and the transition of those artifacts into Ark experiences. The Ark has a human-like way of thoughtfully crafting experiences for developing minds that appeals to the user’s interests and abilities. This level of customization would never have been possible with the old school system. Good riddance. The Ark’s decentralized experiences takes the cost out of maintaining and transporting students to antique buildings, and uses those same dollars to support in-home and community-selected Ark Hubs. The Ark network of users resembles a single human brain itself, with each user representing a neuron, and their hubs the billions of synapses.

I attribute the success of the apprentice learning model to the iterative nature and adaptability of the system.By building a series of custom challenges into the first 5 levels of the Ark, users prove mastery of human history, computation, language, and other skills that would have taken until “10th grade” in the old system…and TEN years. There is certainly still a human element to the Ark, despite the immersion level. My journeyman gives me challenges in and out of the Ark to ensure the skills learned inside are transferred outside. She knows me well enough to ensure the challenge is interesting to me. She puts the Sarah in serotonin for me. Has since I was little, too. I’m fortunate to still know her. Mr. Cobbes emphasized the importance of real life upon the company’s founding, no matter the level of immersion. He made the speech within the Ark though, so he may just have a dark sense of sarcastic humor too.

It’s funny, the Ark has simply revealed in the last 25 years what companies in the 2010’s like Google already knew: Ivy League degrees and high standardized test scores often do not correlate to effective employees. When industry leaders in medical, business, and other fields began ditching those dated metrics for high-ranking Ark-scored candidates with enormous success and predictability, the rest of the world followed. The system knew when you really were a good worker, motivated, passion-driven, and in it for the long-haul versus just a good interviewee with the right paperwork looking for a management title.

The term “museum” is hardly even used outside the context of the Ark now in 2040. They have successfully became a major player in the educational ecosystem from their position as a fringe perk to students that could visit there. I can only imagine what things will be like in 25 years from now.



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