I was thrilled to be able to participate in the Future Worlds Challenge. On the very first day, I was nervous and excited because I did not know what to expect, but the cheerful and helpful Teachers put me at ease immediately and I was able to follow the class easily and learn the code.
It was super interesting and I was so excited for the next class that I was not able to sleep that night! The next day, we were able to do group work! I was put together with 2 other students from the US (while I live in Singapore) with whom I was able to get along very easily. They were very co-operative and we were able to share ideas about the future with each other with ease.
Thinking about the future has also been really interesting, to be honest here, we should be thinking about the future much more that we do.
The Teachers would always be there for any questions that we would have that helped us a lot.
We collaboratively worked hard on the presentation and did well with it.
Key learnings that I can takeaway from this workshop are:
- teamwork helps greatly brainstorming of diverse ideas and facilitates finding solutions
- some solutions will not require technology but others will and coding using Alexa will be very helpful for those.
This workshop is a great beginning and I am looking forward to more interesting and amazing workshops and classes focusing on problem solving and finding solutions to make the world a better place for us and generations to come in the near future.
It was one of the most amazing workshops that I have attended ever and I would 100% recommend it to anyone else looking to improve their coding and have thought provoking sessions about the Future!
These are the words of Lara, one of the winners of our first Future Worlds Challenge held over the last two weekends of November, 2021.
After years of development and planning we finally launched this event which was conceived as a result of the first Brave Conversations and our commitment to work with young people to help them better develop a Web Science way of thinking about the technologies they use every day.
This first iteration of Future Worlds Challenge was framed around partnering with the Web Science Lab at MIT, specifically the MIT App Inventor team led by PhD Researcher Jessica Van Brummelen. From the outset we determined to work with young people from around the globe aged between 11 – 17 (together with their parents) and craft an experience which aimed at the maximum possible learning for the kids whilst also actively informing and contributing to the MIT Research.
One research paradigm which informed how we approached these events was based on the work of Dr Joseph Henrich and his categorisations of WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised, Rich and Democratic) verses Non-WEIRD cultural mindsets. Whilst this is a fairly fluid definition as the world becomes increasingly globalised (for instance is Singapore WEIRD or Non-WEIRD?) it was useful for determining the best groupings for our events and also helped determine the time zone categories we used.
Through out networks and promoting through the MIT Research community we had 107 expressions of interest to participate from which we ended up having 45 child-parents ‘teams’ who actually attended. On average the kids were 16 years old with 20 girls and 25 boys coming from Indonesia, the USA, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, India, Iran and Japan.
The event itself comprised two days:
Day One involved a fairly demanding session learning how to programme an Amazon Alexa as one example of a conversational agent.
Day Two was the Challenge itself where we grouped participants in child-parents in to teams of three to four. One of their tasks was to use their newly-minted Alexa programming skills to find out information as well as to work together as a group who had not previously met. This diversity was perfect for getting them all to reflect on the key questions underlying technology and it’s use, particularly those posed by MIT Professor Sherry Turkle.
Technology challenges us to assert our human values which means that first of all we have to know what they are.
The Challenge itself rested on the above model based around three key questions which we held in 30 minute rounds. We asked each team the following and then they had to work to gradually build a concept of their Future World to be presented in the final round.
Round One: How We Think
What are three important mindset changes we could make to ensure the Sustainability of Human Life on Earth? For example: Wealth and Inequality? Population? Lifespan?
Round Two: Our Ecosystem
What are three important environmental changes we could make to ensure the Sustainability of Human Life on Earth? For example: How we use energy? How we feed ourselves? Where we live?
Round Three: The Technologies
What are three important technological changes we could make to ensure the Sustainability of Human Life on Earth? For example: How we build our cities? How we manage information?
Final Round: Future Worlds
Each team had 5 minutes to present their World and we judged each of the presentations on the following:
- Does your world make sense?
- Is it realistic?
- How would Conversational AI support your World?
- Do you believe in it?
We were blown away by what these young people came up with in a very short space of time and some focused thinking. They worked together beautifully, shared ideas and the ability to contribute, and were considered, thoughtful and clear thinking in their approach.
If Lara’s words reflect the experience of other participants then we are thrilled with how this first Challenge inspired them to think and hopefully have ongoing conversations with family and friends.
Our huge thanks to all of our participants, and particularly to Jess Van Brummelen and all of her team at MIT App Inventor. One key researcher, Claire Tian was a real trooper joining Jess at 5 am in the morning and generously gave her time and support to everyone with their coding adventures.
Thanks also to Katrina Meggitt who stepped in as our Event Manager and juggled childcare, new jobs and torrential rain to help us get everyone organised!
We are now planning more Future Worlds Challenge events for 2022. Please spread the word and check out the Brave Conversations website for our next steps.