A new way for young people to engage with the future — and help better their world
By Marc Prensky, Founder, The Two Billion Kids Project
WE ALL WANT our kids to “chip-in” to help make this a better world for everyone. Here’s an idea. I know not everyone will like it, but I’m hoping some will.
I think it’s time our kids decide to move themselves, physically, into their digital age, by choosing to voluntarily insert the first electronic chip (probably of many) into their bodies. Like a tattoo, if you will, or a piercing. An enhancement that individuals elect to add to themselves.
Unless you are totally opposed to this sort of thing, you might ask: Why? What would be the value, to kids and others? What would it do? What would be the possible risks and dangers? And who would do it and how?
I don’t have all these answers worked out, so this is really a call for ideas.
Here’s what I think so far:
· I think a tiny chip could be easily and hygienically inserted by the kids themselves. It could go in the web between the thumb and index finger, or in the ear, or even possibly into the nose as an ornament. Perhaps coated in Teflon to avoid infections. Or, it could be the purview of nurses or doctors or specialists, like tattoo artists. One-time-use sealed kits could be sold.
· It would be tiny — only a speck. Not multifunctional like many of today’s computer chips, perhaps no more than a color-emitting diode, capable of thousands or millions of colors.
· Once you have inserted it, i.e decided to “chip-in” you’d wait. One day that speck in the web of your hand would light up — blue say — as a summons, which you could choose to answer or not. To answer the summons there would be a publicly available way to connect to a series of projects — local, community, cultural, national or global — which you could choose to join as a leader or member. Or you could start your own. Some responsible authority of kids and adults would set this up.
· It would be your responsibility to find a team and complete a project successfully. Success would mean that your project had some Measurable Positive Impact on some aspect of your world. It would mean something that was seen as “not good” was subsequently judged as better because of the project.
· The chip could have, initially, only two functions: For each completed project the chip would turn another color, which would be an indicator of how many successful projects the wearer has done. The second function might be to discreetly buzz when another chip were detected nearby. There would be no need to make the chip or its color public unless the wearer chose to do so.
· To allay privacy concerns, the chip would contain no information identifying the wearer. But because the colors would change in a recognizable pattern with completed projects, more chips of certain colors in a particular place would indicate that that place was improving in some way.
· The goals would be for people to get recognition for “chipping in” to help society in some way, and to find others who are doing similar things.
At this point, it is just an idea. Non-medical implementation of chips into human bodies has already happened — in Sweden, for example, for opening doors. This is a less practical but more socially beneficial alternative.
No such chip exists as far as I know. No single organization is coordinating connecting young people with socially beneficial projects of interest to them. But a great many are thinking in these directions.
As the first digital generation arises and comes of age there ought to be away, other than just physical indications of age, to recognize their participation to the common good, and to find others with a similar bent.
I am calling for anybody to whom this idea appeals — in this or another form — to contact me so that we can flesh the idea out in a way that is positive for all. I certainly want to avoid any downsides, but I think it is time for a badge–other than their phones — for young people to acknowledge that they are part of a new digital age , i.e., as I wrote 20 years ago, “Digital Natives.”
I look forward to working with any and all who are interested — technologists, designers, ethicists, social entrepreneurs, and especially kids of all ages, to build a new positive way for kids to enter their digital future.
Marc Prensky is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed speaker in over 40 countries and author of 7 books in the field of education. Coiner of the term “Digital Native,” he has taught at all levels, from elementary to college. Marc is the founder of The Global Future Education Foundation and ARISE-NET.WORLD, the Accomplishment-based Real-World-Impact Student Empowerment network, devoted to developing and spreading young people’s empowerment to better their world, and uniting all those who are working to help.