Scene 2: Scott Joens and Tondal

In which Scott Joens, age 14, at home, gets some more of the scoop on an alien civilization’s technology.

Future learning is visual, on-demand, and responsive.

Scott showered after soccer practice and came back into the den. He checked his messages and considered whether to resume his exploration of the Tondal civilization's history. The Tondal was a (vaguely) humanoid race in the Orion system which had made friendly contact with Earth a mere one hundred twenty years previously. Physical contact with them would be at least ten to twenty centuries away because of the distance, but the two worlds had succeeded in exchanging gigantic bursts of information in both directions.

Scott in den

Their evolutionary path had been remarkably similar to Earth's, starting from highly-competitive individual organisms, to brains, to increasing intelligence, to language, to societies, to power blocs, to wars, and to peace. The Tondal civilization was more advanced than Earth's, and Earth had already begun to borrow useful technologies and ideas.

Scott distractedly estimated how many progress points he had earned for the week. Not enough, really, but the interactive piece about Tondal technology kept bouncing around in his head. Heck with it, he’d catch up on the other stuff later. “Continue please,” he commanded. A cartoon-style video commenced from where he had left off:

Tondal's technology evolved in the context of several important population factors. One: Tondal peoples' life spans were steadily increasing. Two: population levels were stabilized. And three: personal anonymity became increasingly rare.

Combining these factors with information technologies far beyond those of present-day Earth, it was inevitable that privacy evaporated for Tondalian citizens. Of course, there were limits, both by statute and by personal preference. Invasion into one's personal thoughts was regulated, and personal data was subjected to very strict legal requirements. Inexorably, though, peoples' expectation that they would be constantly scrutinized grew ever deeper. And information technologies intelligently managed the entire process.

Software technology on Tondal had evolved to the point where program bugs, version conflicts, and security no longer limited its application. The critical software advances occurred in an area that might best be described as the intersection of Earth's current research fields of—

"Stop," grunted Scott. He regrouped. This was too advanced and boring. He considered what to do. He was definitely interested in technology. And he had an amorphous fascination with those Tondalians—didn't they live to be, like, 500 Earth years old? He looked at the options on his screen, and finally just selected an emoticon labeled "Too Technical".

A new display of cheerful choices splashed across his screen. But he was done. "Ping my friend Lou," he commanded. The response was quick. "Hey," said Lou.

"Been trackin' me?" asked Scott.

"About what?"

"School. I mean, the Tondal stuff. Remember?"

"Not since earlier. What's up?"

Scott wondered how to summarize. "You know, Tondal civ? About their technology? About, you know, the thing about, where they figured out how to read each others' minds."

"Wrong, that's not what it was."

Scott snorted, and said, "No… you know what I mean. Well… check out the thing I saw at the MentalMax area, it's there."

From the other side of the house, Scott's father called, "Scott?"

Scott grumbled, "Oops, sorry, my dad," and then, sternly, "Go watch it, soon."


Scott’s father, Senator Samuel Joens, was a towering figure.  His time was scarce, and whenever he summoned Scott, Scott knew better than to waste it.

"Yes! Right here, Dad!"

"Scott, what time is your game tomorrow?"

"Whew," thought Scott. "Glad he's not here to ride me." "At 2, Dad."

"Great. I think I'll be able to watch live." Which, of course, meant watching remotely. The field had excellent robo-cam equipment.


For many of you, instructional design and technology is not interesting.

Well, to me it is. And soon, hopefully, you will think so, too. Interesting, and surprisingly consequential. Your persistence and patience are appreciated.

The thesis is that learning-technology innovation is going to change democracy for the better, and that the sooner we understand that, the sooner we as a society will exploit it and mandate it and reap the benefits. With learning resources like those that will be illustrated, we’ll have a very different kind of electorate. One that demands the right things from government.

So, Scott's introduction to Tondal technology is the first example. The relatively-advanced content he's getting is easy to absorb. The program respects attention spans and other cognitive elements. It offers relevant options. Learners like him gain insights quickly, with little effort.

A quick note about Spy Drama scenes and Learning scenes… The Learning scenes illustrate how citizens of all ages will be educated about our economics and politics. Each Learning scene is short, and is followed by discussion and analysis like this.

In Learning scenes, you need not devote effort to analyzing the content of the in-progress lessons that are illustrated. But seeing concrete details of the example learning experiences will help you to better understand the key points about future learning. The Spy Drama scenes connect into a dramatic plot; the Learning scenes, less so.

cast of characters