Scene 1: Protesters

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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.

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. In many respects, the Tondal civilization was more advanced than Earth's, and Earth had already begun to borrow useful technologies and ideas.

Scott distractedly estimated the number of progress points he had earned for the week, and realized that he could easily afford to put off his studies until later and still meet his targets. But a recent interactive piece about Tondal's advanced technology had caught his fancy earlier, and had been bouncing around in his mind. His current lesson was only partially related… but since he had a bit of energy, he issued the command, "Continue please." 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 user interfaces 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, one, Automated Code Design and, two, Knowledge Representation."

"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. He wanted to talk to his friend Lou. "Ping my friend Lou," he commanded, not wanting to bother him unless he wasn't doing anything. 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."

"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 Mental Max 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."

"Maybe."

Scott's father was a towering figure. He was a Senator, and 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.

Analysis

Forgive me for what I am asking of you. Instructional design and technology is not interesting.

Well, to me it is. And hopefully it will be to you, shortly. Interesting, and consequential. Your persistence and patience is appreciated.

My thesis is that educational technology is going to change society for the better, and that the sooner we understand that, the sooner we as a society will mandate it and reap the benefits.

So, Scott's initial tour of Tondal society is an introductory example. The relatively-advanced content he's getting is easy to absorb, and the program respects attention spans, and the learner gains insights quickly.

With this kind of learning, we'll all be very smart. Maybe another benefit is that then we'd all demand the right things from government.

This book takes you through a variety of scenes of learning, with a set of related characters, and with a particular emphasis on civics education. Each scene is short, and is followed by discussion like this.