How do we get babies ready for a technology infused future? Screens, Robotics, 3D printers and the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood

A few weeks ago, I started a conversation with Sara Adelmann, the Screen Time Project Manager of the advocacy group Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. Though I’m sure many of you are familiar, they are the group that took down the specious claims of Baby Einstein and most recently raised the alarm about the ipad bouncy seat.They have strong concerns about the overuse of screens with very young children, the pressure of advertising to sell screens to the ever-emerging market of young children and the pressure on parents to prepare their children for a high-tech world.

We’ve been having a conversation about the shift in what it means to be in a cutting edge technological field today, and how the edge is shifting from one that is contained in a virtual, screen-based world, to one that responds to, interacts with, and navigates the real world. The examples that sparked this discussion were the Darpa robotics challenge, Drones, 3D printing and microbe-based technologies. Many of these from reading and discussing these topics on BoingBoing.

It seems to me that now that those fields collectively represent a bit of a shift in what is considered the core of emerging tech. I would expect that his would bring with it the expectations of future professionals, that more than ever, they must have a powerful spatial imagination, a sensitivity to the complexities of human interactions with technology in the world, and problem solving skills more akin to inventive engineers.This would drive the conversation about child development away from screen obsession and back toward the rich interactions with people and the world that early childhood professionals have long held as fundamental.

A secondary topic has been the open-source nature of a lot of experimentation, and the interplay and tensions between the commercial applications of these fields and the strong sharing culture that is integrated into these new fields.

We’re hoping to start this conversation, and illuminate the links between early childhood and new technology, and ultimately to find representatives of the fields of robotics, biotech and 3D printing to share ideas about the expected skills, talents and qualities sought for professionals in their respective fields. I would love to hear thoughts from any of you brilliant folks about this topic. If any of you work in early childhood or any of the tech fields discussed, all the better!

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Aren’t you confusing desirable public policy with what we get from the vile Orwellian corporatist oligarchies?

Have a look around; the powers that be are plainly uninterested in investing in human potential, if anything, the opposite.

Nothing worthwhile can be achieved, and stay achieved, while heinous Skeksis reign. Everyone who’s on a mission to improve the world in some way needs to put what they’re doing on hold and rally together to achieve an actual democracy first.

Otherwise nothing’s gonna save the kids from indoctrination into the matrix.

The scum think they own us.

Problem is, it’s getting truer.

I say the Pied Piper around these parts is @William_Holz, for now. Check out what he has to say, and maybe then you can seriously envision a world where stuff that needs to get done is done, and a lot of the other stuff, not so much.

If we don’t get our shit together, we are so utterly fucked, on so very many fronts… chipping away at the institutionalised stupidity just won’t do; it needs to be overthrown - or rather, sidestepped.

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Hey! Great minds think alike!

And thanks for the reminder, Kimmo! Education was one of the systems I was thinking I needed to re-emphasize somewhere now that we were trying to put the business friendly aspects up front.

Kimmo was around for some of the earlier stages of this idea and this came up a lot. One major part of the design is that, as a hybrid corporation/nation, we’d quickly want to provide far better education (in all aspects, but technology came up a lot), both for ourselves and for others as an early public service/business opportunity.

Our philosophy has been that even if we were horribly raised, we could give the next generation something a lot better to work with than we were given, and give our poor planet a better batch of humans to deal with as a bonus. We also consider education an ongoing thing for ourselves and fully expect them to be teaching us more than we’re able to teach them at some point.

So basically, if it was in a TED talk or a number of other sources then we probably factored it in. In fact we may go a bit further than most in that we want children to gradually be clustered based on factors such as learning style and eventually to choose how they’re educated themselves.


I’d be inclined to argue that, regardless of the expected technology a decade or more out, it’s probably not such a hot idea to expose babies to lots of screen time (much less the notion that the world is a 2-dimensional, textureless, capacitive planar surface…).

Best case, it turns out that tiny hominids are a fairly versatile lot, and kiddo gets a totally valuable head start on the same clicking and touchscreen-poking ‘skills’ that everyone who had to learn them later seems to have had no trouble at all with.

Worst case, it turns out that some useful elements of neurological development assume the availability of the stimuli that defined the first five million(ish, estimates vary) years of our species, rather than the last 3-5 years. Then, well, oops, sorry about that.

It would make for a fascinating experiment, under controlled conditions, but that doesn’t really make it a good plan, especially given the lack of payoff.

Even if you have no objection at all to the somewhat creepy theory that children need to be trained for the labor market (that you guess will exist in 20 years) from birth, manipulating UIs is so trivial that it barely qualifies as a ‘skill’. Some UIs have arbitrarily hairy cognitive requirements hiding behind them, because they are frontends to arbitrarily difficult things; but UIs themselves (by design and by popular demand) are extremely easy to pick up. The keyboard is probably the hardest, and even that has a nice gentle learning curve where you get faster and more accurate with practice.

To some degree technology is unavoidable, and I doubt that it poisons babies on contact; but anyone pretending that plunking young children in front of a gadget is ‘teaching’ them something useful, even about gadgets, is fooling themselves.

Probably depends who they are. Most will be simply misguided.

But I don’t doubt for a second that more powerful types will disingenuously proselytise, and such scumbags have a way of making their model the default paradigm over time.

Ruling us via screens has worked pretty bloody well so far, and of course, more is better.

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