Commoditised Kids – The Rise of Digital Education

The technocrats are a savvy bunch, and they have mountains of money to burn. They require unquestioning public acceptance of their digital platforms to advance nefarious plans to mine global profit from our data. To achieve this, they need to cultivate our dependence on the systems of technology being woven into our daily lives. The next wave of digital privatisers have their sights on our children and they are quietly wreaking havoc on human-based systems of education with little to no scrutiny.

As public funding for public education (and other human services) continues to be withheld or siphoned off to the Military-Industrial Complex, conditions favouring the adoption of “innovative” public-private partnerships are created. These corporatised “solutions” are founded on impact investing principles of “doing well by doing good” (aka profiting from poverty). They advance “exciting new finance structures” like Pay-for-Success and Social Impact Bonds. A commodities futures market in speculative human capital has already been devised. Once this system of “human bonds” is prototyped, it can be expanded across all social sectors, feeding the poor as raw material into the toxic global impact investment machine.

While EdTech initiatives like virtual field trips or work-based learning apps may sound intriguing, it is crucial to understand that Internet of Things tracking captures not only cognitive performance data but also social-emotional and biometric data as well. By shifting how we think about education – from a human process that happens within a community of learners to a game in which students demonstrate standards and accumulate badges – education reformers aim to move much of the education process out of physical classrooms where face-to-face interaction is the primary method of instruction, and into virtual classroomsgame environmentscultural institutions, and work settings. Local schools are to be replaced with learning ecosystems.

“If you are an approval addict, your behaviour is as easy to control as that of any other junkie. All a manipulator need do is a simple two-step process: Give you what you crave, and then threaten to take it away. Every drug dealer in the world plays this game.”
― Harriet B. Braiker

Carrot and Stick - Tiered Behavioural Intervention

Proponents of a data-driventechnology-mediated approach to public education see 21st-century learning as a “quest” in which participants diligently work to assemble proof that they have obtained the assorted skills and bits of knowledge they need to compete for jobs that pay a living wage. Rather than a humanistic approach that values individual creativity and civic discourse, the focus is on gathering data and shaping children to become standardised cogs in service to the global economy. The intent is to maintain the status quo, not to develop thinkers who might challenge the system, tip the apple cart and create a future that better serves the whole of humanity. With the introduction of all things EdTech, screen time trumps face time.

Financialisation of the education sector requires separating “education” from school buildings because they are under the control of local school boards and unionised teachers and administrators. Free market principles cannot prevail if educational experiences remain subject to local oversight and trained, veteran teachers continue to be part of the conversation. Education reformers propose to replace our “outdated, factory-model” neighbourhood schools with learning eco-systems. There is considerable talk about redesigning education for 21st-century learners. PwC Australia is putting a value on early childhood education and it is all centred around ‘impact’.

“By learning ecosystem, we mean a network of relationships among learning agents, learners, resources, and assets in a specific social, economic, and geographic context. As we look ten years out, we see great potential for education stakeholders to create diverse learning ecosystems that are learner-centered, equitable, modular and interoperable, and resilient. But we worry that we might be more likely to create fractured landscapes in which only those learners whose families have the time, money, and commitment to customise or supplement their learning journeys have access to high-quality personalised learning that reflects their interests and meets their needs.”

– Katherine Prince, Knowledgeworks

UN Sustainable Development Goal #4

It is crucial that more people begin to understand how social entrepreneurs and impact investors intend to corral our children into mixed reality; take away their economic independence; condition them into a surveillance panopticon; farm them for compliance data; and package their futures as commodities to be traded as asset backed securities, rated based on how they utilise privatised welfare or blockchained Universal Basic Income. Education is the UN Sustainable Development Goal #4. Gender Equity is Goal #5 (women and girls). Decent Work and Economic Growth is Goal #8. Reduced Inequalities is Goal #10. Public-Private Partnerships is Goal #17. The plan is to engineer “solutions” that are layered across several goals. In this way, impact data can be leveraged to maximise profit and betting opportunities!

If they can package it right and communicate a compelling story, all of this horror will fit nicely into BlackRock’s ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) portfolios. And that’s exactly the point – to keep capital circulating through creative new forms of militarised debt finance. Widespread adoption of “personalised” digital education platforms underpin the learning eco-system model, as does reliance on big-data (academic and social-emotional) to guide students on their appropriate workforce “pathway” and to reinforce desirable behaviours like “deep learning.” The technocrats see children as dynamic sets of skills, competencies and personality traits that can be quantified, sorted, and placed in digital portfolios. The story of your personal evolution as a thinking, questioning, curious member of society is not important, except to the extent that you can put a badge on it so they can use it to profile you. Learning in a community or learning in relationship to others is also not important. If they can’t match it with a data tag, it does not factor into the equation. Those life-changing memories we hold in our hearts from our school days are not the kinds of things you can easily upload to a “Learning Record Store.”

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”
― Edward Abbey

The EdTech Market for Personalised Learning

In the personalised learning environment, children, young children who have very limited experience in the world, are expected to find their own direction and their own passion, which is alarming and incredibly troubling. Worse, they may even have their direction chosen for them based on analysis of unknown data generated from online stealth assessments or third-party survey tools. It is scary to consider that a child may have their future life choices constrained by unknowingly expressing an interest in an academic subject in primary school. Perhaps a high school pupil will be denied access to a graphic design class after having expressed an interest in medicine as a ten year old? If children step off their assigned path, will they be castigated for not being gritty or resilient and then remediated until they comply? The government has set up a maze of developmentally inappropriate standards, and now the “personalised” learning model is forcing teachers to take a spot on the sidelines and watch as things unfold.

Fourth Industrial Revolution teaching is being digitally platformed and, where possible, automated. If dashboard impact programs of the type featured in this article are allowed to scale; if computing becomes ubiquitous through 5G/6G IoT/Smart City deployment; if data interoperability is widely adopted; toddlers and babies are going to be subjected to having their social-emotional progress tracked digitally for profit. This is NOT the kind of world we want to live in. While personalised learning platforms boast about their “individualisation,” to what extent do these programs recognise a child’s humanity? Our children deserve to be valued as unique human beings with imagination, creativity and free will, not merely as data points to be controlled and managed. Feedback loops influence human behaviour. Ask yourself, in what ways could large-scale implementation of adaptive education programs and online educational gaming platforms contribute to the collective brainwashing of our children?

“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny.

Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”

― Bruce Coville

Remote Controlled Kids

Personalised education means that algorithms decide what educational content your child can see, and what content they cannot see. Is it the duty of education to expose children to a wide range of content that will broaden their view of the world? Or is it the role of an adaptive learning program to feed the child information for which they have already expressed a preference? Consider the implications of a “Facebook” model of education. Data is never neutral. Parents must ask who is collecting the data and to what end? Data is always a reflection of the ideology in which it is collected. Why should we trust data more than the professional expertise of human teachers?

In this New World Order, education will no longer be defined as an organic, interdisciplinary process where children and educators collaborate in real-time, face-to-face, as a community of learners. Instead, 21st-century education is about unbundling and tagging discrete skill sets that will be accumulated, not with the goal of becoming a thoughtful, curious member of society, but rather for attaining a productive economic niche with as little time “wasted” on “extraneous” knowledge as possible. The problem, of course, is that we know our children’s futures will depend on flexibility, a broad base of knowledge, the ability to work with others, and creative, interdisciplinary thinking, none of which are rewarded in this new “personalised pathway/badging” approach to education. While badges may seem an innocuous novelty right now, if they end up being used as a substitute for an independent system of public education, we are in real trouble.

“The parties with the most gain never show up on the battlefield.”
― Naomi Klein

Cash Cows

AI, machine learning, and data science are being woven into instruction and school operations to predictively profile and even “threat score” students. Tech’s currency is data. Market logic dictates data mining must increase because that is where the profit lies. The most vulnerable are being targeted for massive data exploitation. Few of us have a clear understanding of the vast quantities of data being collected in schools, where it is going, how it is being used now, and how it may be used in the future. This data-driven profiling will not benefit “at risk” children; rather, their lifelong data will be the fuel that runs the impact investing machine, like an inescapable mouse wheel. We must recognise that EdTech in classrooms can never be neutral. Microsoft, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Apple, and Facebook are reengineering how we are allowed to access information, how we are expected to relate to one another, how we are forced to interface with digital economic systems, and how we are evaluated for “risk.”

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Keeping the Wolf from the Door

In the US, underpaid teachers are trying to pay their bills by picking up early-hours shifts tutoring children in China through VIP Kid. Now combine platformed work with remote control robotics, and looks like we have a whole new ball game for dislocated “labour” coming in the next decade or so. And in some places, it’s already here. Kiwibot is paying Colombians $2 per hour to operate vehicles with GPS and cameras. The robots complete the last leg of app-initiated fast-food delivery that runs thousands of kilometres away on Berkeley’s university campus. Apparently, someone decided it was more cost-effective to use robots for part of the route than to pay human couriers to do the entire job. Here’s the thing: globalised lean production enabled by human-computer interfaces means robots won’t actually replace people over the short-term, rather, they will ensure the work left to be done is wretched, physically and mentally taxing, and under-paid.

A squad of lowly paid remote control fast food robot operators waiting on university students at an elite school seems to exemplify this perfectly. There are so many layers of wrong here. We must understand the “future of work” so keenly discussed at Davos, revolves around the so-called “knowledge economy,” stuff people get paid to do, mostly online. People mashed up with digital technologies, labour conditions where human-computer-robot-artificial intelligence interactions in mixed (augmented and virtual) reality environments will become increasingly commonplace. Labour, broken down into an infinite menu of “skills,” both cognitive and social-emotional-behavioural, that are represented as badges or codes that can be screened at lightening speed by algorithms assigning micro-work.

“Once poverty is gone, we’ll need to build museums to display its horrors to future generations. They’ll wonder why poverty continued so long in human society – how a few people could live in luxury while billions dwelt in misery, deprivation and despair.”
― Muhammad Yunus

Micro-Working For Peanuts

While there are some benefits, like the ability to work from home, the flip side is that if you can do the work remotely, others can too…and from parts of the world where wages are much lower. So now freelance “knowledge workers” will be forced to compete for gigs against peers across multiple time zones. Everyone will have to become an entrepreneur of their quantified self, curating a digital brand to sell over and over and over in a globalised marketplace. Another crucial take-away from the Kiwibot business plan is the concept of micro-work. In the repressive world of managerial consulting, everything revolves around creating efficiencies in globalised supply chains. Think Fordism, but without living-wage salaries; breaking down tasks into smaller and smaller chunks that people must knit together to attempt to meet their basic needs.

While Richard Branson, Pierre Omidyar, Bill Gates, and other social entrepreneurs tout Digital ID as a way to bring the unbanked into the world economy, what they really mean is they want to be able to tap into the ranks of the global poor to build and maintain “smart” surveillance cities with sweatshop coding work and AI and robotics support. One such program targeting low-income people for the digital gig economy is Harvard-educated techie, Leila Janah, who set up Samaschool to train low-income people to become self-entrepreneurs doing piecework like tagging images to train artificial vision sensors.

“An Opportunity-Minded worker actively connects with others,

learns new skills, and seeks out new experiences.”

― Diane Mulcahy

Gigs in the Game

Income sharing agreements (ISAs) are central to the elite’s plans to finance (and profit from) the reskilling of lockdown-displaced workers into Fourth Industrial Revolution gig work. The future of work will no longer require degrees for most people. That legacy system is in the process of being replaced by a perpetual race to attain the next micro-credential. Upgraded credentials (and more debt) will be required to stay qualified to compete as a Task Rabbit on the globalists’ micro-work clearinghouse platform. Players in the game will be expected to self-finance not only their training, but their social services, too.

At the beginning of the game players seek arrangements with an investor or group of investors who contract with them to receive return payment based on future garnished wages. This contracting arrangement is logged on blockchain and monitored as the game progresses. Once logged, that debt can be securitised, packaged, and made available for trading on global markets. That is where the real money is to be made, and the hedge funds know it. They’re the ones who backed the creation of the whole gaming enterprise. For a real-life example look to former Goldman Sachs (now New Jersey Governor) Phil Murphy’s Career Impact Bond initiative. This financial product was developed by Sir Ronald Cohen’s Social Finance. Planned securitisation of ISAs will happen through Edly, created by Christopher Riccardi, grandfather of collateralised debt obligations. CDOs tanked the housing market in 2008 and this is the exact same playbook.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
― Carl Gustav Jung

Inaction is Not an Option

A new gold rush is beginning, and data is the gold. The powerful want to control data and use it to their advantage. We must now decide what each of us is willing to do to protect the vulnerable from this threat. How will you fight data-driven policies and demand the humane education and care all people deserve? There is still time to refuse the billionaires’ game. If we do not step up and contest the tech oligarchs’ vision, the future of work for all but the upper echelons, is going to be many flavours of grim, dehumanising, soul-sucking, piecemeal labour. Let’s not turn over the reigns to Kiwibots or virtual reality simulation commutes. Instead, let us support the vulnerable before they are sucked into the digital realm. Let’s create community with self-determination and grounded compassion and humanity. It won’t be easy, but what other choice do we have? Inaction is not an option.

“To have what you have never had, you have to do what you have never done.”
― Roy T. Bennett

All Choice is with You

You are a once-in-a-lifetime cosmic event. There has never been anyone like you before and there will never be anyone like you again. If you have momentarily forgotten your unique, vital and irreplaceable role in the world, choose today to be the conscious leader of your own life. You are designed to be powerful. You are designed to be abundant. You were born to share your gifts with the world with great ease and flow. Your unique design is needed NOW, more than ever, in order to continue the great work of repairing and healing our Earth. We cannot do this without YOU. 

While these past years have been challenging and disruptive, know that you are here at this time for a reason. This is the endgame. This is the work. Our vision is to clear conditioning and trauma on a collective level so that we can build an army of inspired people who are ready and able to take our planet back and make this world a better place! The time for being conventional is over. The time for following other people’s rules, giving your power away or denying what is in your heart because you are following the “logical” or “sensible” path, is over. It’s time to live from our HEARTS. Together we rise.

“Our freedoms are vanishing. If you do not get active to take a stand now against all that is wrong while we still can, then maybe one of your children may elect to do so in the future when it will be far more riskier – and much, much harder.”
― Suzy Kassem

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