"The Silent Child" represents an idea of what Canada could be like in 2030. In this future, kids have to follow rules all the time. They are not encouraged to be curious and have little control over their lives. Adults do not want kids to be creative or different.
WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO LIVE HERE?
By 2030, Canadians have had some bad experiences with science and new technologies. Some have been harmful to humans, and didn't work the way that some experts said they would. This has led them to be more careful about the kinds of technologies they use, and to question the people who make decisions for them. Canadians value new technology and discoveries, but they don't want to lose the things that make them human. These Canadians like to know that everyone agrees with them before they make decisions, and they feel better when big decisions are left up to regular people instead of experts.
HOW KIDS ARE DOING:
- Children are largely disengaged. They have little agency or opportunities to contribute on their own terms.
- Children and youth have highly-structured days that are designed to teach standard skills, knowledge, and values to help them integrate into society.
- Crimes committed by youth and children from marginalized communities are on the rise.
WHAT MATTERS TO CANADIANS:
- Conformity and integration are highly valued by Canadians. This has driven greater disparity and increased alienation of marginalized communities.
- Technology is seen as a dangerous tool that must be controlled with rules made by humans. Still, many people rely on tech-driven data to make decisions.
HOW WE WORK AND MAKE MONEY:
- Most people are underemployed in mundane jobs, bringing “the human touch” into manufacturing and service companies.
- Human jobs are tightly regulated to prevent automation and widespread job loss.
HOW GOVERNMENT WORKS:
- Canadian society and politics are governed by the majority.
- Policy decisions are made by polling all citizens, then directly implementing the crowdsourced popular decision.
HOW WE TEACH AND LEARN:
- Public education has an intense focus on social & emotional learning “Connections” classes are provided so that children don’t lose their ability to connect on a human-to-human level.
- Teachers and educators are required to hold advanced credentials in Psycho-Social Interactions
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A Day in the Life of a Child
C, AGE 9
C and M crouched in the furthest corner of the creative play space, their backs against the environmental bubble barrier, their bodies mostly hidden by an artificial bush and the humming atmospheric generator. Every once in awhile, one of them would look out at the rest of the children, making sure no one was coming over to disturb them. The others, though, seemed busy and infinitely fascinated by the playing structures that were designed for optimal muscle strengthening and bone-density development. The four adult observers kept a close watch on the group, writing notes occasionally on their digital tablets.
“Did you bring it?” M asked in hushed tones.
C nodded solemnly as he reached into his pocket and pulled something carefully out. He opened his palm, revealing a small, spindly-looking sphere of electronics.
“I uploaded the updated program last night, after my parents went to bed,” C whispered.
“Are you sure no one will find the imprints of the upload?” M was frowning with concern.
“I wiped everything. No one will be able to find out...Do you want to try it?” C asked.
M took a deep breath. “Ok. I’ll go first.”
Their eyes met. They knew what they were doing was illegal, or, if not technically illegal, then highly discouraged. And possibly very dangerous. But after all their hours of secret work and hiding, they knew they had to try it.
M extended his hand slowly and placed it on top of C’s hand and the device in it. There was a moment of silence, when they both held their breath. M closed his eyes and tried to clear his head of everything other than a single thought. C waited patiently. And then, his mind was flooded with a single thought. It was the number 7.
That beautiful number 7 was so clear in C’s mind. And it meant only one thing: their invention worked! They could use it to communicate telepathically with each other. They had finally achieved their goal.
Suddenly, a jarring vibration on their wrists brought C and M back to the creative play space, their vision of the stars dissipating. Their wristbands, issued by the Ministry of Education to each school-aged child, were flashing with a small red light and humming with vibration. Morning Physical Activity Period was over. C quickly stashed the small contraption in his pocket, but both of them had giant grins on their faces. Their invention had finally worked!
Their class resumed with a mandatory emotive session. Practicing human qualities and developing emotional intelligence had become an essential pillar of the elementary school curriculum. Most of the students in their class were excelling in this skill set and could make themselves cry with the intensity of their feelings during emotive sessions. Their teachers walked up and down the classroom using their screens to read and evaluate students for the complexity and depth of emotion each student registered from their brain-reading cap.
C, who had always felt disconnected from children his age, had never been very good at this exercise. As his teacher turned towards his desk, his stomach twisted into a knot. His mind was completely blank. He was going to fail again.
His anxiety turned to cold fear when he remembered that he and his friend had just created an artificial intelligence device so smart and so dangerous to the human way of life that the government had outlawed any development of such technology. No one could ever know about it. And yet, he felt some pride welling deep inside him that he had created such a powerful thing and made it work. He couldn’t ever tell anyone, but he would know. And that was enough for now.
Spark a conversation about this future!
Part of the power of foresight is that it starts new and different conversations. Here are some questions you can use to spark a conversation with children and youth about this future.
What do you think would be fun for kids in this future?
What might be scary or sad for kids in this future?
What do you think kids would play with in this future?
In this imaginary future, people are scared about computers replacing humans. What might be scary about this? What might be good about this?
Trends Related to this Scenario
Overthrow of expertise
Traditional expertise has become devalued as a result of democratized access to knowledge and information on the internet.