The Future of Being Human is a State University of New York Empire State College interdisciplinary science course funded by the Charitable Leadership Foundation. The course is offered through the Science, Math and Technology program at the Center for Distance Learning. The Second Life Activity is an immersive, interactive discovery experiment, in which students enter the transformation station, transform shapes, and are both transported to different worlds and guided through a range of activities using a HUD [heads up display].
SL Project Concept and Design: Ragitake Takakura and Talarus Luan
SL Project Team: Ragitake Takakura, Merapi Praga, Talarus Luan with assistance from Skylarian Isachenko (Marion Skywalker in RL) and Claire Blue (Claire Ouderkirk Miller in RL)
Course Author, Sciences: Merapi Praga (Audeliz Matias in Real Life)
Course Author, Philosophy of Science, Media & Technology: Ragitake Takakura (Nicola Allain in RL)
Course Author, Mathematics: Enda Indigo (Betty Lawrence in RL)
Course Author, Genetics: Veronika Mimulus (Mary Mawn in RL)
*RL = “Real Life”
Course Goals and Objectives:
- Discuss what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.
- Apply the scientific method and to develop your own experiment.
- Explain exponential growth and how it differs from linear growth.
- Experience how your mirror neuron system responds to observed movement.
- Describe different types of artificial life research studies.
- Critically examine the linkage between medical breakthroughs and society.
- List available life-extending facilities in your community.
- Discuss projected biological enhancements and computer capabilities.
- Develop an awareness of federally funded projects and legislation as it relates to genetics, such as the Human Genome Project.
- Discuss opposing viewpoints on genetic pre-selection.
- Assess implications of science and technology policy related to technological advances.
- Describe how experiencing virtual reality, such as through virtual worlds, is changing human beings.
Critically examine scientific information as presented by the media.
- Design a scientific research project, including the development of a scientific hypothesis, annotated bibliography, a research proposal, and a final paper.
A Victorian Setting Leading into the Future
The Future of Being Human Second Life Simulation was inspired by the premise of the novel Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. Written in the Victorian era, the novel’s protagonist slept in a basement from 1887 to the year 2000, and wrote a comparison of his existing present to an imagined future.
SUNY Empire State College is located in Saratoga Springs, New York, which is a historical Victorian city. One of the college’s primary buildings is a beautifully restored Victorian mansion. We connected the Second Life simulation to real life Saratoga Springs by creating a replica of the historical 28 Union Alumni House on the Empire State College island (sim) in Second Life. Students begin the simulation by entering a Victorian chamber inspired by Bellamy’s work.
Drawing from studies in neuroscience and effective practices in immersive education, the Second Life Future of Being Human simulation provides students with the opportunity to explore emergent scientific ideas in futuristic settings that support the primary themes of the course.
The Future of Being Human Transformation Station is the gateway to discovery learning, in which students visit environments such as Genome Island, which provides them with an immersive 3D opportunity to actively study the genome and DNA, and do virtual genetic experiments.
For more about Genome Island, see the Educause Review article: http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume43/GenomeIsland/163176.
Future Genesis is the Second Life avatar name of the machine driven cyborg designed to serve as a station tour guide in a futuristic transformation station that provide students with a unique experience in changing avatar identity prior to sending them on a journey of scientific discovery through Second Life worlds.
To learn more about Future Genesis, the transformation station guide, and see a short videoclip of the cyborg in action, see my post on the Center for Distance Learning Innovations in Online Learning Blog at http://commons.esc.edu/cdl-course-highlights/2010/02/25/future-genesis-the-transformation-station-tour-guide/.
The Future of Being Human Project is open to the public. You may visit the project in Second Life by using the following slurl: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Empire%20State%20College/139/91/22