Q&A with Futurist Speaker and Education Of The Future advisor, Thomas Frey

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Google’s top-rated Futurist Speaker, Thomas Frey, has joined our team to be our Education Of The Future advisor.

More than two decades ago, Thomas founded the DaVinci institute. It is one of the world’s leading futurists with clients including U.S. Government officials, and many Fortune 500 companies including Visa, NASA, and Boeing. He also served as a Human Factors Engineer at IBM for 15 years, and along the way, became the company’s most highly decorated engineer after winning 270 awards.

Working at IBM, Thomas scaled a number of projects, and specialized in developing user-friendly interfaces to create a closer relationship between man and machine. Based on his work as a professional at IBM, Thomas’ believes that BitDegree has the possibility to become “the largest company on the Internet”. Why? Because of our easily usable interface, the BitDegree model of using blockchain to pay students and help employers find talent through our platform, and finally, because of our platform’s scalability.

As a futurist, Thomas will be responsible for helping us find and introduce the right educational and Intelligence models of the future to BitDegree. His ability to establish future trends based on current directions has also led to him pointing to BitDegree’s native country, Lithuania, as “one of the tech hubs of the future.”

On top of all of this, read below to discover what Thomas said when he joined us from the United States to discuss the technologies he believes will shape education in the upcoming years.

Why did you decide to join BitDegree as our Advisor On Education Of The Future?

I think that BitDegree has several of the critical pieces that have been missing in the education arena, and the BitDegree platform is flexible enough to rapidly adapt to future changes as they occur.

You were an engineer at IBM for 15 years, and became the company’s most highly awarded engineer after winning 270 awards. What is the technical aspect of BitDegree that appeals to you the most?

My background is that of a human factors engineer, focused on the man/machine interface. How we interface with the world is one of the biggest failing points of every startup. When we get the interface wrong, people ignore it.

I tend to look at everything through an interface lens, and lately I’ve been thinking about how humans interface with the future. Much of our progress boils down to key inflection points that determine what direction we take. If we head one way, this reality happens; if we head another, that reality happens.

Some of these inflection points are huge. We’re putting more power in the hands of the individual and smaller groups, and now is the perfect time to totally up-end the education world. My prediction is that the largest company on the Internet in 2030 will be an education-based company we haven’t heard of yet. I think BitDegree has the potential to be that company.

BitDegree is putting education in the hands of the individual, and tailoring it to smaller groups. That alone is a refreshing change from traditional education companies,

How did you become involved with BitDegree?

I hadn’t heard of BitDegree until your co-founder, Danielius contacted me. I did some research, and thought “this is interesting.” I also found Danielius very bright and motivated to make things happen.

Moreover, I think Lithuania is such a sweet spot for technology. You have this “sky is the limit” mentality, a bright and educated population, plus a collaborative working environment. I consider Lithuania one of the tech hubs of the future, so the timing to make something happen is absolutely right.

Part of your role will be to help BitDegree understand what future technologies will shape education. As a futurist and the founder of the DaVinci Institute, what do you think they will be, and how do you think BitDegree should adopt them?

With the amount of Artificial Intelligence out there, I like the idea of a teacherbot that actually learns who we are. It will know what skills we are proficient in, in which areas we need to improve, and what it will take to bring us up to speed.

AI teacherbots will create an all-new game, helping us learn faster and faster, to the point where we can learn things maybe 2 times, 4 times, even 10 times faster than we do now. I actually think they will make it possible to complete an entire university degree within a month.

The first time that I listened to an audiobook, I thought I was cheating because it seemed way too easy. Then it occurred to me that all reading is, is taking characters from a page and transforming them into mental concepts and images. Listening to an audiobook is a little different process, taking sounds and turning them into thoughts and images. But whatever way we get information into our heads shouldn’t really matter.

However, there is no one size fits all approach in using this methodology in education. If you need to teach someone how to lay bricks, you cannot do that on a computer. In certain situations, it’ll be more important to have a Virtual Reality interface, and with others, Augmented Reality. Sometimes, the way that the information is presented makes all of the difference.

Looking ahead, how big a role do you see BitDegree playing in the future of education?

In the education arena there is so much that needs to be improved, so the sky is the limit. I see BitDegree as a massively scalable platform, but it’s about finding the right entry point at the right time.

For example, it took it took the world 200 years to reach the first billion bicycles. That happened around 2003; around 2010 we reached the first billion cars in the world, a feat that took around 120 years; it took McDonalds 23 years to reach the first billion hamburgers. It took Facebook 8 years to reach the first billion users.

Then Uber came along, and it took them five and a half years to reach the first billion rides. Uber has a competitor in China, and it took them 11 months to reach a billion rides in China.

With this idea of scalability, we should also look at people who are able to reach a billion views on YouTube. The first person to do this was the K-pop artist, Psy, with his song ‘Gangnam Style’ in 2012. It took him 157 days. Since then, there have been dozens of other YouTubers who have broken through the 1 billion-view barrier.

Rock artist Adele did it in the least amount of time, just 87 days, and somebody is bound to beat that sometime soon.

What all of this means, is that in business you have the potential to have someone come from nowhere and already have 10–100 million customers and you didn’t know about them because they didn’t exist two weeks ago. This is the whole concept of scalability.

Are we still going to rise that quickly with future technologies? I don’t know, but there is certainly the possibility for that to happen.

How visionary is the BitDegree project on a scale from 1–10?

It’s probably a solid 8 or 9, which is firmly in the sweet spot! If you’re too creative, you outstrip your audiences, so I think it’s right exactly in the zone it should be. People can understand it, people can grasp it quickly, and if we’re using it as a platform for employers to hire and students can be paid to learn, that makes it so much easier to decide whether to adopt a BitDegree course of study.

Q&A with Futurist Speaker and Education Of The Future advisor, Thomas Frey was originally published in BitDegree on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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