Do Not Open until 2088
[Author’s Note: A new great-grandson was born this week into my family. (His name is Michael and he weighed seven pounds, if you are a “numbers” person.) This miracle led me to want to leave a message for him when he reaches my current age.]
Dear Michael –
This is your Great-granddad, John, writing from the year 2014. I just learned of your birth yesterday from your Mom by an electronic message with a photo of you. Even back in 2014 we had learned some things about how to use communications technology.
I feel certain that that things have changed a great deal from when you were born until you reached my current age, so I thought I would share a little about the world I am living in now and the changes I’ve witnessed. For more than 50 years, I’ve pursued a career in the testing industry. For the last eleven of those years, my job is helping to ensure that testing of the skills and knowledge that people have is done fairly.
Most testing that has significant consequences has been done by paper and pencil throughout my lifetime and it will not be until next year that the majority of testing in schools will be done through computers. While this represents an important milestone in our industry and profession, we are very worried about having enough computers for students to take the tests in a short period of time. Tests get distributed to schools by “the Internet,” the version of electronic sharing of information now in use which I presume you learned a bit about in History classes.
This may be hard to believe but there were no computers in schools or homes when I was born, indeed even major companies did not have them. Computers were a very new invention and not everyone thought they would have any widespread applicability. Now, everyone has one or more versions of a computer and uses these devices all day every day. We are struggling to get used to being connected constantly and to getting more information each day than we can even skim let alone review and understand. Each year more material in my field of psychometrics is being produced than I could possibly read even if I had no other interests and no job with duties to occupy my time. I expect that growth in information will continue without interruption and wonder how you and your contemporaries have learned to cope with this flood.
In 2014, we worry a lot about the potential loss of personal details such as “bank account” numbers or the theft of important intellectual property such as music, literature, or test questions. Much of my work life is spent helping agencies that sponsor tests protect the confidentiality of those tests and promote the fairness of their use. Doing so helps ensure that test results depend on what the student knows and can do instead of his/her ability to “break the rules” without being detected. Such rule-breaking may involve purchasing test questions in advance of testing times or hiring someone to sit in for them illegally and take a test in their name. My guess is that solutions to these kinds of problems were developed early in your lifetime.
I don’t believe that “time travel” will ever be possible, but I wish there were some way that I could have a two way conversation with the person that you will be when you are the age that I am now. There are many, many personal things I would love to know about you and your life as well as others now alive or yet to be born. For now I send this note to you across “three score and 14 years” along with my love and the hope that you have been enjoying wonderful support over your life as I have had over mine.