“It all comes down to education and who you hang out with in school.” Erica Swallow acts as if there’s little remarkable about the daughter of a single mother who grew up in a trailer with intermittent electricity in northeast Arkansas graduating from NYU, working for The New York Times, writing for Forbes, starting her own business, and attending MIT’s Sloan School. “Education was the thing I needed to do to get where I wanted to go. My mom always said the things that motivated me, even though she never did them in her own life.”
What seems to astonish Erica more is that, at age 28, she’s back in Arkansas. “I never thought about coming back to Arkansas. The only opportunities are factories or quick service.” Erica was invited to judge a high school Hack-a-thon sponsored by the non-profit Noble Impact at a Little Rock charter school. “I was so impressed the kids built something, which is not part of the K-12 system where you read, listen and take tests. They were doing in high school what I was doing at MIT.” Erica decided to work at Noble Impact to develop a business plan and scale their unique educational program. She worked to get the curriculum certified by the State of Arkansas, establish teacher training with continuing education requirements, and create a digital portfolio. After a year the state’s first public school adopted the program.
These days Erica is focused on Southern Swallow, her digital content strategy firm and Entrepreneur Kids, a book series devoted to children who start businesses. She lives in downtown Little Rock and plans to stay here, at least for a few more years. Arkansas has proven to be a fertile place for her interest in the freelance economy and innovative education. “I want education to include wide exposure and individual exploration. I’m evaluating to what degree I can make an impact in this state.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“The key thing I focus on is, will we have to work for ourselves? Traditional jobs are automated. Tractors took over farm hands; machines took over manual labor; now even knowledge is getting automated. There is an automated news company that writes sports and business articles. Everything we do in our lives that’s repetitive will be done for us. If we want people to work, we’ll have to figure out what they’re going to do.
“Then, we are living longer, which expands the issue. If you combine AI (artificial intelligence) with nanotechnology, we will be able to address any technological or biological issue. 2048 is the year that Ray Kurtzweiler projects the singularity will occur, when AI surpasses human intelligence.
“One day people won’t die. If you line up the DNA indicators in the right way, you can live happy and healthy. So, we have people who don’t have jobs who live forever. How will we use our time? How are we going to accommodate living so long? Who will be able to access this? More people than you think. Look at the Genome sequence. Now it only costs about $1,000 to analyze your known genome. The cost will keep going down.
“Education will be the link that will make all of this happen.”