Saturday, August 25, 2018

Food for Thought #3 18-19: AI Big Question, how should we react to it?

AI robots to replace teachers in language classes

Dear all,

The aim of this week's Food for Thought is not to scare but to encourage deeper thinking about the arrival of AI. There is no point burying one's head in the sand and denying the imminent arrival of AI as a figment of science fiction or pretending that it will not impact us superior humans. It is clear that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway, that there is a race to develop AI as military weapons as well as a Quantum computer that will revolutionize all systems. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said "Artificial intelligence is the future, not only of Russia, but of all of mankind,whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world."

For many leading thinkers in this field all of this is a given, what they find disturbing is the lack of collaboration and joint action to create codes for development that could guide the innovation so that it remains aligned with humans. Of course the BIG question for us in education is how do we best align our schools and the teaching and learning in such a way that we prepare students for what we can try and predict and for what we can only imagine.

Often when I talk to staff about AI there is a belief that it wont impact teaching......well I feel this may also be misguided logic unless education changes quickly and teachers develop their role to being one of a coach, advisor or learning/ life guide. In Japan replacing teachers with AI has already begun in language classes, as this short article Robots replace language teachers identifies.

I recognize that this is about an hour's watching and reading but feel that if we are to create the best learning environment for the future we all need to understand the extremes of the spectrum so that we can think deeply about the preparation of our students for their future.

I thought that it might be worth starting with this video because it is a useful introduction to AI and many of the lines of thought about it. I do need to apologize in advance because built into the narrative there is advertizing from the sponsors of Thought2. The video does illustrate at the simplest level how AI is already with us and how it is developing and where we stand as humans in the table of intelligence. 

Sam Harris the philosopher and author of a good book I read recently, Waking Up. His talk is 14 minutes and raises questions about how we are positioning ourselves regarding the advent of AI in our lives. As always he raises questions that should be being asked but aren't.

" Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris -- and not just in some theoretical way. We're going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven't yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants"

The next video features the thoughts of Elon Musk taken from a collection of his speeches and from a number of other resources. “I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI and I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk once said in a speech at the National Governors Association meeting in Rhode Island. “I keep sounding the alarm bell. Elon Musk is working hard to try and develop some common thinking and codes about the development of AI. This video does link with that of Sam Harris's. Musk is excited by the implanting of AI technology in our brains as the source of our future intelligence.

Here is a link to Michael Vassar talking on Big Think about one of the common themes from all commentaries, what happens when AI is better than humans and we pass the point of Singularity? 
"If greater-than-human artificial general intelligence is invented without due caution, it is all but certain that the human species will be extinct in very short order. People have written extensively about why it is basically analytically compulsory to conclude that in the default scenario, in the absence of major surprising developments or concerted integrated effort in the long term, artificial intelligence will replace humanity."

In the final talk for part 2, What happens when our computers get smarter than we are? Nick Bolstrom brings together many of the fears from previous videos in a philosophical manner with many practical examples about the fears for the super intelligent computer. His talk is fairly optimistic and is based around making super intelligent computers safe. BUT he stresses that it does depend on us us creating a super intelligent machine that learns how to discover our values and learn to apply these to all problems that it may encounter.

"Artificial intelligence is getting smarter by leaps and bounds — within this century, research suggests, a computer AI could be as "smart" as a human being. And then, says Nick Bostrom, it will overtake us: "Machine intelligence is the last invention that humanity will ever need to make." A philosopher and technologist, Bostrom asks us to think hard about the world we're building right now, driven by thinking machines. Will our smart machines help to preserve humanity and our values — or will they have values of their own?"

Next week we will look at the other side of the story and how AI can be harnessed to assist human development.

Have a good weekend,


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Food for Thought #2 18-19: Part I How should we approach AI

Image result for AI

As promised for the next three weeks I will share some thinking about AI and its impact on education and society in general.

We have a great deal to think about regarding AI and not much time to do it in. It is probable that the 4th Industrial Revolution and the incredible advancement of technology and AI has begun and is more developed than we are being told. After all, since Ray Kurzweil's book Singularity pointed towards a future where humans would no longer be the smartest inhabitant of this planet, scientist and engineers have been in engaged in an AI race. Hence, it is no wonder that predictions for years in the future are being accomplished decades quicker than anticipated. This is why there is not much time before AI seriously impacts our students lives. As we know given it generally takes education time to change thus it is good that we have been thinking about this for several years at ISHCMC.

AI will certainly bring both challenges and opportunities for our students. the key is going to be accepting AI, working alongside it, allowing it to complement who we are as human beings and augment our social, emotional and learning skills. Resisting or denying AI's future impact would be foolish and could lead to the type of world depicted in many science fiction movies where humans are fighting machines.

Hence, before sharing some of the thinking about the benefits and threats of AI I thought that I would share this recent TED talk on this topic. The reason I'd like to start with this talk is because it mirrors our thinking on this topic. It stresses the importance of focusing on our number one point of differentiation......a machine can never be a human and share our emotions. It is our social and emotional intelligence that will allow us to stand apart from machines, to create new jobs that focus on human traits that cannot be replicated by machines.

When you watch/ listen to this talk I believe you will see that the direction we have moved in with understanding who we are, our focus on character traits, social and emotional development, well being and mindfulness is fully supported and promoted for others to engage with for their futures. There are several lessons from Kai-Fu Lee's experiences that we can all learn from if we  are open minded. It is such a shame that so often it takes a dramatic shock, usually life threatening, to make us wake up and see what is important in our lives.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

FFT #1 2018-19. Trial Error and the God Complex.

Dear all,

Welcome back to Food For Thought. I was going to start the year with  a couple of posts on AI but watched this TED and thought what a great provocation this would be for us all at the start of the year. It touches on several things that we should be thinking about at ISHCMC and as teachers.

Watch the TED talk by Tim Harford and I think you will see a few things to think about for you as a teacher.

Why I shared this old TED, 2011, is because never has it been more relevant for us at ISHCMC. Firstly, it starts by telling a story that draws us in to the message that Tim Harford wants us to take away. As I said in my opening address at the start of year, story telling is an important tool for embedding learning in our students, I feel this TED demonstrates this technique very well.

Secondly, as teachers we are often seen as the Gods in our classrooms, something that we are moving away from with the gradual release of learning that is taking place at school. In the talk, Tim Harford, lambastes schools for continuing to reinforce the God Complex through asking questions to which there is a right or wrong answer. How often do we ask students questions that have no answer? Does there always have to be an answer for it to be a good question? Should we still be teaching students through our questioning and systems that there is always a right answer that reveals what they have learned? 

Thirdly, and very importantly for our Studio 4, 5 and Grade 6 work, Tim Harford expresses that you don't always have to prove you are right to be doing what is right. If you move away from the God Complex way of thinking to accept the importance of trial and error you can re-think anything. The key is to be using what your learn at each stage to make what you do next time better. In the end, and it might take a few cycles, if you learn from your errors you will end up with a better product.

Finally, we all know that to solve critical problems there has to be the determination to try and try again. How many are solved first time? If they are, were they a critical problem in the first place? We talk about resilience, failing and getting back up and trying again. This is what Tim Harford stresses in his talk, the trial and error mentality that is needed to critically problem solve. 

This TED definitely emphasizes what we are trying to achieve at ISHCMC by re-imagining education. If we are going to develop creative problem solvers capable of surviving in the 2020's we need to more routinely ask questions to which there are no correct answers, encourage our students to challenge the God Complex way of thinking and be prepared to approach problems from every angle, not just the traditional one. Archie the star of the story has continued to think differently and look for new solutions. Obviously, for others who have a fixed mindset in the medical world this made him difficult but as Tim Harford concludes this didn't stop him being right.