WEEK 2 Summary: Will AI Change Who and What We Are?

The one overarching theme I that really took hold of my attention and my imagination this week is the use of machines as tools to reach academic and personal objectives.  As I have read others’ blogs the issue that seems to have grabbed is the confluence of human and machine in terms of using machines or applications as educational tools. I am not sure why this issue has hit me so hard; perhaps I see in the world today real progress (or some would say digression) toward the expansion of the human experience, especially in terms of education.

A powerful sub-theme has been the physical and intellectual integration of machines and humans.  In The Manifesto for Cyborgs, Haraway (2007) states, “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machines and organisms” (p. 35). Haraway uses the cyborg as the metaphor for blurring of boundaries between man and machine.  Many of my posts have addressed this very issue.  For the most part, the cyborgs and androids we have seen from Hollywood have been a mix of malevolent and the benevolent.  In most, not always, there is a common absence of human emotion that would determine the actions of good or evil, depending of course, on the desire of the creator or programmer.

In The Transhumanist FAQ, Bostrom (2003) states, “No threat to human existence is posed by today’s AI systems or their near-term successors.  But if and when superintelligence is created, it will be of paramount importance that it be endowed with human friendly values” (p. 24).  This, I believe, is a very telling statement.  If we continue to develop AI for our use, might we be in danger of creating ultimately, sentient beings that have the capability of self-thought and self-realization?  And what does this mean for us as educators and how we approach learning? In fact, what will learning even be like say, 100 years from now?

I know I have gone over my 250-word limit but believe me, I can go on and on.  I will post later a clip from the movie Forbidden Planet.  I think this movie could be the ultimate in what we could face in AI development.

Bostrom, Nick (2003). The Transhumanist FAQ. World Transhumanism Association, pages 1-56.

Haraway, D. (2007). A cyborg manifesto. In D. Bell & B. M. Kennedy (Eds.), The cybercultures reader (2nd ed, pp. 34–65). London ; New York: Routledge.

2 comments

  1. Hello Philip, I enjoyed reading you week 2 summary here, thanks.

    ‘Many of my posts have addressed this very issue. For the most part, the cyborgs and androids we have seen from Hollywood have been a mix of malevolent and the benevolent.’

    I think this is a really good point. Obviously you posted this before Jeremy’s week 3 course introduction, however he makes the point that one of the things we’re trying to do through the use of film clips is to look at and challenge how technology is represented within popular culture, and I think you’ve done just that. I think you’re right, the way technology is portrayed (through cyborgs for instance) in the film clips seems to oscillate between menacing and supportive (or your much more eloquent ‘malevolent and benevolent’). Where is the middle ground where they are just mediocre? Obviously that’s unlikely to make for such a good film, however it does call into question how helpful some of these portrayals are in helping us think about technology and education.

    Out of interest, has your viewing of the films, whilst at the same time undertaking the readings (and well done for throwing yourself into this – particularly as some of the ideas are quite challenging) had any effect on how you see the relationship between education and technology?

    Thanks again for this thoughtful summary, Philip.

    James

    P.S. If you’re struggling to fit your ideas into the word count do just take a new blog post to share your ideas and keep the summary fairly close to the course handbook outline – I’ll enjoy reading them both.

  2. James, thank you for your reply to my summary. To directly answer your question, yes, I have been able to bring reference into my classroom some of the cyborg/android characters and connect them with some of the teaching elements I use.

    One of the more obvious is the use of technology and ethical issues. While I don’t see a limit on what kind of technology is used by teachers or students, as with anything else the actual use or application of the technology is the key issue. What kind of purpose is it used for? I look at the Manhattan Project during World War 2. The nuclear scientists certainly were not creating the atomic bombs, in and of themselves, for malevolent purposes but for the furtherance of science. Oppenheimer himself expressed dismay over the actual end use of “The Bomb” for destruction and struggled with the ethical issues involved.

    It is interesting that not so many years ago the emerging debate in nuclear biology was how we can infuse certain features into the DNA molecule and this breed humans as we want them to be. I addressed this somewhat in a recent post about the film GATTACA. How far should we go with this and what are the ethical and religious pitfalls, if any, of this? How much should we mess with the natural order of things? What is our final goal or objective? Is it to eliminate disease or congenital defects? No one would really argue the negative to that unless one is a strict adherent to natural selection. Or is our goal to ultimately create a race of super-humans? And what happens to those who do not meet that super criteria? There are many questions that will never be answered adequately for everyone so the debate will continue, ad nauseum.

    Specifically in answer to your question however, I view the use of technology in the classroom as not only as a tool to enhance education but as an extension of our creativity. Technology is a tool yes, but it is also a means by which we can project our inner thoughts and feeling in ways not conceived of in years past. I foresee the Krell experiment I wrote about in my post on “The Forbidden Planet” as a reality in the not too distant future. It is also interesting that we will be looking at music this week. Perhaps the creation and manipulation of sounds is the gateway to creating visual pathways for other feelings and emotions. Paintings and artistry is wonderful, but I am referring to the actual capture of these feelings as they are felt and sensed within us and then the manifestation of them in the real, visual world, right now. While paintings accomplish this, they are static and unchanging once the paint dries. The visualization of emotion that I am writing of is ever changing and fluid in shape, volume, color, etc. I know I am now rambling but I find this topic so interesting; what potential this can have for students to add this facet to the learning process in any content area.
    #mscedc

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