Artificial intelligence or AI in education is among the hot buzz words this year similar to blockchain, OER and MOOC in the past. Although AI is evolving rapidly in technical circles, the uptake is mostly anecdotal in the education sector with minimal emperical evidence of any significant use. Further, “advocates” and “champions” with no idea how to even use MS Office properly, let alone AI, are preaching conversion in a shameless attempt to board the bandwagon. However, fortunately or otherwise, these propoganda efforts are taken with bags of salt by the public who are much more aware of what AI can and cannot do in a real world setting.
Although there probably aren’t any true AI at present other than fictional characters such as Jarvis, Ultron, Vision and those in universal soldier, iRobot and Ex Machina, not to mention Skynet (I’m sure many of the educational evangalists haven’t even heard of), I couldn’t stop imagining what a first encounter with a true AI would look like.
I imagine a first encounter with a learning algorithm would be very mundane with it repeating what I already know. For example, let’s call this fictional AI “Alfred”…
Alfred: hello. I don’t think we have met before.
Alfred: I’m Alfred. Who are you?
Me: I’m Ishan
Alfred: nice to meet you Ishan…
…and so on. Alfred will talk about the weather, traffic and other generic topics, mimicking a stranger (hopefully passing the Turing test) you would meet at the bus stop, which I already know about. I know about the weather, traffic etc. and is not new data to me. The idea will be to be only momentarily interesting so that no further attention will be paid by me following the casual exchange of words in passing. i.e. ensuring a successful Turing test.
I imagine the second encounter to be with a further evolved version of the same AI who provides me information based on the data.
Alfred: based on the weather report and the fact that you are not carrying an umbrella, I predict that you will have a pretty wet afternoon.
Me: but it’s sunny out. Don’t be so negative.
Alfred: I agree… At least the traffic is moving so that you can get to your office by 2pm after lunch, although wet.
Sure I’ll use a few choice words at this point but would later find myself wearing dripping wet clothes at 2pm in the office.
I imagine the third encounter to be with the ultimate AI evolved through exabytes of learning…
Alfred: quiet. (nothing to ask)
Me: quiet. (nothing to say)
We will walk away from each other with no communication whatsoever. Alfred will be so connected that he will know more than I do about myself from all the social, financial, emotional and voice data online accessed using a simple face recognition biometric algorithm. As he knows almost everything, Alfred has nothing to ask which he knows or can’t find instantly. I too know that Alfred knows everything there is to know about me. i.e. I have nothing to say.
Thus, I believe that silence and total communication breakdown between Alfred and myself will be the culmination of the path we are currently on; unless emotions such as love, hate, rage, kindness and empathy remain topics of conversation.
Although Alfred knows that I have a family to ensure the biological survival of my gene pool, he might not understand why I love my wife, nor why I put up with her all these years, nor why we would prefer dying than to see our children hurt. To Alfred, being human would seem counterintuitive.
Quoting from iRobot, Will Smith challenges an AI saying “Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?”
The AI responds “Can you?”
Image source https://flic.kr/p/yGpa36 CC BY