Education in the age of AI

Art by Samantha Riegl

Frans Joakim Titulaer

In 2014, Sherry Turkle’s book The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit had its thirtieth anniversary. With a certain affinity with Orwell’s novel, 1984, Turkle describes her work as the psychoanalysis of human-computer interaction. It can be fascinating for us millennials to think about how those big chunky pieces of plastic, glass, and metal that were computers back in the early 1980s could have such an impact on their perceptions of themselves. The computers were second selves, meaning they reflected ‘our’ sentience, cognition and decision-making in ways that made us question ourselves like we questioned our independence in relation to our mother when we were infants? The whole idea is creepy because it makes sense! Who are we without these devices? No one it seems.

Therefore keeping a record of your digital persona becomes a way of existing in the world. Let’s face it. We are not all that independent at the time we leave the safekeeping of our childhood home. And, in a world in which we are all cradled within an education system that supposedly does not prepare us for the real world, it is good to know that there are systems that will continue to mother us well into the future. The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know. Not simply an artificial sentient thing that knows a whole lot. No, a thing that knows what you don’t know in such a way that it will notify you about it. A future in which decision makers and workers alike are told what they need to do to learn to act like responsible adults.

This could be described as intelligence augmentation (IA). The idea of IA was born at about the same time as the idea of artificial intelligence (AI). Although it hasn’t yet become a common term the IA:AI nexus holds the promise of succeeding our simplified discussions around the future of AI, simply because generalized AI is still a long way off. The fact is that a chess-champion with an AI system will beat a lone AI system almost every time. This seriously alters the imaginary of the personal AI assistant associated with so many of the smart devices coming on to the marked these days. Not only because it could mother us, but because of how it promises us new independence.

Soon our learning biology will be specified within (something like) ‘learning record stores’, that will offer service-providers the opportunity to adapt their products to ‘someone like’ you. The service provider could be a public institution offering courses or MOOCs(?), but the interesting thing is that it will make you mobile. Mobile across institutions, but also across your lifespan. ‘Lifelong learning’ is therefore not just jargon, it is a technical requirement.

When one is to be hired, employers are going to want to know what you know beyond your current ideas of yourself. Being put on a task could mean that education will be part of the work, and your boss will not necessarily be the one to decide its form or content because it is the job itself. If a team of firemen move out, a system should alarm them if they are lacking competence or experience that might have proved necessary for such a task in the past. And if you failed algebra at the 8th grade, causing you to struggle with learning higher order maths, private educational institutions like BI are going to try to cater to that need.

“The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know.”

What most of us haven’t picked up is that the real challenges and opportunities lies within the Internet of Things (IoT). Not because most of us haven’t heard about talking fridges, but because the idea is a fairly useless sci-fi fantasy from the time our parents were born. It think that it is within this context that we have to understand the work that has gone into constructing Knowledge Object Repositories available to different forms of education technology for the past two decades.

To the digital citizen therefore education in the 4th industrial revolution – or in the web 4.0 if you like – will harbour the promise of access across invisible boundaries. A lot is at stake if we hope to make ‘knowledge’ in the age of AI open and free. Within a few years there will more devices connected to the internet than there are neurons in the human brain, and a large portion of these will come from Industrial IoT (IIoT), or what is becoming known as the Industrial Internet. It will surely not dampen the pressure on knowledge capitalization, and we have to think about what role education 4.0 institutions will have in the future, and what role research and education institutions should have in our Big Data societies today.


Iselin Holmedal Gjeldstad

In 2019 the blockchain-technology will celebrate its first 10 years. And with this we have experienced a decade with great expectations, fears and confusions, as it may be the groundbreaker for a new technological revolution. It was first introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto as cryptocurrency “Bitcoin” in 2009. When launched some may have thought this was “just another tech mayfly”, but as we have learned through the last decade – Bitcoin and blockchain are here to stay. So, what is it all about? And how is it possible to conquer a reluctant tech world with algorithm and promises of a more secure and efficient trading system?

Recently there has been enormous interest in blockchain and blockchain crypto currency like bitcoin and private ICOs. To explain it the easiest way -Blockchain is data connected to multiple ledgers instead of on single ledger as today. The technology enables safe and efficient trade because it is impossible to break the chain due to the multiple ledgers. It is scalable and efficient because it is possible to connect to from anywhere if you have a pc and internet. All transactions are trackable. As history shows, some might be sceptic to new technologies that are difficult to understand and may reject it. This is often the case for innovation: at first it is easier to reject it than to adopt it. However, winning technology will always prevail.

All hype around the blockchain seems to be over and the market shows to be more trustworthy than a year ago. As an example, so far in 2018 21,5 billion USD have been distributed to private companies by ICOs (which is a blockchain secure financial instrument) in line with shares in a company, collected through ICO tokens based on blockchain technology in private companies. It comes clearer and clearer that blockchain technology is going to be accepted by the marked, as that a lot of serious businesses as well as public services will embrace the phenomenon.

Blockchain is also useful for tracing and tracking transactions by GPS or sensor technology reporting to the chain (IoT). The Danish firm Maersk has recently piloted an insurance system for their shipping industry which enables the insurer to monitor risks on daily basis and make immediate payments to Maersk in cases of any incident. The other examples are Australian and Swedish governments. The Australian government is planning an official granted crypto currency for customs purposes, and the swedish government has started working on introducing the national crypto into E-krona.

So no doubt – blockchain has significant benefits in transactions, from the members of the chain who can predetermine a certain output if a certain input is proved to the chain, often referred to as “smart contracts”. Let me set an example, for real estate transactions the buyer`s certificate may hence be issued simultaneously as the buyer pays the purchase price with a BankID. At the same time, the real estate archive will receive the notification of the transaction and will be able to notify it in the official registers.Moreover, insurance companies will have access to real needs as they will be able to provide low prices when your car is in the garage, while higher premiums when travelling on dark and icy roads.

It becomes more and more important for good lawyers to participate in the actual coding and protocols governing blockchain as the technology itself may be able to determine legal frameworks automatically, and because investing or participating in blockchains requires a certain amount of trust. Trust in algorithms, trust in revenue distribution that is granted, and trust in all the legal rights that the blockchain has granted them. Lawyers have already begun to draft and work with quality guidelines as they check all of White Papers, privacy rights and enforcement issues.

Perhaps the legal system will be running by blockchain in the future. Perhaps witnesses and parties, judges, media press, police and custody will be members of the same legal blockchain system. Not now, not tomorrow but after some years? For all blockchains, it will be a great amount of data running through. For the legal systems, this may be underpinned by machine learning with easier prediction of results, legal fees, liabilities and responsibility. In the end, blockchain technology will approach and even reflect the same ideals and values as the traditional way of handling law. Perhaps blockchain is nothing new under the sun – only a more efficient way to track, trace and accomplish transactions than we are used to. In any case, it may help to grant more justice, more democracy and more transparency for the best of all mankind.

The brain is going digital, and consciousness is too

Joaquin Zenteno Hopp

A whole mouse brain has been digitally reconstructed with an unprecedented level of biological detail. It is part of the Human Brain Project, one of the largest scientific initiatives ever funded by the European Union, and probably the most ambitions. Their simulation is based on an algorithm that enables to predict how neurons connect with each other. It is all based on a new research field named connectomics, the science of figuring out a brain’s complete wiring diagram. The objective is to reconstruct and simulate a biologically digital human brain made of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses.

The project’s leaders are quite optimistic. They believe that they will soon be able to replicate cognitive, emotional and behavioral experiments. Simulate how animal’s sensory organs capture and encode information, and how their brain can generate a motoric response. Nonetheless, and even more exciting, they also believe that these advancements will soon lead to the digital reproduction of consciousness.

How conscious can it be? Is it not that consciousness is just an emergent property of brain activity? Maybe not, but if computers would be able to construct and simulate minds and not only brains, what kind of reality would we be envisioning? Popular media has already provided lots of crazy ideas: Slave brains, brain-body replantation, brain post-life continuation, multi-brain cloud creations, multi-human brain expansions, etc., but, what kind of issues are really worth to analyze without losing it into naive fantasy? Incredibly, several high-top scientists have begun to take some of these ideas seriously.

In early 2018, researchers from Yale University were able to preserve several pig brains for over 36 hours outside their bodies. They claim that the brains were not conscious, but they do acknowledge that their achievement is a step towards it. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have begun a startup that aims to uploaded human brains into the cloud by 2024, and they do not deny the idea that one day they could become conscious. Wow, but what does that mean? Would such a conscience suffer something like a mental-sensory deprivation of eternal solitary confinement… without ears, mouth or eyes, something like living inside an black eerie spaced lacuna? Would it wonder where it is, what it is, or how it came to be? Would it be tormented by an unstoppable, undefinable and unimaginable existential despair, or would it just flow in a sort of, let us say, nirvana?

How conscious should we be? The most important question probably is about our society’s responsibility, both because of the great risks but also the immense potentials. If a person’s consciousness is reproduced, would that consciousness have legal rights? Who would own its knowledge, memories, or ideas? What if it is manipulated, unfairly treated or even abused? The Science Journal Nature, in its April 2018 edition, published an editorial arguing that experiments on human brain simulations need special protections. Written by 17 recognized neuroscientists and bioethicists, the letter suggests a variety of interesting ethical safety measures, but they do not necessarily provide a sense of easiness. Suggestions such as “the need to drug brains so they can stay in a comatose-like state when being manipulated” are not so appealing. Furthermore, how can we regulate or even understand issues that depend entirely on ad hoc practices? The most extreme is if virtual consciousness could experience pain. Is it not precisely pain considered as the first sign of the body’s consciousness? Yes, but these consciences would not have bodies, or could they? Is it not that a virtual reproduction of a conscious brain is per definition “virtually” exposed to any virtual risk?

“Science of new quality. Quality not only of new advancements, but mostly on defining moral standards”

The digitalization of consciousness shows how science and technology have come to a point of being so close to each other that they have become one. A conscious computer is not just a pure technological artefact, but also science itself. This implies that science might be entering into a whole new level. Science of new quality. Quality not only in the sense of advancements, but mostly on defining high quality moral standards. We know that standardization of scientific and technological practices is a risky process that evolves dependent to social-contextual forces. Our society’s responsibility relies on defining those moral guiding standards, despite that they can become the main reason for misleading future advancements. We need to know, for example, how are we to relate emotionally to digitally conscious things. How could we otherwise cope with falling in love with a digital being? Or could we never expect digital-reciprocal love? Anyhow, we need to take the best possible information and be conscious of the happenings of our time. It is our responsibility to build a society capable to thrive, or at least coexist, with these new strange conscious things.

Digital learning identity

Issue #16 Digital Citizen

Frans Joakim Titulaer

Let’s all give a warm round of applause to Feide (Felles Elektronisk IDEntitet)! The student ID has no doubt served us well as a federated identity management system among the many education institutions and services that we all (the educated and educating alike) use everyday. It is almost a national pride, seeing how it extends from elementary school to the very top of higher education. The Telenor or Tine of our time. It is surely a tedious work to keep track of all usernames and passwords among numerous tiny little corners of the internet, so a federation is no bad idea indeed.

Now give a warm welcome to Feide 2.0! The future is now. The 2.0 offers us a ‘single-sign on’ system (SSO) that allows the user [will make it largely unnecessary] to log on anywhere in the education services using the same ID (authentication key) after having first logged on in any one of them. This means that the ‘ecosystem’ of services is able to match those of the Google suite and well crafted Microsoft cloud-environments. It also makes it possible to extend the number of services as education institutions, faculties, centers or persons can choose among add-ons. The experience will be hopefully seamless.

Now let’s simplify and expand this view of our near future. Feide 2.0 includes a service called ‘Dataporten’ that enables the creation and the access to groups and keeps track of the interactions of each individual. In other words, the 2.0 integrates the many benefits of social media, the original Web 2.0. It even allows you to connect with services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. so that activities can be shared across these platforms. You might very well ask whether this truly is a benefit, but what we are witnessing is the government moving into a field that up until now has been reserved for the ‘new democracies of the Internet’.

However, there is risk. A lot of it. Therefore you could say that the government approaches these technologies quite differently. Not readily willing to take on the same social cost, seeing that it also pays (a part of) the bill. Yet, there is also a sense of a threat posed by the disruptive effects of Big Data capital. Governments could soon find themselves competing with private actors to offer legitimate forms of certification. Within education the name of the game is learning analytics. It promises adaptive learning systems and early warning catered to the needs of the individual learner.